A Tale of Two Cities: a Tale for Today

Posted: July 7, 2012 in Novels
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It is in the classics that we so often find stories that best explain our own lives. Perhaps the reason they are classics is that they provide lessons of some sort to us, even though they are set into a foreign shore.

Increasingly, we hear reports about the ‘evaporating’ middle class. The divide between the rich and poor grows wider as the months pass by. We see angry mobs in our streets protesting the very fact that some people are better off than they are, while some cooler heads fight with direction, calling out the wrongs done by CEOs and rich corporations, and leading the call for their demise.

A temptation of these days is to despair, to mourn the loss of human decency, to see the world as the worst, the most bloodthirsty, the most uncaring it has ever been. The doomsayers are all around. “This is it.” “The United States will not survive.” “Europe is collapsing.” And these statements may be prophetic.

But the reality is this. That no matter how much our technology advances, no matter how many people our weapons can kill, how many heads are called for, all this stems from one thing only: the propensity of the human heart to do wrong.

Atilla, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Manson, bin Laden, the list goes on. They kill in the name of power, of vengeance, of religion (or against it), or out of insanity. And they have been defeated time and again, and rightfully, and justly, by the propensity of the human heart to do good. And like all these past evils, the present evils will come and go. But it is the duty of the oppressed to not only stand up against these evils, but to stand up against them in such as way that the oppressed do not rise to take their place of brutality.

Dickens pulls no punches in regard to the aristocracy. They are oppressors of the common man, whom they view as animals, and whom they treat such. They are barbaric, and they deserve to face justice. But it is the oppressed that Dickens hits hardest, for it is not justice they bring, but Vengeance, the bloody wave of the French Revolution, rolling and destroying all in its crimson tide.

The parallels are disconcerting. In 18th century France, the wealthy were hoarding their wealth, and used it to oppress the common man. In modern day America, the wealthy are becoming more wealthy, and the common man oppressed and frustrated by lack of work. In 18th century France, the politicians were corrupt, and the taxes high. In modern day America, the politicians are corrupt, the taxes high. In 18th century France, the country was in the midst of a fiscal crisis brought on by previous wars. The modern day America, our debt is increasing, and our government refuses to spend less on military presence in other lands. In 18th century France, the Revolution lead to the murders of hundreds of aristocrats essentially because they had money. In modern day America, people protest outside Wall Street because the people inside have more money than they do. The rich are swept away for being rich, unless they are celebrities, then the fickle crowd demands their absolution (much like the French madness briefly released Darnay, a man they hated for being ‘rich,’ only because he was the son-in-law of one of their current favorite celebrities, Dr. Mannette).

The following was part of a letter written by a concerned citizen of the U.S.A. in 1992:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight.

The “American Dream” of the middle class has all but disappeared, substituted with people struggling just to buy next week’s groceries. Heaven forbid the car breaks down!

Politicians are further eroding the “American Dream” by passing laws which are supposed to be a “quick fix,” when all they are really designed for is to get the official re-elected. These laws tend to “dilute” a problem for a while, until the problem comes roaring back in a worsened form.

Politicians are out of control. Their yearly salaries are more than an average person will see in a lifetime. They have been entrusted with the power to regulate their own salaries, and have grossly violated that trust to live in their own luxury.

Maybe we have to contribute ideologies to achieve the perfect utopian government. Remember, government-sponsored health care was a communist idea. Should only the rich be allowed to live long? Does that say that because a person is poor, he is a lesser human being; and doesn’t deserve to live as long, because he doesn’t wear a tie to work?

What is it going to take to open the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline!

We have no proverbial tea to dump, should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports? Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that.

But it might.

What road will we choose? Regardless of political affiliation, we all know our government is not doing its job. Will we choose the path of justice? Will we use our freedom to vote, to make changes, to demand impartiality? Will we learn from the past and try to build up stronger tomorrows?

Or will we be vengeful, driven by jealousy, fear, and hatred? Will we close ourselves off to common sense, to reasonable debate, and be too blind to see the oppressed becoming the oppressor? Will we shout for our supposed enemy’s head, too blind with rage that we fail to see that our fellow human person actually isn’t our foe?

Will we choose the path of Manette, or the path of Defarge?

The letter quoted above was written by a certain Mr. Timothy McVeigh, years before his quest for vengeance led him to kill 168 innocent people in the Oklahoma City bombing.

” ‘How goes it, Jacques?’ said one of these three to Monsieur Defarge. ‘Is all the spilt wine swallowed?’
      ‘Every drop, Jacques,’ answered Monsieur Defarge.”

Let us choose wisely.

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