One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.
― George Orwell, 1984
I once lived in the South of Spain.
In the province of Andalucia, in a small sun drenched town on the Atlantic Bay of Cádiz near the Port of Santa María.
You might recognize those names. Christopher Columbus outfitted his first expedition on the Rio Tinto, which empties into the bay (whether or not the expedition's flagship was named for the port and/or municipality there is subject to much conjecture). Some of the few surviving ships of the first Spanish Armada returned to the bay after their disastrous defeat in the English Channel and later the British invaded Cádiz to prevent a second Armada, sacking the city and leaving it in flames.
The area is steeped in the history and culture of many nations, of Kings and Queens and castles and wars long gone, and nowadays it is wonderful idyllic tourist destination of sparkling beaches and great food and friendly people.
I lived there in the 1980s, not all that long after the end of Francoist regime.
He was once the nation's youngest general, a monarchist, brash, popular, he commanded Spain's forces in colonial Africa at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and then through a complicated series of events and a lot of dead people, ended up Generalissimo and Spain's head of state in 1936.
They called him el Caudillo, which means something like "warlord" or "strongman" or mostly just dictator.
And he was certainly that.
With Franco came the "Limpieza Social," the cleansing of society, the purge of liberals and Spanish Republicans. No one is really sure how many died in those early years of the regime. Franco repressed all opposition, making Spain a one party nation, and sent tens of thousand of his political opponents to concentration camps. Forced labor and mass executions killed maybe 200,000 Spaniards. Murders, rapes, and beatings by the military and police under Franco were common. And worse, much, much worse.
In Spanish history, this time was known as "the White Terror."
By the time I got there the Monarchy had been restored under King Juan Carlos and Spain had become a benign democracy governed by a parliamentary system.
Nowadays, Spain, like any other nation has its problems. The economy ebbs and flows, there are ethnic minorities who sometimes resort to terrorism in a bid for autonomy, there is crime, all the usual things.
And that's the thing, right there.
Those usual things didn't exist under Franco. Or not nearly as much.
When I lived there, I would daily meet people who missed el Caudillo.
It wasn't so much the brutal dictatorship they missed.
But rather it was the peace, the prosperity, and especially the order Franco imposed on the nation with an iron fist.
Let me give you an example:
One day, I was robbed by gypsies.
Down in the harbor. Fortunately for me, they weren't interested in the expensive camera equipment I was carrying, just the American dollars in my wallet. Heroin, one of them explained, threatening me with a broken grappling hook taken from a fishing boat. They needed money for drugs. I got roughed up, lost $50, and walked away mostly intact.
I reported the assault to the Spanish police, they shrugged. Gypsies, not much anyone can do about that.
I reported the robbery to the American military police on the local base, they took down the information and shrugged. Gypsies. Stay out of the harbor, man.
I told my landlord about it. She spat on the floor. Gypsies. During Franco's time, she explained, they would have been shot on sight by La Guardia Nacional. Nobody was ever robbed by gypsies under Franco, the streets were safe.
You can go to Spain today and still find those who miss Francisco Franco.
Not as much as when I lived there, but some. The older generation. The conservatives.
The streets were safe.
Law and Order.
That's what they miss.
They weren't the ones disappeared into the camps. They weren't the ones shot down in the street. They were the ones who built businesses and lives and homes under Franco's Spanish Miracle. And they were decent people, they were. Kind, friendly, hard working. But, they missed the dictator.
The longer Franco was dead, the more nostalgic they were for that time.
No one was robbed by gypsies under Franco.
The streets were safe.
That's how it's going to be for us.
Oh, Trump isn't any el Caudillo.
Franco really was a tough guy, Trump is a sack of soggy tissue paper who just pretends to be.
Still, even though Trump didn't -- as yet -- herd his political enemies into concentration camps, 230,000 Americans are dead by his hand anyway. More will certainly die before he leaves office. And maybe Franco was a piker in comparison.
And now that Trump's days are numbered, now that a benign government waits to take over in his stead, it's important to remember that there will be those who miss him.
Peace, they'll say. Trump got us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He kept us out of Syria.
Prosperity, they'll point out. Trump was good for the stock market, for bankers, for Wall Street, for rich people. And what's good for the wealthy is good for us.
Law and Order, they'll tell us, nostalgically. Trump kept the streets safe.
None of this is true, of course, just as it never really was in Spain. But that's how they'll remember it. With fondness.
