Revolution

I know too much about history.

Most revolutions fail. The history of the world is so littered with uprisings, revolutions, coups, and insurrections that have failed that we keep no record of them all.

My kids are really into the musical Les Miserables right now. I try to explain to them how this wasn’t The French Revolution, this was some precursor in which everyone died and nothing changed. I try to explain this, but I have trouble. I start crying halfway through the explanation. Crying a bit for the dead French peasants, yes. But crying more for the current revolution in Syria. For the Egyptian people and army and their elections. For the Bonus Army marching on Washington D.C. and being massacred by the U.S. Army. For the Long March in China. For the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

Most revolutions fail. Most of the ones that succeed are bloody affairs riddled with crimes of petty venality and crimes of selfless public spirit. Between petty venality and true-believer-passion, I’m not sure which leads to more death. Yet …

Yet people are people, and we keep trying to make things better. We keep trying to better ourselves, or the world, or the lives of our children, or the greater sum of knowledge. And it’s this, more than the squalid death, that makes me sniffle through the fireworks on July Fourth.

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