THE BLOG
12/15/2015 11:27 am ET | Updated Dec 14, 2016

Shameful U.S. History Repeating Itself

On November 28, 2015, my spouse and I went to see Trumbo, which is based upon the life of Dalton Trumbo and how it was impacted during one of the most shameful times in U.S. history -- the McCarthy era. The film interested me because of many comparable similarities today and because the father of close childhood friends of mine had been included on the Hollywood-blacklist.

As a child, I became close friends with Jonathan and Amanda Foreman and had the pleasure of getting to know their lovely parents, Carl and Evelyn Foreman. Carl Foreman "wrote scripts for High Noon, The Guns of Navarone and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and produced many other films.

Mr. Foreman left Hollywood for London after he appeared in 1951 before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and was named as an 'uncooperative witness' and was blacklisted. He did not originally claim credit for the Academy Award-winning screenplay of the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, written with Michael Wilson."

While living in London, he met and married Evelyn. In the early 1970s, he returned to the United States with Evelyn, Jonathan and Amanda. When I met them, they lived one block away from me and I spent a good deal of time with them in my youth.

Since Trumbo tells the story behind the Hollywood-blacklist, which impacted the lives of my childhood friends, I felt compelled to see it.

The film is about the Hollywood-blacklist that occurred as a result of Joseph McCarty's witch hunt to seek out alleged communists in this country. It is based upon a true story of Dalton Trumbo, the highest paid and most successful screenwriter in Hollywood at the time.

You may have heard of some of his work, such as Roman Holiday; The Brave One; Spartacus; and Exodus. Among his many honors, he won two Academy Awards, neither in his name because he was blacklisted and working through the black market. By the way, he wasn't just blacklisted, he went to prison, even though he never committed a crime.

A great many lives were harmed, destroyed and even ended as a result of the fear of communism. After all, if you were a communist, you were a traitor to the U.S. and a Soviet spy, right?

Interestingly enough, in Trumbo, we saw American screen icon, John Wayne ("Duke") as one of those involved in adding names to the blacklist. The Duke "eagerly took credit for having helped put Foreman on the blacklist." In a May 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine, the Duke "condemned the celebrated classic ["High Noon"] as 'the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life.'" As it turns out, 'High Noon' was the last film Foreman wrote before he was blacklisted.'

"'High Noon' was a quintessentially American Story, a story of righteousness and courage. At least that's the way the studio billed it. But screenwriter Carl Foreman later explained that he all along intended 'High Noon' as an allegory of how 'good men' failed to speak out against McCarthyism and of how, in particular, the Hollywood community (Hadleyville = Hollywood) had cravenly surrendered scores of their members to the blacklist."

By the way, Arthur Miller, considered one of the greatest American playwrights of the 20th century, was also included on the Hollywood-blacklist.

"During the tense era of McCarthyism, celebrated playwright Arthur Miller was inspired to write a drama reflecting the mass cultural and political hysteria produced when the U.S. government sought to suppress Communism and radical leftist activity in America. This time of the Red Scare affected the playwright personally. After meeting with his close friend, famed director Elia Kazan, who had recently testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Miller traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, to research the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692. On his return trip, he heard a recording of Kazan's controversial testimony in which the director listed the names of fellow actors and playwrights with ties to Leftist causes. That evening, Miller began writing The Crucible -- one of his most famous plays -- which uses the Salem Witch trials as an allegory to Senator Joseph McCarthy's oppressive tactics."

Trumbo is a very important film to watch because of all the fear mongering going on today. We tend to see history repeat itself because we don't learn from it. Of course, we certainly can't learn from re-written (fake) history and history has been re-written since the dawn of humanity.

As an aside, our former president, Ronald Reagan, was one of those subpoenaed who "cooperated fully with the committee confirming its fears that subversives were at work in Hollywood.... [He] testified that a small clique of communists 'have attempted to be a disruptive influence within the Screen Actors Guild."

"As Reagan learned more of the Communist menace and its threat to American freedom, he would oppose Communist activity in Hollywood without the extremism of Joseph McCarthy. Reagan described his disagreement with McCarthy's tactics when he stated that McCarthy 'was using a shotgun when he should have been using a rifle.... He went with a scatter gun and he lumped together fellow travelers, innocent dupes, and hard-core Communists.... Reagan's restraint was produced in large measure by his understanding that 'if we get so frightened that we suspend our traditional democratic freedoms in order to fight them - they still have won. They [will] have shown that democracy won't work when the going gets tough."

Reagan's fear of Communism followed him into his Presidency, where he felt compelled to outspend the Soviet Union in the arms race.

It bears mentioning that we now have diplomatic relations with a number of Communist countries, including Vietnam, China, and even Cuba, and that most such relations existed during Reagan's Presidency.

"Trumbo manages to be fine entertainment, an important history lesson, and a mirror for the present, all at once.

Conservatives often invoke the 1950s as a golden period of peace and prosperity in American life.

