Salon features a pair of amazing articles regarding blacklisted communists of the 1950s.
The first chronicles screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood 10, who were sent to prison for refusing to name names. His quote on the era is haunting:
“The blacklist was a time of evil. No one on either side who survived it came through untouched by evil. There was bad faith and good, honesty and dishonesty, courage and cowardice, selflessness and opportunism, wisdom and stupidity, good and bad on both sides. It will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims. Some suffered less than others, some grew or were diminished, but in the final tally we were all victims because almost without exception each of us felt compelled to say things he did not want to say, to do things he did not want to do, to deliver and receive wounds he truly did not want to exchange. That is why none of us — right, left, or center — emerged from that long nightmare without sin.”
Particularly relevant was the authors observation that the 1950s crackdown on Communism acts as an instructive example of how persecuting a highly unpopular minority can goad the general public into a new standard of patriotic conformity–eagerly supporting the erosion of constitutional rights and liberties.
Seems as though the McCain camp learned this lesson well. One of McCain’s most senior political advisers, he said in an interview with Fortune magazine that a fresh terrorist attack “certainly would be a big advantage to him.”
The second article, written in the first person, is a true-life reunion love story by journalist and activist Diana O’Hehir set against the same communist persecution. Active party members, O’Hehir leaves her husband, Mel Fiske for feat of the consequences for their young son. 35 years later they reunite and resume their relationship. O’Hehir leaves the man she loves–to protect her child, for fear of her own persecution, disagreements with party policy? Its unclear. The hollywood-hyperbolic happy ending doesn’t mask the kind of moral ambiguity and ultimate victimhood that Trumbo describes.