For All Nails #181: Angry Johnnie
By Johnny Pez
"What in God's name do those bloody Johnnies want?" wondered Sir Geoffrey Gold.
"That seems clear enough, Geoff," George Loring replied. "They want us to keep clear of America."
"But why? Do they actually want those Dagos to have a factory spewing out Mercator bombs? Going, for all we know, directly to Mercator himself!"
"It's rather more complicated than that," said Loring.
"Isn't everything?" said Sir Geoffrey with a sigh. Tamping down his pipe -- with Carolina tobacco, ironically -- the Prime Minister peered at his Minister of Education. "You're supposed to know what makes Johnnie tick -- you've written enough books about 'em. Why are they trying to block us, when they jolly well ought to be backing us to the hilt?"
"It all goes back to the Mexican War," Loring explained. As a former Lecturer at Cambridge, lecturing came naturally to him. Sir Geoffrey didn't mind; Loring was one of the Party's elder statesmen, which was a polite way of saying he was too old to have his eye on Number Ten. And he did know an awful lot about the North Americans.
"The Rocky Mountain War, as they call it. It was the defining moment in their history -- even more so than the Rebellion. They had half again Mexico's population, twice their strength in men under arms, five times their industrial might, and ten times as many warships." Sir Geoffrey nodded. He had read all this before, in Loring's own books in fact, but hearing it from the man's own lips somehow brought the points home with vivid clarity.
"They ought to have given the Mexicans a thorough drubbing -- yet they didn't. They launched no less than eight major campaigns against the Mexicans, and every one failed. Reading Gilpin's memoirs is enough to make you weep -- a first rate mind surrounded by mediocrities. I've often wondered how history might have turned out if Gilpin had had just one competent general at his disposal."
Shaking his head to disperse the digressive thought, Loring continued, "At any rate, Gilpin wound up shouldering the blame for the debacle, and the country turned away from him, and from the path of greatness he represented. Isolationism, they call it -- pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Now it's reached the point where they expect the rest of the world to return the favour and pretend they don't exist. And not just them, but the whole of America."
"But Skinner seemed such a sensible fellow during the election campaign," said Sir Geoffrey with genuine puzzlement. "If you didn't actually listen to him speak, that is. Now his policies seem indistinguishable from those of his predecessor."
"It was all just politics, I'm afraid," said Loring sagely. "Underneath all that 'King and Country' rhetoric, he's still a North American at heart, as he's amply demonstrated this past week."
Sir Geoffrey's pipe went out, and he paused to relight it. "Well then, how can I make it clear to him that we can't ignore New Granada? The Stuffies FN1 and Twinks FN2 are screaming for blood, and we've promised each of them a bucket of type D Dago Red. FN3 Not to mention the domestic repercussions if we allow the Dagos to bluff us."
Sir Geoffrey was certain Loring would get the point -- any NRP member would. It had been public outrage at Harold Fuller's disgraceful failure of nerve during the November Crisis that had swept the Party to power in 1966. Mosely Leigh-Oswald had promised the British people that the NRP would never allow themselves to be bluffed out of a certain victory the way the Whig-Tory coalition had been, and Sir Geoffrey Gold had no intention of going back on the Founder's word.
"As for Skinner," said Loring, "I'm afraid there's nothing you can do. He can no more stop thinking like a North American than a leopard can change its spots. He can't see the necessity for action in this crisis because Johnnie never sees action as a necessity."
"Then what can I do?" Sir Geoffrey implored Loring.
"You'll have to do what he wants you to do," said Loring. "Namely, ignore him."
"Ignore him?" said Sir Geoffrey in astonishment. "With him trying to obstruct my every move? And making all too good a job of it, too." It still confounded Sir Geoffrey to think that good, loyal subjects of the Crown in Jamaica and Barbados could turn their backs on Mother Britannia at such a time.
"What you've got to remember," said Loring, "is that isolationism is a coin with two sides, and that the other side is called passivity. Skinner may persuade the West Indians to stand aside, and he may try to persuade us to do the same, but persuasion is his only weapon. It is alien to his whole style of thought to attempt any use of force."
"It wasn't alien to Carter Monaghan's style of thought," Sir Geoffrey pointed out.
Loring smiled. "You've just made my point for me, Geoff. Monaghan isn't a full-blooded North American, you see. Two of his grandparents were escaped Mexican slaves. In spite of his commendable impulse to action, though, Monaghan was fatally hampered by the need to rely on his fellow North Americans to carry out his orders. The results in Porto Rico speak for themselves."
Sir Geoffrey considered his Education Minister's words. "So what you're saying," he concluded, "is that Johnnie is also trying to bluff us."
Sir Geoffrey gave voice to a final feeling of doubt. "But, George, won't that make them angry?"
"It doesn't matter," Loring assured him. "Getting angry is all that Johnnie can do."
Forward to FAN #182: Arma Superior.
Forward to 14 January 1975: (American War, Great Britain) (Can't Get No) Satisfaction.
Return to For All Nails.