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a fair hearing

© ERIC FERGUSON
5348 48th Av. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
phone: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.net



CHARACTERS:
Sen.Joseph McCarthy
Senator 1
Man
Sergeant-at-arms
Paul Johnson, labor organizer
Senator 2
Mr. Ferret



( The Senate Government Operations Committee. Senator Joseph McCarthy, Chairman. Senators, aides, lawyers, etc. busy talking, quickly going through papers, etc. McCarthy is pounding his gavel to bring the committee to order. As he pounds everyone becomes quiet and settles down. McCarthy keeps pounding, oblivious to their silence. After a while he realizes everyone is quiet, slowly stops, looks around, and nearly jumps out of his seat, causing the other senators to get out of his way.)

MCCARTHY

The committee will please come to order.

SENATOR 1

It is in order.

MCCARTHY

I know that! (He spots a man trying to leave.) Hey you! Where do you think you're going? Bring him back here. (Sergeant-at-arms brings the man to the witness table.) Thought you were going to slip away, did you? We'll see about that.

MAN

No Senator, you don't understand...

MCCARTHY

Just answer the questions.

MAN

But Senator...

MCCARTHY

Quiet! Now, when did you join the Communist conspiracy?

MAN

I didn't.

MCCARTHY

How long have you had these Communist sympathies?

MAN

I don't have any...

MCCARTHY

Who was in this with you?

MAN

That's not...

MCCARTHY

I advise you to be more cooperative.

MAN

But Senator, I'm not...

MCCARTHY

Will you or won't you identify your co-conspirators?

MAN

Listen, Senator...

MCCARTHY

Are you here to testify or aren't you?

MAN

No...

MCCARTHY

No! No! Then can I ask what you're doing here?

MAN

Refilling your water Senator.

MCCARTHY

What?

MAN

I work for you Senator. You just told me to get you some water. (McCarthy seems confused. The man holds up a pitcher.) Water.

MCCARTHY

Water. Right. Wait a minute. I don't see water here on the agenda.

SENATOR 1

Right there Mr. Chairman.

MCCARTHY

Right where?

SENATOR 1

Right there, where you spilled it earlier. See, it left that mark across the one corner...

MCCARTHY

That's not what I meant. It would appear I had someone on my own staff who wanted to lure me into spilling Communist water on today's agenda, thereby subverting our democratic way of life.

MAN

No Senator...

MCCARTHY

You don't work for me anymore, and you'll never pour water in this town again! Get out!

MAN

(As he's being dragged out.) No, please Senator, it was an accident, I've got a family, I'll be ruined...

(There's another hubbub in the hearing room. McCarthy gavels for order. He again continues pounding after everyone is quiet, slowly stops, looks around, and jumps. Senators again get out of his way.)

MCCARTHY

Call the next witness.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS

Call Paul Johnson.

MCCARTHY

Thank you for coming here today Mr. Johnson. (As he finishes saying the name he breaks out into maniacal laughter.) Sorry, just thinking of a joke I heard earlier today. I hope I haven't made you nervous.

JOHNSON

No Senator, not at all, at least not more than the subpoena, the FBI interrogation, the threatening phone calls, the refusal of friends, associates, and coworkers to speak to me, the end of my career, and the badgering by committee lawyers to get me to denounce other people.

MCCARTHY

Good, I'm glad you're at ease. Let's begin the questioning.

JOHNSON

What about my prepared statement?

MCCARTHY

What about it?

JOHNSON

I was promised I would get to read my statement.

MCCARTHY

Your statement will be entered in the record.

JOHNSON

Nobody will ever see it there Senator!

MCCARTHY

Yeah, so what's your point? Proceed Senator.

SENATOR 2

Now Mr.Johnson, you've always been a loyal American, haven't you?

JOHNSON

Yes.

SENATOR 2

You have a well deserved reputation as a pillar of your community, right?

JOHNSON

Yes I do.

SENATOR 2

All investigations have revealed no substantiation to the charges against you, correct?

JOHNSON

That's correct.

MCCARTHY

I believe the senator's time has expired.

SENATOR 2

That can't be, I just...

MCCARTHY

Do you like your position on this committee?

SENATOR 2

(thinks) I yield back the balance of my time.

MCCARTHY

Thank you Senator. Now the next set of questions comes from...(sees Senator 1 is missing) where is our missing senator?

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS

He said he was going to the Senate Chamber for a vote.

MCCARTHY

Why can't he learn to piss before the hearing starts? All right, Mr.Johnson, what involvement have you had with the Communist conspiracy?

JOHNSON

None.

MCCARTHY

We know that you have spoken to known Communists.

JOHNSON

What, did I give one the time when he asked for it?

MCCARTHY

You are known to have been a union organizer.

JOHNSON

I have been a union official, so what?

MCCARTHY

Your union was infiltrated and run by Communists. Was this with or without your knowledge?

JOHNSON

I guess without, because I didn't go asking anyone's political affiliations.

MCCARTHY

There's a former associate of yours who knows otherwise. I think you will recognize him.

