Saturday, August 1, 2009

Same Shit Different Enemy

Here are a quote or two from a novel published in 1940, when America was hotly debating whether or not to get into the War, and the German-American Bund (Nazis by another name) had a lot of influence here and there. The first speaker is Newt Haskins, Sheriff of Dade County:

"Son," he remarked, "it's always been a policy of the law in this country to let bad little boys alone when they want to play. We let these bunches o' tin soldiers march an' drill around in our peaceful country, an' wave their swastikas, an' Heil Hitler, and make the goddamdest dirty cracks about democracy, on account of it's the policy of democracy to let everyone shout his own opinions, even when it's his opinion that nobody who don't agree with him ought to be allowed even to whisper what he thinks. We let 'em tear hell out of the Constitootion on account of the Constitootion says anybody can tear anything out of it he wants to. We let 'em use all the freedom that the founders of this country gave their lives to give us, to try an' take that freedom away. We're so plumb scared of gettin' accused o' bein' the same as they are that we even let 'em train an' arm a private army to put over their ideas, rather 'n give 'em the chance to say we denied them the liberty they want to take away from us. That's why we're the greatest country in the world, an' everybody else laughs 'emselves sick lookin' at us."

The second speaker is a young European woman railing at the hero of the story:

"For three months I've let myself be pawed by Randolph March and leered at by Heinrich Friede. I've pretended to sympathise with a philosophy that stinks to high heaven. I've let myself gloat over the invasion of peaceful countries and the bombing of helpless women and children and the enslaving of one nation after another. I've made myself laugh at the slaughter of my own people and the plundering of Jews and the torture of concentration camps."


"Friede stood with the immobility of a carving in Saxon stone, yet his stillness he epitomised all the qualities that had been developed and glorified in the system which he represented -- the crude driving force and brutality of the Vandals who had left their tribal name to posterity as a synonym for the destroying barbarian, fatefully combined with an infinitude of patient and painstaking and pitiless cunning that the Mongol invaders had left Eastern Europe for a legacy that was to filter westwards and lend its aid to a greater shambles than Genghis Khan ever aspired to."

More narrative:

"Simon saw him without pity, even with an arctic and eternal satisfaction. For what March had been and what he had done there could be no excuse that could stand up to judgement, for what he suffered on account of it there could be no sympathy that was not maudlin; and in a world where civilization was fighting for its very life there was no room for such inanities. It was that kind of vacuous sentimentality which had allowed the powers of the jungle to grow strong -- that perverse broadmindedness which insisted on acknowledging every argument for the other side while discounting all the irrefutable evidence on its own side, which strained every nerve to make excuses for a murderer while it pigeonholed the sufferings of the victims who did not need any excuse. It was against such injustices masquerading under the namke of Justice that [Simon] had always wages his relentless battle; and now at this time he was glad that Randolph March had to suffer even a fraction of what had been suffered by the men and women and children who had been crushed under the juggernaut to which he had freely given his aid."

Sheriff Haskins again:

"Well, son, it's like this. A lot o' strange critters bed down together peaceable-like when a panther's on the prowl. Let 'em get to fightin' too much among themselves, an' the crazy cat will gollop 'em all. Take rabbits, now." The Sheriff filled his glass again and smiled ruminatively. "I reckon if enough rabbits ganged up together an' got properly mad, they could put a bobcat on the run. Most times the folks in this country are homelovin' an' peaceable as rabbits -- but it seems to me that the time for a little gangin' up an' gettin' mad has more 'n come."

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