Monday, April 25, 2005

John Brown

I just read Adam Gopnik's review of a new biography of John Brown by David Reynolds ("John Brown, Abolitionist") in The New Yorker .

Here is a man who, as Gopnik points out, comes down on the right side of all the civil rights issues over a hundred years before movement's in the 1960s. He was a feminist, anti-slavery, and believed in equality for all people.

"...He was also, as even an admiring historian cannot deny, a man of violence and, by almost any definition, what we would now call a terrorist - a man who believed that the government of the United States should be met with violence because it supported and perpetuated opression. He believed that there were no distinctions to be made between innocent and guilty in a society determinted to perpetuation an evil...He led his sons out into the fields of Kansas at night to massacre unarmed men while their families listened, and insisted afterward that he had been right to do it: that where legislation and compromise had failed only violence would succeed."

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and the distinction isn't black and white.

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