Category Archives: American Exceptionalism

Yearning for Liberty–A New Book

Click to get your copy of this new book.


In Yearning for Liberty, the author explores various facets of Liberty. Relying heavily on first person accounts, history and some of his own personal experiences and friendships, Johnson examines a broad sweep of time and geography beginning with the Biblical Exodus; through the American Revolution; the American Civil War and the aftermath of the long struggle in gaining liberty for the freed slaves. Then modern-day events and nations are examined such as the Normandy invasion of World War II; the 1956 Hungarian Revolution; the fall of South Vietnam to the communist North, and the subsequent mass evacuation from Saigon. The stunning contrast between the two Koreas is highlighted.

Combining first person accounts with plenty of pictures, Johnson weaves an eye-opening story of what having liberty looks like – its value, as well as the grim reality of what the lack of liberty brings to nations, individuals and the world at large – its cost.

These first-person accounts are taken from sources such as: memoirs and diaries of French citizens experiencing the brutal Nazi occupation and the liberation at Normandy France; the story of a personal friend and US Navy shipmate – a World War II veteran at age 7 followed by years of oppression under communism, a twice wounded freedom fighter from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, a refugee to the US, and a Navy Vietnam veteran; soldiers and marines regaining freedom for captive Europeans; the story of a small Navy warship rescuing tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees.

Click to get your copy of this book.


I Was Not There At The Founding

But had I been there, things would be different now – and a whole lot better.

  • There would have been no slavery since I would have loved the slave owners into freeing their slaves.
  • Since the slaves would have been freed, there would not have been a Civil War had I been there at the founding.  Further, there would be no racism had I been there.
  • All business owners would have been required constitutionally to share equally in the profits of the business. Therefor there would be no class envy or need for labor unions or labor laws. And there would be no income inequality.
  • All governmental leaders would have been required to  be morally faultless and without blemish – as verified by an agency of the new government.
  • Had I been there, all treaties with foreign nations would be entered into with the understanding that all forms of government are equally good and can be trusted to to what’s best for all the world.
  • Had I been there, hate would have forever been abolished. Further, the need for hate would have been abolished since the new constitution would have required total  agreement and obedience to the newly formed government.
  • Hypocrisy and Hypocrites would be constitutionally prohibited to enter any church facility.
  • And more …


Yes – things would have been much better if only I had been there.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
                 James Madison

Thankfully he was there at the founding.

Don Johnson – February 2018

Holocaust survivor: I’m giving $1 million to help wounded American veterans, to express my thanks

At 83 years old, I am one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors – thanks to the American troops who rescued me in what seems like a lifetime ago. Since World War II, I’ve felt a deep connection to American troops for saving my life – a feeling that resurfaces every year on Veterans Day and throughout the holiday giving season.

And so this year I’m saying “thank you” to the American soldiers of the 1940s by donating $1 million to organizations serving wounded American veterans today.

My donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Services for Armed Forces program of the American Red Cross is my way of giving back, thanking previous generations of warriors for helping me. I hope this inspires others to give back as well.

Even though more than 70 years have passed since my rescue, it’s not too late to give back. That’s a lesson I hope the next generation recognizes, because it’s all too easy to let procrastination give way to inaction. But action is what brings hope to those who need it.

I have met many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us. Then decades later, they welcomed us.

As a child, I spent most of World War II hiding from Nazi invaders in my native France, where my parents moved after fleeing the pogroms in Poland. Unfortunately, with the German invasion in 1940, we were again at risk. On July 16, 1942, the French police led a big roundup of Jews in Paris. More than 13,000 Jews were detained before being deported to Nazi death camps.

 The police came to our apartment at 6 a.m. My parents managed to take me to my aunt’s home. She was married to a French soldier and was protected.

A few hours later, my mother was arrested as she and my brother were trying to get information about my father, who was hiding in a nearby grocery store. A concierge had pointed them out to the police. They ran, but my mother was not fast enough. She was detained and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She perished there – probably within three weeks.

I was 7, and for the next two years I lived on borrowed time, shielded by other families on the outskirts of Paris. The same was true for my future wife, who was also a child in hiding. If the war had continued much longer, we would not have survived.

