Monday, August 31, 2009

Socialist cops and park rangers

From the News-Gazette opinion page on Sunday:

Name calling has no legitimate place in public debate. Dismissing people as socialists instead of analyzing the ideas they put forward is a cheap and easy way to avoid meaningful engagement in public discussion of the important issues that face Americans today. All too often, such labeling is the primary response entered in public forums by people who have little understanding of what they are talking about and less interest in learning.

Socialism is typically defined as a theory of social organization in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned and regulated by the community as a whole. This definition applies to many of the programs that Americans have long accepted as legitimate features of their lives, such as the public school system, the military, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, a host of state and federal retirement systems and all of the state and national parks.

If we accept the definition of a socialist as a person who practices socialism, then anyone who has been a public school teacher, a member of the armed forces, a state or federal law enforcement officer, a postal worker or a recipient of benefits from the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, or a state or federal retirement system, or who has visited a state or national park is a socialist.


Also, today's Krugman column is especially good, remembering how reasonable even Richard Nixon was compared to today's political climate:

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.


I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.


Fingtree said...

Being a part of a so called; "civilized society", I would dub anyone that is born into it a socialist. If I could have only avoided being born a sinner, being just a socialist wouldn't be all that bad. The connotations applied to being born a sinner from today's Darby's Christians, doesn't have that odious negative tone that being called a socialist does from the same Darby Christian types or Christian right folks.

brownie said...

Name calling certainly does have a place in public debate. It's called freedom of speech, a much more gaurenteed right than abortion or health care (sic to the idea). Whether you're calling someone a crazy right wing neocon or they're callin you a liberal socialist tree-hugger, it's protected and legitimate.

This kind of comment ("name calling has no legitimate place in pbulic debate") sounds good at first, adult and mature, perhaps even sensible, but actually it is as Un-American as it gets.


Dan S said...

I guess it depends on what you mean by "legitimate." If you mean "legal" then yes, it's definitely allowed. I interpret "legitimate" in this case as "decent," "civilized," "proper," "appropriate."

On the other hand, I just called a large minority of Americans crazy and dumb a few weeks back, so I guess I can't complain.

Mostly, I'm excited that I get to complain about socialist cops and firefighters the next time I have a health care argument.

brownie said...

Larry Flynt calling Jerry Falwell an (unprintable) was neither decent nor appropriate. But the Supreme Court felt it was legitimate, valuable and protected.

I don't think that squelching freedom of speech (even if that freedom allows narrow-minded people to appear, well, narrow-minded) is ever a good thing, especially if we just happen to disagree with it on purely POLITCAL grounds.

If we allow others to decide for us (as opposed to the Constitution doing it) what is "legitimate" freedom of speech, then we're endangering the right itself.

"I set my mind to know all wisdom and knowledge, but this too is vanity and striving after wind."

Anonymous said...

Other protected words include nigger, bitch, queer, and many others. In the minds of some of the people I've grown up with, killing a person is bad, but if they fall under any of the three labels I mentioned, it becomes ok. These labels take away the ability to view the person as another human being. Now, they are "the enemy" that has to be stopped at any cost. In the context that I've heard some use the word socialist, it really suggests to me that they wouldn't have a problem with a socialist going away permanently.

The entire thing that endangers our freedom of speech are the idiots that can't get past the label and want to do violence based on nothing more than a label. And yes, I have now just used a label to describe those people....idiots, but unlike those I'm describing, I don't have a deep rooted desire to kill idiots, and I don't think that killing them will solve everything.

In the US, there is no such thing as the freedom to be who you are, because someone can kill you for it. Yes, the killer may go to jail, but that is AFTER THE FACT. Something needs to change about how we are socialized so that a label will never mean that it's ok to kill that person. Until then, Americans often don't deserve the freedom of speech they have.

Has anyone seen the video about a preacher that publicly announced that he wants Obama dead? Since when did that ever become acceptable behavior? I don't think it's isolated to just one nutcase either. There's really a lot more at stake here than just a few petty insults.

Fingtree said...

Larry Flynt exposed a whole lot of hypocrisy, I praise him for that.
The name callers can dish it out, but they can't take it. I don't like the way today's conservative movement uses those bumper sticker like name calling lines. They use them as a tool for propaganda and is very effective with a large ratio of the population. "You can't fool all of the people all of the time", the ones they can't fool, they resort to labeling them and the name calling that goes with it. It's a very lazy and predictably deplorable way to deflect responsibility.

Samuel said...

I think there is a huge difference between things that need to be protected, and things that are ethical, and the failure to tell the difference between the two is a serious moral failing in our country. Its legal to insult people, to lie about the congressional health care plan, to spend your entire life in the pursuit of wealth, to indiscriminately emit carbon, to insult neighbors and strangers, to join the KKK. I firmly support the LEGAL right to do all of these things-they should be protected by law. However, they are sinful behavior, and ethical people make different choices.

brownie said...

I guess what really bugs me is the pot calling the kettle black. Someone pointing and saying "You freaks and idiots can't call me names!" or "You don't have the right to speak your mind because I don't agree with it, but don't EVER even think of taking away my right to protest war!"

By the way, we're still in two wars...where have all the left-wing war protesters gone? I'll tell you. They weren't protesting war in the first place. They were just trying to change the regime. And they did that rather neatly, thank you. If they were really against war, they'd be screaming just as loudly at Obama as they did at Bush and his comic band of neo-con killers. It's the same thing I saw in the nineties. Lefties going ape about the first Gulf war, Clinton gets elected, and...nothing. He maintained the status quo. Looks like we're on the same track again. Maybe the military-industrial complex really does run this county, just like that oft-chided, but truly prophetic republican Dwight D Eisenhower warned us it would.

