“Dear America: you are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches”**


Werner Herzog (1942…)

Many Americans today will not connect today’s events and moods in US as having any even superficial similarity with the development of German Nazism. They will refuse Werner Herzog’s warning as a sentimental gesture of a person who lives in a world of cinematic imagination. They could respond by saying something like the following:

“Dear Mr. Herzog, thank you for being worried about us and our homeland, but we don’t share your pessimism about our great and progressive nation. We believe, they could say, in our Northern America, which enjoys the international status of being the exceptional country, as one of our Presidents Barack Obama recently said. In our country, Mr. Herzog, there is no a possibility of happening something similar with what happened in Germany in the 30s and 40s. Thank you for your care about us, but we, who live here don’t see the reason for us to worry about our future“.

These people can disagree with Werner Herzog, but as soon as a person of such exceptional experience in life and in serious art found the reasons to express his worries about our country, we ought to be listening attentively and scrupulously and think hard about what’s really happening with our lives in our country which, it seems, is changing very rapidly. We didn’t see fascism in its development, but Herzog knew about the social and psychological symptoms of a totalitarian transformation of the country with a mature humanistic culture. We have to take what Mr. Herzog is noticed in our country and what’s made him alerted about our life very seriously. Is our country really the same, as it used to be in the 60s-70s? Has behavior of our people changed between 20th and 21st century? Has the style of our leaders’ behavior and their public talking changed or not? There is nothing unpatriotic about paying serious attention to what Herzog has said in his short memo to us. Who is rather right – a person who empirically knows the danger of inhumanity and indifference and cruelty of people towards another people, or we who have been growing up on entertainment and athletic competitions and look at the world with the gaze of optimism and achievement?

Before we’ll refuse Werner Herzog’s expertise we should very seriously check our everyday life, our real motivations, our dreams and expectations from the future to understand better what’s going on with our country. And we have very quickly (because we can not to have enough time) and intensely learn how different groups of people in Germany felt and thought around 1933 and onwards. Only then we’ll be sure that we are genuine patriots and not brainwashed jingoists.

*Werner Herzog is not only a German and an American film director with unique cinematographic achievements but also a screenwriter, author, thinker, actor and opera director. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

**Look at the gaze of the person who said to us what he said. Look at this face which expresses suffering, but not like people who are still able to cry while suffering – to soften their torment with tears. The person we see on the photo carries the burden of his truth without any emotional relief. The secret of his gaze is that he is simultaneously looking and not looking – made his gaze petrified – blind. He is not looking at the unbearable reality he is warning us about. But he is still looking at us (we have a concrete impression that he is looking at us). His gaze is already closed – at reality, but still opened at us (he still hopes that we will avoid the future he predicted).