14 July 2008

Happy Bastille Day

I like Bastille Day. Sure, way, way back, my family is more or less French. That's not why I like Bastille Day. It's not because I'm an unpatriotic American and I feel such resentment for my homeland that I prefer another nation's annual celebration of independence. It's because the reason for Bastille Day is the most awesome reason for any celebration of independence in existence.

I know, rockets red glare and all that, and fireworks and barbecues. But those aren't the reason for America's Fourth of July celebration. The reason is that a bunch of guys in wigs and stockings who were actually not drag queens (mostly) wrote a strongly worded letter stating that they were, in fact, free.

And the Canadians, in a bid to overshadow the US Independence Day by celebrating Canada Day on July 1st didn't overshadow a damn thing, namely because they asked for their independence very politely. And got it. Eventually.

But the French are different. First of all, there were no foreign powers involved. Bastille Day is about independence from internal oppression. Second of all, let me remind everyone how necessary it is in prison to shank someone with a shiv made out of a chicken bone in order to prove how much of a badass you are. Third, the French skipped the shivs and simply burned down the fucking prison.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's awesome. I'm not glamorizing violence and destruction, at least not any more than any movie adaptation of a Marvel comic in the last eight years already has. The point is, Bastille Day is a more perfect declaration of independence because the razing of the Bastille is both entirely historic and entirely symbolic.

If you intend to prove you are free, it's one thing to write a fancy Dear John letter to a king who wasn't even named John. It's another thing to symbolically declare your freedom by physically freeing yourself. I have a feeling this is part of the reason the French are viewed as being sort of spiky. It's not entirely unjustified. They're free, and they fucking know it.

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