Do Not Be Complacent

January 31, 2017

 

To the Woman’s Club of Spokane:

 

Do not be complacent or they will come for you. The constitutional crisis that is happening today, at this very moment, affects us all. I fear for our democracy, and common decency, when our leaders feel the constitution can be waived by executive order, using fear as an excuse. If you believe that you are a real American, with inviolable rights, think thrice. Women of the Club, whatever your political party, we have so much to lose if we are not vigilant about preserving our constitutional rights.

 

Were you paying attention in history class? Women of the Club, the 1950’s were not “the good old days”. Whenever I walk into our Club Room, I always look at one of the documents hanging on our historic photo wall; the one with all the merchant signatures on it, the one signed in the upper right hand corner by one Eric A. Johnston.  A native of Spokane, Mr. Johnston rose to be the president of the US Chamber of Commerce.  After WWII he became president of the Motion Picture Association of America, a powerful position. Seems like a good upstanding guy right?  Wrong. In 1947, he instituted the infamous Hollywood Blacklist, you know Joe McCarthyism et al. The test was signing an anti-communist oath, no exceptions. Refusal to sign stopped anyone on the list from employment not only in the motion picture industry but in civil service and public teaching jobs. Dissenters need not apply.

 

My father’s ancestors arrived in New World Virginia over 100 years before the American revolution. They came as indentured servants, as religious dissenters, as entrepreneurial younger sons of England’s ruling class. My family is American to the core, as much as persons of European ancestry can be. I assure you, dissent is part of the American character. My Quaker ancestors helped established the egalitarian practice of charging the same price to all customers; they were the earliest successful abolitionists 100 years before the Civil War; shocking dissenting practices in the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

McCarthyism really happened and it was anti American, unconstitutional and evil.  Before WWII, my father was a high school English teacher at Hollywood High School.  He graduated from UCLA in 1936, Magna Cum Laude, with a master’s degree in English. He was an amazing teacher. He was blacklisted in 1947 because he refused to sign the anti-communist oath.  Quakers do not take oaths.  It is well established in American and English Common Law that dissenters may speak the truth without taking an oath. My father was an intensely Christian man, and a 12th generation American. It did not matter; have no doubt that government set on denying rights to Muslims will come after Christians too if we do not defend our rights vigorously.

 

My father’s life was not a waste. He became an orderly in a mental hospital where he and many others in the same position literally changed the face of mental health care in my lifetime. My father could have signed the oath, most signed the oath not out of allegiance but out of fear. Thank God my father’s conscience made him stand up for the rule of law and the American way. He sacrificed his career and his financial future for all of us; let us not go backward now. The “good ol’ days” is fake news and fake history. If immigrant or “their” rights are taken away, rest assured your rights are not far behind.  Do not be complacent, stand up and be heard.

 

Sincerely, Rosemary Small

President, Woman’s Club of Spokane

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