“Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?” – Sen. Flake Invokes “Exhuming McCarthy”

There is no doubt that President Trump’s campaign rhetoric and initial actions in office had a most direct influence on the 2016 Dictionary.com “Word of the Year”: xenophobia.

Xenophobia – noun: Fear or hatred of foreigners.

In a nation that was built on immigration it seems interesting that 2016’s word of the year would be so appropriate when it has such negative denotations and connotations. But the word “xenophobia” captures so much of what is happening in this nation and in other nations. One just needs to follow the “nighttweeting” and comments of the president.

“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I might just send them down to take care of it.”

The fact that “xenophobia” was 2016’s “word of the year” also shines further light on the fact that irony makes this nation and world “go ‘round.”

Trump’s home state of New York is home to Lady Liberty who stands off of Manhattan, surely within sight from atop buildings near Trump Tower. She would never tweet what Trump has tweeted or even allowed what he has said to pass her lips. What she says directly is in the form of a poem by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colussus”, that is affixed on the base of the Statue of Liberty near Ellis Island.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

How that poem and the word “xenophobia” can collide in the same sentence seems implausible, except we are talking about a country that just elected Donald Trump as president. And we are talking about a country that not so long ago immersed itself into a Red Scare led by the one and only Joseph McCarthy.

Donald Trump fanned those very flames that McCarthy originally ignited when he suggested that we ban all Muslims from coming into America. That, and he helped cement the word “xenophobia” as the Word of the Year when he promised to build a wall on the Mexican border. It did not stop with that. In fact, it is has escalated since the beginning of his term (or even before). And it is not relegated to foreigners now. He is attacking his own countrymen and women.

Think the birtherism conspiracy theory against the first minority POTUS.

Think about targeting a Muslim Gold Star family.

Think about Charlottesville and never denouncing the white-supremacists until prodded endlessly.

Think about his feud with Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Hell, think about Steve Bannon being a top advisor for months in the White House.

This past week, Sen. Jeff Flake wrote a rather scathing op-ed in the Washington Post in which he invoked the spirit of Joseph Welch and his words from 1954’s Army-McCarthy hearings that brought an end to McCarthyism as it stood (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/enough–it-is-time-to-stand-up-to-trump/2017/10/24/12488ee4-b908-11e7-a908-a3470754bbb9_story.html?utm_term=.5c974f308624).

“Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Welch-to-McCarthy_Have-you-no-sense-of-decency (1)

And again, do not let it be understated that the irony in what Flake writes is thicker than the phonebook McCarthy used a prop in one of his earlier speeches. Here is a hardline Republican taking up Welch’s persona against today’s McCarthy when he himself has voted along party lines to some of the more exclusionary pieces of legislation in modern times. But it is a stand nonetheless and it has power considering that midterm elections are around the corner. Furthermore, it captures a vivid still frame of what our country is like right now.

R.E.M.’s song “Exhuming McCarthy” might as well have been composed with Donald Trump in mind but delivers a more poignant repudiation against the current administration than what Sen. Flake delivered. It’s almost as if Flake had it playing in the background when he wrote his op-ed. In fact, one could argue that he quotes R.E.M. quoting Welch.

In a country built on immigration that supposedly practices freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expressions like kneeling at NFL games, this song reminds us to look at history as a living textbook on what to not allow to happen again, lest we repeat mistakes from the past.

Just look at the lyrics.

“Exhuming McCarthy”

You’re beautiful, more beautiful than me
You’re honorable, more honorable than me
Loyal to the Bank of America

(It’s a sign of the times)
(It’s a sign of the times)

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
Sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Vested interest, united ties
Landed gentry, rationalize
Look who bought the myth
By jingo, buy America

(It’s a sign of the times)
(It’s a sign of the times)

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
Sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Enemy sighted, enemy met
I’m addressing the real politic
Look who bought the myth
By jingo, buy America

“Let us not assassinate this man further, Senator, you’ve done enough.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen
sharpening stones walking on coals
To improve your business acumen

Enemy sighted enemy met
I’m addressing the real politic
You’ve seen start and you’ve seen quit (I’m addressing the table of content)
I always thought of you as quick

Exhuming McCarthy, exhuming McCarthy (meet me at the book burning)
Exhuming McCarthy, exhuming McCarthy (meet me at the book burning)

Loyal to the Bank of America? Check! Hell, Mike Pence just cast a deciding vote on protecting big banks and credit companies from getting sued as easily.
You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals? Check! More nuclear weapons make for more coals. And we need coal because it is making a comeback, right?
Look who bought the myth By jingo, buy America? Check! That is unless you are Trump and manufacture your products overseas.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Damn right –  Check!

The link between Trump and McCarthy is actually quite strong. Marc Fisher’s piece in the Washington Post last August 11th highlights some of the similarities and lack of decency on all fronts (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/trumps-approach-to-the-press-mirrors-another-politicians-joe-mccarthy/2017/08/11/80186b0e-7c6f-11e7-a669-b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.f9bda2ee03f4).

Just ask the press.

Maybe 2017’s “word of the year” should be “impeach.”

 

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