Guillotines in Times Square

Guillotines in Times Square

I sat in the high-backed leather chair in front of the fire with my eyes closed.  I reveled in the heat on my face as I listened to the crackling of the wood.

 

 

My glass of Lagavulin sat on the end table to my left, still clutched in my hand.  There was no reason to be actually holding it… the table was doing an adequate job… still there was comfort in feeling the glass on my fingers.

 

 

I felt a familiar hand touch my right shoulder.

 

 

“Evening, Captain.”

 

 

I looked up and saw the LTC standing next to me.  He held his whisky in his left hand and a half-lit cigar in his right.  He was beaming at me.

 

 

“Colonel, I thought you were back east!  I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

 

 

The LTC sat down next to me in the other high-backed chair to my right.

 

 

“We leave tomorrow morning.  First flight out.”

 

 

“How is the boy doing?”

 

 

“Excited… nervous… but excited.”

 

 

The LTC had two children.  His youngest, Antonio, was in middle school as Chaney began her plebe year at West Point.  Evidently a spark had been ignited in him back then and he had decided to seek an appointment at the Academy himself.  He had been successful, and was now preparing for his own 47-month journey to adulthood and commissioning as an officer in the United States Army.

 

 

The LTC, his wife, Grace, and his older daughter, Angelina, were preparing to travel with Antonio back to West Point to drop him off for his “R-Day” when he would begin cadet basic training, just as we had done for our daughter five years earlier.

 

 

I honestly thought they had left the day before.

 

 

“Sorry, Colonel, I must have marked the day down slightly wrong on my calendar.”

 

 

The LTC chuckled, “Well, it’s been a busy couple of months for all of us.”

 

 

The LTC reached into his jacket and retrieved a second cigar.  With ceremonial flourish, he removed the wrapper and used a small tool to puncture a smoke hole in the rear end.  Without asking me if I even wanted it in the first place, he handed me the cigar while studying the gold-framed painting of Napoleon hanging over the fireplace.

 

 

I smiled to myself as I took the cigar.

 

 

“Thank you, sir, may your son be as focused on soldier care of his subordinates as you are.”

 

 

The LTC chuckled.

 

 

“We all have our talents, Captain.”

 

 

“We both stared at Napoleon on his horse, leading his men over the Alps.  He sat high in the saddle, looking back and pointing onward.”

 

 

“They still study Napoleon at West Point?”

 

 

“Indeed, Colonel, they do.  Chaney often referenced him when she was a cadet.”

 

 

“Leading his men towards an uncertain future.”

 

 

I raised an eyebrow.  “Being metaphorical, Colonel?”

 

 

He sighed and looked towards the fire.  “Wondering if a Napoleon is on our horizon.”

 

 

There was a sadness and concern in his voice.

 

 

“Cosmo, I know.  These are troubled times, but there have always been troubled times.  Your son will be okay.”

 

 

The LTC let out a sigh.

 

 

“I know he will be, Captain, just as I know your daughter will be.  But these are not just troubled times.  They are cyclical ones, and generally the cycles do not end well.”

 

 

“You talk of the end of Empires?”

 

 

“Actually, I was speaking of the end of republics.”

 

 

I nodded and took a sip of whisky.

 

 

“Yes, we are in agreement, from the Roman Republic to the First French Republic, there are tangible similarities to today.  Yet, from the ashes of those republics sprang forth empires.

 

 

“You think there is a Caesar Augustus or Napoleon waiting in the wings?”

 

 

“Better them than a Robespierre.”

 

 

We both took sips of our whisky.

 

 

“Well, Captain, I am still a Republican, and pray for the continued success of our Constitutional Republic.  But, Pax Americana does give soft comfort that perhaps all will not be lost.”

 

 

“In theory, yes, Colonel, but like you, I have severe trepidation.  For the first time in my life I see people, young people, clamoring for authoritarianism.  The warring sides seem indifferent to the Constitution that lies in tatters at their feet.  They seek a leviathan, just one who enforces a lifestyle they endorse, not one endorsed by the other side.  A Napoleon or Augustus may not spring forth in some dramatic gesture.  They may appear gradually as our civil liberties are erased by both camps.”

 

 

The Colonel scoffed.

 

 

“No, Captain, before there can be a Napoleon or Augustus there will indeed be a Robespierre.  There will be a Terror the people clamor for, followed by an Emperor who puts an end to the madness.”

 

 

“Madness.”

 

 

“Perpetual, cyclical, madness, Captain.”

 

 

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Comments (6)

  • Bob Reed Reply

    Precisely why many believe that following tyrannical laws to the letter merely encourages the tyrants who codified them. The Socratic notion that all law is sacrosanct is conflicted as we are faced with state law which is contradictory to our U.S. constitution which itself should be held as the highest law in the land. Despite the erosion of this great nation, we remain a civil society as long as a significant portion of the populace desires peace and order regardless of despotic edict.

    06/19/2024 at 08:21
  • John Denney Reply

    America is an idea that won’t die.
    Simply being born here makes one a U.S. citizen, but not an American.
    Americans hold that all are created equal, endowed by God with Rights like Life & Liberty.
    Americans unite to defend Person, Property, & Liberty, with arms if needed.
    Individualism is good: character & competence count, not color or class.
    More US citizens should be Americans.
    Too many citizens are unAmericans.

    06/19/2024 at 08:57
    • Dan Reply

      Rarely does a comment meet the quality of the article, but this surely does.
      America has been an exception so far, it may yet be to the cycle we’re in now.
      My faith goes to God first, and then to America- may He lay His hand in helping us.

      06/19/2024 at 09:31
  • Jerome Schammel Reply

    The “American Troubles” were easily foreseeable as far back as 50 years ago as some groups and organizations were proactively working toward today’s deducement or conclusion. As we slough toward “1984” with increasing speed, will there be a catalyst or a desire by Americans to seek a better resolution? Can the recent invasion be reversed? Can the chaos and lawlessness be stopped? Can the progression to a one party State be avoided? Can the indoctrination of our children in progressive schools be changed? Will we be able to get back to the American fundamentals of rugged individualism and meritocracy? These and other questions are unanswerable but the prognosis, imo, is not favorable. As was forecast by some political thinkers in the past, when the American public realizes they can vote the treasury into their pockets by politicians who promise more free stuff for their own greed of more power and wealth, the American “experiment” is over.

    06/19/2024 at 10:09
  • Gary F. Reply

    What a great post! Informative and extract point for historical references especially Robespierre. If one does not know that name, it is worth a Google and YouTube. A significant figure in French Revolution and Reign Of Terror.

    I enjoyed the descriptive language of the conversation. I could picture the scene. I saw you with the cigar and drink and lounging by the fire and then one of the most famous paintings and the one I see when it is of Napoleon of course.

    Serious but fun post. We live in such somber times. It’s nice change to consider these heavy things in this format.

    06/19/2024 at 20:14
  • Norm Ellis Reply

    Very true

    06/25/2024 at 15:27

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