Sunday, March 19, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another." - Edward R. Murrow

The other night we finally saw Good Night, and Good Luck, the Oscar-nominated film directed by George Clooney. For me, a good movie is one that I am still thinking about the next day or the next week, one that I keep "seeing" snippets of in my head. Good Night, and Good Luck is one of those.

We Americans have a bad habit of forgetting the lessons of history. And so, we are required to relive some nasty episodes. One lesson from half a century ago is that a demagogue with a microphone and a national platform can wreak havoc on society and quickly turn us into creatures cowering in the back of our cave, fearful of each other.

In the 1950's, Senator Joseph McCarthy destroyed blameless lives, drove men to suicide, and rode his brief power to the depths of one of the darkest periods of American history. That he was able to create his own little reign of terror in the middle of the 20th century is a lesson we must not forget.

Hollywood turns out a lot of garbage, but occasionally a gem emerges from the sludge. Good Night, and Good Luck is one of those few films that should be required viewing - and discussion - for every high school and college student. Power-hungry McCarthy wannabes are never far from a microphone. We can't stop them from spewing their poison - free speech is one of our precious rights - but we can arm people with knowledge against this insidious form of divisiveness. McCarthyism has appeared under other names, and will undoubtedly bubble to the surface again some day. Each generation needs to remind the next of the danger; this film is one very good way of doing just that.

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