My friend and colleague, Mike Rosen, the dean of Denver talk radio hosts, received the following letter from a listener. Please read it, and then afterwards I will give you a little more information about it. (I have corrected minor spelling errors.)
Got your letter this morning. Whatever the future holds for America as a result of the election, I can take it, if the rest can, but I think this election showed that the majority of Americans are not concerned about their individual liberty and freedom, about how much the national debt is, or whether it is ever paid, about (another) term for any man, but what they want most is their security, and the majority of Americans are bleating like little lambs for their security, not for their freedom or for their liberty. And let me add, that when people get a sense of insignificance, when they begin to believe that the affairs of men are controlled by forces too great to be influenced by their individual effort, their belief in popular government is shaken and the people become broken in spirit, disappointed, pessimistic, and fatalism results.
No Bess, as long as great numbers of people can be kept dependent upon their government, and as long as we have the money to keep them dependent, there is not much that you and I can do, but the ultimate result of such a program is that America will drift into a national dependent socialistic controlled state under what we have thought was our liberty, and freedom will no longer be ours in America. I am almost 55 years of age. I won’t be here many more years, but oh how weak and spineless we of our generation have been to try and preserve all these great things our forefathers gave to us.
The other night I had a dream, my home had been destroyed, my wife and child were in a concentration camp, my money had been taken from me, my rights as a freeman had been taken from me. I had no rights. I was a slave. Then I awoke, then I realized what freedom had meant to me, but it was too late.
This is a morbid dream, I know, but it has happened to millions of people in Europe, not a thousand years ago (but within my lifetime.)
Keep this letter, read it two, three, or four years from now. My prayer is that I am wrong.
This letter was sent to Mike by an 88-year old listener. Although it could plausbily have been dated 2009 (except that there was no incumbent running in 2008), it was written by the listener’s father (to his sister, the listener’s aunt) on November 8, 1940, three days after FDR won a record third term in office. Mike’s listener noted that her father died at the age of 57, or about two years after writing this note.
In the note, in the first paragraph where I put “(another)” the letter says “a third”, and near the end where I put “(but within my lifetime)” the letter says “but within the past few months.” (I changed these just to leave a little suspense regarding when the letter was written.)
It is, to me, remarkable to read someone of that generation complain how little those of his time had done to defend freedom, though the context is someone who died before the end of WWII. Keep in mind that this is not someone who would have been a soldier in WWII, but was substantially older, probably born in 1885 and lived through World War I and most of the Great Depression.
In any case, this letter reminds us of Santayana’s warning that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It makes one wonder whether our young people being taught so little about our own political history is part of an intentional strategy of the left. (Actually, I don’t wonder that much; I believe it to be true.)
For the record, I do have a slight question about the letter given that it is dated late 1940 which is earlier than the existence of concentration camps, or at least their use in the Nazis’ genocide, was generally known in the U.S. To be sure, some of the camps, including Buchenwald and Dachau, had been around for years by 1940, with Dachau having been opened in 1933. That said, the mention of FDR’s having won a third term adds credibility, and I am inclined to believe that this letter is real. I have also verified through public records that there is an 88-year-old woman with the name (and in the town) signed to the e-mail to Mike. Therefore, regarding concentration camps, “Bob” was probably just more aware of world events than the average person, much as a depressingly large percentage of today’s Americans are geopolitically illterate.
A friend of mine offered this: Regarding concentration camps: my father was sent to his, where he spent 5 years, Orianenburg Sachsenhausen, in the spring of 1940. It was already infamous in Polish history as the camp to which many Poles were sent in the wake of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. The prisoners there included most of the professors from Krakow’s leading university, many of them well past their physical prime, and as such didn’t survive very long. I think it’s safe to say such camps were known about in the West, even if the “death” camp aspect and special sites for outright genocide were still in the offing.