It’s a common, boastful, and implausible refrain: “My grandmother was a saint.” I’m no different.

When you’re young, your grandmother magically reads your mind. You couldn’t say how. After a number of years of reflection, I saw my grandmother showed her affection through acts of service. She put thought into something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It would arrive with the crusts of my bread cut off. The apples on the same plate would have the skin peeled off. These were exotic benefits to a young kid. I hadn’t asked for comfortable alterations to my food. It was a grandmother’s idea. Once enjoyed, could I go back to crusted bread? Once in a while, nearby adults would scold me for having things “so good.” And they were right.

I see it was through her compassion that they enlisted her, the federal administrative state that we wrestle with today. They got her vote, her support, and influenced her worldview. A generation of Americans born in the early part of the twentieth century helped to grow American socialism into communism, which many see as taking over public life in our time.

Having passed away in 2013, my grandmother wouldn’t recognize the policies she helped to enable—from wide open borders to a tacit legalization of criminality in our government and cities. Nor would she understand the reasons why our political system became so malevolent. As a member of the Greatest Generation, my grandmother was closely allied with a seemingly benevolent government. Patriotism was part of one’s identity. The American flag was physical evidence of an intangible treasure shared among millions of citizens. The idea that this government could criminalize the flag and patriotism itself? She would shake her head and refuse to believe it.

Many have tried to pinpoint when the Constitutional America of the Founding Fathers was sidelined and the rival agenda began, now at its fruition in the twenty-first century. Some point to Woodrow Wilson’s administration as a time when globalist ambitions overtook Washington, D.C. If true, the dismantling of the U.S. experiment was underway when my grandmother was born in 1924. It’s not a certain timeframe. This political agenda was rudimentary and necessarily covert. Politicians didn’t have an army of illegally-trafficked migrants to rely on. Elections still mattered. It necessitated Americans being on board. And so, the political machine would need to encourage regular, working-class voters to usher in socialism.

The administrative state went to work on my grandmother and people like her who voted with their hearts rather than their minds.

My grandmother was a perfect ally for this agenda. Her attitude toward government was entirely relational. In the evening, she read the newspaper with a keen eye as a neighbor would study her Bible. My grandmother was raised to believe the government should help people. It led her to one political party. Like her neighbors would be proudly Presbyterian, Methodist, or Episcopalian, my grandmother was a Democrat. She wasn’t the kind to attend rallies or stake a politician’s sign on her lawn, but she identified with the party that claimed to care about the little guy.

The concept of a limited government stepping aside for private enterprise was unwelcome. It was dismissed as the crafty message of duplicitous Republicans, the fat cats. Limited government was also the framework of the US Constitution. To the budding socialist movement, the Constitution was an impediment to progress. Naturally, it couldn’t be attacked outright. Its influence would need to be eroded, harmlessly, over the years.

The Greatest Generation would be susceptible to a socialist message despite its admiration for the US Founders and a traditional view of patriotism. The hard times of the 1930s influenced its definition of compassion. My grandmother was six years old when the Great Depression arrived. Her family had been farmers in eastern Canada. After fighting for the King in World War I, my great-grandfather took his family to America and settled in Pasadena. There, he took up carpentry and built homes for Hollywood. My grandmother was the first native-born American in her family. They weren’t poor, nor were they rich. Through scrimping and saving, they survived.

The poverty my grandmother witnessed as a child made a lifelong impression. She recollected about that time:

I also remember the homeless and jobless men who came to our door for a handout at supper time during the Depression years. Mother usually fixed a plate of food and let them sit on the porch to eat. It was an uncomfortable feeling to eat our supper with a poor man sitting outside.

Eileen Havens

Generosity was a trait in my grandmother’s family. Her mother was a devout Christian. She needed creativity to stretch their food dollar, but she found enough leftovers to help those who came to their back door.

