Monday, April 19, 2010

The French Revolution--A Tale of Two Cities--And Jesus Land

The title of this painting (by Charles-Louis Muller) is The Roll Call of the Last Victims of the Reign of Terror. The title is somewhat self-explanatory. However, to make it clear it is near the end of the French reign of terror and when the post monarch-deposing paranoia had reached a climax. This painting depicts the reading of the names (doomed for the guillotine). and the reaction of the different prisoners.

In the midst of this chaos, justice (which was the dream of the early revolutionaries) has become so abused and arbitrary that no one taken prisoner had a clue if they would be executed immediately or released as totally free people. It was all based on a quick trial and the judgement of a handful of men based often on nothing more than hearsay.

It is hard to explain how I got to this point, talking of the French Revolution, but I will try to explain. Then later I will be back to try and connect the dots.

I'm on a family reunion trip in Florida. It is becoming an annual tradition as my sisters live here. The first thing that happened was that I forgot all my reading material at home. The second event was seeing (from the freeway) a new amusement park "Jesusland" in Orlando. Actually the name is "Experience the Holy Land" but Jesusland sounds better (and is the title of a song by Ben Folds).

I was thinking a lot about that place. Something is so wrong with people that they would want to go to a fiberglass "Jerusalem" and buy plastic Jesus trinkets. But I will get back to that.

Then, in my sister's beach condo . . . which we have to ourselves . . . I laid in bed yesterday morning and surfed the TV channels. We only have about 5 channels on our home TV so for me vacation can be checking out those obscure channels (like the History Channel) which I only hear about. So . . . and it was on the History Channel . . . there was a documentary on the French Revolution. I've read a lot about it, but sill I know very little. This film gave me a new dimension to the saga. It was the feeling of total confusion and fear that gripped the country for a decade or so.

If you have read Animal Farm, you get the summary of the point. The people are fed up with the abuse of power by the monarch and church. They want a new, just, society. They take the power into their own hands . . . and at least for a while . . . create a monarch-free society that is far more cruel and unjust than anything they had ever known.

The example of the injustice leading up to the revolutions was a 10 year old boy walking down the street. He did not see the row of 20 monks walking down an adjacent street . . . so he didn't bow like he was required. So the Bishop ordered that the kid have each of his ten fingers cut off and his tongue removed . . . so that he would never forget how he violated the authority of the Church.

So, with the French Revolution on my mind, I did a morning run down the beach to a small village. Before going into a coffee shop I visited a bookstore. "Where is your classical fictional section?" I asked. As I looked over the titles, in my quest to read the top 100 novels. The Tale of Two Cities, caught my eye. I'm now on chapter three and that included a very long (30 page) introduction.

So, I'm starting to see many questions raised and worth digesting. Questions about the difference from the view of the Protestant London verses Catholic Paris. Questions about human nature. Questions about the Victorian view of Dickens as he looked back at the French Revolution. And then there is Jesusland.

I will be back but this post is getting too long. Now my family is starting to feel offended that I'm sitting here typing and not talking to them. So, I will have to come back to fix some typos.


Laurie said...

Have you ever been to "Jesus Land" (Holy Land Experience)? I'm not sure it is what you think it is.

MJ said...

Never been there. Heard a lot about it from my nephew who has, lives in Orlando and works in the entertainment business.

Personal taste issue. For me Jesus and entertainment don't mix well. Nor do I care for religious trinkets such as:

NOTAL said...

Tale of Two Cities, good book. I read that one last year.

MJ said...

We always seem to be reading the same things.

Anonymous said...

Remember how I got my comment handle.

And why you don't play The Last Unicorn and the French National Anthem back-to-back unless you want to see me lose it.

Headless Unicorn Guy

MJ said...

Yes I remember how you got your name. Every time I think of the Guillotine I think of the unicorn's head in the basket.