Amusingly enough, I attended BBQs on July 3rd and 5th, but not on the 4th. My “patriotic” July 4th started with me waking up on Ray’s couch after a late night of drinking and game design talk. Bruce swung by and picked us up and we went to the International District for dim sum. Bruce figured the restaurants there would be open on the 4th and indeed they were. We went to our local fave for dim sum, a place called Sun Ya that my friend and former bandmate Reuben introduced us to years ago. They do it old school style, with the carts moving around the room. They don’t have the sweet egg yolk buns I like at Sun Ya (boo) but their squid and assorted dumplings are excellent.
Later in the day I watched Heir to an Execution, which is documentary by the granddaughter of the Rosenbergs about how their deaths impacted her family. It was quite well done and good viewing for July 4th I think. The state murdered Ethel Rosenberg and left her two children parentless. And yes I know murder is a strong word but that is the case here. They knew she was no spy but tried to use her arrest to get her husband to crack. When they were both defiant, the government executed Ethel along with Julius. While it does now seem clear that Julius was spying for the Soviet Union, interestingly he was not guilty for the crime that he was executed for (passing on atomic secrets). And really it was the fact that they supposedly gave the Soviets the bomb that made people scream for the Rosenberg’s blood.
Ivy, the filmmaker, started the film on some kind of quixotic quest for truth. She interviews a lot of old lefties (one former union activist was 103 years old), and various members of her family (some of whom she had never met) in an attempt to get to the heart of her grandparents. Her father comes across as tremendously spirited and likeable. Pretty even keeled too, considering that he and his brother not only had to live through their parents’ execution but also spend time in homes for orphans.
For decades the family firmly believed in the innocence of Julius. Declassified decrypts seem to indicate that Julius was an agent for the Soviets. It was interesting to watch the family members try to come to terms with this revelation. It does make you wonder though. If the government had the goods on Julius, why didn’t they prosecute him for something he did do instead of framing him for something he didn’t do?
Now maybe it doesn’t matter what happened to two commies fifty years ago. People like to think that we’ve moved beyond miscarriages of justice like Sacco and Vanzetti and the Rosenberg trial. Five years ago I might have even bought it, but watching the current administration do whatever it pleases, with no regard for law or human rights, has made me more cynical than ever. It makes me wonder how the history books will be written. Fifty years from now, will the dawn of the 21st century be remembered as the year the presidency was stolen and a renegade bunch of millionaire cowboys destabilized the entire world or will it be the same sort of whitewashed bullshit we got during Reagan’s death week? If we have to suffer through Bush and his cronies, the very least history can do is properly vilify those liars and scoundrels.