Following the Dartmouth massacre, life became pretty quiet in the Northern Confederation. I had given up hoping the war was over. But gradually, as things stayed peaceful, I came to think life had again taken me by surprise. Maybe it was over, at least for us.
It was hard to call it peace. In the 21st century, a nation lived on guard every moment or it didn’t live very long. Border control was as necessary as food or water or air. One moment’s inattention, one contaminated refugee or shipping container slipping through, could mean death for thousands through a genetic bomb.
We still has some disaffected folks at home, Deep Greeners, cultural Marxists, animal rightsers and the like, but they kept a low profile. We’d made it clear what would happen to them if they didn’t. Besides, like everyone else, they were busy trying to eat, stay warm, and maybe make a little money.
Our poverty continued to cleanse us of our sins, as the Dark Ages had cleansed Europe of the sins of the late Roman Empire. Consumerism, materialism, careerism, and the “me first” attitude of early 21st century America faded before the demands and rewards of real life. People began to see our “Shaker economy” as something good. Plain living strengthened old virtues and revived honest pleasures, like the smell of a fresh-mowed field of hay and a cow’s kiss on a frosty morn.
Summer and winter, one thing grew stronger: Christian faith. We had some Jews, too, of course, and they were welcome. And each place still had its town atheist and village idiot. But our deep roots were Christian, and they were not touched by the frost. On the contrary, with the tares frozen, faith sprouted everywhere. Catholic or Protestant, high church or low, made no difference. We all knew what we shared was more important than what we differed about.
This was real Christianity, too, not social gospel or social club Christianity. It was Christianity that changed the way people thought and lived. No longer was this world the most important. It was the place where people got ready for the world to come, through self-sacrifice, serving others, and obeying God’s laws because they loved God. Like our wise medieval ancestors, we were learning to put beatitudine before felicitas. Being saved was more important than being happy.
It was clear we would never turn back to the vulgar carnival that was late 20th and early 21st century life. But being human, we did hope for a somewhat easier time of it, for hot water and frequent trains and the power to run machines that made things we could sell.
Here, the Christian virtue of patience stood us well. The great project to dam the Bay of Fundy was moving forward. When it was complete, we knew we would have an abundance of white coal: electricity. With plentiful, cheap, clean energy, we could be prosperous despite our lack of most other resources, so long as we worked hard and maintained our morals. Switzerland isn’t poor.
When in the Spring of 2031 the former Canadian provinces east of Quebec asked to join the Northern Confederation, our people voted yes. The Brunswickers, Labradorans, PEIers, and Newfies shared our faith and morals, language and culture, and would be assets despite their current poverty. Our economies would be integrated by the electrical grid anyway, so we felt we might as well make it official.
The reception of the former Canadians on July 4th, 2031 completed the Northern Confederation. We had reached what Mr. MacKinder would have called our “natural limits.” Unlike in the 19th century, those limits were now marked not by great rivers or towering ranges of mountains or uncrossable deserts, but by chaos.
To see how lucky we were in the N.C., all we had to do was peer over our southern border, into what had been Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Right after the remnant of the Washington government in Harrisburg fell into history’s dustbin, Pennsylvania’s future had looked bright. The sweep of our OMG through Pittsburg had left the white ethnic communities in control of that city. The state had resources: coal, oil, good farmland. It had a functioning government. It seemed to have fine prospects.
Unfortunately, it also had Philadelphia. Already by the late 20th century, much of Philadelphia resembled some former colonial entrepot on the West African coast. The remnants of civilization, buildings, paved streets, electric wires, even that summa of urbanity the streetcar, still filled the view of the passer-by. But of civilized people there was small sign. Instead, mile upon square mile was crammed with jobless, skilless, feckless blacks. Beneath the human decay, every other kind of decay spread.
Up the Delaware, there was more of the same. East of the water gap, and not far east, you were in the urban bush. Camden, Trenton, New Brunswick, Newark ran the line of the new Underground Railroad, moving drugs, guns, whores, and gang members up and down, back and forth in an endless journey to nowhere. Newark’s fame as the Aframerican Florence had proven brief. Within a couple years, the corruption and incompetence of black leaders had brought it back to where it started.
Hell was like that. By great effort, you could make a difference, for a little while. But then people got tired, and it all slid back into Hell.
