183,588

by

Leslie U. Harris

  

[My response to President Trump's statement that neo-nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white-supremacist marchers in Charlottesville are “very fine people” who were, he said, "defending our history and heritage."]

What is the number above? (Hint: It's people.)

It could be the number of people in a smaller city in the United States. If so, it would be a town several times larger than Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Valdosta, Georgia or Utica, New York or Prescott, Arizona. This city would have a population greater than Peoria, Illinois or Great Falls, Montana or Burlington, Vermont or Jackson, Mississippi. And for that matter, it's bigger than Charlottesville, Virginia. If you were to read out the names of these people from the time you were five years old until you are 85, you would have to say six names a day and on Sundays add a seventh.

What is the number above?

It is the number of Americans who died in the European Theater during World War Two. It includes 1124 prisoners of war and 126 sailors killed in action in October, 1941, when the USS Reuben James and the USS Kearny were torpedoed by German U-boats. This number breaks down as follows: Army ground forces – 141,088; Army Air Forces – 36,461; Navy/Coast Guard – 6039. This is the official toll of World War II casualties in Europe published by the Defense Department on June 1, 1953.

What is the number above?

It is white men and black men and brown men and asian men. It is Protestants and Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and many others, as well as those with no religion. It is men whose parents were immigrants or, often, were immigrants themselves. It is every ethnicity and every background. Their only common denominator was American. These men died fighting the nazis and their fascist allies. They died to ensure that the symbol of hatred and oppression, the swastika, would never again raise its ugly head. They died so that we – all of us – could live in peace and dignity. Their commander, later the 34th President of the United States, titled his war memoirs Crusade in Europe because he believed that fighting against intolerance and for freedom was a just and noble cause, worthy of the enormous sacrifice of the American people.

What is this number, Mr. President? What is this number?

 

August 25, 2017