Saturday, September 13, 2008

who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

I don't know why, but I'm really captivated by Cold War history. I'm fascinated by the willingness of normally sane people to suddenly stop thinking for themselves. Someday I'll treat you all to my Cuban Missile Crisis expertise, but that is another post for another day. I have not (yet) proved my mastery of the Rosenberg trial, but that is about to change.

So it turns out that Ethel Rosenberg did not get her day in court. She spent a bunch of time in a courtroom, but no one actually cared what she had to say in her own defense. Morton Sobell, a fellow defendant, admitted this week that he believed that while she knew her husband was a spy, she was not involved. Pretty high price to pay for making a bad choice in husbands.

Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, was involved in spying for the Ruskies. He stole documents about the atom bombs and gave them to Julius Rosenberg, who in turn gave them to the Russians. Greenglass, in an attempt to protect his wife and children, told prosecutors that Ethel typed the documents first, although the reports were of handwritten documents. Greenglass went to jail, but his sister was executed. Go figure.

This trial encouraged Joseph McCarthy, which brings me to the point of my rant: blind following of an idea, that in the light of day, turns out not to make so much sense. Was America really in the midst of a Red Scare? I'm sure, coming out of the Korean War, it made a lot more sense than it does today. I mean, really, how can some jewish housewife be such a threat to society that she needs to be executed? Sadly, though, we haven't really learned from our past. Substitute "Middle Eastern Terrorists" for "communist Russian spy" and there we are again. We have enacted all sorts of laws infringing on civil rights in the name of protecting America.

Today we're not afraid of the Ruskies... or are we? Recent events have me wondering if we're all just happier with an obvious enemy. I mean, we had plenty of opportunity to have a common enemy during the Cold War, right? You're either for Democracy and The American Way or you're a Commie Pinko Fag. Simple. Effective. Unless you're not actually a Commie Pinko Fag, but someone accused of being one, or someone who is friends with one, or just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, in the worst case, you end up like poor Ethel, vindicated 55 years too late.

1 comment:

hoyden said...

Remember, if you're not for blind obedience to the American government, you're for the terrorists.