I vividly remember the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of American troops who landed in Normandy to liberate us in June 1944. They were our saviors, doling out packets of sweets to half-starved, war-weary children who had almost given up hope for freedom.

The gratitude I feel to these men is beyond words. They freed our country and they saved our lives. Without American troops, my family and I simply would not have existed. I think of that every time I look at our family photos.

Since the end of the war, life has been good to me. I’ve had a successful career as co-owner of one of Europe’s largest home appliance retailers, working alongside my brothers. I’ve also enjoyed raising my family, celebrating extended family gatherings of 20 people.

My wife and I have a deep sense of gratitude for America. So in the early 1990s, freshly retired, we bought a home in South Florida. I travel with my wife each winter from our home in Paris to the warmth of Miami Beach. We still appreciate our second home there, where we now spend almost a third of our time.

I have met many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us. Then decades later, they welcomed us.

But as I watched news stories this fall of hurricanes, flooding and wildfires striking America, inflicting suffering among civilians and veterans alike, I realized that I still had an important task left to complete in my life. I had not yet given back to the American soldiers who saved my life nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

That is why I want to help modern American veterans today. They pursue the tradition of the young men who landed on the shores of Normandy in June 1944 and who I will never forget. In giving this donation, I want to thank Americans with all my heart for coming to rescue us in our hour of need.

But I also want to make a public stand in support of America. I hope that my donation can trigger a movement and lead others to take action. My story shows it’s never too late to give back, especially for a cause that’s close to your heart. If it wasn’t too late for this octogenarian, it’s not too late for you.

Bernard Darty is a Paris native and retired co-founder of Darty Group, an electrical retailer operating more than 340 stores in three European countries.

The Greatest Generation: bitter-sweet


Sweet because I have had the high honor and privilege of knowing some of these men in recent years who have called me friend and shipmate.  Bitter in knowing the friendships would be short-lived.

The young men above are three of the “greatest”:  Bob Allard, Gene Beckstrom and I don’t know the third young man.  In September we lost Bob Allard, and then in mid-November we lost Gene Beckstrom.

I met Bob Allard briefly at a ship reunion in Denver, and that was a sweet experience. Gene and Bob served together on the Porterfield down in the fire-rooms, but hadn’t seen one another since 1946 and the end of the war. When Bob saw Gene, his countenance lit up and he shouted out “Beckstrom – where the hell have you been? I’ve been looking for you for years.” 

I was the mouse in the corner eaves-dropping on this wonderful reunion, and dared not intrude.

Bob gave the picture of the three shipmates to Gene who from that point on treasured it. The next year (2016) at the San Diego, Gene once more proudly brought out that picture. Gene’s son Bruce – also a Navy veteran – has the picture now.

I’ll greatly miss this man!


What is the legacy these men leave behind?

When these young man (Gene was 16), along with 10’s of thousands of others, entered the service the German war machine had overrun all of Western Europe, much of Northern Africa, were threatening Great Britain and had invaded the Soviet Union to the east. Germany’s ally Italy was part of the axis juggernaut. 

In the far-east, the Japanese military had brutally invaded Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and were threatening New Zealand and Australia. 

So the task facing these young men was daunting indeed.

***  *** ***

What sort of world did these young men, and those who followed, leave behind?

A free Western Europe with representative constitutional governments and free market economies.

Communism was stopped with the former slave nations of Eastern Europe now living as part of the free world.  

The Soviet backed North Korean invasion of South Korea was stopped and South Korea is now a strong, free and successful nation.

Japan has been transformed into a modern free industrial nation.


France: The Cost of Liberation

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Ronald Reagan

The cost of regaining freedom was enormous. Paid for by thousands of American, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers, sailors and airman.




The Liberation of France

Five weeks in Paris including two trips to Normandie provides much for reflection and thought.

One such thread is the liberation of France and Europe, beginning on the beaches of Normandie in 1944.

So being of the curious type and always looking to learn something new, I  found some pictures of those days and would like to share.


And why the jubilation and gratefulness on the part of the French?

holocaustIn four years of German/Nazi occupation, 200,000+ French citizens, mostly Jews, and many thousands of children and infants, were ‘deported’ to the death camps never to be seen or hugged again.