New Jersey never established itself after the union broke up. There was no effective government, and soon no government at all. Gangs, mafias, tribes provided the only order and security, if those terms had any meaning. Within a year of Pennsylvania’s independence, Philadelphia had de facto joined the Jersey tribal territories.
Soon, the tribes started raiding. First it was just into the suburbs, for whatever they could steal. Then they started burning whatever they couldn’t steal. Kidnapping became the leading sport once the goods were taken or trashed; you could get someone to pay for their kid or their grandma.
Pennsylvania tried to stop it with the Guard, but around Philadelphia the Guard shattered on ethnic lines. Many blacks went over, with their equipment. Whites fled west into the countryside, but the raiding parties followed them. Pennsylvania’s rural areas had been depopulating for generations, and the few people remaining were mostly old. They were easy pickings. By 2030, all the territory up to the laurel highlands was Indian country.
At the beginning, Pittsburgh could have helped, but it had never given a shit about Philadelphia and wasn’t about to start. Then, the no-longer-working Pittsburgh white working class started coming apart. It had given birth to its own culturally black lower class, “whiggers,” its own children. The poisonous culture of drugs, sex, and degraded “entertainment” that overwhelmed the urban blacks proved no respecter of color lines. Soon, whigger gangs were turning Pittsburgh into another Philadelphia, and the country folk west of the Alleghenies were living in fear of white savages with painted faces and Mohawk haircuts. It turned out the dark mills where their grandfathers had labored were less Satanic than crystal meth and punk rock.
On March 14, 2031, the last Pennsylvania governor packed up what was left of the state treasury and fled across the Maryland border into the Confederacy. A raiding party of Camden Orcs burned the state house the next day. Pennsylvania had become a geographic expression.
What happened on our southern border was repeated in most of the other industrial states: Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, even Wisconsin and Indiana, though there the rural areas were strong enough to establish lines behind which they lived in comparative safety. They did it partly by fighting and partly by buying the barbarians off with regular shipments of food and house coal.
A few folks in the N.C. argued we should intervene. But when they put the proposition on the ballot, 83% of the voters said “No.” Our people realized we could not export our success, not that way. We’d get drawn into the briar patch with the tar baby, and in the end would have nothing to show for it but a long butcher’s bill. The cultural base had to be strong enough locally to allow our old, Western culture to rebuild itself, and in these states it wasn’t. The rural areas had too few people, and in the cities, too many whites had gotten caught up in the cultural disintegration of early 21st century America to the point where they had lost the old ways.
The only answer was depopulation, and that was happening. People died in the fighting, the massacres, the raids, and the sieges. They died of hunger and cold, especially in the cities in Midwestern winters. Mostly, they died of diseases, diseases created in labs as weapons of war. Lacking any but the most local political organization or security, they could not protect themselves from the new weapon of mass destruction , the genetically engineered epidemic. By 2038, the population of the industrial Midwest was one-tenth what it had been in 2000. The great cities lay deserted and in ruins. Happy the womb that was barren.
Behind our sealed borders, we survived. As things stood, we could hope for little more. Survival itself was tough enough in the New World Disorder of the 21st–formerly the 14th–century. We survived because we still believed in our old culture, and were ready to do whatever it took to keep it alive. In turn, it kept us alive. That was the ancient bargain, the bargain that had governed the West from its beginnings until the apostasy of the Enlightenment.
Because we knew what we owed to our Christian culture, deep in our hearts we wished we could do more for it, more than keep it alive in our northern redoubt. We recognized the limitations on our power, and the primacy of our one absolute interest, staying alive – no Trotskyites, we. Still, as we smoked our pipes in our cold rooms, we dreamed.
On a frigid, early December day in 2032, St. Nicholas’ Day to be exact, Bill Kraft asked me to stop by his place in the evening. Bill wasn’t very social, even with Marines, and an evening invitation meant he had something on his mind. He needed to ruminate, and was inviting me to serve as his cud.
I trudged across the snow, already crisp enough to walk on top of, about eight o’clock. Although Augusta was our capital, already by that hour it was shuttered, with most folks in bed. I saw only two sleighs out on the freshly-rolled streets. The pinholes of my candle lantern sent a wild display shooting along the silent surface of the snow. Shaker pleasures, I thought to myself, smiling. In the truck the white stuff would have just been something to get through.
I found Bill as always, smoking his pipe and reading. He offered me such luxuries as a Maine governor now had at his disposal: a good fire and a bottle of Father Dimitri’s vodka well iced on the windowsill. Together they warmed me up.
