An ugly past, presents again

July 19, 2020

“I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.”

“The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.”

“It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to any American who is not a Senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American — and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us….It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor…”

“…I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation. Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed…”

Thank God for Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R Maine) for taking to the floor of the United States Senate and having the courage to be a voice for the millions of Americans who now find themselves silenced for fear that their words not find favor with some “woke” activist just waiting to destroy them for having an opinion not acceptable to the local social justice council.

Not since her colleague Susan Collins (R Maine) had the courage to stand against the Brett Kavanaugh mob have I heard such a thoughtful defense of the principles that have kept this nation alive for these 244 years.

What’s that you say? You’ve done your Google and there is no Margaret Chase Smith in the Senate today? What pray tell is this hoax I now play upon you?

It’s not a hoax.

While true that Ms. Smith is not listed in the current Senate membership, I assure you, she was very much a United States Senator and those 400 words I quote are as real as they get. They are from her speech a “Declaration of Conscience” (which I strongly suggest you read in entirety) and they are as appropriate today as when they were delivered; June 1, 1950.

Yes, the speech is over seven decades old, but the ideals expressed and the abuses cited are as relevant today as they were then.

When Senator Chase-Smith took to the floor, six months had passed since Senator Joseph McCarthy had given his Lincoln Day speech to the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia. A speech in which he held up a piece of paper and without evidence, claimed that there were known Communists working in the United States State Department and for the next four years the “McCarthy era” would become a stain on the Republican party that it will never remove.

Using nothing more than fear and innuendo lives were ruined and careers decimated for no other reason than raw political power.

Today a “woke” segment of the Democrat party is rampaging across the nation with its own form of McCarthyism; “Canceling” and boycotting anyone and everything that doesn’t fit within their Anarchistic dreams of a statue not left standing and an opposing opinion not dare spoken.

Party leadership must know the damage their left wing is causing.

Which begs but only one question: Is there not one Margaret Chase Smith among their ranks?

PUBLISHER NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the July 19, 2020 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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