A Hero of the Decisive Moment–Lillian Hellman

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In a letter dated May 19, 1952, American writer, Lillian Hellman, refused to testify against her associates after being summoned to appear on May 21 before the now infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities.

This Committee, known as HUAC, was convened by Senator Joe McCarthy to root out Communists in the US.  It was an era of fear, nascent nuclear power, and the developing Cold War between the USSR and the West, and many careers and lives were destroyed because of McCarthy and his cohort’s obsessive paranoia about Communism and its followers.

Lillian Hellman, a hero of mine, made a decision of immediate and lasting significance by refusing to dob in her mates.  On this day over half a century ago, the Committee of hate-fuelled little men were advised: “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”  Her defiance saw her blacklisted by Hollywood for many years, but history has emphatically demonstrated who was on the side of justice and honour.

Let’s decide, like Lillian, not to cut our consciences, grasshoppers – but be ready for resistance, mostly from ourselves.

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