Over the last few months, in the heat of this presidential campaign, we have begun to hear labels being attributed to the person and policies of Barack Obama by the Right, the McCain/Palin campaign, and their surrogates, which are meant to inject fear and doubt into the minds of the American people. They are attempting to diminish or destroy the character and motives of Senator Obama, resulting in an open door to hatred and racism. The labels are simply false character attacks meant to diminish and demean him.
What these people whisper, hint, and now just come right out and say in recent days, misrepresent and distort Barack Obama’s words and vision for the future of this country on the heels of eight disastrous years of Bush and Cheney.
These labels: “appeaser,” “Muslim,” “terrorist,” “Socialist,” “Marxist,” and “Communist” are shouted at political rallies and allowed to hang in the air to create a terrifying emotional response in Americans. Our country needs real leadership to guide us through these frightening times of deep financial crisis and war.
There are people in the news and in the blogosphere who now have have begun to see parallels to another time in our history — a time when Senator Joseph McCarthy used his power to create a climate of fear and distrust in the hearts of all Americans, and to divide us as a nation. McCarthy made claims that there were large numbers of Communists, Soviet spies, and their sympathizers in the federal government and elsewhere. In fear, people turned against their friends, neighbors, co-workers and employees. People looked at each other differently, terrified of being accused of being, knowing or associating with a “Communist.” McCarthy was responsible for destroying the lives and careers of many, and turning this country upside down.
One man stood up and was the voice of reason in unreasoned times. That man was Edward R. Murrow. His words were strong reminders of who we are as a nation, and who we must continue to be, and that we must not let fear overcome and control us. He put everything on the line — his reputation and his career — in order to do what was right for the country and stand up to McCarthy.
Below are clips from “Good Night and Good Luck,” a film which portrays the tumultuous events of the 1950s, and some very wise words by Edward R. Murrow (played brilliantly by David Strathairn).
See It Now (1954)
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men— not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. “
Murrow on Political Agreement
“The Senator charged that Professor Harold Laski, a British scholar and politician, dedicated the book to me. That’s true. He is dead. He was a socialist — I am not. He was one of those civilized individuals who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a pre-condition for conversation or friendship. I do not agree with his political ideas. Laski, as he makes clear in the introduction, dedicated the book to me not because of political agreement but because he held my wartime broadcast from London in high regard — and the dedication so reads.”
“I believed 20 years ago and I believe today that mature Americans can engage in conversation and controversy, the clash of ideas, with Communists anywhere in the world without becoming contaminated or converted. I believe that our faith, our conviction, our determination are stronger than theirs, and that we can compete and successfully, not only in the area of bombs but in the area of ideas.”
“I have worked for CBS for more than19 years. The company has subscribed fully to my integrity and responsibility as a broadcaster and as a loyal American. I require no lectures from the junior Senator from Wisconsin as to the dangers or terrors of Communism.”
“Having searched my conscience and my files, I cannot contend that I have always been right or wise. But I have attempted to pursue the truth with some diligence and to report it, even though, as in this case, I had been warned in advance that I would be subjected to the attentions of Senator McCarthy.
We shall hope to deal with matters of more — more vital interest for the country next week.
Good night, and good luck.”
RTNDA Convention Speech (1958)
“We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.”
Today, there are people in this country, in this election, who are trying to inject fear and doubt into the minds of men and women by once again using distorted labels. Their insinuations are unfounded, and it is deplorable.
Americans must denounce this ugliness for what it is: fear-mongering. As Americans, we must not let the tactics of fear and hate rip this nation apart. It is our duty, each and every one of us, to denounce the hatred and racism, stand up, and say NO. NOT AGAIN.