Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death;–the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!


To try a new post format, I want to share the segment I found most striking from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It offers a summary of the whole story, revealing the absurdity of vengeance. The common people have overthrown the aristocrats in France, and they are so enraged by their horrible treatment for generations that they respond with behaviors even more inhumane. They trade monarchy for anarchy; oppression for massacre. Among the murdered are Justice, Compassion, and Spirituality. This passage speaks of the glorification, both metaphorically and literally, of one of man’s most gruesome instruments of death:

It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.

You could say that in some circles, the gun has superseded the guillotine and the cross. Those who believe that it should be a crime not to own a firearm have become disconnected with the fact that guns were meant to protect from that which is criminal. I am not anti-gun, but guns are not the answer to everything. They are the serpent, not the Savior.

I am also not against the death penalty, but I feel it is used far too often and for the wrong reasons. One of those reasons is retribution, and retribution can drive us to madness. For some crimes there simply is no equal punishment, and no amount of vengeance can ever right what was wrong. But we will keep trying to right it until we feel better, to our death.

Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,
but don’t tell me.


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