“Thank you for coming by to see me so late,” our Governor said. That touch of Spanish court etiquette was a sign Bill had carefully worked out what he was going to say and would proceed to unroll it like a Torah scroll. My function was to let my ears attend.
“Like many of us, I am distressed by what is happening to those who believe as we do in the wreckage of what was our country,” he began. “I would like to do something to help them, and by that I don’t mean sending potato peelings and tracts.” That last was accompanied by a sharp look. I knew what Bill was thinking: the time-honored Anglican response to the needs of others.
“My model in matters of state is Prince Bismarck,” Bill went on. “He knew when to make war, and more unusually, he knew when not to make it. I have no intention of dragging the Confederation into more war for the benefit of peoples elsewhere, even those who believe as we do. It wouldn’t benefit them in any case, and I know how our citizens voted when that proposition was made to them. I voted against it myself. Still, I think there may be another way.”
“What we did here, in the creation of our island of sanity amidst the chaos, we did with few resources, no fancy weaponry, not even any real soldiers beyond John Ross’s Marines. We succeeded because we had some people who understood war. They knew the history and the theory of war. They had educated their minds to think militarily. They understood von Seekt’s rule, das Wesentliche ist die Tat: in war, only actions count. They could put thought and action together.”
“What if, very quietly, we offered that same ability to our friends elsewhere in the old United States?”
“Waal, that’s a thought,” I replied in non-committal Maine fashion. “When you say, ‘very quietly,’ do you mean without letting folks up here know we’re doing it?”
“No,” Bill replied. “We’re not about to go back to the ‘Imperial Government’ games Washington used to play. The people of the N.C. would vote on this proposition as on any other. By quietly, I mean in ways that don’t get our armed forces into shooting matches.”
“Hmm,” I responded. “That might be easier said than done.”
“History shows a way, I think,” Bill suggested. “Remember Liman von Sanders?”
General Liman von Sanders, I knew, had headed the German military advisory mission in Turkey during World War I. He turned the creaky Ottoman armies into far more effective opponents than the Allies had expected. One whole British army was compelled to surrender to them outside Baghdad, the first time that had happened since Yorktown. And there was Gallipoli.
“A military advisory group, you mean?” I asked in turn.
“Precisely,” Bill answered. “It could help our friends at small risk or cost to ourselves, and would keep us accurately informed about the wars now raging on our continent.”
The latter point was important. Our own security demanded that we be up to the minute on what was going on elsewhere, because it could quickly arrive on our doorstep. At present, our information was spotty at best, because we didn’t have our own people on the scene.
“Well, I think that might have some merit,” I said after chewing on the idea and my cigar for a while. “Obviously, the group would be small, and so long as things are quiet I could spare a few general staff officers. It would be a good education for them. Have you given any thought to who ought to head it up?”
“Yourself, of course.”
“As you said, it would be a good education.”
Ouch. There was the patented Kraft suppository. I shot Bill a resentful glance, but I couldn’t fairly reply. Even though I was Chief of the General Staff, he was better educated in the art of war and we both knew it. So I stood up, clicked my heels (as much as they’d click in heavy wool socks, having left my wet boots on the landing), and replied, “Zum Befehl, Herr Generalfeldmarschall!” Bill got the sarcasm.
“Now don’t be snotty,” he shot back. “If you’ve done as you should in developing your subordinates, they’ll carry on for you quite nicely in peacetime. If something happens here, we should be able to get you back quick enough. Remember, there are wars going on all over the place, some none too distant from our own frontiers. Would the Chief of the General Staff rather spend his time in bed?”
That got my Marine back up. “I’ll march to the sound of any guns I hear, humping a full pack, and still get there a damn sight before you do,” I replied.
“Good, then it’s settled, as far as we can settle it. The rest is up to the people of the Northern Confederation,” Bill said. Over and out.
Slowly, I realized I’d been had once more. Oh well, I thought, the places I’d be going were mostly warmer than Maine, and maybe they offered something besides potatoes and codfish to eat. Still, a small voice told me I’d added one more layer to the legend of the “dumb Marine.”
The proposition was put to the people on January 15, 2034, in this form: “Shall the Northern Confederation, within the limits of its resources and without engaging its armed forces, offer military advice to those people in the former United States who are fighting for traditional Western, Christian civilization?” It passed, though narrowly: it got just 53% of the vote. But my door had been opened.