What to Do when a Beheaded French Revolutionary Walks into Your Room in the Middle of the Night

Last night I was sleeping when I heard a sound at the foot of my bed. I looked up and in the crack of moonlight that peered through the blinds I saw the features of a face recognized only from portraits because no photograph exists. It was Georges Danton and I only recognized him because he didn’t look that much like Gerard Depardieu. “Hello,” Danton said to me and I knew right then I was in trouble because the word “hello” to answer the telephone is, to the best of my knowledge, the only invention credited to Thomas Edison that Thomas Edison himself might actually have invented, but the trouble here is that Thomas Edison did not introduce the world “hello” to users of the newfangled instrument of communication known as the telephone until well after Georges Danton’s head had been separated from his body by the blade of the infernal machine invented by one Mr. Guillotin. You can see the problem I had quite clearly as I lay there in bed sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 AM. Here was this dead guy using language he could not possibly know and the back of my head was not even hurting the way it does when I have my occasional hallucination of members of the Communards coming to me to remind that though the Paris Commune and their own name had the letters commun in them they were in no way communists. Despite their opposition to all things Republican. Yes, it is possible to oppose all things Republican without necessarily being a communist. Except in my own particular case, of course.

No, no, no, the Communards were not inhabiting my frenzied dream, but then again it was not a frenzied dream at all. Or was it? I don’t know. After all, who can ever be sure what is a dream and what is real. Solipsism. Was Mr. Danton merely an extenuated circumstance of Mr. Dicken’s “more gravy than grave” supposition of the cause of night visitors? What had I to eat or drink on this night when Georges Danton stood in all his mighty liberal (but not so much as Robespierre) glory? Gravy? No. Not so much. What I ate the night before, or does it still count as the night of after the day has transformed through the passage of the moon, has little to do when the appearance of Danton.

But why Danton? I said to him that he looks nothing like Gerard Depardieu and I supposed at that point the concept of a frenzied dream came rustling through the conception of consciousness because why would this dead Frenchman without a head speak to me in perfect English thusly: “Depardieu is a pig, but Wajda is a genius.”

Of course, there was no room for argument there. Not that I can speak of personal knowledge or even particular common knowledge of the porcine aspect of Gerard Depardieu, but I deny anyone to suggest that Andrjez Wajda is not a genius. I should perhaps have asked Danton what he was doing in my room, but sometimes words cannot express what is felt in the spleen. Not that I was particularly splenetic about the appearance of a long dead French revolutionary looming over me in the middle of the night. Splenetic? Hardly. Perhaps a little scared, but nothing compared to the terror and dread experienced whenever I see those two little girls from The Shining. Terror is a funny and frightening thing, as it should be, at least the latter. Terror is different for everybody and I’m sure some who would be visited like Scrooge in the night by the apparition of a true revolutionary would certainly be terrorized.

But of course that’s the thing about true revolution. It is frightening. Inauthenticity is far less frightening and it is easier to sell the simulacra of revolution than the real thing. Who would lay their head upon the invention of Mr. Guillotin today to stand up for the principles espoused by a 13 year old special needs student who utterly and totally fails to understand that Thomas Paine would never stop vomiting if he were to arrive in America today and see what madness was being espoused in his name. That contemporary of Mr. Danton, that greatest American of them all, Mr. Thomas Paine, has been lately co-opted by the very people who shunned him and stole his bones. Conservative principles of any kind, much less the insanity that passes for conservatism today, would be things that Mr. Paine would gladly lay down for the blade to stop in an instant. Stopping the march of backward conservatism in an instant. Of the instant. It is a thing to be wished, even devoutly so. It is a thing to be consummated.

I cannot help but wonder if the 13 year old special needs student who is attempting to steal Thomas Paine for those who would see in Danton a subject worthy of Patriot Action and his followers are aware that Thomas Paine’s writing called for so many things they consider to be anathemic to charting the course of true democracy (by which I mean a country where only white heterosexual Christians who believe in the almighty virtue of Big Business should be allowed to have a say). Let us look into the writing of Thomas Paine and see exactly what “conservative values” can be found there:

The call for a progressive income tax.

Espousal of worldwide disarmament.

The forceful belief in the power of antipoverty programs.

Taking money from the pockets of the rich to assist the needy and poor.

Guaranteeing old-age pensions.

Social Security.

These are all aspects of society that Glenn Beck must be calling for because that 13 year old special needs student has taken upon himself to cast himself as the Thomas Paine of the 21st century. You can’t ignore reality. Well, you can. Most of American ignored reality for the first five or six years of this century until the lies became so thick that you could stick Dick Cheney’s tongue into the treacle and enjoy the blessed silence of its being incapable of movement.

“Revolution cannot be accomplished where deceit is embraced.”

There was the reason for Danton’s appearance. At last. Did he speak? Yes. Perfect English and he did much more than allude to the fact that Americans are incapable of true revolution. “Revolution cannot be accomplished where deceit is embraced.” Those were Danton’s words. The deceit is so ingrained into American existence that our greatest human product ever, Thomas Paine, a friend of Mr. Danton is now viewed as a hero by those whose policies he would condemn with the vitality of a 13 year old with no special needs seeing his first naked 18 year old girl.

The French Revolution and the Paris Commune and the 1968 Paris Uprising. These things cannot happen here. America was inoculated against the revolutionary spirit in the 1780s. America embraces the deceit of its leaders of all stripes and types rather than questioning them. Look into the eyes of Beck and witness the insanity of the delusional held aloft as a temple. He is Caligula, but hardly alone. America is a worthy addition to the long history of empires crumbling when they reach the top. We bask in our success and lie about our failure and set to transforming the one into the other.

A question to ponder: Would America be better off if every single illegal immigrant were in jail or if every single CEO were in jail? Want to know how to make a million dollars? I have the secret and it doesn’t even take much money. Time, however. Well there’s a different story. Time it takes to make a million dollars, but at least it’s foolproof. Buy stock in a company when there is good news for the employees and sell it when there is bad news. Doesn’t matter the company or industry. Good news for workers means the stock price drops and that’s when you buy. As soon as you hear that a CEO is putting 1,000 people onto the unemployment line with the stroke of a pen, wait a day and sell. The profit will be astounding and soon you’ll be a rich man. Just like all those illegal immigrants….those maids and hookers and convenience store clerks and orange pickers and low level drug dealers that Lou Dobbs tells us are ruining America.

Danton came to me in my room and he was quite certain and quite stolid in his evidence that revolution in America is quite impossible. Americans believe the deceit sold them, but it’s more than that. We are enticed by those who can stare us squarely in the eye and tell us that Iraq is buying yellow cake uranium from Niger or that Thomas Paine carries the evolutionary strain of blood that has been carried through to the tea bags of today. Without the instant system of disbelieving those best capable of telling us lies, revolution is impossible. It must be true because Danton told me so.

I looked into his eyes.