Thursday, January 31, 2013

McCarthy's Legacy

"I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."

- Joseph McCarthy

That was a part of a speech given to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. McCarthy was drumming up fear about communism and communists. This wasn't something particularly new (the first Red Scare in the US was in the 1910s, but now America had put itself in opposition of the Stalinist regime in the USSR and the maoist regime in China. This Red Scare was different in intensity and scope. A House Committee was set up in response calling itself the committee un-american activity. Victims of the Red Scare included Charlie Chaplin, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Pete Seeger, and many others. Eventually, the scare began dying down. Slowly but surely, we stopped fearing that those around us were communists.

But we still feared communism. We might not have been accusing everyone of being Communists, but the fear of McCarthy still remained. Communists continued to be othered. We feared the marxists of the Soviet Union. The leninists. The stalinists. The Maoists. Communists and communism. With the fear came ignorance, and from the ignorance came more fear. Over time, we fought against communists around the world before the fall of the Soviet Union. In the public consciousness, we had won. As the city on the hill. As the beacon of freedom. We had destroyed totalitarian regimes and communism.

But the fear never left us. Socialism is still a dirty word in American politics. Many don't understand or know what communism is. I know people who, before they met me, thought communism and Authoritarianism were one in the same. Obama is called a communist by many of his enemies despite him not even being a socialist and his corporatist policies. When people say "communist" or even just "socialist" people's brains just turn off. People's minds go straight to thinking of an enemy to freedom. Joseph McCarthy died in 1957 and the movement which his name was applied to died soon after, but his legacy lives on. communists are othered. communism is not understood and purely associated with totalitarian regimes which were only a small part of communism.

No comments:

Post a Comment