Ralph J. Dolan: Remembering Frances

  • Frances Crowe at her home in Northampton in March. Gazette file photo

Published: 9/10/2019 10:00:13 PM

Although I had known of Frances Crowe for years, my first encounter with her was when the Internal Revenue Service garnished my wages.

I should have known it was coming. It made me cry tears of rage. I sought out Frances and she invited me to her support group of tax resisters, a truly wonderful group of human beings. There my resolve was solidified.

As I drove with her to one of the tax resister gatherings, I asked: “Don’t you ever get weary, despondent about the world scene, the people and the earth herself attacked on so many fronts by the empire with its thousand tentacles.” She said: “I’m praying for a miracle.”

Her comment when asked how many demonstrations she has attended is a classic: “Not enough.”

I heard Frances on the radio one day and she said, I paraphrase, that acts of resistance to the empire, resistance in its many forms, gives one’s life meaning. In a world in which meaning has been reduced to money and consumption, this is a radical position. We are to believe that there is meaning in these seemingly futile demonstrations of resistance in which the force is overwhelmingly in the hands of the ministers of the empire.

What meaning is this? It is the kind of act that is performed for its own sake and expecting no apparent improvement in anything. It is an act undertaken for the rightness of the act itself. If you were a Zen Buddhist, such an idea with all its irony and sense of play might be seen as virtuous.

Frances held that demonstrations of resisting the empire in whatever form are rites of purification. It doesn’t look like it changes the outside, but there is a more immediate change in the individual. You are divesting from the empire even as you are inextricably bound to it. You are saying no to the continuous violations of human dignity, the deplorable ways in which the appetites of the empire devour the people and the land and the air and the water.

There is a kind of spiritual credit union in the collective consciousness of the human species, a deeper layer of consciousness shared by all the members of the species. The purification of the individual in acts of resistance becomes a knot of energy that is deposited in this credit union, which is transformed into the fuel in the dynamo that drives the evolution of the species upward toward wholeness. Each act of resistance creates a greater resolve for the next act of resistance. This is the purification.

Frances was so purified. And you could see it right there on her beautiful face. Now she is having another purification. And that’ll be quite enough.

Ralph J. Dolan


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