Why I Wrote a Novel About the Day the KKK Welcomed Nazi Invaders
Mr. Pastore is the author of Never on These Shores (Cohort Press, 2007).
1942: The Nazis have successfully landed in Mexico and have invaded the United States through Texas. The Japanese have conquered western Canada and have captured and occupied most of the West Coast from Seattle to the outskirts of Los Angeles. The Italians have launched a massive amphibious assault from Cuba and have taken control of Florida and the Southeast as far north as Atlanta. New York City and Washington D.C. are fortifying and preparing for the onslaught. American forces are stranded in Europe and Southeast Asia. The homeland is being defended neighborhood to neighborhood by women, the elderly and gay men, all ineligible for military service. The KKK and Right Wing radicals are supporting the invaders helping to establish concentration camps where Blacks and Jews are being transported all over the western U.S. Amid the carnage and brutality of an enemy seeking to destroy everything in its path, the American Spirit is put to its greatest test.
The ideas and themes inspiring the writing of Never on These Shores occurred in a coffee shop (of course) in Florida where I was discussing Americans’ penchant for flying flags on their gas stations, car dealerships, homes and autos (in the form of decals) and I made the observation that no citizens of other countries seem so inclined (adding that virtually every flag/decal is made in China) and that this particular form of “patriotism” creates in Americans a notion of moral superiority which in turn leads to a form of gung-ho diplomacy.
I remembered at some point in the discussion being taught in grade school that America was invulnerable to direct attack (prior to ICBMs and long-range bombers) making us feel particularly safe and that virtually every country in Europe owed its existence to American intervention in both World Wars. It dawned on me, whether incorrectly or not, that the victory of Allied forces in WWII was not a result of anything the Allies did but in fact to Hitler’s absurd opening of the Russian Front before knocking out Britain. Without England, the very ocean that protected American soil from invasion was the same ocean that would have prevented American intercession in either war, especially WWII. It was a few sips of strong coffee later that it became obvious that had Hitler conquered Britain, the US would have been impotent to save anyone (having no place to land troops and materials) and furthermore, Hitler had no necessity to land on American soil but could readily “invade” any number of Central American “banana republics” which would need little coercion to encourage their already strong dislike of their bullying northern neighbor.
Someone interjected that there were new discoveries concerning the Diary of Anne Frank and the conversation turned to the persecution of the Jews in Europe and how such a thing could never have occurred in the US, again emphasizing Americans’ view that they are morally superior. I pointed out that at the beginning of WWII there were at least 3 million known members of the KKK and possibly as many as 15 million, that Americans were as “put-off” by Jews (and Blacks) as anyone in Europe and I posited that not many Americans would have been hiding either Jews or Blacks in their attics or basements and that an American would be as fearful as a Dutchman, a Pole or a Romanian about risking their lives to protect someone they were already wary of to begin with. After all, America is a hodge-podge of all European peoples and they certainly did not check their prejudices at the coat room on Ellis Island.
Within a few days of the coffee clutch, I began writing Never on These Shores. What started out as a book meant to illustrate that Americans are no different than anyone else, evolved into a novel that proposes that people in general have innate virtues and flaws that will rise to the surface when confronted with real and imminent threats, that it is not patriotism that matters but moral fiber.
It is interesting to note that no reviewer (and there are many) of the book ever said that the story was improbable or unrealistic. I was a big fan (for lack of a better word) of Aristotle’s’ Poetics in college, where he said that a work of fiction will rise or fall depending on its plausibility. Apparently, everyone that reads Shores finds it plausible. That is gratifying because despite my own pessimism in light of current world affairs, the book, I hope, points out that human beings do have a moral compass, that the priorities of Americans (and every other nationality) need to shift from feeling good about America to feeling good about being human. I hope I do not sound preachy or optimistic or, worse, sappy. I enjoy the Jerry Springer Show, Matthew Arnold’s poetry, America’s Next Top Model, the novels of Thomas Hardy and a good cup of coffee in a bookshop. I don’t know how I’d react if the Nazis marched by my house. I’d like to think that I’d be heroic, protective, defiant and quick-witted. I hope Never on These Shores makes everyone feel that way.
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edward murphy - 2/2/2008
you are one non-intellectual Southerner. Try reading some history written after the War Between the States. And dont forget to write in for GWB. He still loves you.
R.R. Hamilton - 1/4/2008
It is difficult to respond to Mr. murphy (I will assume that he prefers his name lower-cased, because he spelled it that way). It's not just that his comment is a quilt of lies, the quilt itself is a part of a fabric of another reality, a reality that exists in his mind but (hopefully) few others.
It's not that he merely gets facts wrong. It's not like meeting someone who says that Germany invaded Poland in 1938, instead of 1939. It's rather like meeting someone who insists that it was the POLES who did the invading. Neither is it a matter of interpretation. It is like trying to discuss with someone the degree to which slavery caused the American Civil War, only to find that he demands that you first acknowledge that free Northern laborers were also slaves.
And Mr. murphy doesn't shy from blood-libel: "it was the Southern senators that refused entry into the US for escaping Jews (during World War II)". That he might be able to find one Southern Senator who might possibly be described as anti-Semitic(*) is like someone justifying the old canard about Jews killing Gentile children based on the Leopold and Leob case. Who can argue with such a person?