Because it wasn't them.
Because it wasn't their lives. It wasn't their rights. It wasn't their fathers who died in some foreign land at the orders of an incompetent. It wasn't their children shot down in the streets for the crime of being Black in America. It wasn't their mother who died alone, afraid, in a hospital on a respirator. It wasn't their liberty, their justice, their freedom, that was in peril.
No, they got a tax break. They turned a profit. They got rich. They got license to exploit America's resources without regard to the future or any responsibility for the consequences.
And it's more than that, more than just greed and selfishness, it's that Trump told them they were great.
Trump made it okay to be a racist, a bigot, a sexist. Trump made it so they didn't have to hide who they really are, down there underneath the thin veneer of civilization. Trump let them wave the Nazi flag and said they were good people. The Klan, the Confederates, the Proud Boys, the Incels, and the raggedy-ass militia just spoiling for a limpieza social of their own, Trump was their Jesus -- a white Republican Jesus, who didn't tell them to be better, but instead gave them permission to be who they already were.
They're gonna miss Trump.
They don't want him to go.
They don't want to have to go back to pretending to be civilized.
Most of all they don't want to admit what Trump actually is.
I mean, they know, but they're terrified of it being out in the open. Of what comes next. Of having to admit they followed a guy who is a monster.
Trump thought, like any dictator, that he was going to stay in office for life. He joked about it, a third term, maybe a fourth, a dynasty.
But it wasn't really a joke. He believed it.
He mocked those who lost political elections as "losers" and failures and sissy boys.
And now, because of that, he can't face his own defeat.
His supporters -- those wannabe stormtroopers, those revolutionaries -- they can't face his defeat.
He's shamed, literally ashamed by his defeat. He can't face it. Can't face the public. Can't face his supporters. Can't face himself.
Because he just can't imagine himself losing.
And yet he has.
Every day his defeat grows greater. He's losing one ballot count after another and he'll lose the recounts too.
Every day he loses another lawsuit, another attempt to win the election by fiat. He'll lose them all, every one of them.
Every day he loses those he trusted the most. He's lost Fox News, he'll lose the rest of them too.
And he's ashamed. Mortified. He just can't admit it. He'll never admit it. He'll find some way to claim victory, even as Joe Biden swears the Oath of Office and settles into the White House.
And so, like a spoiled child, he rages. He's holed up, furiously tweeting, red faced in shame. Grasping at anything, Hannity, Dobbs, OAN, anything and anyone who'll tell him he's not a loser.
That's Trump, that's who he's always been, a manufactured narrative and a fragile ego inflated by the adulation of others. Even if he's got to buy that attention.
He says he won't go, but he will.
There might might be violence, but in the end he's going to go.
Trump is no Franco. And America isn't 1930s Spain.
In the end, after the counts and recounts, after the lawsuits have been thrown out, after the tantrums and the tweets and the threats to run again in 2024, in the end he'll fold. In the end, Trump will stumble down the steps of the White House for the last time and a helicopter will carry him away into oblivion.
Because Trump isn't any revolutionary.
He's just a sad broken old man who never grew up.
If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier. As long as I'm the dictator. Hehehe.
― George W. Bush
Another great essay, Jim. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Oh man... I lived in a small village in southern Spain in the early 80s. I was stationed with a squadron, VQ2. First I find I was at the same station as my Congressman... Tho, unless he dated my roommate, I didn't know him (and he says he was married then, tho that wouldn't have stopped her). And now you. Jesus it's a small worldReplyDelete
the place in Spain that Jim wrote about was Rota. A squadron of American missile submarines used to operate out of there. The place in Spain Jim was talking about was Rota. From 1976 to 1979 I was in USS James K. Polk homeported in Rota. The Spaniards I talked were frightened by the Guardia Civil, the Spanish national police. We'd see them swaggering around the town wearing their funny hats (never say anything about the hats). I always gave the Guardia a wide berth because I didn't trust cops who routinely carried submachine guns.Delete
In 1976 or 77, I recall Jane Curtin saying week after week on Weekend Update: "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead…and resting comfortably." This was my intro to Famous Dictators 101, because otherwise I would have had no clue, as opposed to minimal clue.Delete
As a matter of fact, Franco's photo is on the cover of the first Saturday Night Live book.
As always, marvelous essay.ReplyDelete
One minor thing. Some people consider gyp*y a slur. Instead, Rom or Romani.
