Review of “Tales of New America”

Brian Hess


Tales of New America
by Gunther Roosevelt

reviewed by Brian Hess

This newly-published collection of stories is based upon a scenario described on the volume’s back cover:

20–50 years from now when America has fallen apart economically, socially and racially. The Federal Government loses control as revenue dwindles and poverty spreads. To survive, States begin forming autonomous regions amidst the disintegration. Emerging from the disorder, Northern Mountain States of the west gradually form a new American Republic, de facto at first, finally in law, as it becomes a bastion of prosperity and a crucible of liberty. A religious and martial people arise with a will to reclaim ruined western States lost to invaders, oligarchs and degradation.

This process is nowhere described in the narrative itself, which begins in medias res with a vignette about a border patrol post located at the present boundary of Nevada and Idaho. A white couple with a three-year old child are attempting to enter New America under assumed identities. A young New American border guard notices their nervousness and sends them in for questioning, while a team of mechanics disassembles their car. New America has a great deal of cutting edge technology at its disposal, which the author takes pleasure in describing. A retina scanner and thumbprint reader quickly reveal the interlopers’ true identities.

The man is a professor of Humanities at Berkeley; the woman is secretary in the chancellor’s office; the child belongs to both of them, but they are not married. Clearly, they had been overconfident of being able to outsmart the unprepossessing border agents in brown khaki uniforms.

“How much money are you bringing into the New American region?” asks the captain. “About $20,000 New American dollars,” is the reply. “Are you transferring any gold or jewels?” “No.” The captain sighs and clicks on his computer: the mechanics have thus far uncovered $70,000 New American dollars, thirty ounces of gold and an assortment of precious jewels hidden in their automobile.

The man thinks to himself “well, what’s the worst they can do to us? Send us back? That would be bad, but they could try again someplace else.” No doubt his mental image of border control derives from the practice of Old America.

“These smart California refugees trying to sneak into my country on their terms, with their sick souls and ruinous morality. Like they had a right to wreck a second America,” thinks the captain.

“What do you think will happen next? What should we do with you?”

“Why not just let us go?” Sandra said hopefully. “We haven’t done anything to you. We just tried to get in.”

“Why did you want to get in?”

“Life is impossible for people like us in California. You fear for your life. You need bodyguards everywhere. Somebody’s always trying to kidnap you or your baby. The filth outside the walls, you can’t imagine the poverty, the violence. There are millions outside your door who don’t look like you, think like you, talk like you or act like you.”

“Okay: I see why you want to get out. But why do you think you’d be welcome here? What are you offering us? Why should we accept you? In the first place, you come as liars. These ID’s, these letters of sponsorship, these fake résumés, is this how you intend to join us? If we have something here that’s better than what you left, aren’t you bringing us something rotten with you? Do you think you can buy your way into a new life with people who have paid for it the hard way?”

Then the captain tells them what is in store for them. New America is humane, but unafraid to impose its own standards on whoever subjects itself to its laws by entering its territory:

“You both will be going to prison for three years. Don’t look so shocked or sad. It’s not what you think. It’s more of a work place. You will live together. You will have more children. You must have five.”

“You, sir, will never teach again. We will never expose our children to someone who’s been as intellectually and morally corrupted as you. You will marry. You may not divorce until all your children are grown. If you become a danger to your children, they will be removed and placed in an orphanage so stay sober and sensible.”

“You will both learn a trade in prison. You will become religious, and will be given a choice of religions you may join. Neither of you shall ever be eligible to vote. You will both be trained to serve in our militia, but never exceed the rank of sergeant. Your children will train all through school, and serve a mandatory period in the armed forces.”

“If you leave the Region, you may never return, and if apprehended during an operation by the Region in former territories, you will be summarily executed.”

“You look a bit shattered. Don’t worry. It will pass. You’ll find that life in New America is worthwhile. There is little crime. People have good manners. Public morals are maintained. Children and women are protected, but we intend to take back what was once ours, and we intend to kill and harm a great many people to do that. And you are going to help….”

Subsequent stories concern Chinese spies and lesbian couples attempting to enter New America, New American ‘missionaries’ explaining the region to potential recruits in ‘old’ America, a young white athlete’s gradual initiation into the life of the region, military operations to incorporate further territories, and the reaction of frightened liberals to the changes being wrought by people they consider ‘wacky fundamentalists’.

Imagination rules the world, and statistical studies of crime and IQ cannot inspire men to fight and sacrifice for a European restoration. That is the work of artists and writers. Tales of New America is a good example of the work that needs to be done.

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