The Place I Come From
Ben Stein
by

Here I am at my small but bright and cheerful apartment at the Watergate. It’s a powerful set of waves that washed over me when I come here to D.C. Unlike almost any other pundit, I was actually born here. On November 25, 1944. Battle of Leyte Gulf. Fearful fighting on Iwo Jima. The Huertgen Forest. FDR dead in Warm Springs. All these yet to come. So hard to believe. The Führer was still running Germany. There were 10,000 Jews a day being gassed by the Master Race.

Now, of course I don’t remember these things. But I do remember the driving force that motivated it all. Racism. Not the phoney baloney trivia of what today’s fools call it when there is an invisible “cultural misappropriation” slight. Real racism. In Germany and Europe and North Africa, killing the Jews. In China, killing the Chinese.

And in our beloved America, the greatest accomplishment of mankind, in America, the rarest gem, real racism.

In the South… my beloved Dixie… my beloved border state of Maryland… there were still cafes that said “white trade only.” On my truly beautiful Eastern Sho’, gas stations with bathrooms for white and colored.

And even in D.C., capital of the free world, vast leafy rich neighborhoods called Spring Valley and Wesley Heights and Kent and Sumner were explicitly barred to Jews and blacks and Asians.

That was still true until the mid-sixties. Only after the civil rights acts of LBJ’s era could I buy a home in Wesley Heights.

All that has changed. Now there are Jews in Spring Valley. And blacks. It seemed impossible in my youth.

In my youth, the best schools in the D.C. area were off limits to Jews. I applied to Friends and St. Albans. The deal was, “one Jew per class and we’ve already got our Jew. Sorry, Ben.”

All of this is now ancient history. The human rights achievements of this nation in my lifetime have been stupendous.

Of course, we have other problems. We have a tragic history of making government mistakes about monetary policy and fiscal policy. I have no reason to believe that will end. If I were going to make prognostications about the economic future, I would bet we will keep on making mistakes. The main point about the future is that it’s usually a lot like the past.

But occasionally the river of history jumps its banks. World War I. The Great Depression. Nazism. World War II. The atom bomb. Communism. Genocide. The terrifying part is that they all begin with an appeal to good sense and even human kindness.

And then they go horribly wrong. So… now vee may perhaps to begin.

Ben Stein
Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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