Don Johnson — September 2017


The Myth of American Innocence–a review of drivel

image  (Read for yourself.)

I’ve had this Guardian article in my sights for some time now, but have been holding off until after our month long stay in Paris with a trip to Normandy and Omaha Beach.

The author punches all the buttons of self-hate/America-hate that many such as her have developed in their cloistered world.

She talks of her winning a writing fellowship that took her to Turkey where she apparently was able to validate her theme of “the myth of American innocence.”  Reading her article multiple times leads me to think she remains in her academic-journalism bubble, and this article has the flavor of yet another entry in a writing contest.

She writes of a view of America and Americans she claims is held by foreigners (non-Americans). But she offers no ticket stubs of travel to nations other than Turkey, where she apparently has taken up permanent residence —  although I see from her book that she has also traveled to other predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt and Iran.  Others of us who have traveled to many other nations and have friends and family in places such as; Norway, Hungary, France, Czech Republic, Croatia, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere perhaps have a different experience of how America and Americans are viewed.

Muslim nations have long held anti-Western animosities, often resulting in wars of  invasion to forcefully conquer and displace Christianity and Judaism – indeed Western civilization — with Islam.  So it’s not surprising that Ms. Hansen would find herself  indoctrinated with the world view of the Islamic nations she has chosen to reside in. What she has apparently deprived herself of is the rich heritage of Western Civilization that Islam would seek to displace. 

So in keeping with Ms. Hansen’s anti-American screed, let’s take a tour of how some other peoples view American and Americans — beginning with Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a long and hard fought war waged in support of an ally and an effort to stem the spread of communism in that part of the world. Ms. Hansen talks of communism, but has no grasp of what it really was (is) – she writes:   “I knew that communism had gone away, but never learned what communism had actually been (“bad” was enough).”   Not that she will ever read this review, but let me inform her and others – communism in the 20th century is credited with taking the lives of some 100 million people over a period of 70 some years. And it was aggressively on the move during the era of the Cold War and the very hot Vietnam campaign of that war.  I have a friend that grew up under communism in Hungary, and in fact was wounded in the 1956 rebellion against that tyranny.

It reflects a failure and a bias of American education that the author grew up with such an extremely shallow knowledge of a history that occurred so  close to her lifetime. But, being a journalist, shouldn’t she have felt an obligation to self educate herself on the facts of communism? The information is there in abundance, especially in this day of the internet.  Perhaps her journalistic career at the New York Times Magazine (left wing), Vogue (women’s issues), Bookforum (book reviews)  and the Baffler (left wing) haven’t afforded her the opportunity or motivation to research topics she pontificates in this article.

Continuing with Vietnam, the war was won militarily and politically in 1973 by the American and South Vietnamese forces, and a peace treaty was signed in Paris which divided the nations along the DMZ. The peace treaty also included provisions for American material support of the self defense of South Vietnam against future aggression for the North.   

However, in 1975 the Democrat controlled US congress reneged on US treaty obligations and cut off all funding for the South Vietnam. This was a huge green light, and within months the North Vietnamese rolled into the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.  

The alleged anti-American view the author attributes to other nations is expressed in part in her words:

American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others. How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.”

This excerpt shows a lack of understanding and misdirection of what is meant by “American Exceptionalism.” American Exceptionalism can, and should, be summarized by a few simple words – liberty and opportunity. It is through these simple words, put into practical application throughout American history, that the United States of American has become the greatest civilization the world has ever seen. Dr. Walter Williams summarizes it thusly:


I don’t think this view of Ms. Hansen reflects the view of the many thousands of Vietnamese refugees that fled tyranny and almost certain death at the hands of the communist North Vietnamese conquers. You can get a feel for them in watching the documentary The Lucky Few at I’ve talked with the Skipper and the Chief Engineer of that small American ship – USS Kirk — that rescued  some 30,000+ refugees, and have seen the lifelong bond and love exchanged between the crew of that ship and the refugees they rescued.

The picture above is the Captain of the small US Navy destroyer USS Kirk and two of the 33,000 Vietnamese refugees that ship is credited with saving. The one on the right was so grateful to America that she added  Kirk as the middle name of her daughter.