Because they weren’t very poor, my grandmother didn’t qualify for a free lunch at school. Her mother packed a sandwich made of two pieces of bread and “sandwich spread,” a kind of mayonnaise. She wrote, “The rich kids, who didn’t eat in the cafeteria, always had lunch meat sandwiches and sometimes would trade for peanut butter but never, ever for sandwich spread.”

My grandmother watched ordinary people pull together in the Depression era and help each other. The socialists argued that it was the role of government, not private citizens. How could something so important as charity be left to regular people? My grandmother knew about church, which her mother faithfully attended. In churches, people offered charity freely. Outside of the church, people looked to the government to fulfill it.

It would require a new vision for the government. In 1913, during Wilson’s term, the Sixteenth Amendment enacted a federal income tax. Another Democratic US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, presided over two further federal tax measures, the Wealth Tax of 1935 and the Victory Tax in 1942.

According to the IRS’s own website, “President Roosevelt’s proposed Revenue Act of 1942 introduced the broadest and most progressive tax in American history, the Victory Tax. Now, about 75 percent of American workers would pay income taxes. Because so many citizens paid the tax, it was considered a mass tax.”

The Founders’ vision of limited government was over. Roosevelt’s New Deal put the federal government in the business of employing millions of workers. Many argued that these were extraordinary times that demanded unprecedented solutions. This same argument allowed FDR to win a forbidden third term as president. The US Constitution had guided Lincoln through the Civil War. It was deemed incapable of governing the country through crises such as The Depression, World War II, and its aftermath.

Is it any wonder that my grandmother idolized FDR? Through a stroke of luck, Democrats found an authoritative figure to put a face on US socialism. With a solemn, fatherly smile, FDR calmed a nation in crisis through his Fireside Chats and his role as a “sugar daddy” who supported numerous government handouts. FDR’s image won over relational voters. As a public service employee, my grandmother accepted every one of FDR’s unprecedented actions without a second thought.

Her admiration for FDR had not dimmed by 1997. In that year, a statue of FDR seated in a wheelchair was dedicated at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. The decision to portray FDR as a handicapped person seemed wrong to her. FDR was known to the world as able-bodied. While she had no problem with wheelchairs, my grandmother questioned the agenda behind changing his image. Without being aware of it, she faced the socialist mentality she had supported but under a different guise. Socialism wasn’t concerned with history. It was about using history to advance its cause.

My grandmother grew up in a country with an infallible image. It could be argued that a citizen had no chance to think otherwise. Evidence of America’s superiority was everywhere. The United States overcame the Great Depression and defeated the Nazis. Its citizens walked on the moon. When the US faltered on the world stage in Vietnam, my grandmother was in her forties. She was committed to the plan. Later, the US would recover, outlasting the Soviet Union to emerge as the lone superpower of its time.

And yet, a number of others questioned the plan during my grandmother’s lifetime. Opposition to socialism was prevalent in the Republican party. My grandmother was on the left, though she wouldn’t have termed it so. She was for the little guy. More than that, she was against the fat cats. She had seen rich kids eating sandwiches with lunch meat. Wasn’t it wrong that some had more than others? Shouldn’t the government right the balance?

It’s been observed that socialism becomes attractive when a key element is present within a person: personal grievance. Those who focus on their sense of inequality are swayed by “socialist grievance narratives” with their “claims to be helping the downtrodden.” Does socialism work? The grievance within a person overcomes the concept of morality that socialism shatters. Stealing money from one person to give it to another is stealing. Grievance says, it’s OK. One’s anger against an unjust world covers the offense of hurting someone to help others.

The Greatest Generation earned its nickname from virtuous acts that protected the world from fascism. Then, seduced by its own virtue, it championed the federal government’s ballooning from a national safeguard to a vast socialist state.

The legacy of that decision grows far beyond what was intended by twentieth-century voters. Ayn Rand famously said socialism enslaves a man by vote, and communism does it by force. In America, the usefulness of an honest vote is seen to be at its end. Now, signs of force are everywhere.

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