There are rumblings in Congress these days about the Patriot Act and whether it perhaps has gone too far and needs to be scaled back. In this current milieu in which fear-based decision making seems to continue to dominate the American political landscape, there is hardly a more timely movie one could see than "Goodnight and Good Luck".
Filmed in gorgeous and crystal clear black and white and running only an hour and a half, it is a compelling and thought-provoking film-- yes even for insulated and isolated Christians.
The official synopsis of the movie is as follows:
"Directed by George Clooney, this film details the conflict between newscaster Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s, one that had Murrow defying corporate sponsorship as he and his news team reported on the tactics of McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee. McCarthy accused Murrow of being a communist and a huge public feud erupted. The McCarthy/Murrow feud is considered a huge leap forward for objective journalism."
For those of us who lived during the 50s, the fear of the atomic bomb, and more particularly of communism and its access to the bomb was rampant. McCarthy, the junior senator from Wisconsin, sent a chill throughout the nation with his repeated, and often undocumented or unverified accusations that this person or that person was 'UnAmerican' or even a 'Communist'. Many lives and careers were ruined, and many were slandered beyond recovery. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press were seen as lesser goods that must be compromised for the sake of 'security'.
Americans who know the history of the 50s will realize that a good deal of the rhetoric we have heard from Washington in the past six years bears a startling resemblance to many of the things that McCarthy said or insinuated, only now the Boogie Men are terrorists, Al Quaeda, because of whom we are now called upon to accept certain compromises in regard to wire-taps, and give up a bit of our privacy and freedom in the process.
But if we do that, has not Al Quaeda already won much of the battle? If we give way to compromising our fundamental Constitutional rights, have we not implicitly admitted that we are very afraid of this small band of hateful persons and we are prepared to over-react to make ourselves feel more secure, spending billions in the process? The goal of terror is of course chiefly to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy, and hope they will colossally over-react. I will leave to the judgment of more astute and expert examiners of our history to decide whether we have been doing so.
But clearly "Goodnight and Good Luck" shows us directly what happens when paranoia, and innuendo without fact check, and the like does to a democracy if allowed to run rampant. In any case, David Straithairn as Edward R. Murrow has been nominated and fully deserves the best Oscar for actor of the year. The performance is masterful, and it is set in a lively, fast paced tale which chronicles the period from fall of 1953 to the demise of both McCarthy and Murrow's show in 1958.
It was Santayana who said "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it". It would appear that our amnesia at this point in history is rather clear. But perhaps we are just having a senior moment-- after all the 50s are not that long ago. Perhaps its just a short term memory loss thing. Perhaps this movie can serve as a small wake-up call. I pray it will be so.