(*)The American Jewish Yearbook mentions FORMER-Sen. Robert Reynolds of North Carolina as a founder of the American Nationalist Party in 1946. http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1946_1947_5_USCivicPolitical.pdf The North Carolina History Project says of Reynolds, "A most atypical southern politician and U. S. Senator from 1933 to 1945, Robert Rice Reynolds was an unabashed isolationist and Anglophobe." http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/commentary/108/entry
A much more worrisome politician for Jews, it would seem, was FDR, whose attitudes towards them was thusly described by a SYMPATHETIC biographer: "Roosevelt's attitudes toward Japanese-Americans, blacks and Jews remain in striking contrast with the generosity of spirit he displayed, and the social liberalism he practiced in other realms." http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt
Supporters of Israel today should try to imagine what would have happened God had not removed from the White House the martini-drinking mandarin and replaced him with the whisky-drinking, former Ku Klux Klansman, and Southern Baptist, Harry S Truman. From the sympathetic biographer: "Roosevelt was also opposed to this idea [Zionism]. When he met King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia in February 1945, he assured him he did not support a Jewish state in Palestine. He suggested that since the Nazis had killed three million Polish Jews, there should now be plenty of room in Poland to resettle all the Jewish refugees."
edward murphy - 1/3/2008
It seems that Hamilton did not read the book (I did) and I can assure him that Pastore presents the material in a most believable fashion. I think Hamilton forgets that it was the Southern senators that refused entry into the US for escaping Jews. Also, that it took Pearl Harbor to get the US to enter a war where fascism was literally conquering the entire world. I suppose he is so busy waving his Made in China American flag and sticking his Support our Troops (Made in China) car decals that he hasn't noticed that the US has not won a war in over 60 years despite the self-deluding rhetoric. As it turns out, the cowboys didn't even beat the Indians who now have more economic and poltical power via casinos than any good ole boys he drinks Jack Daniels with wishing for the "good old day.". Yes, R.R., it was the south that put Ole George W. in the White House, the same south that was lynching blacks as late as the 1970s, the land of gun-toters and the Neo-Nazi party. I can imagine Bubba hiding a black family in his attic in Mobile, Alabama in 1942 when the SS troops are marching in. Right. As for Thurmond and Byrd, there's a combo we can all be proud of--even prouder than George Wallace. The issue is not what could have happened in 1942, it's what is happening today. We've long ago given up our prestige earned so expensively in WWII. The US dollar is a laughing stock, our politicians and our processes are ineffective and the world has never been so chaotic. Keeping waving that flag. I'm sure it will help.
R.R. Hamilton - 1/3/2008
Dear Mr. Weinstein,
Just because you can't find any statement with which to disagree does not give you the right to make up statements and attribute them to me. That the Southern Senators were providing crucial support to FDR while the Left was supporting sabotage of defense factories making arms for Britain is true -- even if nowadays quite hidden in American history narratives.
And the only important religiously-based psychosis that I can see in the American people is the one that purports to see a danger of the rise of an "anti-Semitic, Christo-fascist government" in every election.
Paul Barry Weinstein - 1/2/2008
Oh golly freakin' neds, must conservatives take every opportunity to repeat the "we're so patriotic compared to those liberal pukes" trope? Democrats have served with honor in the armed services if that's any measure of "patriotism," although I am convinced that standing up AGAINST the dogs of war is equally honorable and often courageous. Given the often uninformed dedication to "capitalism" and "free enterprise" andopposition to "government interference," albeit all these concepts have proven flexible as manipulated by the monied classes, it has long been held—reasonably, I'd say—that a significant portion of the American population would probably be receptive to the fascism in the blended form of hypernationalism, fear/hatred of outsiders, Christian supremacism, and suppression of some Satanic enemy.
Come to look at it, these elements form strong undercurrents in today's Republican Party, do they not?
R. R. Hamilton - 1/1/2008
Because you have no clue about the character of the American people. A young Congressman from Illinois said in the 1840s, "The combined armies of Europe cannot water their horses in the Ohio River (look it up) without our permission." This was no less true in the 1940s than 100 years earlier. The Italian Army could conquer Florida and half of Georgia? Riiiiiiiight.
And if the KKK was so large and Nazi-sympathizing, then it's sure that many soldiers (and our military is and was then disproportionately Southerners) were sympathetic, or even members of the Klan -- Sen. Robert Byrd was one such soldier. So was Strom Thurmond. So where were the defections by these KKK-sympathizing solders to the Nazi side? Based on what you wrote, there should've been thousands. Can you identify even ONE?
It was Anglophile Southern Senators that provided the crucial votes for FDR's anti-Axis policies at a time when the Left of his party were marching around with placards screaming "STOP THIS IMPERIALIST WAR!" (Of course, on June 22, 1941, they replaced those placards with "SECOND FRONT NOW!")
The famous comedian Richard Pryor had a theory about why Japan attacked the U.S.: "Some of their top military leaders attended American colleges in California and Massachusetts, and thought ALL Americans were like the ones they met there. The Japanese didn't know that in Dixie are boys kept in chains in basements and are turned loose just for things like attacks."
Richard Pryor understood American character far better than the author of this book.
Randll Reese Besch - 12/31/2007
Just imagine if the "Fraternity" of fascist corporations had suceeded in their coup attempt in 1934? Why the USA would have been on the Axis side!
Would any reviewer question that? In Gore Vidal's novels on American history,he noted the sympathies of many americans for the Nazis. He wondered why the USA was against the Germans. I sometimes wonder too.