February 10, 2009

A Bit of History, Part II

Cartoon by Art Mauldin

Hollywood and HUAC
My Day, by Eleanor Roosevelt
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 29, 1947
.
I have waited a while before saying anything about the Un-American Activities Committee's current investigation of the Hollywood film industry. I would not be very much surprised if some writers or actors or stagehands, or what not, were found to have Communist leanings, but I was surprised to find that, at the start of the inquiry, some of the big producers were so chicken-hearted about speaking up for the freedom of their industry.

One thing is sure--none of the arts flourishes on censorship and repression. And by this time it should be evident that the American public is capable of doing its own censoring. Certainly, the Thomas Committee is growing more ludicrous daily. The picture of six officers ejecting a writer from the witness stand because he refused to say whether he was a Communist or not is pretty funny, and I think before long we are all going to see how hysterical and foolish we have become.

The film industry is a great industry with infinite possibilities for good and bad. Its primary purpose is to entertain people. On the side, it can do many other things. It can popularize certain ideals, it can make education palatable. But in the long run, the judge who decides whether what it does is good or bad is the man or woman who attends the movies. In a democratic country I do not think the public will tolerate a removal of its right to decide what it thinks of the ideas and performances of those who make the movie industry work.

I have never liked the idea of an Un-American Activities Committee. I have always thought that a strong democracy should stand by its fundamental beliefs and that a citizen of the United States should be considered innocent until he is proved guilty.

If he is employed in a government position where he has access to secret and important papers, then for the sake of security he must undergo some special tests. However, I doubt whether the loyalty test really adds much to our safety, since no Communist would hesitate to sign it and he would be in good standing until he was proved guilty. So it seems to me that we might as well do away with a test which is almost an insult to any loyal American citizen.

What is going on in the Un-American Activities Committee worries me primarily because little people have become frightened and we find ourselves living in the atmosphere of a police state, where people close doors before they state what they think or look over their shoulders apprehensively before they express an opinion.

I have been one of those who have carried the fight for complete freedom of information in the United Nations. And while accepting the fact that some of our press, our radio commentators, our prominent citizens and our movies may at times be blamed legitimately for things they have said and done, still I feel that the fundamental right of freedom of thought and expression is essential. If you curtail what the other fellow says and does, you curtail what you yourself may say and do.

In our country we must trust the people to hear and see both the good and the bad and to choose the good. The Un-American Activities Committee seems to me to be better for a police state than for the USA.
~~

16 Comments:

Rogue Medic said...

I had not read that before. It is a disappointment, that there were so few to speak out against the abuses of the Congress.

Farm.Dad said...

Mule , I fear i miss the point of the post . Could it be a tongue in cheek comment on our current commander in chief's statements about " Partisan Politics " in reference to anyone who wants to actually say look at his spending bill ? Tho the rush to approve the bill does not raise to the level of congressional hearings , the " imminent need to pass " without scrutiny any bill ( yes the last admin did the same ) sparks of the mindset to me .

tgtsmom said...

I disagree with you FarmDad, I think this post is a continuation of his earlier posts in support of his point that the freedom of speech is the pennacle right provided under the Bill of Rights.

Farm.Dad said...

tgtsmom You may (and likely will ) be right , i however could not resist the " dig " . With a feller as smart as mule i takes them where i can get them ( even if i halfassed make them ) lol .

Mule Breath said...

LOL! You two are something else.

Actually, if you'd scroll back to "A Bit of History, Part I", you'd see that I have a particular fondness for Eleanor Roosevelt, and this article is among a few that I had archived some time back. One sleepless night while prowling my hard drive I found them, and decided to dust them off. Certainly they have some constitutional pertinence, since that is my passion, but I'll leave it to you as to how they might relate to current discussion.

Mark said...

Call me naive, but the mere thought of an "Un-American Activitees Committee" seems enough like a Stalinist drumhead court to be un-American by definition. We're meant to be free, and as stated innocent until provent guilty of a crime. The Thought Police in any guise seems about as un-American as it gets.

Rogue Medic said...

Mark,

You aren't naive.

When people are afraid, they do not think. We were so afraid of communists, that we were willing to give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety.

The addition to the pledge of allegiance, of One nation under God, was a similar silliness. It was believed that communists would not be able to take this pledge, because of the mention of God. People still defend this.

Back then, the problem was communism and the answer was to defile the Constitution. How? By having the government promote religion. Now the problem is religious extremists and the answer is again to have the government promote religion. Maybe, as Americans, we should promote the Constitution. People have died to defend the Constitution, but politicians are willing to tear it up for some votes.

People get all sorts of excited when the government is promoting their religion, but what happens when a different majority is in power and government is promoting a different religion from what those-no-longer-in-power believe?

Currently, we have been led to believe that terrorism justifies having Americans give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety. Opponents are criticized as endangering American lives. People may be killed.

If only the Founding Fathers had thought of that we could still be disgruntled British subjects today. We could fight for God, Queen, and country. Least of all for country. And as long as we do not have to fight. As long as we do not have to face any danger, because that would be UnAmerican. Uh oh! We wouldn't even be Americans. We wouldn't have a Bill of Rights to restrain the government.

Presidential powers assumed by President Bush, were never intended to be used by a Democrat. But these politicians did not think past the election. Now that their religion is no longer in power, they feel betrayed.

Politics is not about planning for inevitable changes. Politics is about claiming that the problems are - collateral damage and that you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Of course, if you suggest that the part of the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, is worth dying for, they are appalled at the suggestion that a collateral might be damaged, or that an egg might be broken.

In other words, politics is about blaming everyone else for the problems the politicians created. This administration will probably not be much different from the last. Republican/Democrat? Does it matter?

