No one was barred from the conversation back when there was a conversation

Three paragraphs from Bill Kauffman’s column in the latest issue of The American Conservative:

The War Party called the Peace Party Nazis in 1941, Communists in 1951, Soviet dupes in 1961, dirty hippies in 1971 … must I go on? In 2011, those who heed George Washington’s counsel to seek “peace and harmony with all” will be called mullah-headed appeasers of Irano-fascism.


Blame war. Blame TV. Blame the nationalization of political discourse, as regional variations and individual peculiarities are washed away by the generic slime of poli-talk shows. Radicals—even naïve Tea Partiers or idealistic left-wing kids—are dehumanized in ways unthinkable when America was a free country. No one was barred from the conversation back when there was a conversation. No dispatch ever read, “Wingnut Henry David Thoreau today issued a manifesto from his compound near Walden Pond…”


The squeezing out even of establishment dissent—especially since 9/11—has left us with an antiwar movement so feeble it makes the Esperanto lobby look like the AARP. Enter the new organization Come Home, America, its name taken from the magnificent 1972 acceptance speech delivered by George McGovern in the last unscripted Democratic convention.

I don’t agree that there was ever a time in the USA when “no one was excluded from the conversation”; when Thoreau published Walden in 1854, after all, chattel slavery existed in 15 states, women’s suffrage in none, and the one thing every US voter could support was war against Native Americans.  That said, Come Home, America and its goal of a left-right coalition against militarism seem to be worth a cheer or two.

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