Do I have anything else to bitch about. Yes. But I'll save it for later.

Peace On Earth

Robert Sievers said...

I didn't hear "boo" from anyone here about the troop surge in Afghanistan. And brownie, you are so right about the regime change. You can't ask one Obama supporter why the like him without the name "Bush" being mentioned. This was never about Obama at all. It was just about Bush.

Dan S said...

There are a lot of thing I'm unhappy about with Obama. He's continued a lot of Bush policies, he's increased our Afganistan involvement, he's staying in Iraq too long, he's tepid about gay rights, and he's bungled health care reform.

But remember that we are complaining about Obama not being able to pull us out of a giant, festering hole that Bush enthusiastically dug. While Obama has done a lot of things I disagree with, there's not a better choice to be had in our political environment.

PG said...

Only one point to be made here: Lefties are screaming loudly against the surge in Afghanistan and the ongoing war in Iraq. You just haven't been listening, Robert Two.

Read Common Dreams or Truthout -- which compile articles from the left. Or even read mainstream columnists in the Times.

You're wrong. We are indeed against the wars. And the torture. And the lies. That the Bush regime instigated and perpetrated.

And, in keeping with the theme of this posting, you are an ahole, too.

brownie said...

You are something.

PG said...

Thank you. I think "a piece of work" is the technical term.

I'm actually a gentle person. Ask anyone.

I think I turned into Bad Cop after hearing pacifist theologian Stanley Hauerwas speak here a couple of years ago. (His own Christian perspective was changed radically by Mennonite John Howard Yoder's message about pacifism and 'the politics of Jesus.')

Hauerwas was on WILL radio taking calls when someone called in to dispute his position on war, giving Old Testament examples of God waging war. Hauerwas completely and succinctly turned the man's argument upside down. The caller said, "Well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree," and Hauerwas snapped back, "No, we won't. You're wrong." The caller and the moderator were left speechless.

There is very little gained in argument. Even the Tao Te Ching calls it a waste of time.

PG said...

Just for the record, here were just two articles randomly chosen from today's feed from the left news service, Common Dreams:



You were wrong. The wars still have strong and vocal opposition.

And remember, Obama didn't instigate these things, this collapse, these wars. Your guy did.

Samuel said...

One of the things as a Mennonite I've tried to be really intentional about is continuing to critique Obama for his escalation of Afghanistan and the continued war in Iraq-but something that happens in our news environment (on both sides) is that the fight is portrayed as the president vs. the opposition-thus, Obama is compared with Republican opponents on health care, even though there are many liberals who would rather a national insurance system and are frustrated with Obama's moderation, and Bush was compared with the most vocal of anti-war opponents, who are silenced because they are not the 'primary opponents.'

Also, just to note there was a long and contentious primary battle between Obama and Clinton. More or less every Democrat in the country made a decision either for or against Obama that had nothing to do with Bush. Personally, I like Obama because he believes in expanding health care access and global warming.

Robert Sievers said...

Well, I guess Obama can't be all bad if he is for expanding global warming.

brownie said...

"Obama didn't instigate these things, this collapse, these wars. Your guy did"

My guy? Are you refering to that song by the sixties Motown girl-group? I don't have a guy. I voted for Obama. But that doesn't make him my guy. I just thought, a bit like Dan, that the other guys were the lesser gooder, or morely badder, however you like to put it to it, you know?

PG said...

Brownie, you're just a delicious cipher.

I'm still trying to figure out Iraq and why anyone in their right mind would have supported the invasion (or continues to defend it). Since the invasion, the Christian minority population in Iraq has suffered tremendously, churches destroyed, Christians displaced or killed. Under Saddam's secular government, such oppression did not exist. Similarly, the situation for gay people is much worse. These days, Muslim militants sever the heads of gay people and put them on posts.

Halliburton and Blackwater made great profits in the war, but if the U.S. had spent the billions that have been spent waging this war on humanitarian aid and benevolent works, the power of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people might have made a better world than any war effort could ever hope to accomplish. True, there may have been casualties and deaths in such humanitarian sacrifice, but we have had those regardless.

I like what author Rebecca Solnit writes in her new book about human reaction to disasters, "A Paradise Built in Hell": "Utopia is in trouble these days. Many no longer believe that a better world, as opposed to a better life, is possible, and the rhetoric of private well-being trumps public good, at least in the English speaking world. And yet the yearning remains -- all the riches piled up, the security gates and stock options, are only defenses against a world of insecurity and animosity, piecemeal solutions to a pervasive problem."

Fingtree said...

Brownie; There still are protesters against the wars. There is one this Saturday in Fort Wayne. The people that our band: "Oral Minority" worked with at the Fort Wayne court house have had protests continuously through the years and continue to do so.
These same people are letting the Obama administration know that they are just as responsible to continue the wars that the Bush Administration generated. To make the assumption that protesting the wars wa only about regime change is dead wrong.

Samuel said...

good catch-unclear antecedent. A better phrasing would be
"I like Obama because he believes in global warming and expanding health care coverage."

brownie said...

May I now mambo dog face to the banana patch?

brownie said...

Delicious Cipher...I like that.

Fingtree said...

Obama is warming the global hearts of many and expanding the truth that Jesus was half black like himself.