In 50 years, people will not believe that President Bush was a Republican or that President Clinton was a Democrat. We only have their words for it. They are politicians. Politicians are liars.

UnAmerican is just what the politicians want. The Republican UnAmerican Party and the Democrat UnAmerican Party. Why do we have a Bill of Rights? To protect us from the Republican UnAmerican Party and the Democrat UnAmerican Party.

Mule Breath said...

Mark,

The devil is in the details (I hate clich├ęs, but it fits so well). Un-American is in the eye of the beholder (there I go again). One might posit that the very first “un-American”, activity or at least the first attempt to circumvent our constitution was made before the ink was fully dry.

The 2nd President of the United States, John Adams, rammed a series of 3 laws collectively known as The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The acts were initially popular with Congress for reasons eerily similar to those used to justify the Patriot Act. In the end, after witnessing the gross injustice to human liberty perpetrated in the name of patriotism, the people turned against Adams and his party. Thomas Jefferson won the next election, pardoning all those convicted under these unwise acts; restoring constitutional law and reason.

Presidents and legislators since have tried time and again to enact some overtly unconstitutional laws. Time and again the people are incited into frothing idiots and the constitution becomes bent and tarnished. Almost always though, the constitution survives. For over 230 years the document has sustained reasonable government, because the people, although led astray, will eventually see the light of reason.

Short term security and safety are a poor excuse for such acts as perpetrated by the HUAC and the likes of Joe McCarthy. The administration just passed is the most recent rendition of the patriotic drum beaters and constitution trashers. They managed to do severe damage to the American way of life and our credibility in the world. Some want to faun over GWB, and may assail me for my thoughts, but time will tell if I’m correct.

Natural liberties cannot be restrained indefinitely. Sooner or later reason rises from the ashes and the truth becomes known.

Rant mode off.

Rogue Medic said...

Mule Breath,

In the end, after witnessing the gross injustice to human liberty perpetrated in the name of patriotism, the people turned against Adams and his party. Thomas Jefferson won the next election, pardoning all those convicted under these unwise acts; restoring constitutional law and reason.

President Jefferson secretly declared war on the Barbary States. no Congressional hearings or approval. This was due to their jihad against America (The Barbary States' jihad, not Congress'), and not wanting to continue paying tribute for permission to have American merchant ships sail the Mediterranean Sea unmolested. For just one example of restoring constitutional law and reason.

Rant mode off.?

Funny. My computer does not have the setting Rant mode off.

Mule Breath said...

RM,

Please do not take my comments as meaning I think TJ was a saint. Ain’t so. My intent was to point out that assaults on the document started early, and that they continue unabated today. I have no doubt Obama will put his own dents in the armor. I doubt any man is immune from “following his conscience”.

However, I might dispute your assertion that Jefferson “declared war” on the Barbary states. Depending on how one reads history, it is possible to argue that Jefferson was merely exercising his constitutional authorities in protecting American shipping interests on the high seas. Defending merchant ships from pirates is not war, and I could argue that the decision was a matter of economics. Fighting the pirates was arguably less expensive than paying the “tributes” they demanded.

Anyway, all Jefferson did was blockade certain ports to prevent pirates from traversing those waters. In the end it was Tripoli and Morocco declaring war. Problem solved, and this is perhaps fodder for a later post.

Rogue Medic said...

MB,

I was not suggesting that you were suggesting that TJ was a saint. I was just pointing out some of the irony of the way the Founding Fathers acted in office vs out of office.

I was not claiming that it was the wrong thing to do, but that the way it was done was not according to the Constitution.

Mule Breath said...

And I was not suggesting that you were suggesting that I was suggesting...

Oh, wait... let me think on this a bit.

;~)

Rogue Medic said...

Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

Farm.Dad said...

Mule , sorry for the delay in comment , but i also have a fondness for Mrs Roosevelt, for a lot of reasons , not the least of the fact she carried a pistol . I am guilty of not looking back as you said , but also i considered it worth the time just to tweak your mustache a bit lol . You are no more , nor no less than you present yourself , so you understand such coffee shop dirvel among friends . I wish both you Mule and tgtsmom well while i continue to point out my perception of how history just might collide with your posts lol . You sir are invited tho to the friends shooter gathering being orginised here by my daughter scheduled for november . Just think of it as a blog meet with some folks not being bloggers ( as of yet ) . Talk to AD if you need , he appears to be on board if he can make it . I as the " landowner/custodian " will extend you the invitation . We hope to have a " pasture shoot " . Now that is just a safely run range where you can and will do such things as a draw and rapid fire . We are setting up to make even the evil .50s reach out and so far have for the rifles 2 ( road , cut it by a third because of terrain ) miles lined out for a range , if i can get another landowner on board we will look at a 3 mile ( true ) range ( targets to be determined ). For pistol we will have some portable target stands suitable for b27 sized targets. and a place we can set up a " jungle run " if needed or wanted . Other recreation will be the food and non adult beverages ( its byob with water , tea , and coffee provided ) . good grub runs to MY bbq so take a chance , there will be plenty of that lol .

FrankC said...

"a fondness for Mrs Roosevelt, for a lot of reasons , not the least of the fact she carried a pistol ."
Sounds to me that she didn't need a pistol. She was a pistol. She should have been the first female POTUS.

Mule Breath said...

Yes, Frank, Eleanor was quite the lass, in in a very real way she was closer to being POTUS than Hillary. The Grand Dame was FDR's most trusted advisor. The history of that relationship is an eye opener. The two were overtly estranged due to FDR's infidelity, but he trusted Eleanor's advise above all others.

A good read is No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II,
by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This bio goes into some detail describing the influence of the powerful lady. I highly recommend it.