Looking back on their history during the 20th Century, conservatives don't have a lot to be proud of. Racist and anti-semitic restrictions on immigration from Eastern Europe. War on labor unions. Voting against child labor laws. Sympathizing with Hitler and Mussolinni and attempting to scuttle FDR's efforts to get the United States ready to enter the war on the side of the angels. McCarthyism. Opposition to the Civil Rights movement.
No wonder they idolize Reagan all out of proportion and like to pretend he fought and won the Cold War all on his own.
But besides trying to get Reagan post-humously declared the American Caesar, with George W. Bush deified as his Augustus, their other way of dealing with their shameful past is to just lie about it in the good old American way.
Say, didn't you used to be the pastor at my old church? I remember you now! You're the guy who stole the gate from the church bazaar and ran off with the sexton's wife!
I'm sorry, you have me confused with somebody else. Plus that money was never stolen and the sexton and his wife moved to Florida and lived happily ever after.
McCarthyism never happened, you know, as a lot of conservative intellectuals, writers, and miniskirted agitprop performance artists from the Right Wing Ministry of Truth on and off the web have made it their mission to prove.
Or if it or something like it did then it was justified, because there really were some people who were communists in the 1930s, not necessarily the people whose lives were ruined in the 1950s, but some people, and, hey, look over there, isn't that Alger Hiss?
Last night I went up to a bookstore in New Paltz to see the great sportswriter Roger Kahn and listen to him read from his new book. A good time and I'll report on the reading later. Breakfast will be on the table soon. But this for now: Kahn warmed up his audience by telling a quick anecdote about his late friend Ring Lardner Jr, son of the strawboatered master of the short story, Academy Award winner for the screenplays for MASH and Woman of the Year, and blacklisted member of the Hollywood 10.
I've heard and read several versions of this story, but I'm going to tell it the way Kahn told it last night.
Lardner was before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, ducking and weaving to get out of the way of questions asking him to fess up and name names. Eventually the committee chairman became exasperated and said, "Mr Lardner, it's a simple question! Can't you answer a simple question?"
"I could," Lardner said, "But I'd hate myself in the morning."
Lardner did a year in the pen. He went to jail for a wisecrack.
But it's ok because he really was a communist and his screenplays made it all that much harder for Ronald Reagan to whup the Rooskies, which he did, blindfolded, with one-hand tied behind his back.