Farewell, My Queen (Les adieux a la reine)

You can read reviews of the film, in French with English subtitles, through the Rotten Tomatoes website. Most of them miss the strength of Chantal Thomas’ 2002 historical novel, which presents an important study of cross-class courage, loyalty and devotion. Enlisting her historian’s knowledge of Louis XVI’s court at Versailles, Ms. Thomas constructs a fictional servant, Agatha-Sidonie Laborde the queen’s reader, and an observer of palace intrigues.

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Privilege in class, gender and race

As we have written from the beginning, men and women of every class background are good people and deserving of respect. It’s rare than anyone tries to be thoughtless or to injure another person. And, when it happens the act often occurs because the perpetrator is trying to protect someone else. Some acts of abuse spring from seeing others as different and therefore not deserving, or numbness to the experience of others.

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Owning class - its own challenge

How many owning class people do you know personally? I know a few who are either owning class, or were raised in owning class families. Each of them is a good person, hardworking, bend-over-backward honest, full of initiative and gracious. A few are highly competitive. Some of them are extraordinarily cautious. More about these traits in a moment. First, what does it mean to be owning class? Ownership refers to possession and control. Property rights are enforced by contract and by law. When one or a few people’s power to control an industry creates a radical imbalance of power, that’s an owning class person or group.

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Working class people

Unless working people in cities and on farms keep working, no one eats, no one can shop at Costco or Walmart for groceries or a new TV, no one can fill the gas tank to drive anywhere. Buses don’t run, tractors don’t plow, trucks don’t haul, airplanes don’t fly. In the 1930’s, when the USA was an industrial and agricultural nation, the output of working people in the US was largely confined within the borders of the United States. Identifying the working class was much more obvious and led to industrial workers organizing themselves for better wages and working conditions, and in the next decade, to delivering the industrial might that won the war in Europe.

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On being raised poor

The group most openly abused by class prejudice are those in poverty. It is not surprising. They have the least political clout, the least economic influence, and are less well organized as a social group. And, because of their need they are more noticed in the wallets and purses of members of the other three classes. Frustration and anger of working and middle class people over federal transfer payments settled first on the tiny sum delivered to the poor, in particular to young, single mothers and to immigrants. A two-decade campaign of angry rhetoric led in 1996 to the abolition of AFDC (aid for families with dependent children), and deep cuts in eligibility for such programs as food stamps and Supplemental Social Security Income (1).

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