I was about to completely put down my 1880 vintage “Studies in English Literature” by Thomas Swinton when I came across an excerpt from “The French Revolution: A History”, by Thomas Carlyle. The excerpt, ‘Three Lurid Pictures’, at once, seemed to be more Shakespeare than Gibbon, more rage than rational. It was irresistible. Immediately, I had to get some background so that I could follow the sundry historical references he made throughout the eight fun pages. I read about the Louis’, XIV, XV, and XVI. The quotes attributed to their reigns are repeated to this day, even though those quotes are most probably inappropriately attributed. In any case, I got the idea of imagining those same quotes being appropriately applied in modern times to the last two American presidential administrations and the next future one. Here we go…
Around 1751, King Louis XIV brought France to its peak of absolute power and his words “L’etat c’est moi” express the spirit of a rule in which the king held all political authority. His absolutism brought him into conflict with the Huguenots and the papacy, with damaging repercussions (quoted from HyperHistory.Com). Around 2006, President George Bush sharply defended Donald Rumsfeld…, saying the embattled Pentagon chief is doing a “fine job” despite calls for his resignation from six retired military generals. Continuing, the president was quoted as saying, “I hear the voices (indeed!), and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I’m the decider…”. I can only imagine Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mumbling “Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war. Don’t blame the boss. He has enough problems deciding. As for me, I am the State”.
Around 1774, King Louis XV’s decisions had damaged the power of France, weakened the treasury, discredited the absolute monarchy, and made it more vulnerable to distrust and destruction, as happened in the French Revolution which broke out 15 years after his death. “Après nous le déluge” is a French expression, attributed to Marquise de Pompadour, the lover of the King of France. The expression has two possible meanings: ‘After us, the deluge will come,’ asserting that if the revolution ended his reign, the nation would be plunged into chaos; or ‘After us, let the deluge come,’ implying “I don’t care what happens after I’m gone.” Around 2016, President Obama gave an incredible, hilarious speech at the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner. At the end he dropped the mic and walked out telling the audience, “yeah, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone!” I can only imagine First Lady Michelle Obama mumbling “I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as ‘us’ and ‘them’… But for me…after us, the deluge”.
Around May 9, 2016, a reporter asked the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, what he would do to reduce the deficit. Trump replied, “We’ll just print money…”. One might have speculated that a move like this would devalue the poverty wages of the already near starving poor. I can only imagine the presumptive First Lady Melania Trump mumbling, “Nothing lasts forever, so we live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, take chances, and never have regrets. Because at one point everything we do is exactly what we wanted. And as for ‘them’… Let them eat cake”.
I hear the past again, in every present quote.
I see history repeated each time we take a vote.
The coming of a state of one,
The deluge starts to crest,
This cake for rich it weighs a ton,
It will not float the rest.