Remember when there was a Commie (or a queer) lurking under every bed in the U.S., ready to sell the nation out to its enemies, subverting it from the inside by forming hidden, powerful cabals inside its highest governing circles? At Box Turtle Bulletin this morning, Jim Burroway reminds us of how Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Catholic Republican from Wisconsin, stirred nationwide hysteria with his "twinned witch hunts, the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare." As Burroway points out, President Eisenhower responded to the latter scare by signing an executive order mandating the firing of all federal employees guilty of sexual perversion, whether proven or not.
Emphasis, of course, on "witch hunt" and "scare": the paranoia about secret Communist agents and secret lavender agents pulling the strings of our government from the inside turned out to be almost entirely a figment of the senator's imagination. Until, finally, Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel of the U.S. Army, famously challenged McCarthy with his question (video at the head of the posting),
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
Those questions became a turning point in the McCarthy witch hunts, so that people of decency gradually began to ridicule the scare tactics, paranoia, and insinuations of a Commie and a queer under every bed. McCarthy ended his career under the shadow he had richly earned.
Can someone please send some good American history books to EPope Benedict and current Pope Francis? Posthaste?