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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/9/10

Today's McCarthyism. Will we Stand up Against it, or Stand Down?

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Martin Niem├â Âller, a Christian pastor, German nationalist, and a passionate foe of Hitler, spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp, penned these infamous lines cautioning against silence:
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.

"Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.

"Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."

A Psychological Fact: Like it or not, a lie unchallenged becomes the truth. That's because what an individual perceives as the truth is for that individual the truth, and what is for that individual the truth is for that individual the reality in which all his truths exist.

A Corollary of that Psychological Fact: Paranoia is a state of mind in which the individual feels an unreasonable fear he or she is being persecuted -- ie threatened -- such that "unreasonable" is the controlling adjective.

Relative to the individual, there is a potential clash between the stated fact and its corollary. If what a person perceives is in fact that person's truth or reality, then for that individual the feeling he or she is being persecuted (threatened) cannot also be "unreasonable." For that individual, the fear is completely reasonable. It is only via the society in which the individual exists, and how that society itself perceives reality, that that individual can be perceived and adjudged as suffering from a fear that is unreasonably based.

A Fact of Life: None of us has much, if any, actual control over our individual lives and the social environment in which we live. We do, however, have complete control over our personal responses to that environment.

And a Definition: A society is a group of individuals existing within a delimited geography who share a cohesive common culture, basic interests, fundamental beliefs, underlying standards of conduct, and governing institutions such that "cohesive" is the governing adverb. Once cohesive fails, the society is disintegrated, it no longer exists.

The United States today, as a society, is at great risk of disintegration, of no longer existing. One can argue many things, but not the definitions we, as a society, employ to communicate with each other. Or we descend into babble.

This is not the first time in my life the country has faced this peril.

The first was in the early '50s when Joseph McCarthy, the junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, was running roughshod over the entire nation, rending the country's essential common fabric. Our "inalienable right" to genuinely pursue our own definitions as to what could compose happiness stood at the abyss that McCarthy's extremism sought to push everyone over. Absent from his accusations that one actually was a communist (A guaranteed right under the constitution, by the way.) was the least evidence the accusation held even a modicum of merit. Even inadvertent association -- conversing at a cocktail party with someone who at some other moment might also have inadvertently acquainted a suspected communist, or, through curiosity, checking out a book from the library on communism -- was sufficient. It was guilt by association and mere accusation, and, contrary to the most basic foundations of law, it was to the accused to prove his or her innocence of the levied charge, which, as I'll note momentarily, was impossible. Presumed as well as expressed within the suspicions orated was the notion that, according to McCarthy, one was either insufficiently American or was completely anti-American to the point one might therefore reasonably be regarded as a communist agent, a conspiring, treasonous traitor. And those accused had only two options available: one, admit to the charge, or two, contest the charge, which was manifested proof of the charge's validity.

And no one spoke out. The social premise was that, unless you had something to hide, you had nothing to fear. But it was fear that had permeated all society. As it had permeated society, fear's existence was reasonable and thus could not be paranoia. Or so the prevailing reasoning went.

During the Reign of Terror in France that followed in the wake of that country's revolution in 1789, all that was necessary to put one in jeopardy of the guillotine was for one to be "denounced" by a fellow citizen.

Think about that: "denounced." Republicans and their Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh prime movers no longer engage in genuine debate of any issue. Debate is not what they are interested in. Without facts nor need for facts, they denounce those they feel should be denounced according to whatever whim meets their ad hoc purpose. As Beck, with rivulets of tears glistening on his cheeks, cries, "I l-o-v-e my country . . . and it's being destroyed. And the proof isn't hiding in some dark closet, it's all around us, in plain sight, for all to see -- just open your eyes!"

In other words, if someone doesn't see the threats to the country that Beck sees, it can only be because the person is so wilfully blind that he or she is the first "See no evil" monkey, and the adjunct admonition becomes "Do not permit yourself to be a monkey." Whether any facts support the Fox star are irrelevant. The message counts, nothing else.

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An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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