An Einstein segue ….

May 30, 2007

There were too many noteworthy Einstein quotes I could have written down from Walter Isaacson’s Einstein, which I just finished and recommend. Einstein was not only a quotable character, but a very perceptive one. One of my favorite quotes comes from the late 1940s when it had become clear that an effort to control nuclear weaponry would fail. Einstein was asked what the next war would look like. “I do not know how the Third World War will be fought,” he answered, “but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth — rocks.”

On page 533, towards the end of the book and Einstein’s life, there was a short paragraph that struck me as very pertinent to our current political situation in the United States.

Einstein’s opposition to McCarthyism arose partly out of his fear of fascism. America’s most dangerous internal threat, he felt, came not from communist subversives but from those who used fear of communists to trample civil liberties. “America is incomparably less endangered by its own Communists than by the hysterical hunt for the few Communists that are here,” he told the socialist leader Norman Thomas.

Pardon my jaded view here, but this is the way I read it: “America’s most dangerous internal threat…comes not from (unpatriotic) subversives but from those who use fear of (terrorism) to trample civil liberties.”

Hm.

I once wrote a long paper on three “isms” – communism, socialism, and fascism. I closed the last section with a quote from Huey Long, the infamous senator from Louisiana who set up the closest thing to a fascist dictatorship we’ve seen in this country (so far): “If fascism ever comes to America, it will come under the banner of 100% Americanism” (The quote I used I got from a book I’d read, but since then I’ve found similar versions, so I’m not sure which is exactly right: “If Fascism ever comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag,” and “Fascism in America will arrive on an anti-Fascist platform.”)

Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? Substitute a few currently over-used, zealous and vogue words, and it all sounds very similar to the histrionics of Bush and company.

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