The same is true of the many (40,000+) Hungarian refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution who have contributed so much to American life.   I have written much on this —  read my article “Immigration & Assimilation – A Hungarian Model” at to get the flavor of these people – and in particular the story of my friend Adam von Dioszeghy. I have written a book “Budapest at War“ at where I document a portion this man’s life and experiences through three wars; as a child in World War II, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and as a US Naval officer with three combat tours to Vietnam.  This man, when called up in the draft in the early build up to Vietnam, served willingly and with gratitude to the nation that had provided him liberty and opportunity. This book is a culmination of a personal tour  Adam gave us through the streets of Budapest where these events took place in his life.

The picture below is of Adam von Dioszeghy standing beside the stature of President Ronald Reagan in the Freedom Plaza near the Hungarian Parliament. Hungarians give much credit  to President Reagan and the United States for the freedoms they gained when Communism was finally defeated.  Similar statues are in Warsaw and Gdansk Poland in recognition of Reagan’s and America’s bringing liberty to Poland.

So tell me again how much America is disliked by foreign nations.

Spending a month in Paris recently, with a visit to Normandy, the American Cemetery  and the small village of Sainte Mere Eglise gave me a taste of the gratitude the French feel for America.
The picture below is one of two stained glass windows in the church at Sainte Mere Eglise where you can see Paratroopers of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Division depicted.


Then there is this sculpture seen as you enter the town square. Looking closely you see two hands reaching skywards toward the paratrooper. And you see the chains broken away from those outstretched hands.
And on the church, some 73 years later, you see the parachute draped around the church steeple where it got tangled – and in effigy is the American soldier dangling precariously above the German soldiers below (he survived).  
In the visitors center at the American Cemetery I heard testimonies from French citizens such as one which I paraphrase  “these soldiers came from thousands of kilometers away and died by the thousands for us, and they didn’t even know us.”   

So tell me again Ms. Hansen, how much America is disliked by foreign nations.

Ms. Hansen writes much of white American Christianity, and its detriment to humanity, blacks in particular.  She culls out author James Baldwin in particular as someone who has had a good deal of influence in her thinking and her world view. It’s good to have role models, and I also have read James Baldwin in years past. But here again it seems Hansen falls very short as a journalist.

In singling out one man’s experience as a black in America, she rightfully shows how he eloquently presents what the typical experience has been for most blacks in American history.  However, she very well could have developed a more balanced view on the opportunity that American liberty provides – even under the most unlikely circumstances of life.

I speak here of  Condoleezza Rice, a black woman raised in the harsh poverty of segregationist Alabama. Included in Rice’s resume: – accomplished concert pianist, National Security Adviser to President George W Bush,  Secretary of State under President Bush, author, Provost and professor at Stanford University.

I speak of Dr. Benjamin  Carson, raised in the slums of Detroit and Boston by a illiterate single mother. Carson became a world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins and is now the  Secretary of Housing and Urban Renewal.

I speak of Dr. Thomas Sewell, raised in the slums of New York City and on his own at 17 with no job, no money, no education and very little prospects for the future. Sewell became a prominent economist and a syndicated commentator  on economic, social, cultural and political issues. 

I speak of Charles Payne, a financial commentator at Fox Business News.   Payne grew up poor in Harlem in a single parent home. He founded  ‘Wall Street Strategies’ and is its chief executive officer and principal financial analyst.

And there’s many more …

Ms. Hansen should expand her knowledge of successful blacks beyond her selected few (actually she singles out only one). 

Hansen writes of American patriotism, actually mocking it  …

“ … Mostly what I remember of that war in Iraq was singing God Bless the USA on the school bus – I was 13 – wearing little yellow ribbons and becoming teary-eyed as I remembered the video of the song I had seen on MTV.

‘And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free’

That “at least” is funny. We were free – at the very least we were that. Everyone else was a chump, because they didn’t even have that obvious thing. Whatever it meant, it was the thing that we had, and no one else did. It was our God-given gift, our superpower.

At the risk of repeating myself (but repetition can be a good teacher) , perhaps our world savvy journalist should travel to the small French town of Sainte Mere Eglise, the first town liberated following the allied landings at Normandy during World War II. I just came from there, and can say with pride I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
  This little town bristles with memorabilia expressing gratitude and thanks to those American soldiers that brought back liberty to their Nazi (real Nazis) occupiers. The small church where a paratrooper had his Parachute hung up on the church steeple now has two stained glass windows depicting those soldiers.