Well, I think that's the point of himself, himself using the word in the essay. I grew up in Mexico and "gitano" is a slur, was a slur and everybody himself told the problem to, used it as a slur. And JW is trying to show the attitude people had... and the persistence of the "limpieza social," long past the death of Franco... I remember the piñatas of Franco in a Cauldron boiling, and the huge number of graffiti showing the Devil receiving him in hell that year... the celebrations by all the exiled Spaniards... and how soon they forgot.Delete
While it is a slur - Jim uses it in context to show the attitudes and actions of the times (80s). It is historically accurate and helps the story.Delete
Outstanding, Jim. One of the best things you've written. And a perfect coda to the Trump era.Delete
Not all gypsies consider "gypsy" a slur. If you're looking for the Gypsy Lore Society, you don't ask for the Romany Lore Society.Delete
My home library is populated by books with titles like, "Gypsy Folk Tales", "Gypsy Fortunetellers", "Gypsies: Wanderers of the World" and so on.
It depends on who you're talking to, I suppose.
Speaking as someone of Roma descent, yes, it's a slur. That being said, Jim was quoting others for the most part. I could wish for a bit of forbearance there, but many Americans don't know it's a slur.Delete
That being said, JW's point stands.
Also,a rather well-known Romani wrote a book, later made into a movie,called "King of the Gypsies." There is apparently a legend that, "Gypsies are allowed to steal, because a Gypsy stole the fourth nail that was intended for the heart of Jesus," and this was before they even existed.Delete
I have never been able to stomach trump. He's a terrible man with terrible plans and thank God we've been able to stop him. I only hope the biggest damage has been done although with the top secrets he and his cronies know many more will suffer, including good nations.
This explains how some family members can STILL vote for trump. They are so short sided and self centered.ReplyDelete
Thank you. So many have forgotten so much.ReplyDelete
Thought-provoking piece - as all are. Like most dictators abroad, Franco arguably was only able to hold power because we were behind him. What's frightening about the Trump era is that he didn't need any superpower behind him -- his era ripped the veneer off our grand experiment. At heart, we're a pathetic people with facist tendencies - like most -- we're not exceptional. We overcame it and shone for a brief period when we were finally dragged into WWII and kicked some facist ass. But, unless we throw off the yoke of corporatism -- the future is not bright.ReplyDelete
Corporatism existed in a slightly different iteration before WWII. Hollywood created a halo effect around Big Corporate Men who could move the levers of government and profit thereby. These Men Made America Great--shipbuilders, railroad men, transport, new materials, lumber. Not so much the new technologies or new materials, but rather the ones who had made vast fortunes ripping resources out of the country. They were lionized all throughout the thirties.Delete
Well said and a good history lesson.ReplyDelete
You are saying exactly what I've been trying to say for the last six years, but you said it much more eloquently. Thank you.ReplyDelete
"a white Republican Jesus, who didn't tell them to be better, but instead gave them permission to be who they already were." You've been telling us this, and you've been right all along. They could let down their guard, say what they wanted, spit on being politically correct. This is most of my family. I won't miss them.ReplyDelete
It's not that he told them not to be better, it's that he told them they were better. Better than then people they hated, better than the ones they perceived to have what they considered only they should have. Under Trump they were better- at least that's what he told them, they were his "very fine people",Delete
Two mights in a sentence right before the end.ReplyDelete
I'm sure your right for the rest, but what a farce. "At least the trains ran on time under Mussolini." The Redcaps can't even point to anything like that. Trump has never done one damn thing in his life that was actually constructive or positive. And yet they'll mourn him, just because he gave them permission to be shitty.
And the hilarious thing is that the trains did *not* run on time under Mussolini, leaders change, Italian efficiency (not!) does not. Like most things conservatives believe about their fascist idols like Reagan, Mussolini, or Franco, it was a lie.Delete
I went to Singapore some decades ago. Clean, no graffiti; I left my wallet at a payphone in Changi and it was there on my return 15 minutes later.ReplyDelete
I went to SimLim Square, for electronic geek shopping. Asked for an LNB (low noise block converter, for a satellite receiver). The store owner hushed me and said they weren't permitted to stock them, as the government didn't like citizens being able to receive foreign TV, unless controlled by the state. He actually seemed quite concerned.
