The word “McCarthyism” is not a neutral term, but now carries connotations of false, even hysterical, accusation, and of government attacks on the political minority. From the viewpoint of the political and cultural elite, the suppression of radicalism and radical organizations in the United States was a struggle against a dangerous subversive element controlled by a foreign power that posed a real danger to the security of the country, thus justifying extreme, even extra-legal measures. From the radical viewpoint it can be seen as class warfare. From the viewpoint of the thousands of innocents who were caught up in the conflict it was a massive violation of civil and Constitutional rights. (from FactIndex.com)
Sounds a bit like what we have today in the US. Today the radicals (at least in my mind) are those who ride the “War on Terrorism” bus and want to label even the most mundane activities as ‘suspect’. I’m not sure if Liberals are a political minority. Maybe. But in this case those who’s civil and Constitutional rights are being violated are pretty widespread, but mainly aimed at the many people of color, the poor, and the indigent. (Stop and Frisk laws, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law which resulted in two white men killing two black youths and basically getting away with murder.)
One of the tools used [in McCarthyism] was the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 which required Communists and Communist organizations to register with the federal government. The McCarran Act was gradually ruled unconstitutional in a series of Supreme Court decisions, beginning in 1964, and it was completely repealed in 1990. Another was the Smith Act of 1940, a federal criminal statute outlawing “advocacy of violent overthrow of the government.”
This reminds me a lot of our Patriot Act, rushed through the legal process by the Bush Administration in 2001.
Another major element of McCarthyism was the internal screening program on federal government employees, conducted by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. This comprehensive program vetted all federal government employees for Communist connections, and employed evidence provided by anonymous sources whom the subjects of investigation were not allowed to challenge or identify. From 1951, the program’s required level of proof for dismissing a federal employee was for “reasonable doubt” to exist over their loyalty; previously it had required “reasonable grounds” for believing them to be disloyal.
This reminds me a lot of the NSA spying on the American people on an unprecedented scale.
McCarthy’s anticommunist crusade faltered in 1954 as his hearings were televised, for the first time, allowing the public and press to view firsthand his bullying tactics. The press also started to run stories about how McCarthy ruined many people’s lives with accusations that were not supported by any evidence in some cases. Famously, he was asked by the chief attorney of the Army, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” McCarthy suffered a backlash in public opinion and was investigated and then censured by the Senate for not cooperating with the investigating committee, and for publicly calling them the “involuntary agent” and the “attorneys-in-fact” of the Communist Party.
So media coverage helps end injustice. Well, we have some media coverage of the Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman trials, and people are pissed. What we need here is to get Florida’s (and any other states’) ridiculously biased “Stand Your Ground” law. We apparently need a lot more media coverage of the issues facing the US now.
Unions were special target of communist hunters. Sensing an unfavorable environment, the AFL (American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) merged in 1955 to close ranks. Books were pulled from library shelves, including Robin Hood, which was deemed communist-like for suggesting stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
Unions are currently being torn apart by the Republican party. Unions which we worked so hard to get, including, and especially, the Teamsters, have gotten as corrupt as any corporation can get and started dying out in the 1990s and are nearly gone today. The still- existing unions are facing more and more attacks from the GOP as being ‘socialist’ institutions. Other ‘socialist’ institutions are Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment. The truth is everyone that works, pays a little of the check every month to fund Social Security, same for Unemployment, it is funded by the country’s employers, and is calculated into your benefits package and wage. In essence, it is something all employed people earn.
So we need media coverage of our revolution as well as heroes. People with strong ethics and resolve. People who remain calm in the face of ‘authority.’ People like Abby Hoffman (Civil Rights Activist, Anti-War Activist). We need fewer George Zimmermans and Michael Dunns. We need people like Pete Seeger who stood up to McCarthy in 1955. (You can read the transcript here: http://www.peteseeger.net/HUAC.htm). We need more Edward Snowdens and Chelsea Mannings. How do we support these “radicals” and obtain for them their freedom? How do we stand up against the current administration and the rough-riding Congress and unreasonable GOP and Tea Party? How do we control guns to a reasonable extent in trying to keep them out of the hands of those who are mentally unbalanced? Can we send inspectors to the homes of gun owners to make sure their weapons are safely stowed away? How many civil liberties do we let the government trod on before we’ve had too much?
It would seem despite my best intentions, I cannot be non-political. I care about the world and people too much. I care about the poor and the under-served. I care about the homeless and the mentally ill. I just care too much to be fully Buddhist and let things play out as they will without my interference. To me it feels a little cowardly. Guess I lean more toward Humanism. I want to return to the US citizens all of their civil rights. Including ‘giving’ those rights to those currently denied; the LGBTQ community. New laws are now going into effect in the South allowing others to deny those rights of the gay community. Something that is so opposite of what the US is supposed to be about.
I am saddened by the current situation in the US. The revolution is coming, though it may yet be some years off. Whether there will be blood in the streets or not depends on the opposition. There hasn’t been murder of activists vs military on US soil since Kent State in 1970 when US National Guardsmen fired on a crowd of student protesters, killing 4. But the way our city police forces are acting today, I don’t think that’s going to be possible. I think things will get worse before they get better, just as they did during the women’s suffrage movement of the turn of the 20th Century, just as they did during the Civil Rights actions in the 1960s. Just as we are now seeing in the movement for equal rights for LGBTQ citizens. The thing is “Rights” are just that, rights belonging to all of us, not some of us, and not to be voted on! .
One thing all these activists I mention have in common: their youth. All were young men (and one woman), full of ideology and youthful hope, certain they could make a change. They may not have fully succeeded to the extent they wanted, or got the results they hoped for, but they all stood by their convictions. Maybe if there were more people like this, the world would be a better place. I am not very young, nor am I an idealist (at least I don’t think I am in the same way these others are/were). I am a realist and I realize the Revolution is coming. I realize we cannot continue as we are. I’ve decided I care too much to not be involved. The biggest question is exactly what am I involved in? And how involved am I going to be?
My husband doesn’t like this side of me. The ‘trouble maker’ side of me. I’ve spent years frustrated by not rocking the boat. I no longer want to sit on the sidelines. I’ve started to outline the things you need to run a successful revolution, but there are still so many unknowns. Much more study of past revolutions is needed before I can actually write a ‘how to’ book. You’ll all have to wait a bit longer. And so will the revolution.
(Guess I still have some rant in me.)