On entry to the village square you see this sculpture pictured here:


Looking closely we see profound symbolism — the parachute descending from above … two hands reaching up to that parachute … broken chains falling away from the hands … the church … and a defunct and obsolete symbol of war – the machine gun.

Travel beyond New Jersey and Turkey might lend a bit of realism to Ms. Hansen’s idea of how much of the world views American and Americans.

She writes of racism in America and the western nations, and quotes Baldwin:

“ … But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

                             .  .  .  .

All of the western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the west has no moral authority.


White Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any colour, to be found in the world today. … “

Again, Ms. Hansen shows an abysmal lake of knowledge of history, both world and American history.

Slavery was common throughout world history throughout the world, including in the wide spread British empire, and the British colonies in the American South. 

However, in the early 1800s, largely through the heroic lifelong struggle of William Wilberforce, a white Christian Englishman and member of Parliament, the slave trade,  slavery and the very philosophical and scientific rational for slavery was abolished in the British Empire – did you get that Suzy Hansen? A white Christian man.

Slavery was abolished in the United States much later, at the price of some 600,000+ lives lost, mostly young white Americans. And the motivation for the American anti-slavery abolitionist movement was – ready Ms. Hansen? White American Christian men and women who viewed slavery as a grave sin.

Predictably Ms. Hansen throws in the obligatory attack on capitalism with this … “No matter how well I knew the predatory aspects of capitalism … “  Yes, we know that capitalism has its flaws and excesses. Though not explicitly stated in this article, one could get the impression  that Ms. Hansen would prefer a state controlled economy. But all that would do would be to consolidate all of capitalism’s flaws  and failings under a single unaccountable and tyrannical government. That’s called socialism, of whatever strip. And it has been a failure, most often catastrophic,  wherever and whenever tried in history – Venezuela being the most recent and visible failure.

Ms. Hansen, as a journalist and historian,  also fails to recognize that the American style of free market capitalism has brought more liberty, prosperity and wealth to more people around the world than any other form of economic system. China, where there was widespread poverty and famine in recent decades has become an economic juggernaut in recent years by introducing a form of capitalism into its still autocratic communist political system.

I will conclude this review of drivel with another excerpt from Hansen’s article and a few concluding comments on American Exceptionalism.

“ … American exceptionalism had declared my country unique in the world, the one truly free and modern country, and instead of ever considering that that exceptionalism was no different from any other country’s nationalistic propaganda, I had internalised[sic] this belief. Wasn’t that indeed what successful propaganda was supposed to do? I had not questioned the institution of American journalism outside of the standards it set for itself – which, after all, was the only way I would discern its flaws and prejudices; instead, I accepted those standards as the best standards any country could possibly have. … “

Wow … quite an indictment, not only of American Exceptionalism, but American journalism as well, calling it ‘nationalistic propaganda’.  Journalism by its very nature is often biased and non-objective – witness the very biased anti-Trump reporting and commentary of the New York Times. But for the most part it has done a credible job in presenting news and opinion. But I would not use the very broad brush that Ms. Hansen uses here to slam American Journalism as a whole.

To supplement the daily dish of news and commentary we get from journalists, print or media, it is good to read good substantive and well researched history books. I wonder if Ms. Hansen delves much into this rich world.

One such book I would recommend is “The Miracle of Freedom – 7 Tipping Points the Saved the World” by Chris and Ted Stewart. I’ve read this book several times and have written a review of it at

A major point this book makes is the rarity of freedom. The authors point out that in all of human history, in all places and at all times, a very small fraction of people have ever lived in what many of us know as freedom. And, of that small percentage (<4%) most have lived in the relatively recent lifespan of the United States of America with its constitution,  and nations who have adopted similar forms of representative governments. That coupled with the Condoleezza Rice book – Democracy – which I mentioned above give much credence to the claims of those who view the history of the United States as one of American Exceptionalism. 

Ms. Hansen’s view of America, American history and American Exceptionalism, I must say is very wrong — ignorant of history — much off target —  and very damaging.

Don Johnson – September 2017