On May 23, 1618, three Catholic officials were tossed out of a top-floor window in Hradčany Castle by an angry mob of Bohemian Protestant activists. Such defenestrations—the act of throwing someone out of a window—had actually happened twice before, but this particular incident became the catalyst for the Thirty Years War, Europe’s bloodiest conflict. All matter of plunder and pillage ensued: nobles and common citizens were tortured and executed, their heads impaled on iron stakes and hung from a bridge near Prague’s central square. By the time thirty years of bloodshed finally ceased, more than 8 million people lay dead, some from wounds suffered in battle, but millions more from famine and disease.
At the risk of diving into the shallow waters of partisan politics and breaking my own neck, I’ve decided to devote this Musing to the defenestration of reason that recently took place in Washington. Another impeachment trial has now concluded and while no one was tossed out of a Capitol window, an angry mob and the individual who incited it literally got away with murder. When fifteen Republican Senators—supposedly impartial jurors in this trial—decided to absent themselves from their Constitutional responsibilities and another handful of GOP Senators deemed it appropriate to consult with defense counsel, the outcome of this impeachment trial became a forgone conclusion. When all was said and done, the defendant in the case was acquitted for an unprecedented second time and a new series of events of potentially disastrous consequences was likely set in motion as a result of lickspittle Senatorial cowardice. As someone once tweeted before that social media plug was pulled, “Sad!”
It is unfathomable to me that so many of us simply refuse to accept reason. Facts, science, truth, the results of a free and fair election—all denied and tossed out the window. Apparently, there is another compelling reality, some parallel universe, of which I’m not aware. In that realm, the rule of law is supplanted by hypocrisy and hate, and the blind eyes of the elders and their devoted mob refuse to see the bodies that are falling from the sky. Remember that in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War, many more innocent people died of hunger and disease—the social and economic pandemics of their time—than fell in battle. Today, we’ll be counting the dead differently. These new casualties have fallen to a global pandemic, to racial injustice, to a devastated economy, and even to the deadly onslaught of climate change. And those among us who have chosen to defenestrate reason don’t give a fig.
Strangely enough, even though the three officials who were defenestrated in Prague in 1618 fell more than seventy feet, they all survived. The Catholics who were present said the three were saved by angels; the Protestants who witnessed the same event said the three all landed in a steaming dung heap. Either way, they were lucky to survive, but the eight million folk who didn’t survive the defenestration’s aftermath weren’t so fortunate. They paid the price for the folly of an angry mob.
I fear we’re seeing history repeat itself. Again.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com