JOHNSON

Oh goody, we're going to play "This is Your Life".

MCCARTHY

Sergeant-at-Arms, bring in Mr. Ferret.

JOHNSON

Mr. Ferret?

MCCARTHY

I think you'll know him. (Ferret enters) Mr. Ferret, is there anyone in this room you can identify as a Communist?

FERRET

(Senator 1 reenters, Ferret points at Senator 1) That's him! I would recognize that red weasel anywhere. He never missed a party meeting and he was always talking about how...

MCCARTHY

Mr. Ferret that's a member of the committee.

FERRET

(Pointing at Sergeant-at-Arms) Forgive me, I meant to say it's him. Yes, I would recognize that red weasel anywhere. He never missed a party meeting and he was always talking about how...

MCCARTHY

Would the witness approach the chair. (Ferret goes over to McCarthy. McCarthy motions to him to lean closer. When he does McCarthy whacks Ferret with the gavel and points at Johnson). That one.

FERRET

Oh yes, that's him. I would recognize that red weasel anywhere. He never missed a party meeting and he was always talking about how...(Turns to McCarthy waiting for an interruption. When it doesn't come he continues.) ...the capitalist system promotes inequality and about racism and the right to organize for collective bargaining.

MCCARTHY

And you know him to be a Communist?

FERRET

There were Communists present at meetings he attended, and he never denounced them!

JOHNSON

I didn't care what anyone's politics were.

FERRET

Why should you when you're all Communists.

MCCARTHY

I take it you do remember Mr. Ferret.

JOHNSON

Yes, I remember him. I never trusted him though. I somehow guessed he was an agent provocateur.

SENATOR 1

Don't go throwing your Russian words around here.

JOHNSON

I mean I suspected he was an informer.

MCCARTHY

Why?

JOHNSON

Well, one day he was kind of out of sorts and mumbling something about a subpoena. After that he started asking people about their political beliefs, what we thought about you...

MCCARTHY

Did they tell him?

JOHNSON

Yes. I thought some of the fellows didn't even know those words. Then he started asking if we wanted to borrow a copy of the Communist Manifesto, if we wanted to escape to Russia, if we wanted to help overthrow the government next weekend, things like that. Then he stopped being subtle.

FERRET

We patriots know where you scum live.

JOHNSON

Don't threaten me...(Hubbub in the hearing room. McCarthy pounds the gavel. Things quiet down. McCarthy realizes this and slowly stops pounding. He looks around. The other senators are ready to get out of his way again.)

MCCARTHY

(to senators) What?

SENATORS

Nothing, nothing.

MCCARTHY

Mr. Johnson, are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party?

JOHNSON

No.

FERRET

Liar liar pants on fire!

JOHNSON

Yes, I am a liberal, so what, you don't have to be a Communist to want to see some things changed and you don't have to be conservative to love your country.

MCCARTHY

Mr. Ferret, you are a loyal American, are you not?

FERRET

Yes sir.

MCCARTHY

And you are prepared to give us a list of Communists among the union membership?

FERRET

I have it right here sir.

MCCARTHY

May I say sir that you are a fine example of loyalty and patriotism.

JOHNSON

At least in this day and age.

MCCARTHY

Now, we've never met before, have we?

FERRET

No sir. Oh, did you find that pair of gloves I left in your office last week?

MCCARTHY

Thank you Mr. Ferret, that will be all. Mr. Johnson, have you anything to say before I pronounce sentence?

JOHNSON

Sentence?!

MCCARTHY

(Senator 2 whispers in his ear.) Oh yeah, that's right. I mean before I adjourn this hearing.

SENATOR 1

Like, do you have a list of names to give us.

JOHNSON

No!

SENATOR 1

Just asking.

JOHNSON

Listen, I can tell I'm a ruined man so I'm going to speak freely. What you are doing here is reprehensible. You are attacking our most fundamental freedoms by denying people the right to freely associate, by forcing people to become informers. You are putting a black mark upon this nation and this institution, and you are going to go down as one of history's greatest villains. You are trying to establish an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, and may I say you are doing a crackerjack job of it.

MCCARTHY

Good God you're right.

JOHNSON

What?

MCCARTHY

You're right, you're absolutely right. I see it all now. I'm ruining careers, I'm breaking up friendships and families. I'm turning people into spies against each other. I'm dragging people here and making them crawl. I'm attacking innocent people with lies and innuendo and anonymous allegations. God, dear God in heaven forgive me, what have I done, what have I done? I've destroyed lives and for what? For my country? For freedom? No, it's all just to make me powerful, to make me feared, for my own personal glory, just so I get to watch people grovel before me and...oh yeah. I knew I had a reason for doing this. Actually that all sounds pretty good. I would be nuts to give up a good scam like this. Whew, glad I caught myself there. Well gentlemen, I would love to continue this all day, but we have that vote coming up on National Cuddly Animals Week, and I'm a co-sponsor so I ought to be there. Hearing adjourned.

(End of Play)

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