Make no mistake.
Donald Trump would like to be America’s dictator. Based on primary election results, a majority of the Republican party is okay with it. As of today, the GOP establishment, Evangelical Christians, Tea Party types, anti-government groups, and rank-and-file Republicans are falling in line with Trump. If you ever thought the GOP was conservative, it’s time to stop. The GOP in 2016 is the radical right-wing party.
While Trump spews unending hate against anyone who questions his fitness for the presidency, his spokespeople and the GOP pundits make every excuse for his policies and behaviors. It’s all about projecting power so he can make America great. He’ll be a great president, they say. He’ll enforce his will on our allies and our enemies. He’ll be presidential. What they don’t want to admit is this: they are supporting the man who would be dictator.
I learned, as a child, that radicals love dictators. My parents taught me with their devotion to their favorite dictator: General Franciso Franco–the fascist dictator of Spain. They made every excuse for his reign of terror. After all, he was the Catholic general who’d beaten back Communism and restored the true church. General Franco made Spain great again.
In 1958, my parents made their first trip to Spain where they took in the marvel that was Franco’s Spain. For weeks they traveled the country and everything was — in their minds — marvelous. The evening they came home, we all gathered in the dining room for our first family dinner in two months. At the time, my older brother was 13, I was 12, my younger sister was 9, my little brother was 5. The baby was only 3 months old. She was fortunate to sleep through this dinner.
Join me at the dinner table as my mother takes us inside Franco’s Spain.
Mother blotted her mouth and set the napkin aside. She pushed her chair out from the table, crossed her right leg, tapped a Viceroy from the pack and lit it. She inhaled deeply and exhaled smoke from both nose and mouth.
“Children, I have a story to tell you about Spain and patriotism,” she started. “It was marvelous to see our holy faith flourishing. In every village, the church is the center of life. Children flock to daily Mass with their parents.The Rosary is prayed, and devotion to Our Lady is strong.”
“This grand Catholicism flows from Spain’s leader, General Franco. Because of him, Spain shines as a monument to faith and freedom,” Mother explained.“Twenty years ago, the Spanish were fighting a great civil war against the Communists, who wanted to make Spain into Russia. Franco led the fight to save his country.”
My father explained who was who in 1930s Spain. “The good men, under Franco, were the Nationalists,” Dad told us. “The bad guys, the Communists, were the Republicans. Commies and left-wingers from all over the world flocked to Spain to help the Republicans. Even Commies from the U.S. got in on the act. Ultimately, Franco won, but at the time of your Mother’s story, no one knew who would win.”
Mother continued, “In Toledo, a town south of Madrid, there were terrible battles. The Republicans attacked the Alcazar (held by Franco’s forces) over and over; they committed atrocities too terrible to mention. In the face of this, however, the Nationalist general refused to surrender. Instead, he used skill and prayer to best the enemy. Then, during one ferocious battle, the Communists captured the general’s thirteen-year-old son and imprisoned him in a secret location.
” ‘ Release your prisoners by nightfall or you’ll never see your son alive,’ the Communists said. The brave general refused.
“In a last desperate attempt to get what they wanted, the boy was put on the phone to talk to his father. The general had a message for his son: ‘Say your prayers, my son, and die like a True Spaniard.’ The general hung up the phone.
A Communist put his gun to the boy’s head and pulled the trigger.
Mother raised her napkin to wipe her wet eyes, and looked at me. “That’s real sacrifice,” she said. “True devotion to duty.”
“Did the boy die?” I asked.
“Yes, Claire, the boy died. I don’t know the other details, but I do know the young man was an obedient son and he died for his country.”
Years later, when I studied about Spain, I came to realize that my mother and father were blind to the fascist leanings of the Franco regime because the general was a staunch anti-Communist and a strict Roman Catholic. They paid no attention to his ruthless suppression of dissent and his destruction of the Spanish economy.
For my parents, a Roman Catholic, anti-Communist dictator, no matter how brutal, was always one of the good guys.
* * *
Later that night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I stared at the ceiling above my bed and I thought about that poor boy, all alone in a cold prison cell. He must have cried for his mother. He must have prayed for his father to rescue him. I could“see” a snarling man push a pistol to the boy’s head. I heard the trigger cock just before . . . blackness.
I finally fell into a restless sleep swirling with guns, shots, and screams.
Suddenly, I heard my father’s voice: “Claire, say your prayers and die like a true American.”
I sat up in bed, shaking and crying, “Please come for me, please.”
Something happened to me after that night. I had frequent headaches and stomachaches. A rash appeared on my neck, arms, and legs. It itched so much that I scratched until my arms bled. The doctor prescribed creams and ointments, but nothing seemed to stop the onslaught.
Bad dreams disrupted my sleep. Sometimes it was the Spanish nightmare. Sometimes it was some other ghoulish imagining. When I woke up frightened and shaking, it was hard to get back to sleep.
I didn’t connect all of this with my parents. But I did realize that Mother and Dad had returned from Europe with a heightened fear of the Communists. It was easy to assume that the culprit in all of this was Uncle Harry, but as I became more aware of my parents’ connections with Robert Welch, I was less willing to heap all the blame on the Captain.
I do know this: Before I’d turned thirteen, I was terrified of the Reds. I was positive that they had already identified my parents and singled them out for execution. After Mother and Dad were dead, I knew that one of the Commies would put a pistol to my head and pull the trigger.
Facts about this story and General Franco
- This story was told by both sides in the Civil War. No one actually knows if it happened or if the father was a Nationalist (Franco’s army) or a Republican.
- The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) left 500,000 dead.
- Another 200,000 – 400,00 prisoners died in the concentration camps and work camps Franco built.
- At least 50,000 people were executed when Franco took power and purged his opponents.
- Under Franco (1939-1975), Catholicism became the state religion. To hold office, a man’s religious practice had to be proven.
- Women were not allowed to hold any offices. Their place was at home. Single women had a particularly difficult time during the Franco years.
- Franco merged the monarchist and fascist parties in Spain to form his Falange party.
- After the civil war ended (1939), Franco made himself dictator under the title “El Caudillo,” the Leader.
- Franco held enormous political rallies where the people were encouraged to shout “Franco, Franco, Franco.
- Spain had ties to Nazi Germany but did not fight during World War II. Instead, Spain gave military and industrial support to the Axis powers.
- Historians differ on the question of Franco being a pure Fascist. He did have close connections with Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. Franco himself described Spain as a totalitarian dictatorship.