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Sunday, 25 November 2018

Dinner With The Devil

by Tim Murray
(Traduit en français)

Polish nationalists today


Tonight I took a risk. I accepted a dinner invitation from someone in the enemy camp.

I did so for a number of reasons, foremost of which is that the host, “Rod”, is a damn good cook who lives with a dog who loves me. But Rod has another attribute as well. He is able to conduct a civil conversation about politics with the likes of me without resorting to name calling. He argues, but he also listens. Moreover, as a nature interpreter and former biology teacher, he is a font of knowledge about local ecology and roles that various creatures play in it. I never tire of his factoids.

So I accepted his invitation without reservation. Then he dropped a bomb. He said that he had also invited two doctrinaire radicals, one a Marxist SJW by the name of Hugo and another Polish Canadian anarchist known by the name of “Smokey”. I was caught in a dilemma. I wanted to retract my decision, but I didn't wanted to be seen as immature. I would be coming as a guest, and guests do not dictate conditions.

As I drove to Rod’s house, I wondered how in the world I could pull it off. How could I run the gauntlet of fortuitous remarks about Trump’s racism or anti-immigrant actions or whatever else is the repertoire of Leftist clichés. How could I bite my tongue hard enough to avoid provoking a shouting match? Conflict or the anticipation of conflict is bad for one’s digestion.

To my surprise, the first hour was easy sailing. The banter was light, and it did not tread upon politics. Then one conversation broke into two. Rod and Hugo conducted a separate stream, and Smokey and I another. Smokey’s tale of his family history proved enthralling. He said that his grandfather had been interned at Auschwitz, not far from the family home, but was shortly shipped out because his overseers were afraid that he might impart his local knowledge of the area to a potential escapee. He ended up in another concentration camp, this time in Germany, only to be executed with a pistol.

Then Smokey spoke of his father. He said that his father had been part of the Polish resistance during the war, a Resistance that actually consisted of three different groups together numbering some 50,000 partisans. His father’s group consisted Polish nationalists of disparate religious and political persuasions. Another group was more or less were drawn from the peasantry, while a third consisted of Polish Communists, a disproportionate number of whom were Jews.

His father’s group took refuge in a large forest, which fool hardy German troops tried to penetrate to ferret out resisters and eradicate them. They never succeeded. Their forays were consistently thwarted, and their troops ambushed and stripped of weapons. The booty was so plentiful that these partisans of the forest distributed them to villagers and farmers in the countryside that surrounded it. Light weapons and grenades were exchanged for food and other provisions. Enough to tide them over for years until the Germans retreated and the Soviets drew closer. Smokey’s father survived the war, but most of his comrades did not.

As good Polish nationalists they were not anxious to trade one oppressor for another. They wanted to occupy Warsaw before the Red Army got there. But to do that, they had to leave the forest and traverse a wide flat plane of farmland that separated them from the once great city then in ruins. When word of their plans reached the Polish Communist resisters, the Communists quickly relayed the information to the Soviets, who in turn instructed them to leak it to the Germans. As incredible as that may seem. The Germans then left a Panzer corps in the field to block the path of his father’s fighters. The Poles quickly learned that small arms were no match for tanks. They were slaughtered. When the Germans withdrew, Warsaw was there for the Red Army's picking.  From that day forth, Smokey said, with regret, that his parents became virulent anti-semites. In their mind, Soviet occupation, Communism and Jewry were three heads of the same monster.

A small surviving contingent of his father’s group traveled west in the hope of meeting the advancing Americans. They succeeded, and were subsequently dispatched to a German city whose name now escapes me. Eventually they made it to Canada with fake ID. Smokey told me that he never learned what his real last name was, because his father, like other partisans, were told to invent a name so that in the event that they were caught by the Nazis, their relatives would not be subject to reprisals because they could not be traced. The name his father took came to him after seeing a bombed out house consumed by flames. “Dymny, or “Smoke” in English.

Until tonight, I never understood the basis of Smokey’s political orientation. He was a radical Leftist, yet he hated big government and the coercive powers that are attached to it. He inherited his father’s hatred for both Nazism and Communism. But not his anti-semitism. Smokey became an anarchist. Well, at least that’s half a loaf, and on this island, I’ll take it.

At that point, I thought I would escape the event unscathed. I looked at my watch, finished my glass of wine, and prepared to bid them all goodnight. But I was too late. As soon my conversation with Smokey subsided, Hugo’s voice dominated the room. With fervent intensity, he warned Rod about the rise of neo-Nazism in America, and about Trump’s endorsement of violence. Clutching a video that purports to document this alarming situation, he urged Rod to watch it, and pass it around. Trump had opened up the floodgates to violent racism and xenophobia, and now it is everywhere, even here, lying silently in wait.

My blood pressure skyrocketed and my face likely turned red. I jumped up and then….by the grace of God….I stifled my patriotism and interjected, “Excuse me. I am late, I must go.” I made it to the front door, but as I was putting on my jacket, I heard Hugo complain about the far right racist violence in Portland. That did it. I yelled out, “You mean the violence of the fascist Left, don’t you?”

That was a shop stopper. Hugo and Smokey were stunned, with confusion written on their faces. Then I said, from across the room, “It was nice meeting you, thanks for the conversation”, and abruptly turned to walk out the door into the very cold night.

Rod followed me outside. I grabbed the frosty door handle of my car, and I turned to him and said, “See, that is why I dodge social gatherings on this island. People like Hugo are watching an entirely different movie than I am, and they’re living in an echo chamber. The meal was great but I just can’t stomach having CNN played back to me. As soon as Hugo referred to a CBC program that he had listened to, I knew that danger lay ahead.”

Rod, clad in a thin shirt and shivering, shrugged his shoulders and returned to the house, visibly shocked by what just transpired. Word will travel fast. The message will be loud and clear.  Evil lives in a neighbourhood near you, so be careful who you invite to dinner. "Neo-Nazis" come in different guises. They are not all thugs. Some appear civilized and good-natured . Some are old and without tattoos. Some even drink red wine, and tell jokes. Beware.

I expect that I won’t be on Rod’s guest list for a long time.

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