Still, crime was low and the streets were clean, as I believe is the same today. Though the new POFMA law is pretty repressive.
I worked for a company in the 90's that had a plant in Singapore. My boss had been posted there and was telling me how clean and safe it was. I replied with the fact that of course it was, it is rules by dictator. He didn't seem bothered by that.Delete
I spent my teenage years in Singapore in the late 70s, early 80s. It was a wonderfully wholesome place for a privileged American teenager to grow up -- since it was super-safe, you could go anywhere at all hours with no worries, so we had a lot of freedom. But the movies and TV were censored. Punishments for infractions were harsh (people may remember Michael Fay, the American who was caned for graffiti). I remember coming to school (the American school) one day and learning about a kid who had been spirited out of the country with his whole family overnight, never to return -- the school had caught him dealing heroin, and since Singapore had a mandatory death sentence, they gave him and his family 24 hours to get the hell out before notifying the authorities. The government allowed one opposition member to hold a seat in parliament, to maintain the fig leaf of democracy, but he was constantly being sued for libel when he spoke out against the government, and wasn't taken terribly seriously. But, like I said, it was a fabulous place to grow up, and we were mostly oblivious to the darker side. I find it ironic that a number of the people I went to HS with are MAGA 2nd amendment zealots, government-out-of-my-business mask-mandates-are-tyranny types who nonetheless wax nostalgic about their teenage years in authoritarian Singapore. But maybe it's not such a big leap...Delete
I'm sort of hoping that "they" just call him a cab to pick him up instead and a helicopter. Maybe a cab that tosses an old and rusty bicycle out of the trunk so he can ride away.ReplyDelete
Well, very interesting. I am German and Germany under Hitler was exactly the same (small wonder regarding the close relation and the Condor Legion) and when I say exactly I mean it. I was born in 1960 to parents born in the 20ies and they lived through that time. My father was one of the victims, my mother's family profited, they met after the war.ReplyDelete
Over the last four years that was my greatest fear (I worked in the US in the 90ies, so I knew the country) and I hope that things will change for the better in the next four years (if McConnell deigns to allow it)...
I'm reminded, as we all should be periodically, of "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas." Thank you.ReplyDelete
I read that as a young teenager and it has darkened my world for about 50 years now.Delete
Wow. I'm literally wowed by this. Thank you Jim. Your writing is inspired and inspiring.ReplyDelete
Great essay Jim. Thank you for the clarity.ReplyDelete
Thanks again for a fine essay.ReplyDelete
Nice essay, thanks!ReplyDelete
Small typo, I think: "I told my landlord about it. She spit."
Should be past tense "spat."
Very good. I do have to disagree with "He'll lose them all, every one of them." The history of elections in our nation says he'll win one or two. Small ones, that won't change the results, but one or two small ones.ReplyDelete
What's incredible is that outside of rage tweets and baseless litigation is that Donald Trump is nowhere to be found. I guess that I shouldn't be surprised, given how in-your-face he's been for the past 4+ years, but then again I *find that I am surprised* at this conspicuous absence.ReplyDelete
I assume it's like the Major League effect, where a player reaches the highest level of "something" then feels depressed and regrets that their life will never reach that level of performance/visibility/whatever again after they retire, are forced out, etc.
Oh boy, this piece REALLY resonates!ReplyDelete
I lived in Romania under Ceausescu until I was 19 (that was late 1989). You know what happened to him.
Anyway, he was a dictator. Living under his regime sucked. Not for me though.
I was one of the lucky ones, my parents had good jobs and were both in the COmmunist party which I guess was a good thing at the time.
Officially, each person would be alotted 1kg of meat per month, a bottle of cooking oil, and some other amounts of flour and other basic commodities.
Many people, our family included, found ways around those rations, and ended up having more food than others.
Life sucked for those others though. It really sucked.
I could tell you about the state off the healthcare system, illegal abortions, and more... but I won't.
Not right now.
What I can tell you is that now, 31 years after Ceausescu died an ugly death by firing squad, people miss him.
They claim that he made Romania great. They miss the pre-1990 safety.
Btw, these are the same people who hear about trump (mostly through media channels controlled by the Russians) and think he's a great patriot.
I thought of writing a piece on the topic, but I doubt anyone would be interested in hearing a parallel between the US and Romania.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for writing this, Jim, but got a little carried away.
