The world changes in the blink of an eye. In the 21st century, we have the luxury of visiting scenes from history in books, film, and documents, with the safety and conveniences of modern life. Join me to examine the lives of our ancestors, imagine their experiences, and connect with their struggles and triumphs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Paris Bombing & Learning from History

The Bomb-Thrower to Die.
Paris, Jan. 19.
Auguste Vaillant, the Anarchist, who threw a bomb in the Chamber of Deputies on December 9, by the explosion of which eighty persons were injured, was convicted and sentenced to death to-day. When the sentence was pronounced Vaillant shouted: “Vive l’Anarchie!”
New-York Weekly Tribune
January 17, 1894

"The government's reaction to this attack was the passing of the infamous repressive Lois scélérates.... He threw the home-made device from the public gallery and was immediately arrested. The weakness of the device meant that the explosion only caused slight injuries to twenty deputies.... Valliant claimed that his aim was not to kill but to wound as many deputies as possible in revenge for the execution of Ravachol [a fellow anarchist.]"

***Note the discrepancy between damage/injury reports. The media is no closer to the truth than it was 120 years ago.

The Execution of Vaillant.
Image courtesy of

History offers lessons, but so rarely do we learn.

Sadly, there have always been those who deem violence an appropriate tool to prompt change, demand vengeance, and strike terror into enemies. They take aim at their oppressors--real or imagined--and pay little heed to any collateral damage (or worse, relish it.)

Just as unfortunate, if more understandable, are the knee-jerk reactions that usher in fear and hatred, legislation and discrimination. Instead of measured precautions, we bypass common sense and compassion in favor of judgment and refusal of succor. We respond to pain, our grief still raw, just as the attackers hope, with prejudicial slash-and-burn anger that lands on all but those who earned it. We congratulate ourselves for swift justice while giving lip service to charity, but the price of the latter is always too steep. The veneer of security trumps humanity.

The persecution of innocents doesn't throttle danger; it feeds it. We let the terrorists win by meeting their expectations.

While we give thanks this year, remember those who have no home, no family, and no hope.  Compassion costs little for those fortunate enough to spend a day feasting with family before running out to pile gluttony into shopping carts in a race to beat the Joneses. Sharing our bounty won't make us poor, nor will it make us less safe. It will simply show that we've learned from history.