I promised that I would eventually write a grand post about Roger Morris’ discussion of the Alger Hiss case in his book, Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician. I’ll be doing that tomorrow. As I’ve said before, one reason that I decided to add Morris’ book to my reading list was so I could see how he would present the Hiss case, since I have read in at least one review that Morris defends Hiss’ innocence of being a Communist spy (which is probably an overstatement, but Morris does raise doubts about the case against Hiss being air-tight). Let me say this: After reading Morris’ discussion of the Hiss case, I am not disappointed, for I found Morris’ discussion to be well worth the read. My post tomorrow will not cover every angle of Morris’ discussion of the Hiss case, but I do hope to hit some of the important highlights.
What I’ll talk about in today’s post is something that Morris says on page 452. There, Morris narrates Whittaker Chambers’ reaction to Harry Truman’s 1948 Presidential win. Whittaker Chambers was the ex-Communist who was accusing Alger Hiss of having engaged in espionage for the Soviet Union.
“Out in Westminster, Whittaker Chambers had listened to the first returns put the Democrats ahead, told his wife tersely, ‘I think President Truman has won,’ and then gone to bed and ‘slept soundly.’ But he awoke to the old fearful air of persecution. ‘I took it for granted that the election results automatically meant that some way would be found to punish me for having tried to expose Alger Hiss,’ he wrote of the morning after, adding about his friends on the HUAC staff or at Time, ‘Scarcely anybody I knew supposed anything else.'”
The reason that this passage stood out to me was that it reminds me of how my own emotions can be. One minute, I can be sanguine about something, or at least have a “who cares?” attitude. Later on, however, that very “something” can give me great perplexity. Both emotions are probably necessary, on some level. If I’m always going through life feeling sanguine or indifferent, then I wouldn’t plan strategies to get around certain crises, and so some worry is probably a good thing. On the other hand, life would be pretty dismal if I am always worrying and taking things seriously, so it is nice to be in a fairly good (or even a flat) mood, every once in a while.