Tude: WE want to know. Every day I think about Ceausescu! I would love to know your take. We don't know, nor will we ever know, the full extent of financial and structural damage left behind by Trump and his evil cabal. People will always miss Trump because of white supremacists, racists, haters, grifters, cons, the greedy, rotten people who are ready to prop up more like Trump. It ain't over. PLEASE tell us. Thanks Tude.Delete
While we export U.S. culture more broadly than any other country, we lack perspectives outside of the U.S. and we're actually quite insulated from critical thought about our own beliefs because of this. That's why Jim's essay and your story are so vital to understanding what our evolution might look like and how we choose to see and shape ourselves. Please do share.Delete
Wonderful essay. I have followed you on Facebook for awhile but have never visited this page. Looking forward to reading your earlier work.ReplyDelete
Great essay. What always comes to mind is a trip to visit my folks in Germany 20 or so years ago. My dad retired there from the military so mom was near family. We went into the city for the day and out to eat. Germany has a large influx of "guest" workers and,even back then, refugees. And of course the problems that come with that. We were sitting and mom looked around and said "Sometimes we could use a little Hitler again." I just looked at her with my mouth open. Dad just gave a small shake of his head and told her "Mother, there's no such thing as a little Hitler. " That exchange made a lasting impression on me, always reminding me there's no such thing as a little authoritarianism.ReplyDelete
We backpacked through Spain in the summer of 1974, while Franco was ill, but still in power. Found ourselves in a park in Pamplona, the day after the Festival of San Fermin ended. An old man sitting on a park bench hollered "Americanos?" in our direction (the park was nearly empty), and when we nodded, he shouted "Franco!", spit in his palm and made the universal motion for chicken-choking. The Basques weren't fond of El Caudillo ;)ReplyDelete
I was going to say this about our trip through Spain in 1959 ... I may still do it of I'm able to unlock the mystery of where things go on my phone.Delete
excellent as Always Jim.ReplyDelete
You are such a wonderful writer and thinker. My biggest concern is that US citizens, even those of us who detested Trump, have very short memories. We who treasure the messiness of democracy and the continual struggle to be better, must keep the shortcomings of this failed presidency alive and in front of the people when we start to forget and look fondly on the days of "peace and prosperity" that never really were for most of us.ReplyDelete
That part. They don’t have to be better, they can be who they’ve always been. That’s the part that I see when I see people not bothered by police murdering people in the streets and others hiding behind “ they need to come here legally”. Thank you, again.ReplyDelete
As usual, spot on with a nod to history repeating itself. Thank you for your writings, they kept me sane the past 4 yrs and will continue to I'm sure.ReplyDelete
As usual, spot on with a nod to history repeating itself. Thank you for your writings, they kept me sane the past 4 yrs and will continue to I'm sure.ReplyDelete
Very interesting - stability in many parts of the world is all people want, even if it means dictatorship. Thomas friedman talks about the historical lack of it in the Middle East in "From Beirut to Jerusalem." He will go, but now what? Can we salvage this great divide?ReplyDelete
There are many in Iraq right now who pine for the rule of Saddam Hussein. "He was a dictator, but criminals were hung from the streetlamps during his rule, now we're not free to go out of our homes without being rousted by bandits". Security and stability is all that the majority of people want, it seems, and as long as they have that they don't care what kind of government provides it and don't care what the cost is to people like, say, the Kurds of northern Iraq (who were regularly gassed or killed by Saddam's troops). Because "those" people aren't like them. Of course.Delete
Which is to say, Trumpanzees and their desire for a strongman on a white horse to lead them to safety and prosperity aren't going away.
It seems that, to prevent bandits from robbing people (guessing out of a need for survival), the more compassionate solution would be to support a stronger social safety net--where all people could have their basic human needs fulfilled without resorting to crime? Seems like that, rather than the "law and order" brutality of authoritarianism, would only make more sense?Delete
As a child of 12, I travelled through Spain with my family in 1971 when Franco was still in power. Despite my young age, I was very conscious of the fear that permeated the atmosphere in rural Spain at that time. The locals were friendly but they would clam up if the conversation turned to Franco or his policies, and they’d glance around nervously for the Guardia Civil whose strange hats and menacing presence made a huge impression on me. I remember being told that the GC were moved regularly so they couldn’t form friendships with the locals. Thank you for the reminder that ‘law and order’ is a two-edged sword.ReplyDelete
I'm tempted to send this link to my parents to see what their reactions would be.ReplyDelete
Because, of course, neither of them see themselves as bad people, but the fact that they couldn't see the difference between Trump and Biden, or my father's comment once about why the victim of police violence in Kenosha, WI, didn't just obey the police, speaks volumes about how completely and totally unaware they are of their sense of entitlement.
