Deja Vu All Over Again
It was a time of great fear. An enemy appeared that seemed to have no compunction executing horrible atrocities. They murdered their own people over political differences. Small cells of adherants grew up all over the world and operated clandestinely to try to infiltrate societies and governments everywhere. It was a time rife with opportunity for anyone willing to exploit fear for profit and fame. Joseph McCarthy was willing.
It was a dangerous time for democracy. Many people were, in fear, ready to abandon the very freedoms they ostensibly sought to protect.
You cannot read about the McCarthy years without seeing plain parallels to our own time. Read the vicious rants of McCarthy and you taste the venom of the Limbaughs and Coulters of today. Read the blogs of the right-wing today and you hear the emotional twins of the scared mobs ready to ostrasize, ruin the careers of, lock up, smear, anyone with real or imagined associations with communists. Ready to tar anyone who disagreed as "anti-American". Today, again, one cannot just disagree. To the right-wing, dissent is "anti-American".
The situations are so similar.
1. A very real, very evil enemy: Communists, then; Radical Islamists, now.
2. Real heroes of the fight against these enemies: Then - Harry Truman and (eventually) Dwight Eisenhower. Then and now - our military; a few determined journalists; a few responsible Democratic and Republican members of congress.
3. Charlatans promoting panic, fear, and hate for their own ends: Then McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, the right-wing press, lots of Republicans and a few Democrats; today, the neo-conservatives led by the President of the United States [GWB: "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."] , the right-wing press and its echo-chamber talk-shows; lots of Republicans and a few Democrats.
4. A legitimately fearful public latching onto supposed security at the expense of freedom, and in the process endangering both by heeding, at least temporarily, the demagogue.
Benjamin Franklin said ‘‘They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
God bless America and protect her, once again, from those who, in their fear of terrorism, would trade our freedoms for security. Those folks are more dangerous, in the long run, than even Stalin or Bin Laden.