Being an optimist, however, I can usually come up with some happy thoughts. Here are ten.
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Literature is full of heroes and heroines who stand up to corrupt power. If only it were as simple as Harry makes it look, right?
1. Harry Potter. For refusing to champion the Ministry of Magic while Scrimgeour was making false arrests. Down with dirty political shenanigans, like trying to pacify the public while undermining their safety and well-being! Honorable mention to Hermione and Ron for backing Harry entirely; especially Hermione, as she knew or at least upheld the law better than Scrimgeour did. The Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling
2. Albus Dumbledore. For refusing to join Cornelius Fudge in lying to the public. Even though it eventually meant his own arrest. (Well, attempted arrest. These things would be so much easier if one were vastly smarter and more magically powerful than the leaders of one's world. And if one had Fawkes for a pet.) The Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling
3. Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin. For standing up to mayor and bishop and Starways Congress alike to save Lusitania. Ender merits perhaps the highest honors of anyone on this list, as he respects rightful authority—both secular and religious—and challenges it, when necessary, with wisdom and humility. Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
4. Maria Merryweather. For telling off her own wealthy relation and making him give Paradise Hill back to God. The Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge
5. Mortimer Folchart. For sabotaging his own work to keep the Adderhead from becoming immortal, at the risk of his own life. The Inkworld books, Cornelia Funke
6. Rand al'Thor. For being apparently the first man in centuries to stand up to the Aes Sedai, even their Amyrlin Seat, and for having no patience whatsoever with subtle political games (which is generally an impractical tactic, but refreshing). Of course, Rand developed his own set of problems in coming to power, which happens, especially when you're using a tainted form of magic that's slowly driving you mad. But he still managed to turn things around and become a good guy again. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
7. Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. For arguing with the king of Bayern and his council to prevent a very unjust war with Kildenree. You go, sixteen-year-old girl. The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale
8. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. For marching into the Dark Lord's territory to destroy his source of power in his own forging fire. That takes guts. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Treebeard. For calling out the Ents and marching against Saruman. Three cheers for the tree-shepherds! The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Mark Studdock. For the line "It's all bloody nonsense, and I'm damned if I do any such thing." No, he's not the most deserving character. Mark is a chump at best through most of the story, and even this act of bravery doesn't shake him entirely free of his idiocy, but it becomes his own redemption. Sometimes, all any of us chumps can do is keep ourselves from becoming evil. That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis
Hmmm. There's nothing like getting to the bottom of a top-ten list and realizing you left out The Hunger Games and Twilight. Frankly, I'm not sure which would be more terrifying: facing down a cabal of powerful and ruthless vampires, or defying a sadistic human government with innumerable sci-fi horrors at its disposal. So—
11 and 12. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. For breaking the Games rules, refusing to submit under torture, and standing up to both Presidents Snow and Coin. Bravery of the first order, there.
13, 14, 15, 16, and beyond. Bella, Alice, Carlisle, and Edward Cullen and friends, all for taking direct and unbelievably courageous action against the Volturi. Way to defend the freedom to live in peace.
All right. I spouted this list off the top of my head—obviously. Who am I forgetting, and who do I not know?