I shared this to Facebook, with attribution of course, with the hope that my friends will read it and breathe a little easier as we go into this Friday the 13th weekend. Trumpito will leave and Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021. thank you for your writing, Jim!ReplyDelete
Great writing, as usual, spot onReplyDelete
I know exactly what you are saying, my neighbor is a widow of a Franco general. She misses Franco and rabidly supports Trump.ReplyDelete
Gotta say though, I’m pretty disturbed by what he’s doing with the military and the UAE.ReplyDelete
Your comments about continued support by those whose family and friends were NOT the ones suffering under the regime are spot on. As long as it's other people, they can pretend those other people had it coming. Somehow.ReplyDelete
Jim, You really nailed it with this essay, as you have often done. I'll be really happy if and when Trump ends up with an orange jumpsuit, because his disgrace has to go beyond business as usual.ReplyDelete
Excellent - as always. Thank you!ReplyDelete
I disagree with your characterization of Donald Trump as "soggy tissue paper."ReplyDelete
He is soggy, used, toilet paper.
Another excellent essay, Jim. And, of course, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."ReplyDelete
I was in Spain in 1974. Franco was winding down, but the Falangists were still running the country. They *really* liked Nixon, and on the news, we'd hear about the evil Communists trying to have Nixon removed from office. They were talking about the US Congress.ReplyDelete
Spotted this. You may want to correct it. It should be fourth instead of forth.ReplyDelete
"Trump thought, like any dictator, that he was going to stay in office for life. He joked about it, a third term, maybe a forth, a dynasty."
Excellent essay! I enjoyed reading it and you're spot on. Trump will make every effort, make every claim that the election was rigged against him. I guess it has never entered his mind that a majority of the American population can't stand him!ReplyDelete
Reminds me of all the books I read during my Russian history phase. When the USSR fell, people reacted the same way. They missed the order, the safety, the predictability, the economic stability they thought they had. I remember reading about the writer of one book walking with two men in the park during the regime. Both were smoking. When they finished, they extinguished their cigarettes in the palms of their hands and stowed the butts in their pockets to keep from unlawful littering. I was married to two heavy smokers who treated the entire world as their ash tray, and that vignette haunted me forever after.ReplyDelete
The contradiction that I'm seeing is that so-called libertarians don't see that they are espousing authoritarianism. Or maybe they see it and only want libertarianism for themselves.ReplyDelete
Yes this is what was running through my mind. The big contradiction. The 2nd amendment came about so that the people could defend themselves against tyrants like George III. And yet the very same people who shout about 2A rights would, right now, support Trump authoritarianism. The contradictions get worse. These are the same people who refuse to wear masks because of their freedoms! And cannot accept Biden (the Socialist!) because he will take away their freedom. There is no logic in any of this. These people are nuts. And they are so brainwashed that they are not going away soon. I watched an interview today on Twitter. A nurse in SD, where the hospitals are now overwhelmed with Covid patients, said that she & her colleagues are witnessing patients dying while still not accepting that they have Covid. It is all a hoax! No, the MAGAs are going to be around for a long time.Delete
Another excellent piece. Thank you. Don't let the bastards get you down. You are appreciated.ReplyDelete
I visited Chile in 2015 and was at a market in Angelmo, just outside of Puerto Montt. I noticed a vendor had pictures for sale of Augusto Pinochet, and of the president he overthrew, Salvador Allende. Gen. Pinochet still had some popularity in Chile, even after all he did, and probably for the same reasons Franco did in Spain. We're always going to have stalwarts for Trump willing to overlook all of his faults.ReplyDelete
Another fantastic piece, Jim. Thanks for keeping your brain working in such an incredible fashion.ReplyDelete
Wonderful essay as usual. I can already hear in my mind some of my relatives remembering how great Trump was. And they will echo the whine of how unfairly he was treated the whole time he was president. I hear it, and I can see the paragraphs copied onto their Facebook pages. They'll relive the glory of Trump's presidency for years.ReplyDelete
Ever read The Maze of Cadiz by Aly Monroe?ReplyDelete
Thank you Jim, I’m not good with words, you are and I very much appreciate it!ReplyDelete
You have hit the proverbial nail on the head, as usual. Tell me Jim, where do you get all your historical knowledge? Thank you for constantly educating this 71 year old lady--never too old to learn.ReplyDelete
Well written and reassuring.ReplyDelete
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile a few years after Pinochet stepped down. I met people whose friends and family had been disappeared, but I also met people who missed la dictadura because "there was no rape."ReplyDelete
And in Spain now, you can tell exactly who was a child during the Spanish Civil War. (Or a child of parents who were not rich, I guess.) It is any elderly person you see who is only about five feet tall. And you see them everywhere: elderly people who were almost starved to death as children and so didn't grow properly. But you know - law and order for the rich and connected.
