I sent this to my local paper, but I think the sentiment has universal value, so I’m sharing it with all of you, as well.

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In July of 1789, a mob of starving, desperate, French peasants stormed the Bastille, freeing the few petty criminals imprisoned there and liberating a large cache of arms. The fall of the Bastille sent a very clear message to the corrupt ruling class of France. It read, “We have the power. Love, the underclass.” In its Declaration of the Rights of men, issued one month later, this new power then proclaimed to the world that all men were born with the same inheritance, “liberty, property, security and resistance of oppression.” Four years later, the New Power instituted the Reign of Terror, and while famine still ran rampant in the countryside, the streets now ran with the blood of innocent men, women and children. As many as 60,000 were executed or died awaiting sentencing in the span of one year. 1789’s dream of liberty, equality and brotherhood had been replaced with the nightmare of the guillotine in less than one presidential election cycle

F. A. Hayek, economist and historian, pointed out that the French Revolution’s rapid descent into bloody despotism was no mystery. It was a direct result of apathy – “since all power had been placed in the hands of the people, all safeguards against the abuse of this power had become unnecessary.”

As we draw near to yet another local election, we would do well to heed the lesson of the French Revolution. Although power has been placed in the hands of people we see at the grocery store and with whom we attend church and high school football games, we have no right to spurn our responsibility to guard against the abuse of power. While it is charitable to forgive and forget the personal failings of our friends and neighbors, ignorance and apathy in the face of government failings is no charity. It is an ugly vice that results in tyranny for all but a privileged few.

We live in a tiny community. There is no reason that each of us cannot take the time to find out what our commissioners and board members have been up to during the last few years and make an informed decision about their ability to continue to govern. For, as Abraham Lincoln said so beautifully in regards to his own re-election, “It is the people’s business – the election is in their hands.  If they turn their backs to the fire and get scorched in the rear, they’ll find they have got to sit on the blister.”

“A faut espérer q’eus jeu finira bentôt” (Let’s hope that this game will soon come to an end) A French Revolutionary era cartoon showing a pointy-eared peasant wearing sans-culottes and clogs, bent over double carrying well-dressed representatives of the Priesthood and the Aristocracy on his back. Note that he is so busy carrying this burden that he cannot keep the birds from eating his grain or the rabbits eating his cabbages.

Photo and caption credit: http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Guides/ClassTheory/Atlas.html

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