Celebrating Rebellion and Revolution (the Non-Violent Variety)

by Kathie MM

This week, citizens from all over the United States celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, “written by the rebelling fathers of the United States”. Symbolic of the long-ago battles, fireworks lit up the skies and enactments of various forms of resistance filled the parks.

I chose to celebrate the day by giving thanks to rebels and revolutionaries who resist violence non violently, adhering to the principles of non-killing advocated by Glenn Paige.

In particular, I honored a young girl who wrote one of history’s most important books, a book with the power to promote empathy and compassion and to energize readers to fight prejudice, cruelty, scapegoating, and passive obedience to unrighteous authority.

I am talking about the mesmerizing diary of Anne Frank, the young teen writing her story while hiding with her mother, father, sister and four other people in a neglected factory annex in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and genocidal pursuit of Jews.

Anne’s tale of coming of age in that annex under such dire circumstances is engrossing, inspiring–and heart-breaking because we know that shortly after her last entry, German and Dutch police stormed the annex and seized the eight inhabitants plus two of the Dutch men and women who made it possible for Anne and the others to avoid becoming victims of the Holocaust for more than two years.

Think of the risks faced by those stalwart supporters bringing food, beverages, clothing, medicines, books, magazines, newspapers, week after week, month after month.

Anne’s diary bears witness to the horrors of one of the not-to-be forgotten episodes of man’s inhumanity to man, a horrifying example of what people who feel angry and mistreated can be led to do by power hungry leaders with a skill for identifying scapegoats, promoting anger and hatred, and stirring up prejudice.

The diary is also a testimonial to goodness, a reminder that there are always good people who will risk everything to resist evil and rebel against cruel and unjust authority—as indeed did the patriots who turned to warfare to free themselves.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Anne’s diary is that it memorializes not just Anne but also the brave souls who fought to protect them– Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies, and Bep Voskuijl.

It seems likely that, in part, the loyalty of such friends was what made it possible for Anne to write, while hiding in the Annex:

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”



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4 Responses to Celebrating Rebellion and Revolution (the Non-Violent Variety)

  1. Barbara says:

    I still remember clearly the movie based on Anne’s Frank’s diaries. She had heard descriptions of what went on in German concentration camps and knew the horrors that awaited her family if they were captured. Particularly gripping was the scene in which the betrayed group, hidden in the basement of her father’s office, hear the wail of an approaching German police vehicle. Anne and Peter, the lad she had fallen in love with, rush into each other’s arms for a last desperate embrace to the tune of that fateful music in the background.

  2. LB says:

    When Anne Frank expressed her belief in the innate goodness of human beings, maybe what she was sensing (albeit on a deeper, unconscious level), was that many if not most of the people involved in the monstrous happenings going on all around her were ordinary people much like herself, and *NOT* monsters. She was articulating something about our shared humanity, what it means to be human.

    Hannah Arendt ~the 20th century Jewish-German political theorist and philosopher~ in attempting to understand the Holocaust, wisely observed that most evil is *banal*, and has a self-deceptive, “thoughtless” (and in my opinion, *unconscious*) quality which drives it and makes its normalization possible.

    She made the case that it’s the “joiners” among us ~those of us searching for causes and movements bigger and nobler than ourselves to connect and identify with, to make us feel less alone and isolated, to give our lives a sense of shared meaning and purpose (and maybe also an acknowledged and shared sense of ‘goodness’?)~ who’re most likely to be taken in by the banal and illusionary aspects of evil, and to provide the necessary conditions under which it (temporarily) grows and flourishes.

    We can intellectually know or think we understand universal concepts like love, compassion, peace and empathy, enthusiastically embracing worthwhile aspects of all of these, and yet still fail to comprehend and live out their fuller and deeper meaning in our lives. In a complicated, interconnected and disconnected world where things are rarely what they seem, we look around and see in others what we fail to recognize in ourselves.

    “Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet–and this is its horror–it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think.”
    ~ Hannah Arendt, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”

  3. It occurs to me while reading your response, LB, that what you are putting into words is what many seem to feel–that what we once believed were shared values–what is good and humane and kind and compassionate–have been hijacked. Those who stand to be enriched by violence, war, and the continuation of disastrous trends that are leading to the end of an inhabitable earth, manipulate both elected officials and the people who elect them. They stoop to behavior we might never have dreamed of in the past–paying people to spread fake news and to agitate and disrupt sincere users of social media. They are so good at it that they are able to seduce even well-intentioned citizens, and that is where the problem comes in. The intention–and make no mistake, it IS intentional–is to sow seeds of confusion in the larger society as to what is good and what is evil. They have the tools of modern psychology and sociology and they do not hesitate to use them. The deeper we see into this trend, the more shocking it is. Especially shocking because the goals are power and wealth–goals that every shared moral and spiritual tradition eschew.
    And yet, there are always countervailing forces. Activists for climate stabilization, universal health care, racial equality and other humanitarian causes have increased by enormous numbers, and most of the increase has come from a young generation. Groups around the country have formed to implement the recommendations in the short manual called “Indivisible.” The most admired and popular politician in the US is a democratic socialist in the tradition of FDR. Women by the millions are standing up against authoritarianism. France and Great Britain have increased support for moderate to liberal leaders. Most of the world continues to favor climate accords and the end of all nuclear weapons. Nonviolent direct action has led Americans to be more aware of our history of racism, and more determined to reverse it. The idea that austerity measures are needed is being questioned robustly. And it goes on. You and other readers might find a book by Rebecca Solnit to be useful. It is called “Hope in the Dark.” I would also highly recommend Timothy Snyder’s book called “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”

  4. Linda Dupre' says:

    I think most of us read the Diary of Anne Frank either on their own or in school. Certainly, many have seen the movie. I cannot recall specific details, but do remember the quote about the goodness of people, and my thinking at the time how insightful that young lady was. I remember a sense of dread and tension while reading the book. I remember the sadness at learning Anne’s fate at the concentration camp, dying of pneumonia.

    Today I wonder about Anne’s reaction should she have known how widespread her words would become. I wonder how many readers take them to heart and I wonder how many carry on as though most people are good and live with that goodness, paying it forward.

    What would the numbers be, if they could be counted, of those who do go out of their way to help others, to set their own needs aside (or find a balance) and make an impact on their communities, locally, nationally, globally? Can we increase those numbers, simultaneously increasing the non-violent response to violence? Celebrating non-violent revolution and rebellion certainly sounds like a start to spreading the word and the concept!

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