I'm pretty sure I lived in that same small town, from late '77 to mid '79, aboard the large, gray ship that had near-permanent mooring at the naval station piers. Our treaty to handle a certain type of underwater-based weapon expired, and Spain preferred us gone. I enjoyed the environs of that small town and its province and country. I do, however, remember the Gypsies, and always gave them wide passage. I am supremely grateful that 45 never had opportunity to institutionalize his own US version of Spain's La Guardia Civil. A US sailor new to town had a Cruz Campo or two too many and tried to return to base via the Almirante's gate. La Guardia Civil officers stitched him up one side and down the other with their highly effective machine pistols. Older salts always had advised us to give them wide passage. People may say that such things don't exist, but I have seen it. I am glad the 45 era ends now, before a similar nightmare could become reality here.ReplyDelete
WWII note: Except to get at British Gibraltar there was no need for Hitler to attack Spain. Had the Germans decided to do so, their operational plan (codenamed Felix) would have brought them to the Rock within a matter of days. But there was no pressing need to do so since British shipping and convoys did not go thru the Med but around the Cape until after the invasion of Sicily.ReplyDelete
Enjoyed the read.ReplyDelete
One noteworthy quibble.
Penelope Cole: Thanks Jim, I appreciate this. I lived in El Puerto de Santa Maria (my house is now the Pharmacia) from Oct. 1987 to Aug. 1990, & worked at Base Naval de Rota in Civilian Personnel. I so appreciated the Spanish people, the food, the dancing, the beach where I walked my dogs. I miss that life. I didn't know about Franco other than a brief paragraph in history book. Too busy enjoying Spain after my divorce. [I donated to your column. Keep up the good work. Thanks.]ReplyDelete
Excellent! However, I don't think when he leaves the WH that we will be rid of him. He'll still be stirring his deplorable pot of followers. Tweeting garbage at the new administration, traveling the country to get his regular dose of hero worship, and running his mouth off non-stop. No way will he go cold turkey after 4 mind-numbing years of adulation and a public platform for his insanity. Even now he's soaking his acolytes for more $$ in "donations" to fight on in his lost cause. And they'll bankroll his legal costs and his actions to keep spreading the poison. He's a con man & a grifter and proud of it. He doesn't have the smarts to be a dictator but he surrounds himself with enablers and preys on the sheeple who adore him. And we'll have to listen to him and them wax nostalgic about how wonderful his term was. It's going to be a long time before we can wash THIS loser out of our hair. I hope this was as close as we ever get to a dictatorship. Pam on PAReplyDelete
Well written good analysis. - I was a teenager in Puerto in the mid '60s - Franco was very much in power and the semi-private conversations with the locals was a mix running from against to favorable towards Franco. but I also lived in the northwest (Ferrol) in the early 60's. A greater level of resistance in the NW. Quiet resistance. The difference in attitudes between north and south was quite striking. At the time my father compared it to the differences in the US between California in the US and the deep South during the civil rights movement. Enough of a difference in the average perception of the dictatorship to total alter what was considered a safe conversation.ReplyDelete
This is the first of your essays I've read. Nicely done! I too lived in Spain close to the time you were there. I was in Madrid for the last year and a half of high school (1981-82). Knew military kids from Rota and Torrejon. I was miserable at the American School of Madrid but absolutely loved Spain.
