Fête Nationale

It will be relatively dry Saturday but the mercury will move to the upper 80’s. A front of sorts will move in on Sunday bringing a risk of a few thunderstorms. Don’t cancel your plans though, in fact, perhaps you will want to extend your celebration of Fête Nationale.

So….whats all this foot stuff. It’s not foot, its Fête and Fête Nationale means “national holiday” in french. I know many Americans think “national holiday” and France are synonymous but try to get beyond that and think of your high school English class and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. If you were paying attention in class and still remember, Dickens’ classic was set in the time of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille. On this date in 1789, the French peasants stormed the notorious French prison that held many political prisoners at the behest of King Louis XVI. The French were inspired by the new Americans who had gained independence from England just 8 years earlier with the essential help of the French. Remember, it was the French Navy that bottled up Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown while George Washington, with the assistance of Lafayette, locked up the Redcoats by land.

So, it took the French a few years but eventually they got fired up. One of an assortment of grievances was a taxation system that really stuck it to the third estate…the peasants which made up about 98% of the French citizenry. The first estate was the clergy and the second estate was the nobles. Anyway, they stormed the Bastille, Marie Antoinette and the King lost their heads and the first French Republic eventually came into being. Didn’t last too long because Napoleon named himself emperor not too far down the road so it took them awhile before Democracy really took hold. In this country we declared independence in 1776, won in 1781 but never got a good Constitution until 1787 and not a President until 1789. So it takes time. Remember that next time you watch the news. Democracies don’t spring up instantly.

Besides, if the French had gotten their act together sooner, the US may not have ever stretched from sea to shining sea. If you recall, that big old land acquisition by Thomas Jefferson, which by the way he admitted may not have been Constitutional, was called the Louisiana purchase and was done by slipping Napoleon a few greenbacks. Talk about selfishness. Napoleon needed the money to fund his latest war so he gave up what became the breadbasket of the world and the bulk of what would be the greatest nation the world has ever seen for $15 million. He ended up exiled and the US went to superpowerdom. Anyway, if you see a Frenchman today, wish him happy Bastille Day, or Fête Nationale as it is officially, although less commonly, known today. By the way, its interesting, is it not, that our media is referred to as the “third estate”. I suppose its because the press is supposed to be the voice of the people. However, I know that the press doesn’t always speak for me. I mean, think about it….do you really want me speaking for you?

On This Date in History: Outlaw Johnny Ringo gained his independence before the French. He was a member of the infamous “cowboys” of Arizona. He was found in Turkey Creek Canyon near Tombstone, AZ with fatal gunshot wound to the head. It was thought that he killed himself or was killed by “Buckskin” Leslie or “Johnny behind the Deuce.” Then Wyatt Earp claimed to have killed him when he was writing about his life as a lawman. I guess since Wyatt Earp spent much of his later years in Hollywood and because the story was better cinema than perhaps the truth, Hollywood chose Earp’s account and in all the films about Earp, Ringo meets his demise at the hands of Earp…except in Tombstone in which Val Kilmer does the deed instead of Kurt Russel.

In baseball history, Hank Aaron hit his 500th homerun in 1968 exactly one year after Eddie Matthews hit his 500th. In 2004, the Houston Astros fired manager Jimy Williams not long after Williams was booed roundly at the All-Star game which was played in Houston. The Astros, under Phil Garner, staged a big come back in the second half of the season and ended up in the playoffs then made the World Series the following year for the first time in club history. Perhaps the day should be known as Astros Independence from Jimy Williams Day!


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