How do we balance individual freedoms and collective security
“Cold War hysteria” is often how the political climate of the 1950s was described. People saw Communists everywhere, and they gave an incredible amount of power to Communist hunters – two of which would later become president.
I think the big question way to frame this is as the discussion title puts it: How do we balance individual freedoms and collective security? But that is the kind of question that’s really difficult to answer, so a way to help us focus and discuss in a more concrete way is by thinking about the tests of loyalty and the fears of disloyalty and subversion that haunted Americans in the 1950s. What do you think? Consider the following questions as you think about the events of the Red Scare.
•When we look back at the 1950s, who was perceived as “questionably loyal” or as potential threats to the country?
•Who had the power to determine loyalty or disloyalty? Who decided if someone kept their job or was blacklisted?
•When do you think that loyalty tests might be legitimate?
Do you think there were some moments that the anti-Communist fear might have been justified in the past? Was there a real danger from Communist sympathizers during the Cold War? Include examples and explain.
Can you think of times that loyalty tests are okay in the present? Is it okay to require public school teachers to sign oaths of loyalty to the state, for example? Can you think of times or examples that you think are appropriate moments to demand loyalty?
Where do we see contemporary parallels today? Who are the targets of national security, of the same groups of people as in the 1950s? How have things changed, and how have they stayed the same?
Discuss a story of a particular incident or person from the textbook reading.
Book (Give me Liberty) By Eric Foner volume 2 5th editi
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