Exactly two years ago I was traveling Europe through Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam. On November 16, 2014 I went through the VerzetsMuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). It was an enlightening experience. The permanent exhibit space is laid out in a chronological path through time from the 1930’s to 1950’s with a focus on the 1940-45 years during WWII and the Netherlands occupation by Nazi Germany. From the Museum Website: “The Resistance is not about heroes and villains, but ordinary people who found themselves in a time of scarcity and oppression (with) dilemmas and had to make choices.”
The displays are made up of everyday artifacts from the daily lives of the Dutch people during that time. The exhibit lays out a story of difficult choices that had to be made in the face of fear of retaliation, hunger and scarcity, and societal pressure. I walked into the Museum believing I would be one who would resist Nazism at all costs. I walked through the exhibit with a realization and a new understanding of what that would truly cost an individual. I was also surprised to find that many of the same issues facing society in the 1930’s could describe the current climate we are still experiencing. Issues regarding the separation of church and state, issues of racism, issues of severe economic differences between the haves/have-nots. Issues of what it means to be patriotic. Issues of what certain choices can mean in the long story of history. How decisions to resist, adapt, ignore or collaborate all play out over time when faced with policies that oppress any segment of society; be that a certain race, religious faith, gender or even a free press.
One of the displays struck a particular chord with me, as a textile artist. It showed the simple everyday embroideries of Jacoba Maria Blom-Schuh of the Hague. She refused to give money to the Winter Help fund until the queen returned to the Netherlands. Because of her refusal she was imprisoned for three months. During her time in prison the SS guards gave her their socks to mend. She played ignorant and sewed them shut! In reality this was her form of further resistance to the Nazi cause. She later embroidered imagery from her time in prison onto these textile pieces (I call them artwork!) that are on display in the museum.
I found that reminiscing about my experience at the VerzetsMuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) to be very cathartic today, one week following our 2016 Presidential Election. This past week the media has been filled with many differing opinions on how America will move forward following this contentious campaign season. Many questions are being brought to light. I return to my experience of walking through that museum, being offered choices and questions along the path (through time): Faced with different situations would you Resist? Adapt? Collaborate? or Persecute? You may think you know the answers, but when faced with pressure to Adapt by your family and friends and even the leadership of your country, it can be difficult to hold your ground for what you truly believe is Right. You may find that in the face of severe hunger your Will is broken. You may find that is seems more loving and unifying to Collaborate with others who hold a very different View of what they would like to see their world look like. You could find that to get what you want or Need, it is easy to turn a blind eye to the Persecution of others. Or worse, you could find you are the instigator of that abuse somehow justifying it as a means to the end you would like.
This is a wake up call for me as I step into each day going forward, to be aware that my individual choices have an effect on my community and country as a Collective. I intend to take off my blinders to the plight and ideas of those who may not share my vision. To realize what I can do as I am faced with tough choices. To ask myself the tough questions: Am I ignoring the oppression of a segment of our society, and making light of it? Am I looking to find answers that work for all of us, or just for myself? Am I adapting to the new normal because it seems to be the peaceful thing to do, despite the concern that it could be causing others pain? These are the questions and many more that I (and All of US) will be faced with in the coming days and years. I know from walking through the Resistance Exhibit they are difficult questions to answer in the moments we are faced with them. These are difficult decisions to make. It is always easier to say in hind-site what should have been done. It is also easier to say in advance what you think you would do walking into a situation, than what you would actually do faced with the real consequences of your decisions.
One thing I know I will continue to do is use my Voice. My Voice comes in many different Forms. I will use my Words, speaking and writing freely as my U.S. Rights as a citizen allow. I will use my Dollars, as very often speaking with the wallet is one of the most effective methods of communication. And I will primarily use my Talents and Actions (they speak louder than words!) to speak up when I see something harmful and/or hateful to others. I encourage you who would like to hold on to the good in the world and continue to make it better for All to also use your voices and your dollars and especially your talents to call out and continue to shine the light on situations that do not resonate with that vision. Make your daily actions and choices speak to the vision of the world you want to see. We are all an aspect of the Great Creator, what we envision is the first step to what we create here. We can not turn a blind eye to what we see as abusive, mean, selfish, divisive, or inhumane on an individual level or as a collective. We can not “be ignorant”, but just like Maria Schuh’s example we can all “pretend ignorance” (or use other methods) to resist wrong doing, and use A Stitch In Time (to) Save.
Please Note: I personally do not define resistance as a way to obstruct or protest any actions or ideas of the new administration just for the sake of hatred of “the other side”. It is a method of standing up for the protection and against the persecution of the Rights of All others (no “sides”). I do not equate the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. I am only making observations and pointing out a way of assessing personally how I choose to move forward as a citizen. History (and herstory) is only as helpful as what you learn from it. Other than that, I tend not to look backward (unless I am reminiscing about a lovely European vacation), but aim to go forward doing my best to create a society that protects the Rights and Freedoms for ALL.
2 thoughts on “Resistance”
This is passionate, thoughtful, and moving. I, too, am struggling with the complexities this divisive election presents and the need for righteous resistance in select instances. You present a very balanced, thoughtful approach to your own struggle in these challenging times and it’s good to turn to history for enlightenment. Thanks for sharing your experience in Europe and they way it informs your thoughts in response to the uncertainties we now face. Though each generation faces different circumstances, there are parallels that can teach us much. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana (The Life of Reason, 1905). Knowing world history and following the thread of the human condition throughout is vitally important. Thanks for your perspective, Pam.
We all have our part to play in this story called “Life”! Looks like the next chapter is going to be very interesting.