They were a great time for millions of straight white men who returned from World War II to benefit from unprecedented economic opportunity, a new interstate highway system, and the most beautiful automobiles Detroit has ever produced. But if you were a woman, an African-American, a gay person -- or anyone who had ever had the briefest flirtation with the Communist Party -- you experienced a very different America, with many significant roadblocks.

Blacks and whites were still strictly segregated, gay people were banned from employment by the federal government and all of its contractors, a woman's place was in the home (and without a credit card), and ex-communists were unwelcome everywhere: in Hollywood, the State Department and public high schools across the country.

Fear was the dominant leitmotiv of the decade."

To be a bit more specific, the 1950s were a great time for millions of straight white Christian men.

"Fear of strangers, of course, is nothing new in American history. The last great immigration wave produced a bitter backlash, epitomized by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the return, in the 1920s, of the Ku Klux Klan, which not only targeted blacks, but Catholics, Jews and immigrants as well."

"American Jews say they face discrimination in the U.S., but they see Muslims, gays and blacks facing far more.

This and other findings from the recently released Pew Research Center's landmark study on Jewish Americans help make the case that Jews -- once unwelcome in many a neighborhood, university and golf club -- now find themselves an accepted minority....

Anti-semitism has most certainly waned in the U.S.

The ADLs 1964 benchmark survey, conducted by University of California researchers, showed that 29 percent of Americans held hard-core anti-Semitic views. The ADLs latest poll, in 2011, found that 15 percent did.

But interpreted differently, the Pew numbers can also paint a portrait of a Jewish community that sees anti-Semitism as a persistent problem."

"In our political environment these days, the use of fear and outrage and victimization is very common," Jay Roach, director of Trumbo said. "I feel like it's just as much a film about today as it is about what it was back then."

As Bryan Cranston, who played Dalton Trumbo in the film said, "fear is an enemy of freedom."

While the politics of Ronald Reagan and Al Gore were very different, they both agreed that "the intentional creation of false fears for political purposes is harmful to our democracy." In "The Assault on Reason", Al Gore says the following:

"Are the dangers we now face so much greater than those that led Franklin Delano Roosevelt to famously remind us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march -- when our fathers fought and won a world war on two fronts simultaneously?

Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with thousands of missiles poised to annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Fifty years ago, when the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union was raising tensions in the world and McCarthyism was threatening our liberties at home, President Dwight Eisenhower belatedly said, 'Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.' Edward R. Murrow, whose courageous journalism was assaulted by Senator Joseph McCarthy, declared, 'We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.'"

Both former President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Al Gore are absolutely correct that "fear is the most powerful enemy of reason."

Much has been said in recent years that "Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America - Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason."

By 2050, it is estimated that "the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world" and yet fear mongering is causing many people to stereotype all Muslims as terrorists.

Being a Christian does not in and of itself make someone a good person. As a Christian woman interviewed for an article published by The New York Times on November 2, 2015 titled "In Religious Arbitration, Scripture Is the Rule of Law" said the following: "My faith is still strong. But I am more careful in dealing with Christians than I used to be. They are just people with no more ability to be good than anyone else."

In fact, "an international study has found children in religious families are meaner than their godless peers." Religious people are also no more moral, no more likely to do good, more intolerant, more punitive, and less generous than their non-religious counterparts. In fact, "'The more religious the parents, the less altruistic the children, irrespective of the religion,' Dr Decety told The Australian."

Someone need only turn on the news or open a newspaper to learn of a new shooting death of an unarmed black man or the burning down of a black church, which has led to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

We have presidential hopefuls saying "God's rules always win," but what does that really mean?

We also mustn't forget the recent vandalism, arson and massacre "in which Robert Lewis Dear killed three people and wounded nine at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado was anger over his belief that Planned Parenthood sells 'baby parts,' following a Congressional hearing to defund the organization as a result of the release of a now-discredited video.

Moreover, in October 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a report titled "Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth." That report stated in pertinent part as follows:

"Beyond ending potentially harmful practices, it is important to also build greater social acceptance of LGBTQ youth; to adopt appropriate and supportive therapies; and to provide targeted resources and accurate information for children, adolescents, their families, and their providers. Building better supportive environments and working to eliminate negative social attitudes will reduce health disparities and improve the health and well-being of all LGBTQ youth."

Meanwhile, a great many political and religious leaders (mostly in the Republican Party) are doing the exact opposite with all of their anti-gay rhetoric.

"Homophobia appears to be declining, although discrimination against sexual minorities is widely institutionalized and they face enduring stigma....

In addition, there is a persisting stereotype of the 'predatory older homosexual' who preys upon younger men and boys. This view is partially a carry-over from laws put into place decades ago to segregate homosexual men from children and is based upon the discredited belief that there is an inherent pedophilia in homosexuality."

People who are unwilling to entertain the thought that their belief on something may be wrong, regardless of what facts may come to light, are closed-minded because they only care about their beliefs, regardless of the facts.

Maya Angelou said, 'When someone shows you who they are believe them, the first time.'

Therefore, when someone shows you that they are closed-minded on any given issue because they only care about their beliefs, regardless of the facts, 'believe them, the first time.' People are consistent. Do you want such people making policy decisions that impact us all?