“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke
In the classic story, Fiddler on the Roof, set in Russia 1905, there is a pivotal scene where Tevye, the main character and the small Jewish community’s dairyman, has just seen his oldest daughter marry the man she loves. In this beautiful and emotionally charged scene the town gathers together with each household bearing generous gifts for the newly married couple. In the midst of gift giving and dancing, the Czar’s police arrive and conduct a “demonstration,” intentionally and violently destroying the gifts given to the bride and groom, ruining the celebration, and devastating the pride, dignity and self-worth of the story’s hero, Tevye, who is powerless to protect his family against enforcement officers who were just “following orders.” As the officer says to Tevye at the end of the scene, “Orders are orders. You understand.”
This movie accurately represents real life experiences for multitudes of families and communities in pre-revolution Russia. Sadly, it is eerily similar to what is happening on American farms in the 21st century. Growing up in the “land of the free,” I was taught that America is a place quite unlike that of pre-revolution Russia. However, as one repeatedly witnesses and experiences the harassment and persecution of peaceful people here, one begins to wonder just how free this country truly is.
As the recent film, Farmageddon, documents, many farmers, gardeners and others in America today live in a state of fear because various state “authorities” repeatedly come to their property to harass, intimidate, and steal from them. As in Tevye’s Russia these peaceful people and their families are not only subjected to grossly unnecessary levels of intimidation and trauma, they are left with no hope of compensation or recompense, with numerous charges and crippling economic sanctions often brought against them. Others, who are not victimized, look on, feeling lucky that it isn’t them, usually doing nothing to stop the harassment or offer support to the victims.
By any account, it is outrageous that peaceful people face civil or criminal charges, theft and/or excruciating and expensive court proceedings for the simple act of producing their own nourishment, or providing such nourishment to their communities.
We can take lessons that history offers to avoid calamities of the past going forward. We have the power and the choice to change the course of history by dissolving our devotion to the law and instead cultivating an allegiance to peace and freedom.
The conclusion of Fiddler on the Roof illustrates the depressing reality of what happens to a community, a country, even a world when civilian law enforcement and/or the armed services willingly comply with patently unjust orders. The final scenes of the movie show the entire village forced to leave their beloved Anatevka and working to reconcile their feelings of being driven from their homes. The scene is but a microcosm of 1905 Russia: entire villages of Jews were violently forced to leave the only homes they ever knew, often breaking up families in the process and leaving certain devastation and despair.
We are witnessing the continuation of legally-sanctioned excesses such as those depicted in Fiddler on the Roof. Our farmers are the modern day Tevyes, his family and community. But, unlike 1905 Russia, the conclusion of our story is not yet written.
Let us peacefully, calmly and compassionately invite our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins, neighbors and friends—those in a position to carry out enforcement action—to nurture an allegiance to peace. It is a choice to participate in something as egregious and demeaning as the wedding reception scene from Fiddler on the Roof, or to simply not comply with a system that has grown to the proportions of tyranny so aptly illustrated in the movie.
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.