I could tell many stories from that time, but let me just toss in a small echo of your depiction of those who missed Franco. I too remember people expressing disgust at the signs of cultural decay that were more visible on the streets now that the iron fist was gone--petty crime, drugs, socialists who could speak without being gunned down... (I could also talk about the Guardia Civil, with their machine guns and funny hats--or about ETA and the assassinations that were still taking place on the streets.) But the memory most in line with your depiction of ignorant nostalgia for the peace that never was would have to be a memory from el generalissimo's birthday in 1981. I didn't know that it was his birthday that day as I was walking along a street downtown. But I glanced across the street at a subway stop and there at the top of the stairs to the subway stood a silent, lone figure in green fatigues, arm outstretched in the nazi salute. I stared at him for a while and then asked a passerby about it. This nice older woman with her shopping bags informed me that it was Franco's birthday, and that there were people who missed him and the vision of law and order you describe.
As for what becomes of our outgoing Dear Leader, I'll leave that for another time. Thank you for the essay.
The nostalgia that many feel for the "quiet", "clean", "peaceful" rule of Dictator's is rather amusing. Some felt afterwards nostalgia for Hitler, Stalin, Mao etc.ReplyDelete
Your example of Franco's Spain is actually quite funny. Like so much nostalgia it depends on selective memory and distortion.
For example the peace and prosperity brought by Franco. Well after the end of the Spanish Civil War Spain was plagued by a guerilla war and mass poverty. For much of this period much of the Spanish population was close to starving. Further Franco's economic policies helped to further this suffering, being Fascistic looting policies.
And of course during the years after the end of the Civil War, camps filled with well over 100,000 political prisoners existed who were brutally treated, tortured and killed existed in Spain for well over a decade. Depending on who who consult c. 100,000 - 200,000 died in those camps in those years.
Further Franco mainly stayed out of the war because Hitler didn't think that the price Franco wanted for an alliance was worth it. Even though Franco was very supportive of Hitler. (Economic aid and a Spanish division of "volunteers" on the Eastern Front. As Hitler lost the war Franco moved away from supporting him.
It wasn't until the early 50s at the earliest that Spain's economy began to recover, and even then it was the result of the abandonment by Franco of stupid policies and international pressure. As it is the Cold War probably saved Franco's regime.
Even so by 1970 Spain was still well behind other West European states in terms of economic development. After the fall of Franco's regime an economic boom began in c. 1980 that transformed Spain truly from the backward place it had been.
You need rose coloured glasses to see, the repressive, unpleasant world of Franco's Spain has a time of peace and prosperity. Oh and I could go into the feather bedding of Franco's family and cronies.
Those in the grip of Franco nostalgia are victims of senile memory.
For some reason, The Sounds of Silence comes to mind.ReplyDelete
"And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made....
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening."
The biggest difference between the European 20th century dictators and President Trump is that they had a plan. They schemes and struggled and suffered to gain power (Franco less than Mussolini or Hitler but Trump had no plan, no governing philosophy and no idea what to go with power other than to mess things up for his opponents. Had he been real dictator material he’d have been a real danger. Just like his poseur followers all strut and gun and no coherence or backbone. Feeble, all of them. Give them TV to suckle and they will stay home and forget.ReplyDelete
The distance that the right has lurched to the far, far, far, far, far right just in the last 18 - 36 months or so is positively TERRIFYING. And I don't see anything that stands any real chance of reversing this trend; if anything quite the opposite.ReplyDelete
We've gotten to the point where Y'all Qaeda is calling Fox and Drudge "fake news" for simply being mildly critical of Trump; they are abandoning in droves for OANN, Newsmax, and other uber-right-wing/uber-Trumpster sites that post blatant lies and unsubstantiated rumors and opinions as incontrovertible fact. And they are guzzling it down as a chaser to the Trump-Aid they've already been drinking for four years.
They read (and, in the case of talk radio, listed) to all of this nonsense, and believe every single word. They are convinced that they are 100% right and righteous, and that everyone else is not only politically wrong but morally wrong and less-than-human.
This is not going to end well. Not even close. I predict the political unrest and armed skirmishes to begin more or less immediately after the Electoral College casts their votes to elect Biden on Dec. 14... they are absolutely convinced that all of Trump and his sycophants' lies and nutjob conspiracy theories are 100% true, that their beloved country is being stolen out from under them, and they are steaming mad about it.
Extremely dark days ahead, folks, as things move from proto-fascism to full-on fascism, coupled with white nationalism and evangelical idiocy.
It's going to be **bad**. Really effing bad.
"If the Fascist party's slowy climbing back, it's not here yet so what's it got to do with you?" - Solas, Song of ChangeReplyDelete