For my “fan,” Alan Kegley
Tonight I learned that the adventures chronicled in this weblog have captured the interest of one, Alan Kegley, the fifteen-year-old son of one of my associates at work, Diane Kegley. Diane tells me that as she was reading the weblog while I was in Germany, Alan asked her what she was reading and she explained that it was something that a friend of hers from work had written about his travel to Germany. The fact that I was in Germany caught Alan’s interest, and he began to look forward to hearing what had happened when he came home from school each day. His interest stemmed, it seems, from the fact that the only familiarity he had with Germany was what he had learned from the war movies he had seen where the Germans were the enemy and someone like John Wayne was the hero. That got me to thinking that Alan’s familiarity with Germany and the Germans probably isn’t too different from that of many Americans. Movies are powerful shapers of perception, after all. But for you, Alan, I’d like to point out a few things.
The Germans of the movies you have seen, the Nazis, though real were a very brief and painfully horrible period in German’s long history, only about 13 years. Even Germans today, and perhaps especially Germans today, shudder at what happened in their country during that time. They take special care to remember the time when they were led by Adolph Hitler into the madness that resulted in World War II, and they vow never to forget or to ever let it happen to them again. They are today, quite simply, like people everywhere else in the world. As often happens, from a distance the people of a country seem to others to be the way the leaders of that country make them seem. But at the personal level, I found the Germans I met to be “normal” everyday, good people. One should never confuse the people of a country with the administration of that country. Sometimes leaders who have the power give the citizens of a country a bad name because of their policies and their own lust for power. The ordinary citizens frequently find themselves at odds with such policies, just as, I would point out, might be true of Americans today. Some in the world might think that everyone in this country advocates the same things that the current administration advocates, and that just is too simple an explanation of the way things are to be true. The great danger we all face is that we permit things to happen, as the Germans did, because we don’t oppose strongly enough policies with which we disagree.
Perhaps your interest in Germany also stems from the fact that your own ancestors came from there. I would encourage you to learn about the Germany that preceded the Third Reich and the Germany that has come after it. The country has a rich and varied history, well worth your study, and I would suggest even your admiration. The world would be a better place if more ordinary citizens from countries in dispute with each other could know each other on a personal level as individuals rather than looking upon each other as members of a foreign group. One to one, we are all human beings who at the same time are capable of error and of great kindness and love.
Alan’s mother, Diane, told me that Alan wanted to print out this weblog and take it with him to school. I’m delighted and honored that you would want to do that, Alan, and you have my permission to share these thoughts with your schoolmates. Maybe you’ll all benefit by learning to appreciate people from different cultures and to see them as human beings, not just as actors in some movie version of reality.
Thank you, my friend, for following my story. Your interest has paid me quite a compliment.