“Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?”
Though some might feel called to attribute this quote to the noble Senator Ted Cruz, the captain of the internationally renowned team that partially shut down the US government, they would be off by 200 years. No, it was said by Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, to whom the junior senator makes for an adequate comparison. She was beheaded for her colossal lack of common sense 220 years ago this October 16.
In May of 1770, Marie Antoinette married Louis Auguste, who ascended to the throne as Louis XVI five years later. Though she shared a bed (rarely) with the king of France, she had little say in matters of French policy. So the new queen used her position to do what any normal person would do: build a model hamlet at Versailles, complete with a farmhouse, a dairy, and an authentic French peasant’s boudoir. It was built for a bargain price of $6 million (in 2006 dollars), so Antoinette needed to spend more to satisfy her tastes.
Antoinette was seen around Paris buying dresses and socializing with comely young men, quickly drawing the scorn of talented French satire artists. In one graphic cartoon, a nude Antoinette is in the clutches of her lover, while his friends stand in the background, applauding, “Bravo! Bravo! Penetrate the queen for the nation!” She lived in a world of idealized country settings, big dresses, and attractive wooers. The rest of the nation scorned her. But did she flinch at the criticism? Never! She had courage!
Of late, Cruz has built his own sort of hamlet. His voting reflects the world he wishes to live in. A NO vote on authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. A NO vote on protecting ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems. A NO vote on banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets. A YES for a wall on the US-Mexico border. And lest we forget his emphatic vote NO on the Affordable Care Act.
Wait. That’s incorrect. He wasn’t elected until 2013, three years after Obamacare was voted into law. Cruz, grumpy he couldn’t vote in 2010, effectively led the ongoing shutdown of the government to prevent the democratic process from happening. Does he care about those critics, the 53 percent of Americans who blame the Republican party for the shutdown? Never! He has courage!
To put on a brave face before her detractors, Marie Antoinette decided it was best to personally purchase a palace for her children. France, seriously in debt after the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution, could hardly afford such an extravagant bill. Starving peasants who could barely afford bread called out in protest. Did Marie Antoinette cave to the masses? Never! She had courage! And for the peasants? “Let them eat cake.”
The French people did more than that; they staged a successful revolution, overthrew the monarchy, and used their shiny new guillotine to check to see what really was going on in Marie Antoinette’s head. That’s how courage worked out for her.
As the government shutdown drags on, Cruz stands firm in his commitment to use non-democratic tactics to have his way. He isn’t particularly concerned that the majority of America disagrees with him. He will continue to believe the government should stay out of healthcare, stay away from helping the disenfranchised who cannot pay for coverage. Afterall, the government might start regulating what people can eat, right? Cruz doesn’t want that. He wants to continue with his old ways, and has no issue telling the American people what that good stuff is: “I like their little burgers … I’m a big fan of eating White Castle burgers.” Where does he draw the line? “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.”
Courage, Cruz. Courage.