By Ed Breen
So much of this is so alarmingly similar to my very first taste of nasty politics back in the days of McCarthy – Joe McCarthy, the alcoholic gas bag Senator from Wisconsin who was crisscrossing the country back in 1950, waving a blank sheet of paper in his hand which he claimed contained the names of known Communists everywhere: In the state department, in the Army, in the White House and, of course, in schools – colleges and universities in every corner of America.
In the final analysis, he self-destructed with some help from journalist Edward R. Morrow and a cranky old lawyer named Joseph Welch, who finally looked across the table at McCarthy and said with both resignation and finality, “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”
He had, indeed, done enough. He had ruined lives and careers. He had blacklisted and blackballed some of the great talents of the literary and the motion picture industries. He had pitted half of America against the other half of America, insisting all along that this purge was necessary to cleanse us of some vague and unspecified evil, the dreaded communists who were in every high office and under every chair and in every town and every neighborhood.
Although lacking such a personage as McCarthy – we still have Trump, but he’s a different force – we have those nurturing the very same sorts of fear today. This time it is not so much the communists as those who would “indoctrinate our children,” those who would raise the specter of racism in a country that is demonstrably racist. Those who would be grilled to admit that they are trying to teach our children to respect and care for one another.
The culture war is raging around us and we are growing desperate in our need for an Ed Morrow or a Joseph Welch to stand up and denounce those who . . . . “have done enough.”
If you seek the barricades and battlefields, you need look no further than Hamilton County and Marion County to the south and Kosciusko County to the north. With Senator Joe – he lent his name to the whole era; it became “McCarthyism ” – with McCarthy the lines were clearer and cleaner than today, but it is insidious nonetheless.
To the south of us, at a popular restaurant called Wolfies on the northeast side of Indianapolis, a dozen or so of those self-appointed to protect us from “the indoctrination of our children” were waving the sheet of paper with the litany of sins of those who teach our children.
They were gathering for – their words – “an action plan for addressing indoctrination in public schools and the banning of critical race theory and mental health testing and sex education instruction” and a lot of other things that we have asked our schools to do because we have been so darn busy with making America great again that, well, we just haven’t had time to teach our kids not to punch each other out on the playground.
The educators call it SEL – “social emotional learning” – but the tub-thumpers, knuckle-draggers and mouth-breathers were hyperventilating because SEL must be some sort of a code word for warping the minds of the kids. No, it is simply urging youngsters to not behave like some of the adults around them.
Word got around last week in the Hamilton County neighborhood that these 14 middle-aged, all-white all-male vigilantes were going to assemble as the restaurant and folks did what always works when dealing with capitalists: They threatened to boycott the restaurant. The meeting was cancelled within hours.
Meanwhile, to the north of us in Warsaw in Kosciusko County, it is the capitalists – the business leaders – who are urging the county’s commissioners to back off on this business of banning things they don’t understand.
The top level of management at Zimmer Biomet corporation, which is the engine that provides jobs in that neighborhood, sent a stern letter to the characters in the courthouse:
“In the past year, Zimmer Biomet has increasingly grown concerned over the agenda and priorities established and executed by the Commissioners,” the company told the commissioners.
“For example, we believe your recent declarations that Kosciusko County is now both a Constitutional Rights Sanctuary and a Second Amendment Sanctuary, as well as your current proposed action to prohibit or ban the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the county, are unnecessary and outside of your scope of responsibilities. “
That’s pretty clear, don’t you think?
We’ve not heard the last of any of this, but the message ought to be pretty clear at this point. Let’s all chill out, try to learn something about what is at stake and above all else, try to maintain our sense of decency.