In June 1940, the German Army entered Paris. The remaining occupants of the city were stunned. After all, the French Army, with British and later American assistance, held firm against the German Army for four years in the First World War. But in 1940, it took the Germans only six weeks to sweep through the Low Countries and Northern France. The French didn’t fight for Paris as the Germans approached, but declared it an “open city” to avoid the widespread damage to the city that would accompany armed resistance and, shortly thereafter, signed an Armistice with the Germans. Thus began the four-year occupation of Paris, as recounted in When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 (Little, Brown, and Co., 2014), by the historian Ronald C. Rosbottom.
The Southeast part of France was later occupied by the Italians. After the war, Germany itself was occupied by the victorious Allied powers. In the United States, the South was occupied by federal troops after the Civil War. The general problem or conflict is being a citizen of an occupied territory. I’m only talking about France because that’s the particular book I read that suggested some interesting ideas.
How do you live life when you are a resident of a city occupied by a foreign power? That’s the tough choice every resident faced. The choices are resistance, accommodation, or collaboration. The lines separating those modes of living in that difficult circumstance are often blurry. I’ll offer a couple of quotations, then get to the Mo app (the Mormon application). I’m sure you’ll see some similarities before I get around to spelling things out at the end of the post.
First, it was an Armistice, not a surrender after fighting to the end, which is an odd way to give up your country. “This treaty — known by all as the Armistice — had entangled France and the French in a web of cooperation, resistance, accommodation, and, later, of defensiveness, forgetfulness, and guilt from which they are still trying to escape” (p. xxv). Note that “entangled” is a key word: if you lived in Paris (or elsewhere in France) you could not avoid contact and and entanglement with the occupying Germans, on one set of terms or another.
As noted, the lined between accommodation and collaboration (outright resistance to the Germans came later) was often blurry.
Just obeying [German] and Vichy [French] injunctions was an example of accommodation; but was answering the occupiers’ innocuous questions or having affective or sexual relations with them or selling them bread or shoe polish also a form of collaboration? Is there a hierarchy of activities that makes one a collaborator rather than just an accommodator? Is a quick date or a one-night stand more “accommodating” than selling coffee to the same officer day after day and occasionally offering him a free croissant? These are questions that demand thoughtful answers …. Living under surveillance for four years stymied and disfigured earlier ethical certainties; all decisions demanded new justifications. (p. 14-15)
Resistance, of course, was a brave act. If caught, one might be beaten and jailed, perhaps executed. Worse, a significant act like blowing up a bridge or a railroad might mean a nearby village gets searched and, depending on the German officer in charge, executions of men and boys in the village might follow. Resistance, accommodation, collaboration: tough choices.
But it’s not just Paris we’re talking about. This idea of being occupied, being under the control or direction of another, is surprisingly flexible and timely. If you live in Hong Kong or Kashmir or various parts of the Middle East, you feel occupied. Closer to home, if you are a Native American or an African American, you are in a sense occupied. Too often, the USA does not feel like your country. You might feel like a second-class citizen with different rules or laws that apply to you, whatever your formal citizenship or rights are. There are thousands of people who face the choice of resisting, accommodating, or collaborating every day, especially right now.
It’s not just a piece of territory that gets occupied. Taking direct control of a piece of territory is one thing. But plenty of people around the world today resent cultural domination of American movies and English language as a world language. You can become culturally or ideologically “occupied” by a voluntary or forced relationship with an organization or agency. Prison is an obvious example. What if you’re in the Marines? At a workplace with fairly detailed rules or job requirement? How about a church that has fairly detailed and demanding rules for how to live your life? I’m not saying being in the Marines, working for Disneyland, or belonging to a high-investment church is just like being in occupied Paris. But these somewhat less intrusive and controlling situations do present the same sort of necessary engagement (you are entangled, whether you like it or not) and the same set of choices: Resist? Accommodate? Collaborate?
The Church and the World. Interestingly, the Church and its membership often describe the relationship with The World or Babylon in somewhat the same terms. In the world but not of the world. Render unto Caesar and all that. Does the Church resist the government (as the LDS Church did during the Utah period)? Does it accommodate and make the best of things, as with statehood for Utah in 1896 and thereafter? Or does it collaborate, as more recently with the politicization of the Church, which is now the most reliably Republican demographic in the country? So “the Church in the world” raises some of the same challenges.
But the more pointed situation arises between a doubting or disaffected member and the Church. Entanglement? Definitely. Prior ethical certainties no longer viable? Yup. Decisions now demand new justifications? Indeed. And the same tough choices (resistance, accommodation, or collaboration) with the same nagging emotional echoes (defensiveness, forgetfulness, guilt). I won’t belabor the analogy: if it works, it works. Just a few points to stir some thinking.
So what arrangements or decisions have you made about the Church or your participation with your local ward or branch on personal ethical grounds? You have them, I presume (personal ethics). I’m sure I’m not the only person who has to make decisions about I will or I won’t participate in this or that activity, program, or meeting.