The massacre of August 10, 1792 has been celebrated as the effective end of the Bourbon monarchy. This year, on the 220th anniversary of the event, I would like to suggest that we lay off the bellicose rhetoric and state the obvious: violence is sickening, then as now.
This was driven home to me by the work I’ve been doing over the last three weeks with high school kids from my home town, South Bend, Indiana, in the Upward Bound program. I have been startled to learn how much violence has already devastated their young lives. In the stories they’ve written and the altered books they’ve created for our class, the memory of loved ones being shot, in execution-style murders or drive-by machine-gun fire, is appallingly real.
So I propose we “commemorate” August 10th this year with a song more suited to the reality of senseless killing: Serge Gainsbourg’s Aux armes et caetera. This song joins a joyful reggae beat to the harsh lyrics of La Marseillaise to evoke the sobering truth that weapons—-like patriotic rhetoric—-can and often do kill.