LETTER from JAMES DEAN
To the Editor:
I remember, as a child in the late1940s, sitting under a table listening to the radio, as I often did, before we had our first television.
I never forgot the constant news reports, in real time, about the thousands of concentration camps and millions of mass killings found in and around Germany at the end of World War II.
I never forgot. It was always with me. How could that happen? Why?
I spent most of my life trying to understand how the German people could support such a deranged leader, and a horrible and devastating government that killed millions upon millions of innocent people simply because it did not like them, and the German people, voluntarily or not, participated in the killings.
The Germans killed thousands of people a day, 24 hours a day, every day, for years. They used their engineering skills and industrial methods to kill people any way they could and as fast and as efficiently as they could. Sometimes with soldiers spending days machine-gunning local
residents to death in the middle of their own towns and villages. Then simply driving away, with no effort to hide anything, because there was no one to do anything about it.
“Everyone knows what we bring” said one German soldier.
In exchange for the years of mass killings, the German people were promised a country of white people with blond hair. The master race.
What they received was the total destruction of their country by the Allied Forces, led by the president and the government of the United States of America.
For much of my life I saw the German people as a potentially violent and dangerous people.
At the same time, I was also very confident that we Americans were far different than the Germans and that nothing like that could ever happen in our country.
We were the heroes of the world, the good guys, the people the whole world looked up to for our ideals, our courage to defend the weak, the poor, the struggling.
I have now come to understand, 70 or so years later, that I was wrong. I was very wrong.
I can now see that some of the American people can also be slowly turned into a people who would turn on their neighbors, persecute them, and kill them with the support of their president, and some of their local law enforcement, and participate in the slow destruction of our noble experiment of human rights, individual freedom and self-rule.
Someone once referred to the “thin veneer of civilization”. I had always hoped that it was not true. That civilization was stronger, and deeper, and was constantly in the ascendant.
I am seeing now, in ordinary American people, who see themselves as good, God-fearing, hard-working people, and American patriots, slowly being turned into people who would turn a blind eye to, or fully participate in, the killing of their neighbors, who, they have been told by their deranged, power-hungry president, are inferior to them, or do not look like them, or do not believe in their God, or who are not carrying their own weight, or who are taking their jobs…
An extremely dangerous and homicidal president who only cares about himself, and who sees Americans dying, for any reason, as an inconsequential inconvenience not worth mentioning.
How do they expect all of this insanity to turn out if nothing changes?
I know how it is all going to turn out.
It took me 70 years to understand why.
JAMES R. DEAN