Mary Lou Seymour is a long-time libertarian activist and author. She lives in South Carolina.
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April 19, 2003 will be the 228th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord; the 60th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the 10th anniversary of the end of the siege of Waco. For people who cherish liberty, April 19 is a day of great significance. Let us do our part in commemorating the brave acts of those who resisted government power and tyranny!
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the all-American atrocity, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Federal Bureau of Investigations mounted a siege on the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel, TX, culminating in an assault that destroyed their home in flames and killed 82 of the 135 men women and children in residence. In my recent article "Waco, we'll never forget," I give several ideas for actions to show we remember, we understand, and we'll never forget.
Although our current regime has decided that Sept.11 will be "Patriots Day" the real Patriots Day is celebrated on April 19, the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Patriots Day is still a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, though ignored throughout most of the rest of the country.
I'm of the generation that was taught as school-children to memorize Longfellow's poem, "Paul Revere's Ride," and recite it as an example of what "one man" could do to guard against tyranny, to alert his community that "the redcoats are coming."
Back in colonial days, each village had a village green or common that was used for public gatherings, as a muster point and training ground for the village militia ("every able bodied man between the ages of 16 and 60 years"), which provided protection for individuals and property of the village against all threats. Each man in the militia was required to keep and bear his own arms, but the militia maintained a community armory for the storage of shot, powder, flint, additional small arms and any heavy arms.
On the night of April 18, 1775, Governor Gage (British Governor of fortress Boston) ordered British "redcoats" to march to the many surrounding villages, to seize and destroy all stores of munitions and to arrest the country leaders, the "arch-conspirators." And so, on the night of April 18,1775, alerted by the signal of the light in the North Church tower, Paul Revere set off on his famous ride to alert the militia to assemble at the commons, to protect their stores of arms, and to be ready to fight tyranny.
And fight they did, in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the next day.
An excellent short article by E. James Adkins, "Celebrate Patriot's Day," makes a great handout to commemorate the actions of the brave patriots on April 19. Send this article to your friends, write a letter to the editor, make copies of this letter and hand it out on Patriots Day or distribute it in your community, or go to your "village green" with some friends on Patriots Day and read this article out loud.
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and Warsaw surrendered at the end of the month after heavy bombardment. On December 1, 1939, Jews were ordered to wear a white arm-band with a blue "Star of David;" in October, 1940, the Nazi government ordered all Jewish residents into a designated part of the city and on November 15, 1940, for "their own good" the ghetto was sealed off from the rest of the city.
Between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements formed in about 100 Jewish groups. The most famous attempt by Jews to resist the Germans in armed fighting occurred in the Warsaw ghetto. On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters, starved, untrained and armed with smuggled or homemade weapons, fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were not, of course, the only Jews to resist ... but all their resistance was "too little, too late." They believed their leaders (who in turn believed the blandishments of the Nazi conquerors), they went along because it "wasn't time to fight" yet; their non-Jewish neighbors did not question authority; they believed it was for the "good of their country" to ignore what was happening and submit to tyranny.
And that is the real lesson of Warsaw.
Only if we are ever vigilant to the inroads of tyranny, and warn against every encroachment on liberty, can we avoid the fate of the Jews (and others) of Germany. Only if we become Paul Reveres, and warn our communities that the "redcoats" of our day are indeed coming, can we remain free.
History doesn't record, of course, how many who heard "the redcoats are coming" rolled over and went back to sleep, figuring that tomorrow was soon enough to take action, but those ever complacent individuals are always among us. It's our job to wake them up.
So, on April 19 this year, let's do our part to not only commemorate the brave actions of those who resisted at Waco, Lexington, and Warsaw, but vow to continue to spread the word to support resistence to tyranny, whenever it may appear, no matter how disguised it may be in friendly smiles and trappings of patriotism.
Til next week
Addendum: For those who see no contemporary lessons to be learned from the Warsaw Uprising ....
On May 18th and 20th,CBS-TV will present a movie titled Hitler: The Rise of Evil. According to the April 12-18 edition of TV Guide, the film makers are hoping to portray Hitler's rise to power as "a cautionary tale for contemporary America. It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole world into war,' says executive producer Ed Germon. I can't think of a better time to examine this history than now.'" (see "Let's Hear It for CBS-TV!!" by Butler Shaffer, who remarked "I suspect the neocons will be doing their best to get this pulled from the schedule. After all, how else are we gonna' maintain our 'enduring freedom' if people can get away with criticizing our leader??")
Well, Butler, It didn't take too long for the neocons to act ... "The executive producer of a CBS miniseries about Adolf Hitler's rise to power has been fired after giving an interview in which he compared the current mood of Americans to that of the Germans who helped Hitler rise to power." ("'Hitler' Exec Producer Fired Over Remarks," 04/10/03).
Write CBS and tell them you commend them for planning to show this film, and condemn the firing of Germon for his remarks and hope that CBS will have the courage to air the show as planned, despite pressure from the neocons.
PS: And, of course, April 19 also marks the anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Building at OKC, a tragedy that should still be investigated. Whether it was the work of one or two misguided or insane persons, or a larger group, or whether there were connections to evil forces within our government (as a sort of Reichstag fire) may never be determined, but we cannot let it sully our remembrance of Waco, Warsaw and Lexington-Concord.