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Christopher Brauchli: The Reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy — Congressman King

30 December 2010 Huffington Post 4 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

“This kind of inquisition violates the spirit of the Constitution.”
— Albert Einstein, Letter to Wm. Frauenglass (1953)

Peter King is the envy of (a) former Senator Joseph McCarthy and (b) the folks in Salem, MA who were looking for, respectively, communists and witches. It was a hard task that they each attacked with persistence and fortitude. It was hard because to the untutored eye, witches and communists look just like the rest of us, making it difficult to distinguish them from the general population. Nonetheless, the folks in Salem and Joe were diligent in their efforts. There was, of course, always a possibility that the person identified as a witch or a communist was not in fact a witch or a communist but there was also the possibility that he or she was, and that made it all worthwhile from the inquisitors’ points of view.

The Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692 and 1693. More than 150 people were arrested and accused of witchcraft and a number were convicted. Witchcraft was, as one would expect, a capital offense, and several of those convicted were hanged. With the benefit of hindsight one can safely assume that most, if not all of those hanged, were not witches but as in all matters involving capital punishment, learning that the executed were innocent after they have been hanged makes very little difference to the executed and has never been considered by Americans to be a reason to eliminate the death penalty.

One of the next hunts for witches occurred in the 1950s and the man who served as the official huntsman was Senator Joe McCarthy. The senator’s goal was to identify Communists in the United States. The fact that the object of the hunt could not readily be identified did nothing to deter McCarthy, who made accusations against all manner of people, many of whom were not communists but might as well have been since their careers were irreparably harmed by the accusations. A ruined career was better than being hanged but was nonetheless not a very good outcome. The newest hunter of citizens he believes unworthy of their citizenship is Peter King, a congressman from New York. He has targeted a group that is going to be easy for him to identify — Muslims. Some, though not all, can be identified by their attire or by physical characteristics.

Mr. King is one of the beneficiaries of the Republican take over of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress and has been named chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. That committee deals with such things as border security and transportation security and, in addition, has the power to conduct investigations. Its investigative authority has excited Chairman King. He intends to seek out Muslims and find out why they are being such a problem.

Mr. King did not pull the idea of having hearings out of the same air that produced fictional witches and communists. According to Mr. King “When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders [when conducting terror investigations.]” By conducting these investigations Mr. King presumably will figure out how to force Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. In an article in Newsday, he said he would “drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization. These hearings will be a step in that direction. It’s what democracy is all about.” He may look to some of the techniques used in Salem such as placing heavy rocks on the person being investigated until the person says what the rock placer wants him to say or dies, whichever comes first. Alternatively he can adopt the methods used by Senator McCarthy, who would simply state that he was holding lists of communists employed in various parts of the government without sharing the lists with others.

Responding to criticism of his planned hearings Mr. King said it was OK with him if people called him a bigot for undertaking the hearings. Those criticizing him, he said, were simply uttering, “politically correct nonsense.” I am sure Mr. King treasures civil liberties even if preserving them means riding roughshod over them. That is the price that must be paid.

Muslims are, of course, not pleased at the prospect of the King inquisition. Rep. Keith Elison (D-Minn) the only Muslim member of Congress explains: “We need to make sure that we stand for civil liberties, so we can deprive people like Osama bin Laden of the claim that Muslims are poorly treated in America. The United States is not at war with Islam.”

America is not at war with Islam. But if Mr. King’s hearings go as planned, it is a safe bet that lots of Muslims will believe that Mr. King and probably the Republican party are at war with Islam. After all, the hearings were his idea and the Republican party gave him the forum.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at humanraceandothersports.com

Original post: Christopher Brauchli: The Reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy — Congressman King

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4 Comments »

  1. To Representative King:

    I recall that years ago, the Readers’ Digest carried a story of how a Jewish family in a midwestern neighborhood was attacked on the basis of their religion.

    Their neighbors rallied around in their defense, displaying stars of David in their windows, essentially daring the bigots to attack them as well.

    In 2001, shortly after 9/11, shots were fired at the local mosque just outside Toledo Ohio, and thousands of all religions joined together to form a symbolic protective ring around it. Enough so that it was circled twice. One promoter of the show of support was a local Christian radio station.

    I am a Christian, but I am also a spiritual descendant of Abraham, as are Muslims.

    As a proud and loyal American, I stand ready to defend and protect all people in the United States, and while I cannot in conscience declare myself a Muslim, I will gladly and proudly proclaim “Allahu akbar!” God is, indeed, great!

    Representative King: In my experience, hatred usually grows from cowardice and fear.

    RJW
    NW Ohio

  2. Representative King, I thought you and all other persons elected to congress were elected to do what is best for ALL Americans. ALL Americans! Your proposed actions against a select group of individuals is not only UN-American, but will create additional animosity towards and further endanger this country. The police also say that they have certain problems with other specific groups, i.e. gangs, the homeless, poor whites, African-Americans, Native Americans, some members of legislatures, be they State or US. Shall I go on? Are you going to investigate them as well…in the interest of fairness? Did it ever occur to you that maybe certain people aren’t cooperative because they’re already scared and do not trust the police based on what has happened to them in their previous country or in this one? I am a Christian and I believe all other religions should enjoy the same freedoms I do. Your proposed actions would lead us to believe that you are neither a Christian nor a believer in civil rights or the Constitution and, therefore a threat to this country. I pray that you think about what you are proposing before you take action.

  3. Senator Peter King, a Republican from New York’s Long Island, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he sees an international movement with elements in the United States of Muslims becoming more radical and identifying with terrorists.

    Dear Senator Peter King,
    In regard of your statement, to control the American Muslims like some country did between 1933 and 1939 for a particular group of human in Europe. Should I assume you are not satisfied with the excellent job our security departments in the US are performing to keep us save in our country before and after 2001. I am proud, very satisfied and very thankful for the magnificent job performance of our male and female in all security branches of the US government.
    Maybe you should pass a new law in Washington requesting in public places in the US a separation for Muslims and non Muslims customers should be establish. This could remind us to the tragic history of our color people may years ago. Also like in Germany from 1935 till 1939 every Muslim should ware on his clothing a crescent instead of a David Cross. Its sad to hear comments by US elected government official how Muslims should be treated in the US. What world history teach us about relion and freedom.…?

    The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society.
    This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

    Dr. Ahmed Dahamni

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