The Casa de Vampiros in Managua, Nicaragua was located in the heart of the second poorest country in Latin America during the reign of the brutal dictator, Anastasio Somoza. Blood was drawn there – the blood of poor Nicaraguans. Then plasma was separated out and sent to the United States. Not for nothing, of course. $15 dollars a pint was the going fee. Somoza got $10. The donor received $5.
That gave a professor of engineering an idea. The professor asked his students to design a pipeline to transport blood from Nicaragua to the United States. The students responded by discussing the optimal diameter for the pipe and methods for keeping the blood from coagulating. “Why did no one object to the question?” the professor asked. “This is a class in engineering not ethics,” was the answer he was given.
José Ortega y Gasset would not have been surprised. In 1930 as the Nazis where rising to power in Germany the Spanish philosopher wrote: “Your modern day specialist …is a learned ignoramus, which is a very serious matter” because “in politics, in art, in social usages” and in other areas outside his field of expertise “he will adopt the attitude of primitive, ignorant man” and be capable of serving barbaric causes. Then, as Ortega y Gasset predicted, we had learned ignoramuses serving the cause of Adolph Hitler in World War II, and millions died as a result.
Richard Kemper, a former Mamaroneck High School student, was one of them. On August 6, 1944, he was killed in the Battle of the Hedgerows. In 1946 his parents purchased two parcels of land by Mamaroneck High School and deeded them to the Union Free School District No. 1, Town of Mamaroneck to “be held and maintained in perpetuity for public and school use as a memorial.” Last year, The Richard M. Kemper Foundation to Promote Human Rights Education was established under the premise that the best way to honor Richard Kemper and the others who died in World War II is to motivate students to take up in their name the struggle to create a world where people no longer harm and kill one another. The Foundation sponsors an annual high school Richard M. Kemper Memorial human rights essay contest and other academically oriented human rights related activities.
The vampires we make light of on Halloween and in our literature are, of course, products of our hyperactive imaginations, and we have silver bullets to deal with them. But there are no silver bullets to deal with their real world counterparts. Rather for the real world monsters among us we have only our brains. That is why it is important for all of us to be engaged in the search for policies that will help us deal with the threat violence-prone tyrants, megalomaniacs, and would-be emperors pose to world peace and human rights. The Richard Kemper Foundation has been set up to motivate students to join that search.