When a holiday takes hold in the national landscape, no one can imagine that it could disappear one day from the calendar. This is obviously the case in particular for The Fourteenth of July, an occasion for fun, patriotism and celebration for more than two centuries, national holiday for more than one hundred and thirty years, and probably will be for a very long time. Although the event it commemorates, the storming of the Bastille in 1789, is not, and by far, one of the most important events in the history of France, or even of the French Revolution, it took the front-row seat of the collective imagination, because our country, with its sedentary, rural and feudal roots, attaches the utmost importance to buildings; and because the destruction of a prison, almost empty then, symbolized better than any military feats, the fight against arbitrary rule. And its first anniversary, was also, with the Fête de la Fédération, the occasion to celebrate the ideal of fraternity. And, in 1792, the goal was to mobilize the endangered country.
Today, it serves no purpose to celebrate The Fourteenth of July if we do not remember that it was characterized, since its inception, by three main elements: indignation, fraternity and defense of the nation; all values which retain more than ever, their raison d’être.
First indignation: two centuries after the storming of the Bastille, the fight against arbitrary rule is far from won and The Fourteenth of July should be an opportunity to rebel again and again against the inconsistencies of the State, the casual attitude of administrations and all arbitrary actions from all the public and private, political, economic and domestic powers.
Then defense of the nation: if it is a tribute to the military, and rightly so, The Fourteenth of July should enable some thought to be given to the way in which it fulfills its role from now on. The Navy and the Air Force, essential and very effective contributors of the national defense, also benefit from powerful industrial lobbies that allow them to better protect their budgets, allow insane waste (such as the Rafale, and it cannot be stressed enough the harm that it has done to the budget of France, the structure of our armed forces and the European project, for the sole benefit of a private firm) and preserve preconceived notions that are never questioned (such as the constant presence at sea of two nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, while keeping them on watchful mode would suffice). Meanwhile, the Army, the most genuine army of the people, who risks its life at the forefront of every battle, because it has no powerful industrial figure to defend its case, pay the cost of all the cost-reduction plans, while it would be necessary to protect its budget, both for its conventional interventions and its special operations and for the management of cyber defense, which is largely incumbent on the Army.
Lastly, fraternity: the national holiday ought also to give us pause for thought about what makes national unity. At a time when social inequality reaches its climax, and where children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more than ever confined to their ghettos, the abandonment, tragic to my mind, of the national service, replaced by a ridiculously homeopathic civic service, has taken away all occasion for young people from different backgrounds to meet one another, get to know one another: they will never meet again, but in a hierarchical relationship or in unlikely circumstances, such as training courses to recover the points lost on their driving license…
So, may the next national holiday be the opportunity, for all of us, to meditate on its three main elements. So that it may not be just an occasion for military parades, fireworks, firemen’s balls and prepared statements. And so that the next French revolution, which will take place, may not be followed, like so many, by a Terror and a counter-revolution, but makes possible a genuine step forward, towards a more genuine democracy.