How to spot a Communist – er-uh, Terrorist

McCarthy and his lawyer: strange bedfellows?

McCarthy and his lawyer:
strange bedfellows?




My father listened to Edward R. Murrow on the radio (we didn’t have a TV yet) almost every day in the late ‘50s. I know he did because I did, too—mainly in the car. He was on at the time Dad and I were driving home from the church in the late afternoons, he from work, I from practicing the organ.

He did not like Edward R. Murrow, thought he was a pointy-headed liberal or some such (which I did not understand at the time), but Dad would tell me Murrow was an important American and deserved our attention. Talk about mixed messages from a parent!

Because we did not have a TV, we were spared watching the Joseph McCarthy House Un-American Activities hearings. I really had no idea that the Communists were such a huge threat to our way of life, to the very foundations of American government and society.  My parents talked about President Eisenhower, and about the Cold War, and about Pat Nixon’s cloth coat, about the death of Senator Robert A. Taft, and about –about many things. But I do not remember any discussion of Joseph McCarthy. (I remember being confused about the names “MacArthur”—the general, who was a favorite of my Republican parents—and “McCarthy.”)

Many years later my dad told me he never knew what to make of the “Red Scare,” whether or not it was real. But he loathed Senator McCarthy.

(Note: some of what I have presented below as facts may be, in some details, incorrect. I have only my junior high school memory to rely on. I know for certain, however, that the general outline of the story is true.)

In 1959 Dad was the president of the Scottsbluff, Nebraska, chapter of the National Council of Churches. The organization brought Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, president of the National Council of Churches to Scottsbluff to speak at a series of meetings (held, I think, at the First Presbyterian Church because it was the largest in town).

A bit later, in a bid to get rid of my father as pastor, a group of members of our church (the First Baptist) accused my father of being a “fellow traveler” because it was well-known that the National Council of Churches was a Communist Front Organization. My father, who admired Dr. Dahlberg as I think he admired few other people in his lifetime, deserved firing because he had been responsible for this Communist coming to town.

The President of the  Communist front organization?

The President of the
Communist front

Sidebar: Don’t you love the way church politics “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and live out the admonition of Jesus himself that, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

The church members who wanted to fire my father (he was entirely too liberal for Scottsbluff—he actually said evolution was a possible scientific theory and that, in any case, it didn’t matter because how God created the heavens and the earth was one of those mysteries we were perhaps not supposed to unravel) wrote to Robert Kennedy, who was then chief counsel of Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field and who had been counsel to McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations from 1953 to 1957 (a bit of Kennedy family trivia not many people like to remember). They were certain that Kennedy would answer their letter with proof that the National Council of Churches was a Communist Front organization.

My father announced his resignation contingent upon the answer from Robert Kennedy. If the Chief Counsel affirmed the NCC to be a Communist organization, Dad’s resignation would take effect.

The letter came back from Kennedy saying the NCC had never been found (by McCarthy or anyone else) to be a Communist Front organization, and that those rumors were entirely groundless. Believe me, McCarthy, who was as vociferous in promoting the Roman Catholic Church as in denouncing Communists, would have unearthed any connection the Protestant organization had.

We lived in Scottsbluff another year or so until Dad found another position.

Now we have CAIR for unthinking Americans to believe to be un-American.

And the anti-terrorism industry finding a terrorist behind every locked door and every website in America. I’m not saying terrorism isn’t a threat. Any sane person knew the USSR was a threat to the US in the ‘50s. [Note: click the arrow “read the article”]

But Joseph McCarthy, I’m sure nearly everyone in the country will now agree, was more of a threat to our way of life than “Communists” ever were.

We have given ourselves over to the “terrorism industry” unthinkingly and with a willingness to suspend our Constitutional rights that makes the country’s hoodwinking by Joseph McCarthy look like an afternoon outing in the park for the children.

Brandon Mayfield: How to spot a terrorist

Brandon Mayfield:
How to spot a terrorist

Politicians are the terrorism industry’s lead players. Unwilling to be seen as soft on terrorism, they engage in a process of outbidding, which has the effect of enhancing fears. In addition, the industry includes risk entrepreneurs, pork-barrelers, and bureaucrats, as well as most of the media. They all have an incentive to exaggerate the risk terrorism presents and to find extreme and alarmist possibilities much more appealing than discussions of broader context, much less of statistical reality.
——Mueller, John. “Fear Not: Notes From A Naysayer.” Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists 63.2 (2007): 30-37.

You may be, if you pay attention to such things as blog headings, wondering how this is a humorous look at the process of getting old. It’s not. It’s a resigned, sorrowful, agonized lament on the observation that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

One Response to How to spot a Communist – er-uh, Terrorist

  1. dalell says:

    Good post and somehow it does all start with our dads as I have a similar story (0ver coffee one day or lunch), in addition to already being labeled one of them thar’ terrorists! On another note, lawyers have to do the damnedest things sometimes, including the Kennedy’s! Putting all that aside, I want to hear more about Pat Nixon’s cloth coat!

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