After World War II, the world returned to a place of equilibrium. The United States was experiencing a post-war boom in housing and manufacturing now that tanks, ships, and planes were no longer a priority. You could own a home and, thanks to the Eisenhower Interstate system, you could buy a car a travel anywhere. Or you could get your kicks on Route 66, much of which is Interstate 40 these days. It was an era of unprecedented Freedom with a capital F.
But with the end of World War II came another change: the rise of the Soviet Union.
The Soviets had a vested interest in winning the war since Hitler came seriously close to annihilating them. Had it not been for the Nazis’ underestimation of weather and winter conditions in the USSR, the world might be a different place today. But the Allied powers needed the USSR to help defeat Hitler. In a deal that would affect politics for decades the Allies made a pact with the USSR that put the Soviets in a position of becoming a world power.
This concerned many people and countries because the Soviet Union was a communist government, although there are many who dispute that categorization. Nevertheless, the USSR was a one government party conglomeration of nation states that rejected the idea of capitalism. But the United States was embracing capitalism with unparalleled intensity. This made for an uncomfortable alliance and spawned a level of mistrust that would blossom into a cold war that would last for decades.
This mistrust begat a ‘red scare’ in America. Once the Iron Curtain went up, no one could be sure of the intentions of the USSR. In fact, from all outside appearances, they were becoming rather aggressive in promoting the politics of the politburo.
One American Senator, in particular, became increasingly alarmed and paranoid about the rising power of the Soviet Union. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy from Wisconsin began a series of inquiries into whether communism was secretly perpetuating itself in America. He began investigating American citizens in politics, the military, and the media to determine where their loyalties lay. McCarthy held hearings on ‘Un-American’ activities that damaged careers, caused book-banning and even book burning.
In the end, the government and the courts, with a little help from journalist Edward R. Murrow, shut Senator McCarthy down. McCarthy died not long after, knowing that, like Benedict Arnold being associated with the term traitor, McCarthyism would forever be linked with demagoguery and witch hunts.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 21st century. An increasing rise in alarming events have been occurring that sound strikingly similar to the red scare of the fifties. The list is getting rather lengthy, but some of the more alarming items include the rise of the Tea Party, the Texas Board of Education’s selection of educational texts, the Tea Party’s ‘purity’ test, George W. Bush’s disconnect with reality, Dick Cheney’s hostage takeover of reality, Blackwater, the rise of FOX News as the propaganda arm of the Republican party, anything coming from the mouths of conservatives such as Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, or Sarah Palin (there: got her in one last time before the embargo). The list of absurdities continues to grow as does the public’s propensity to accept it as fact.
To paraphrase Ozzy Osbourne, the world is going off the rails on a crazy train.
I had this truck once. It had an alignment problem. If you let go of the steering wheel, it instantly pulled to the right so hard that you could’ve hit the ditch with disastrous results. I think our politics have a similar alignment problem today. It is pulling hard to the right. But the Soviet Union is no longer the enemy that Americans are being led to fear. So who is it?
The times they are a-changin’. Media is changing. Commerce is changing. Like it or not, globalization is happening. China, India, the Middle East are all becoming involved in what Americans have strategically had dominance over since the end of World War II. The rest of the planet is catching up with us and we are in danger of becoming irrelevant. Anti-American sentiment is on the rise. Perhaps the perception is that it is us against the world.
But rather than adapt to the changing world there is a resistance to the changing times and there is no shortage of people willing to point fingers at who is to blame for the state of affairs. A significant portion of the nation’s population have begun to point fingers in a move that harkens to a time long past. Back then, it was called Communism; today, it’s called Socialism. Communism was the new Fascism in the fifties and by contrast Socialism is the Fascism of today. Many believe it’s something to be feared as a threat to the American way of life and, like the era of McCarthy, they look within the nation to place blame for things they cannot control.
Demagoguery is just as bad for us now as it was then. Demonizing people who are searching for ways of moving on together will not help this time either.
- The bastard child of J. Edgar Hoover & Joe McCarthy…. (tagg-lines.com)
- In the movie Good night and good luck. why do they want to take mccarthy down (wiki.answers.com)
- HAVE YOU NO DECENCY, SIR? I also agree that this may be a tipping point in Krugman’s disgracefu… (pajamasmedia.com)
- Joe McCarthy, the Tea Party, and The Fourth Estate (nowpublic.com)