Last evening, I went to see the new movie Les Misérables, which is based off of the 1862 classic by French writer Victor Hugo. Les Misérables is an illustration of the human experience, and the tragedy of the human condition. The setting is imperial France, following the failed French Revolution that did not succeed in securing human rights and individual liberties as did the American Revolution. Though the French Revolutionaries aspired to America-style Republicanism, they left out the most important ingredient: the acknowledgement of God as the source of human rights and dignity. Their failure to center their reformation on a belief in natural, God-given rights left open the possibility that a post-monarchial government would become more tyrannical than the monarchy it replaced.
That’s exactly what happened; the French Republic was based on secular-humanism, and economic socialism, both of which failed to secure minority rights and absolute freedoms for French citizens. The result was cultural and economic chaos that created a power vacuum, which paved the way for the rise of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The aftermath of the failed revolution, and the rise of the empire, left the common man in France worse off than under King Louis XVI, something French Revolutionaries never anticipated. As one might imagine, the psyche of the French citizenry was frayed, and what it meant to be a free citizen of a French Republic no one knew. There was no middle-class, there were only the politically well-connected that thrived off of proximity to power, and the working poor who endured subsistence-level living at best.
The glorious French Revolution had not only failed to create a sustainable American-style Republic, but had even erased the idea of dignified personhood. The secular-socialist state treated individuals as cogs in the wheels of industrial production, and believed people existed for the purposes of the State, not the State for the protection of the people. Thus, the title Les Miserables is exceedingly appropriate, for the people of post-revolutionary France were, indeed, “the miserable ones.” What had started as a revolution of human rights had descended into dictatorship, and the people were pillaged and the freedoms they fought for forgotten.
The plotline of Les Misérables may serve as a warning of sorts to us, the American People. As our Federal government becomes more and more intrusive on the citizens of this country, we run the risk of a neo-imperial government that will do to our rights what Napoleon did to the rights of the French. For freedom, once lost, is not easily regained. In the name of democracy and convenience, Americans have ceded ever more of our rights to Washington politicians, and the Secular-Progressive movement in this nation is attempting to secularize our society, while at the same time socializing our economy. These were, as I noted above, the trademark characteristics of the failed French Revolution that collapsed into the reign of an Emperor.
Americans of all races, backgrounds and ages have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity precisely because we followed the American Revolution, not the French Revolutionary model. We have thrived because we have believed that rights come from our Creator, and that a free economy best brings out the ingenuity and the genius of every single citizen. If we throw away the American Revolution in favor of the French model, we will suffer a similar fate in the form of consolidated national government, less freedom and undermined opportunity and prosperity for all.
Let’s get busy reapplying the principles of the American Founding, as opposed to jettisoning them for principles that have proven to fail throughout human history.