There are many kinds of bravery. There’s the brave soldier on the battlefield; the brave police officer or firefighter who saves a person in need, and then there’s the bravery to hold to your convictions, even in the face of evil.
Some years ago, there was a middle-aged man called upon for a special task. Two men, despised above all others, were coming to Florence, Italy for a meeting to discuss their plans of global domination. During the visit, they wanted to visit a museum and sample the art and culture. For that visit, they wanted a tour guide to tag along, someone to answer questions, if need be, and be silent when not needed.
The two vile men were the leaders of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy: Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Among the tour guides of the museum, this man volunteered for the job. He knew the other guides, good men all, would either be too scared to speak or might shoot their mouth off and be shot for their trouble! He did not want his friends and co-workers to be in danger; he would handle this task. When the day came, the two men had their entourages with them: guards, assistants, photographers, and so on. They moved about the museum, pausing in various galleries, and asking the occasional question.
The man answered and gave them the history of the great works. At times, the men sneered at some of the art – they felt it unworthy of praise; it did not adhere to their high standards of art that honoured their beliefs in a Master Race. The man held his tongue, to voice an opinion contrary to them ran the risk of summary execution.
Finally, with the tour over, Hitler and Mussolini posed for pictures; they felt it important to show the world the solidarity of the Axis Powers. It was all for show, of course, but that didn’t matter to either of them, neither had a very firm grip on reality. After taking several pictures, Mussolini turned to their guide and asked if he wished to stand with them for a picture.
The man knew that to refuse such an offer carried risk. If the men felt slighted or insulted, he was subject to jail time, for who knew how long? For that matter, an order to shoot him, immediately, was possible.
Yet, the man could not acquiesce to their offer. He hated and despised all that these men stood for and he would not stain his honour and his family by standing with them and painting a smile on his face. He declined. As it happened, they brushed him off, as dust from their sleeves, and left; there was no violent reprisal.
That man was my mother’s father.
True, it was not a great act of courage; he didn’t tell the men what he truly thought of them, but it was a tiny act by a simple man. He was no soldier, no diplomat, no partisan fighting the big fight; he was just an ordinary person, holding a simple job. Yet, when it came down to it, he had the courage of his convictions to stand up to demons, even just a little bit.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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