Kennan, 1947

“I wish I could believe that the human impulses which give rise to the nightmares of totalitarianism were ones which Providence had allocated only to other peoples and to which the American people had been graciously left immune. Unfortunately, I know this is not true. After all, most of us are Europeans once or twice removed; and some of us are less removed than that. There are openly totalitarian forces already working in our society… And it is not even with these small existing groups of extremists that the real danger lies.

The fact of the matter is that there is a little bit of totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us. It is only the cheerful light of confidence and security which keeps this evil genius down at the usual helpless and invisible depth. If confidence and security were to disappear, don’t think that he would not be waiting to take their place. Others may lull themselves to sleep with the pleasing assumption that the work of building freedom in this country was accomplished once and for all by our forefathers. I prefer to accept the word of a great European, the German poet Goethe, that freedom is something that has to be reconquered every day.”

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