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The path to civil war

Blessed are the peacemakers

In this column over the past three decades I’ve mentioned five times a novel of warning, José Gironella’s The Cypresses Believe in God. Sadly, it’s out of print: Since my last recommendation I’ve learned the least expensive used copy you can buy costs $64, which is steep even for 997 pages. So, as a public service, here are key quotations from the book set in 1931-1936 Spain, as that country polarized its way to a civil war.

Page 189: “There was a disagreeable side to the propaganda of the Rightist parties: all they did was attack the opposition. … They were in no way concerned with the real problems of the lower classes.”

Page 279: “It seemed to him a mystery that things should be as they were, that five or six men could gather around a stove and a few days later wreck a print shop.”

Page 311: “Organizations were distributing arms to all their members. ‘Yes, Cesar. There is talk of revolution.’”

“They spent their time filling the city with signs. ‘Down with this one, Down with that one.’”

Page 338: “Those children frightened him. They were growing and they would absorb all the poison the neighborhood exuded.” 

Page 422, after conservatives win an election: “The gulf between victors and vanquished was ten times deeper. The vanquished withdrew … and defeat united them in a common cause. Triumph had gone to the others’ heads.”

Page 517: “Unemployment was growing like a cancer at the vitals of many families.”

Page 569: Communist leader Cosme Vila: “Nobody is to get upset if we shout viva for something one day and muera [die] the next … equal hatred for the landowners, the military, and the clergy.”

Page 572: “Every citizen read a single newspaper, which chiseled his mind into given form as though it were stone. Each newspaper’s advertising space was bought by certain individuals, and the readers knew that those who advertised in other papers were their enemies.”

Page 578: “They spent their time filling the city with signs. ‘Down with this one, Down with that one.’ Streets and squares bristled with threats … with a skull underneath.” 

Page 625: “Major tactics in the campaign: the buildup of the leader … the systematic insulting of the opposition. … If even so they lose … they’ll destroy the ballot boxes.” 

Page 650: “‘What do you hope to accomplish without fanaticism? ... Shoot the person who makes a mistake in addition.’”

Page 660: “This election will decide Spain’s next hundred years.”

Page 664: “Squads of Communists and anarchists had appeared and were lined up along the sidewalks with an expression that boded no good.” 

Page 666: “Olga did something she was unable to account for when she thought about it afterwards. She went over to them and shouted, ‘Pigs.’”

Page 667: “El Cojo kept twirling the skull and pointing his finger at the lieutenant.”

Page 668: The Left “had a majority in Parliament. The people had expressed their will. It was time to settle accounts.”

Page 684: “Looting of all shops, churches.”

Page 782: “‘What do they lay all this to?’ Cesar looked at him steadily: ‘To the fact that society has cut itself off from God.’” 

Page 806: “On the rear entrance of the Church of San Felix someone had written, ‘Long live Me!’”

Page 847: “What that man had accomplished in such a short space of time! He had snuffed out the servant. … He had set fire to a convent and paralyzed the city. He published a newspaper and was organizing a People’s Militia.” 

Page 936: “Because of the terror in their eyes when they turned and saw those men with the red handkerchiefs around their heads … the Murcians mowed them down with bullets.”

Page 997: “A volley rang out, and Cesar felt something gently pierce his skin. … Then his heart closed.”

That was Spain. This is the United States. Matthew 5:9 teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”


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  • RC
    Posted: Thu, 09/17/2020 02:15 pm

    If we don’t learn from history, especially what went wrong, we are doomed to repeat it.

    Marvin, Thanks for the warning!

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/18/2020 12:14 am

    The path to civil war is led by those who do not stand up against those bent on civil war by pushing Marxism!