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July 24, 2012

Returning to McCarthyism

Roy Meachum

We are angry. Americans have turned once again to unreasoning bigotry and always illogical prejudice. It’s happened before. In panic four years ago, we voted in the first African American president. Immediately, Barack Obama came under merciless assault – primarily because he is black.


Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and four other GOP congressmen questioned a ranking State Department aide’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In response, leaders in both parties responded that the writers threaten a return to McCarthyism. It’s never been away. Muslims have replaced communists as new objects of hatred.


Catholics were persecuted before the electorate chose John F. Kennedy for the Oval Office. Many feared he would turn over the keys to this republic to the Vatican. It never happened. This white Anglo-Saxon Protestant society, like Mother Britain, distrusted “Papists.”


The Potato Famines send thousands of Irish to the New World, where they were resented both for their faith and foreignness. Their arrival promoted a new political movement, the American Party; better known as “Know Nothings.” The Italians followed the Irish in the mid-19th century when Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Red Shirts were uniting the peninsula nation. Twelve Mafia members were hanged by a rebellious mob in New Orleans where I grew up.


Before the Civil War, people from Africa presented few problems; they were mostly slaves, figured in the Constitution as property. At emancipation, they didn’t attain full citizenship. It took Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement to push them closer. As President Obama demonstrates, they don’t have it yet.


Airlift Berlin deposited me in Washington when Joseph R. McCarthy was a freshman, the junior senator from Wisconsin. This was the time when our war ally turned into a fearful bogie man. Russians looked like monsters capable of dropping hydrogen bombs on this side of the Atlantic. Home shelters sprouted up all over the place.


As a student in Georgetown College, I occupied an apartment close to campus. The 1950s’ cheap rents and charming houses attracted many homosexuals. They were the real targets of McCarthyism. I don’t recall any communist he “outed.” Gays, lesbians and trans-genders were forced to stay “in the closet.” I was still in the Army.


By the time I covered the senator’s last day in town, I had become a Washington Post reporter; he killed himself, as predicted, by drinking booze constantly. I remember the panic of the era, which was much like the present. Homosexuals are now permitted to marry, but not in all states. Heterosexuals formed a wary peace with what they understand more and more they cannot change.


Islam has passed Christianity in the world’s population; that fact alone terrifies the Western World. It is no atmosphere to launch a new Crusade. America’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is perceived by most Muslims as exactly that. They’ve attacked back. New York’s Twin World Towers and suicide bombers are parts of their pattern.


Fortunately for Christianity and Judaic Israel, Muslims are detracted by a civil war between the majority Sunnis and the diverse Shiites, which may be considered as Protestants in this context. Besides the religions, we are angered by the economy, which lingers on in a parlous state.


The 2012 national elections’ results are endangered by presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s unwillingness to talk about his financial holdings; his wife joined in, although she is not running for office. Voters are already confused and angry.


Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann is a beautiful woman. What comes out of her mouth sometimes amounts to nonsense. Still, she is a pretty politician.


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