We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The French Revolution proved a dry-run for the twentieth century. Fanatics systematically liquidated internal enemies. They exported revolution to those unlucky enough to share their borders. They ignored all of history and believed all of posterity would see them as the starting point. Words, such as “Committee of Public Safety,” conveyed the very opposite of their meanings. The inability to attain the glorious ends that rationalized their terrible means left just the terror.
I believe it's the principles, rather than the reality, which drives them to continue celebrating it. As PRJ notes, they only freed a few people.
The Bastille simply represented something reprehensible in their lives at the time, making the original act purely symbolic. The fact that events which followed were equally (or more) reprehensible makes the continued celebration just as symbolic.
I've read a lot of history of Russian and to a lesser degree Chinese communism, but only recently have I started reading up on the French revolution. What struck me like a 2x4 between the eyes was the similarity between much of the rhetoric of the French Revolution and that of the Russian one; truly frightening.
They set up portable guillotines and traveled the country executing people from various groups. Successful business people, aristocrats, and priests were fed to the guillotine to prevent them from opposing the new "democratic" government, or out of revenge, or just for the hell of it.
Celebrating day one of the Reign of Terror never made sense to me either.
Many cautionaries from the French Revolution --one of them is that the storming of the Bastille was at the front end, in 1789 --but the Reign of Terror wasn't until 1793. It had taken awhile for the HopenChange rhetoric to die --and when it did, the population found it had no means to resist the Jacobin units of the army. NO SECOND AMENDment i shout --because the news out of Colorado is going to cause another run at it.
Anyhoo, the Reign began with the 1793 decap of Marie Antionette by order of Robespierre, and ended with the Committee --worrying that the finger was coming round to them, acted first and pointed at the Reign's leader, Robespierre himself --accusing his harsh rule of being the creator of its own pre conditions.
So in 1794 his head rolled, too, and became opposite Marie Antoinette's head the official bookend of his own Reign of Terror.
And his Big Idea likewise became its own rebuttal: "The End Justifies The Means" --became, upon the author getting the chop, "Maybe the end can justify the means, depending".
And then the Vendee Genocide didn't start for another two years, that is, until 1796, when it became time for the people's refresher course in euphemisms for the beautiful language of 1789.
another item for remembrance, the Catholic church's opposition to the Revolution (which caused the notorious mass executions of priests across the countryside) was far less religious doctrine and far more a matter of the clergy being forced to take a state loyalty oath that made them agents not of the Divine but of the state --of the state's political leadership.
Ben Franklin was well aware yet wisely kept to himself the fact that the French (God bless 'em) are a romantic lot, entranced by the "noble savage" and his imaginary utopian world. Thank heavens the technology for a modern "terror" did not yet exist in the late 18th century and the Guillotine was the best they could devise!