Sunday, January 23, 2005

'Lavender Scare' Update

In my 2004 end-of-the-year letter, I mentioned how I read and enjoyed the book, The Lavender Scare : The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, by David K. Johnson.

David Johnson, who went to Georgetown University at the same time as I did, found the reference and sent me a nice note. He informed me that the book has received an award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. The book was one of several singled out by the Center as being "outstanding" in the cause of advancing human rights.

Here's how the judges described The Lavender Scare:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal agencies drew thousands of young men and women to clerical and administrative jobs in Washington. That urban environment fostered a gay and lesbian subculture. Government employees became vulnerable as a moral panic occurred and was used as a political wedge. Johnson demonstrates how the Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. Communists were perceived by some to be perverting American youth in order to weaken the country for a communist takeover. The rationale was not that homosexuals were communists, but that they could be manipulated by communists. The book contributes significantly to public knowledge of McCarthyism, the 1950s, and gay and lesbian history.

After I've had a chance to re-read the book, I plan to write a full-length review -- but one that offers, rather than the conventional liberal view of the Myers Center, a more libertarian perspective, pointing out how the unbridled power of the federal government was applied to destroy the jobs and lives of thousands of loyal, peaceable citizens who had done nothing to justify their ill-treatment at the hands of the state.

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