Monday, December 10, 2007

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions"

-Lillian Hellman before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

I have been made uneasy by the fact that the mainstream press still has not reported on H.R. 1955/S. 1959 a.k.a, "The Thought Crime Bill." Is it because they do not see the formation of a commission (i.e. a committee) which will be given the power to "hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties" as a threat to innocent American citizens?

Well, people, let me tell you the story of another government committee, The House Committee on Un-American Activities, who was also give the same power. The HCUA was formed in 1934 to investigate how Nazi propaganda was getting into the country and being disseminated. In 1938 the focus of the Committee changed to German-Americans suspected of being involved with the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan. By 1945 the Committee had changed focus again and decided to go after members of the Communist Party who they believed held positions of influence in the government and/or other sections of American society.

In their zeal to destroy the Communist Party in the United States* the Committee trampled on the rights of American citizens. They allowed unsubstantiated testimony to be presented, they disallowed the accused their rights under the Constitution to not self-incriminate themselves or to confront the person who was making the accusations against them. Guilt by association was the order of the day. What began as an investigation quickly turned into a nationwide purge of anyone proven to be a Communist, suspected of being a Communist, or suspected of having leftist/liberal and what the powers that be thought were communistic ideas.

In 1947 Attorney General Tom Clark released his list of 90 Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, Subversive, and Other Organizations. He prefaced his list with the words, ""It is entirely possible that many persons belonging to such organizations may be loyal to the United States. Guilt by association has never been one of the principles of American jurisprudence."** Except in times of fear. Membership in any of the organizations listed would without a doubt cost you your job, your friends, and/or marriage.

I've just finished reading Betsy Blair's, autobiography, The Memory Of All That. Betsy Blair is an actor and in her book she writes about being blacklisted for her political beliefs during this time in American history. Ten years after being put on the list a friend at CBS took her card out of the CBS Blacklisted files and tore it up. On this card, the following reasons were given as to why she would not be allowed to work on any CBS program:

1. Friend of Oona Chaplin.
(Wife of Charlie Chaplin who had also been blacklisted.)

2. Spoke about Red Channels at the Actor's Lab.

3. Met Paul Robeson at London airport.

4. Spoke at a reunion of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Note how two of the reasons for her being blacklisted by CBS involve her voicing her opinions. The other two have to do with who she had been seen with; guilt by association. All accusations true, none earth shattering nor illegal but thought incriminating enough at the time to keep CBS from hiring her.

Almost sixty years ago the devil had this country by the throat. People were being persecuted, hounded, spied on, and jailed for their political beliefs; all in the name of government security. Lets not start down that path again.

Edward R. Morrow said during this time period, "A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves." And we know who wolves prey on. Let your Congressional Representatives know you think this bill is a bad idea. Let everyone know.

*Seen as a threat to both our country and our way of life, the Communist Party was feared and hated by America. Sound familiar?

**Time magazine article, Dec. 15, 1947.

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