Defending Civilization

Allow me to begin with a personal recollection. I first came to know the city of Chicago and the region of the Great Lakes almost 50 years ago, in 1949, when I was 23 years old. Nothing then destined me for a literary career. I am a writer who developed late. Having regrettably neglected my university studies, I traveled. During the long war, we felt smothered in France. It was necessary to seek out fresh air elsewhere. I undertook with three friends of the same age to retrace by canoe and paddle the same route as that followed by Father Marquette, who setting out from Trois-Rivieres, in French Canada, discovered the Mississippi in 1673. I called my team, the Marquette team. We traveled up the Saint Laurent, crossing the rapids of the Ottawa River and the French River, passing through Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Lake Winnebago, traveling down the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.

I will not go into detail about the welcome we received: it was fantastic. We were greeted by dozens of mayors, brass bands and majorettes, cheered by thousands of schoolchildren who had never heard French spoken in their lives, and interviewed by dozens of newspapers and radio stations. I have the great privilege of being an honorary citizen of 20 of the towns through which we passed. The keys to these towns still hang on a wall in my study. This rugged and historic journey, which lasted almost a year, was not without a spiritual...

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