“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!” 

lesmis logo

Love me some Les Miserables.
*waves flag and sobs*
It’s almost enough to make you patriotic. Almost.

Yesterday was voting day in this part of the world. It was also Guy Fawkes Day, which was far more mentioned on my news feed. Yes, my digital spaces are cluttered with people living in democracies honoring a man they see as a revolutionary. Only he wasn’t. Guy Fawkes certainly wanted change, just not the kind people think of when they start a list of words that rhyme with ‘gunpowder’. Fawkes wanted to replace the ruling king with…another monarch. A Catholic one. He wanted a religious ruler, not an anarchic utopia. To be fair, a lot of my friends and fellow geeks were really talking more about V than Guy.


Come to think of it, I love me some V too. The above quote was in both the comic and the movie. It’s true. As long as someone believes in an idea, it cannot truly be destroyed. Ideas can change minds and lives, but without action they’re only flaccid symbols. As a writer and reader, hell as a human, I adore symbols. They inform and incite without requiring much, if any, effort. Thus with minimal effort, a little time, and society’s pliant memory, the meaning of a symbol can be thoroughly altered. Apathetically supporting a cause that sounds good rather than actually knowing anything about the movement itself is the norm. We have to take off the mask, we need to know how the person beneath was burned. When we speak of revolution, we must mind our revolutionaries.

I am not alone in wondering if the world is headed for a massive alteration of some kind.
Will the doomsday clock hit midnight?
Will the rapture happen before Armageddon?
Are we headed toward total climate breakdown?

We’re a morbid people. We like to contemplate the various ways in which we could reach total annihilation. Our fictional stories tell us that we also like to think about how to avoid such disaster. We’re an optimistic people.

When even the ‘best‘ countries spy on their citizens and deny them basic rights, can we really claim that any of our systems of government are working? Worldwide defiance has to be as least as likely as nuclear holocaust. Revolutions aren’t really so uncommon. Humans tend to take and dispense as much abuse as possible. We walk along the brink until someone puts that last toe over the line. We wait until the last piece of straw breaks us before we collaborate and find a solution. When will we finally go to far or wait to long? When will we be unable to repair and rebuild?

Can slow and steady really win the race or must we wait for every situation to be do or die? Let’s look at two other events that happened on November 5th. In 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted in a presidential election, a crime for which she was later arrested. Women didn’t gain the right to vote until nearly five decades later. In 2013, Illinois lawmakers voted to extend the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

illinois gay

We can transform our surroundings with just a bit of rebellion, but we have to be willing to risk something for it. Our democracies must transform. The way we vote must be reformed. Why? I’ll let CGP Grey explain:

We need change and not just as a word on a poster. Call the artists to engage the people, but make sure that there is substance behind the symbol. Everyday revolutions leave no need for revolt.

3 thoughts on ““Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

    1. Okay, NOW I’m ready to comment coherently:

      What I mean when I say this makes me nervous is that it challenges me to get off the fence, to one side or the other. I am torn between a historical awareness that tells me substantive change always requires a measure of violence, and a romantic sensibility that demands of me a belief in the possibility of ideal revolution, another 1688, so to speak. But to waver between two poles is to cancel out my charge, to accomplish nothing. I know this, but I’m afraid to take a chance by taking a stand one way or the other.

      I believe in people–I believe in you and me, and in what we can do if we come together and act as one–and I believe that such action is the only way to effect positive change. But what does that positive change look like? I’m amazed by the number of states that have legalized same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court decisions earlier this year; I don’t think that this time last year any of us saw that coming, at least not so quickly. All it takes is the right catalyst, and everything changes. But do we force the catalyst, or do we wait until it happens on its own? Which is what you asked. I just wish I had a useful answer…

      Perhaps “commenting coherently” was not the correct phrase… 🙂

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