Smoking, socialism, and smokin’ socialism
David Bolling notes, in his Aug. 31 editorial (“An end to smoking romance”), that the further ban of smoking might be called “socialism” by some Tea Partyers. June England accuses Obama of being a socialist, but anyone who is a socialist will tell you in no uncertain terms that Obama is not one of them.
On the other hand, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will proudly tell you that he is a socialist, a democratic socialist. There is a clear distinction between democratic socialism and Soviet-style authoritarian socialism. Some people persist in confusing the two in order to avoid having to think about socialism at all.
The fear of socialism is perplexing, especially given that a 2010 Gallup poll found that 36 percent of Americans had a favorable view of socialism.
That is more than one-third of the population! This favorable view managed to emerge in spite of (or, maybe because of) all the fear-mongering in the mainstream media about socialism.
Perhaps, it would be useful for people to learn about the history of socialism in America, because often the people who fear it the most know the least about its role in our history. Socialists worked for rights that we have taken for granted until recently.
That includes the formation of labor unions, the enactment of child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, paid vacations, Medicare, Social Security, pensions, a minimum wage, food and workplace safety, and much more.
Maybe the most ironic factoid is that the “Pledge of Allegiance,” a poem that Americans of all political stripes recite with pride, was penned by a socialist, Francis Bellamy.
As a Baptist minister, Bellamy described himself as a Christian Socialist because he believed that Jesus was preaching the ethics of socialism.
Another interesting factoid: the first elected Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, received a congratulatory letter from Karl Marx because he viewed Lincoln’s election as putting an end to slavery.
If we live in a democracy, there must be room for many differing points of view. Demonizing those who have different values, politics, or beliefs from our own is anti-democratic to the core. That is the un-American behavior that I fear with the rise of organizations like the Tea Party, hate-talk radio shock jocks, and the vitriol filling the I-T editor’s email box every day. There is a lot more to fear from people who hate than from socialists who wish to democratically level the economic playing field. And, at least 36 percent of Americans – a critical mass – would agree.
• • •
Georgia Kelly is a Sonoma resident and the founder/executive director of the Praxis Peace Institute.