One of those questions that is supposed to elicit a profound answer is, What one book influenced you more than any other? Or (worse), What book changed your life? As the daughter of an author, as a life-long lover of books, I felt there must be such a book, there should be such a book, and that maybe there was something lacking in me since, for most of my life, I groped for the answer.
Then in 2007 I picked up Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Sen. Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies by M. Stanton Evans.
Who was M. Stanton Evans? I didn't really know, but suspected I should. Who was Joe McCarthy? I didn't know too much more. Indeed, all I "knew" -- part of the air we breathe -- was that McCarthy was, without peer, the worst man in American history. Always chasing mythical Communists for no particular reason, and ruining everything, including anti-Communism.
But there was McCarthy in the black and white photo that makes up the handsome book jacket, seated on a stone bench not far from the Capitol. He looks clean-cut, nicely dressed, prematurely balding but powerful-looking and with plenty of black hair, his dark brows furrowed as he reads quite intently from a sheaf of papers.
In other words, this arresting picture, circa 1950, of an American senator in his forties, projects an image nothing like the dark and fuzzy quasi-mug shots we are regularly treated to -- or, should I say, have regularly inflicted on us.
Not surprisingly, the contents of Stan's deeply researched and copiously documented book present an even more divergent picture of the man from the one that is regularly taught into us, re-education-camp-style -- as in not being subject to dissent or even question on pain of ... what? Dirty looks? No more cocktail party invites? Lashings from the reprehensible Radosh?
The enduring radioactivity of McCarthy perplexed me increasingly as I came to read and then reread and finally begin to master at least some of the heaps of material that Stan has so dextrously woven into this engrossing book of history. Indeed, there came a point when I was absolutely bursting with the question of how, in light of the solid evidence amassed in Blacklisted by History, the completely and utterly wrong perception of McCarthy persists, just as if the facts were not in front of the readers' noses -- including academics'.
So, I called M. Stanton Evans up to ask him why this was so ....
To be cont'd.