But here I am, armed with a cup of coffee to give it a try.
First, an introduction. My name is Ken Ackerman (that’s me looking back at you from the snapshot), I live just outside Washington, D.C. and you can learn almost anything else about me on my websight (also a new item of the past few days) at www.kennethackerman.com. Why all these new things suddenly in my life at this moment? The answer is largely self-serving. Among other things, I write books, non-fiction histories, complex epics about forgetten times in America like the Gilded Age or World War I, and I happen to have a new one coming out in May. It’s called YOUNG J. EDGAR: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties, and (to be very mercinary about it) here’s a link to the Amazon.com page where you can pre-order up a copy if you’d like http://http://www.amazon.com/Young-J-Edgar-Assault-Liberties/dp/0786717750/ref=sr_1_4/105-7924771-2805203?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174065283&sr=1-4.
The book tells the story of the notorious 1919-1920 Palmer raids, a civil liberties travesty in which some 10,000 Americans, mostly recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, were rounded up by the Justice Department, crammed into overcrowded makeshift prisons for weeks or months, cut off from lawyers and families, often roughed up and rushed through sham hearings, and then almost every one of them released with no charges ever brought. The reason — much like today — was a war on terror. The Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, like most other Americans at the time, feared that the country stood on the brink of a commmunist-led uprising, sparked by a wave of anarchist bombings in April and May 1919. One bomb in particular on June 2, 1919, exploded in Palmer’s own home near Dupont Ciircle in Washington, D.C., almost killing Palmer, his wife, and his daughter who were in their bedrooms.
To lead the crackdown, Palmer choose the brightest young man in his office, a 24 year-old upstart named J. Edgar Hoover who would later rise to fame as director of the FBI for five decades. For Hoover, leading the Palmer raids was a coming-of-age adventure that shaped his life. I tell the story as much as possible through his eyes, but I also feature the handful of admirable people who had the backbone to oppose Hoover and Palmer at the height of the crisis, including lawyers like Clarence Darrow (of Scopes monkey trial fame) and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and radicals like Emma Goldman.
How do the Palmer raids of 1919 compare with George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” today? Which was worse, then or now? That’s one of the things I’ll talk about on this Blog, and I hope you’ll chime in as well. I’ll give you a hint: There’s no simple answer. Real life doesn’t work that way.
So that’s who I am and that’s what I’m doing. When you have a chance, please come by and have a cup of coffee with me and tell me what you think. I’ll do the same.