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Never was the moon so bright. The uniforms on the Town Hall steps are like chalk. The windows glisten. The moonlit half of the church tower is a mirror of green silk. With gleaning helmets and visors the stone knights by the doorway spring forward from the wall of shadows.
‘Back! Or we fire!’ comes the command coldly.
Nancy Pelosi is credibly reported to have requested that crew-served machine guns be emplaced to protect the inauguration proceedings on January 20. I thought immediately of the above passage from Erich Maria Remarque’s novel The Road Back, which is sort of a sequel to his much-better-known All Quiet on the Western Front.
The protagonist (Ernst) and his friends, all recently returned from the Front at the end of World War One, are out for a walk in their home town. They come upon a protest demonstration, comprised largely of veterans, many of them in desperate financial straits, who are demanding compensation for their wounds and disabilities. The city as a whole is becoming more and more disturbed, and people are moving toward the Town Hall, where a government force has taken position. With a machine gun.
When Ernst hears the order ‘Back! Or we fire!’ he recognizes the voice of the group’s former company commander, Lieutenant Heel.
A choking tension grips me, as if I must now look on at an execution. Heel will fire–I know.
One man runs forward, toward the Town Hall … and the machine gun.
Don’t shoot, Comrades!
…But when the mob sees the unarmed man run forward, it advances too. In a thin stream it trickles along the side of the church. The next instant a command resounds over the square. Thundering, the tick-tack of the machine gun shatters into a thousand echoes from the houses, and the bullets, whistling and splintering, strike on the pavement.
Quick as lightening, we have flung ourselves behind a jutting corner of the houses. In the first moment a paralyzing, curlike fear seized me, quite different from any that I ever felt at the Front. Then it changes into rage. I have seen the solitary figure, how he spun around and fell forward.
The man who was shot — and killed — turns out to be Max Weil, a Jewish soldier who was the company’s first-aid man at the Front.
Now the violence runs wild. People start tearing up the pavement to make barricades. Mattresses and chairs are thrown down from the houses.
Shots flash out from the square and now are answered from the roofs.
“Into ’em Ernst! Ludwig, Albert!” roars Kosole. “The swine are shooting at women!”
We crouch in the doors of the houses, bullets lashing, men shouting; we are submerged, swept away, devastated, raging with hate; blood is spurting on the pavement, we are soldiers once more–it has us again, crashing and raging war roars above us, betwen us, within us; it is finished, comradeship riddled by machine guns, soldiers shooting at soldiers, comrades at comrades; ended, it is finished–
Over the past year, we in the United States of America have moved frighteningly close to this sort of thing. Nancy Pelosi, whether driven by personal fear or power-lust, or some combination of the two, seems to want to move us even closer.
See also The Federalist: The Occupation of Washington is Panic Porn.
I reviewed The Road Back here.Published in