Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Book image courtesy of

Read, reviewed, and released the the 2007 Bookcrossing Convention in April, 2007

This story will remain with me a long time. It has already spurred my curiosity and desire to learn more about the French Revolution.

Some thoughts on the French Revolution as depicted by Dickens:

"Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realization, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind."

For some reason, I find myself comparing the American Civil Rights Movement to the French Revolution. Dickens suggested that the cruel oppression of the peasants and working classes by the French aristocracy led to the violent excesses of the Revolution. African Americans were cruelly oppressed in the years following post-Civil War Reconstruction, culminating in an explosion of violence against them when they began to demonstrate for equal civil rights from the mid-1950s until the 1970s, yet for the most part they did not meet violence with violence. Yes, there were some riots in the streets of some cities, and they were horrible for those who suffered from them, but the usual course of action was in peaceful demonstrations and marches. I believe this was in large part due to the Christian influence of the most prominent leaders, who were mostly church pastors.

Looking at the French Revolution as described by Dickens, and at the American Civil Rights Movement, I believe the United States of America owes a huge debt of gratitude to the African American leaders who stood for peaceful resistance in spite of tremendous pressure from white oppressors and from blacks who advocated fighting fire with fire. This must have been an extremely difficult decision to make and to maintain.

It could have been tempting to declare a violent revolution of retribution, erupting in riots in every city and town, and widespread chaos. However, by peaceful methods, a revolution of laws, gradually working itself into our hearts has and is taking place. No one is any more denied admission to any public place, or employment, or education, or service, or care or treatment based on race or skin color.

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