by Thomas Conway
“In those dark hours [for the French in World War One], that vision of France as a generous nation, of France as a project, of France promoting universal values, was the exact opposite of the egotism of a people who look after only their interests, because patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of it.” — President Macron of France, spewing forth nonsense on Armistice Day, November 11, 2018
“The beginning of any society is never charming or gentle.” — Franca Bettoia, as Ruth Collins, in “The Last Man on Earth,” 1964
“The Last Man on Earth” was a movie made in 1964 starring Vincent Price. That was the year before the beginning of the end. In 1965, all of the U.S.’s restrictive immigration laws were dismantled, in accordance with ushering in a new era of civil rights, and, in many ways, I personally date all subsequent historical events using that milestone. Even in 1965, as a child, I understood that this was a watershed moment, and one ominous in its implications.
Few others had the same forebodings. America, people reasoned, was strong, invincible, and confident. With promises from politicians that the demographics and politics of the U.S. would remain unaltered, our nation’s gates were flung open to the world.
They lied, as the evidence of our own eyes verifies, and, forty years later, I entered the lobby of a local library and encountered an ancient woman diligently yanking down public notices from a bulletin board. When I asked what she was doing, she smiled, and said, in accented English, “These notices are written in ten different languages, translations paid for with my tax dollars. If someone had the right to put them up on a public board, I have the same right to pull them down. Let them learn English, as I did.” As I pondered the woman’s response, she trundled out the door and down the street, away from the scene of her mischief.
She turned out to be Colette Berger, an immigrant herself, a woman who resided in a house whose roof was visible from my own residence. In our next encounter, I observed her at the supermarket, hiding Spanish language magazines behind English publications. Again, the smile of a disobedient child, and a quip: “If I’d wanted to live in Guatemala, I’d have gone to live there.”
Over time, I learned she’d come from France after World War Two as a refugee. But there was much more to the story, as I learned in pieces over the years. She’d been born in a village near Reims in northern France, and during the war was hired, along with her brother, as a train depot guard, guarding both cargo trains and German troop trains in a freight yard.
She eventually revealed she’d been sufficiently trusted by the Germans to receive passes to travel on both German troop trains and truck convoys. She’d met a German soldier, had a baby by him, and then placed the baby for adoption when the end of the war culminated in her hasty emigration from Europe. “They weren’t asking about civilians’ motivations,” she said. “The Maquis (the French Resistance) were lining people up against the walls and shooting them.”
She’d come to America, lost a young husband to cancer, struggled with poverty, lost a second child to a gulag called foster care, worked hard, bought a house, and survived in her old age by opening an illegal beauty parlor in her basement and an illegal rental cottage in her detached garage. Throughout our acquaintance, she continued to make veiled references to her activities during the war.
Finally, one day I stated flatly: “You, Colette, were on the wrong side.”
She did not shrink from the comment. “Yes,” she readily confessed. “The Germans’ sins were considerable, but they would have ensured the West’s survival in some recognizable form. No one else is going to do that now. I understood from the beginning what the Bolsheviks would do to Europe and the world if they won, and they have indeed won. They have repeatedly forced the West into a trajectory that can only lead to our extinction, a trajectory that has always left us with no other recourse but to fight back.”
It was an “aha” moment. She was not only an ideological renegade, like myself, but someone who was apparently willing to take genuine risks in order to act on her beliefs — risks ranging far beyond pulling down public bulletins.
As I came to know Colette, she indeed turned out to be a one woman army, battling what we both perceived as the forces of darkness: a soupy and toxic Cultural Communism manifested in the promotion of things like universalism, socialism, deracination, miscegenation, White guilt, social and moral decay, nihilism, multiculturalism, and a tsunami of other assaults on all things traditional.
These things, Colette contended, were merely the incarnations of an effort to destabilize and deconstruct American society. She rejected without hesitation the notion that America, the world’s last real bastion of freedom, was a “propositional nation,” one in which patriotism should consist primarily of a loyalty to democratic principles of government; she scoffed at the belief that loyalty to the American nation-state and culture was a form of bigotry and chauvinism. “To insist on such a thing,” she said, “is to deny human nature itself.”
Erasing the latter two things, she argued, was a tragic insanity that would almost certainly and inevitably erase American democracy itself. That goal, she insisted, was our enemies’ ultimate intent. “They plan nothing short of our destruction. That is what gives us the right and the duty to resist,” she would say.
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