Yesterday, in response to a flash fiction prompt at Microcosms 10 in honour of the National Women’s History Project (an American effort I am sure many other countries could easily embrace,) I did a bit of research on Margaret Chase Smith. I was vaguely aware of Senator Chase Smith. She had taken a run at the Republican Presidential nomination in 1964, losing, of course, to Barry Goldwater.
The little flash fiction piece I submitted basically addressed her failed effort to vote against the successful decision to make HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, a standing, and therefore, permanent committee of the House of Representatives.
While there are some aspects of Senator Smith that cause me concern (she apparently encouraged JFK to nuke Russia) there is much to admire in her career.
Most impressive was her “Declaration of Conscience” speech delivered on June 1, 1950.
Here is an excerpt that I was particularly taken with.
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
Even with the full speech’s slights towards the Democratic Government of the day, it has, I believe, a message for America and the rest of the world.
But you be the judge.
To conclude this little missive and as we approach March 8th and International Women’s Day, a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 6 out of 10 American Women identified as “Feminists” as did 1 in 3 men.
Room to grow, I figure.