Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"We will not walk in fear, one of another"

Maggie says:
After seeing Good Night and Good Luck a few weeks ago, I was struck by how understated the movie is. As timely as it is, it doesn't saturate you with preachiness, with modern parallels, with lecturing. Instead, the movie presents itself and then sits back, imagines your conversations but doesn't aggressively start them for you. The conclusions to draw are all yours, as they should be.

In my head, long after seeing the movie, I kept going back to Edward R. Murrow's bravery in the face of Senator McCarthy's bloodthirsty extremism. A day later, it hit me: back in high school, I'd "borrowed" a book of Murrow's broadcasts from my dad's bookcase. And sure enough, I still have it in my bookcase, now dusy and worn. Flipping through In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow 1938-1961 is fascinating first because Murrow guides us through so much history but second, because we can truly see how low our standards for media and reporting have sunk.

Without lecturing, without preaching, without making pains to note how differently this might be handled today, I offer the following passage. I think you'll agree that Murrow's words - like the movie - stand on their own.

March 9, 1954

No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating. But the line between investigation and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind as between the internal and external threat of Communism. 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 which 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. 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 - what's left of it - but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his; he didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves."