63: Commies & Geniuses
Kathleen Norris on COMMIE HUNTERS: HISTORY LESSONS ON FILM
Movies emerge from specific times and often act as harbingers of the future. Today, when many feel that the principles on which America was founded are under threat it can help to look at films set in a time in our nation’s history when the fear of perceived enemies led to great injustice. In the 1950’s many people who claimed to support “American values” subverted them in their desire to punish members of the American Communist Party, or people with liberal political views.
In the 1930’s as Hitler came to power in Germany many Americans despised his increasingly dictatorial regime, and its harsh laws that began in 1933 to target and ostracize Jews. Many regarded communism as a better option than Nazi fascism. Students concerned with dire poverty during the Great Depression became interested in the Communist Party; my parents were among many who attended gatherings to hear more about what communism had to offer. This was at a time when few Americans knew of the atrocities committed by Stalin’s regime. I’ve always suspected that my parents never joined the Party because of my father’s intolerance for dull meetings, especially ones featuring speeches by humorless ideologues.
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