I have long heard of McCarthyism, a series of unfounded accusations of allegedly communist American citizens, involving the manipulations of public opinion and the mobilization of state apparatus such as the House Committee on Un-American Activities. (This definitely sounds like a hedge. It was sheer absurdity and fanaticism, at least for me.)
Unfortunately, this kind of frenzy is so familiar for many South Koreans, for whom ideological warfare is a usual state of affairs, rather than an exception. Yes, it is the 21st century as Justin Trudeau’s witty remark ‘awakened’ us, but it requires one to risk one’s social reputation, and even political freedom, to identify oneself as a communist or socialist in South Korea. (Worse? Calling oneself a feminist on social media still draws a lot of naively centrist, neutrality-bragging anti-feminists, and of course their accusations based on plenty of non sequitur.)
Though McCarthyism as a historical period has been with me for a long while, it has remained a remote tragedy. Strangely, I can imagine what it’s like to be branded as a commie in Korea, but never thought hard about the agonies of those who were called “Soviet sympathizers” and “traitors” in the 50s and 60s in the US. A true history lesson requires historical imagination. In this sense, I am a great example where knowledge failed to meet the imagination. (By the way, I thought about ‘’comfy’ when I first heard the word ‘commie.’ This shows my then limited knowledge about the truncated word or reveals my alignment with the dangerous ideological disease.)
Then I met the movie Trumbo. It is an exquisite portrait of the irrational era, and saddened me as much. It would sadden anybody who has hunger for values such as freedom, friendship, equality, solidarity, artistic truths, all of which lay the foundation for the beauty of human coexistence. I was also surprised by the fact that the film is based on real people and events. It is weird: some stories are surreal until we get to know they are based on facts. But the moment we see their factuality, they become so real. Surreal becomes so real, so to speak. <Searching for Sugar Man> is another illustrative case for me.
Trumbo is a story of an extraordinary persistence, iron-trag-ically driven by the crooked era of intolerance. It is also a story of a talented writer’s survival, but the film teaches us that the survival is not an ingenious individual’s feat, but an artwork of enduring solidarity against the politics of exclusion and domination in the name of security and patriotism.
In this era of bigotry and closure, the movie reminds us of the lessons we need to learn: Justice and art go hand in hand. Let justice reign so that art can speak out! Let art flourish so that justice can be appreciated by all!