Friday, September 1, 2006

Drifting towards the Center

Maybe all pragmatists eventually settle for moderation in all things, especially when it comes to politics.  I certainly find that to be true.  More and more I find the right wing less fearsome, and the left wing less righteous.  I was thinking about that yesterday.  Roy M. Cohn--I don't know why he suddenly occupied my thoughts.  I was surfing the web, trying to find images of Halston, the designer and famous 70's party-animal.  There was a picture of Roy M. Cohn snug between Halston and Steve Rubell at Studio 54.  How utterly fabulous is that! 

For my readers unaware of who Roy M. Cohn was, he was a special counsel to the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC), the McCarthy Hearings, during which the government purged itself of communists and communist sympathizers, and then moved on to other segments of society, most notably, film and television artists.  "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?"  was the question asked.  I used to think that was the darkest hour in the history of American democracy.  Do I think it went too far?  Yes.  Was it corrupt?  Of course it was.  It was the ugliest politics ever to come out of Washington.  But we reap the benefits of it to this day.  Today we have a graceful society based on integration and assimilation into the ideals of personal freedom and responsibility to the community and nation.  We aren't largely troubled by anarchist, subversive groups.  We have almost no communists and socialists, and those who do perservere do so at the fringes.

So while the actions of McCarthy and his cronies were doubtless motivated to secure their own political fortunes, they also accomplished something that made America a better place to live. 

And they did so at great personal price.  Cohn was unable to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality even at the end.  Cohn's view of the world was distorted and delusional.  Right up to the end he maintained that he had cancer.  The lens through which he viewed the world was skewed.  Because of that, he destroyed those who opposed him, and used any lie in the furtherance of his own objectives.  But he also had an impact on society which has lasted to this day.

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