The current health care debate has highlighted glaring inadequacies in the American educational system. Those of us who attended elementary through high school during the Cold War period were exposed to a continuous mantra on the evils of our mortal adversaries. The wicked Soviets were our ideological opposites in every respect. Where the United States spread democracy throughout the world, the USSR was a totalitarian regime that subjugated its subjects in oppression. Americans enjoyed the joys of capitalism that ensured a chicken in every pot and a Ford in every garage, not to mention being able to own one’s own home. The communist Russians lived in government-run tenements and lived on rations leading desperate lives of depravity.
The relentless drumming of our education coupled with brilliant big screen sagas between the forces of good (us) and evil (them) created a national sentiment in the United States that equates everything good with democracy and capitalism and everything evil with totalitarianism and communism and its dirty cousin socialism.
Unfortunately, the education that actually explained the details of the terminology was not as forthcoming as the us against them programming we received. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 ushering in the end of the Cold War. Russia is now an ally and trading partner (if not a close one), and all is forgiven.
While we are on the subject, our World War II education introduced us to another currently well used term, “fascism.” As with the intricacies of the economic models of capitalism, socialism and communism and the political models of democracy and totalitarianism, the details of fascism were sparse at best and often confusing. Hitler was a monster, and he was a fascist. That was all we needed to know. The forces of good overcame the forces of fascist evil and all was well with the world once again.
As we fast forward to our current political strife, we find that without well defined enemies, Americans choose to find abject evil in their fellow countrymen. Where that evil doesn’t exist, we seek to create it. As we battle over the contentious issue of healthcare (?), our old formidable foes, the socialists and fascists are apparently out in full force again making the world unsafe for democracy. It is a shame that in most cases the people using such strong verbiage have no idea what those words actually mean.
The rhetoric at town hall meetings has become very heated. Passions are inflamed. People are afraid. Is Obama’s healthcare a socialist takeover? Will the red army be marching down the streets of America taking away the individual freedoms Americans have come to enjoy? Is Barack Obama a fascist? If we let him have his way with healthcare, what is to stop him from becoming an absolute dictator like Adolf Hitler? Before we start arming ourselves for the revolution, people should really get some factual information.
First of all, democracy, totalitarianism, dictatorship and fascism are political models that do not necessarily have anything to do with economic models such as socialism and capitalism. The political models are apples and the economic models are oranges. Some of the greatest democracies on earth, like France, England, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, etc. have economies with socialist elements. Citizens of these countries enjoy the same civil liberties we do, freedom of speech, the right to vote, even private property. Conversely, one of the most successful capitalist economies on earth, China, is currently ruled by an authoritarian regime where individuals are persecuted for freedom of speech and are not really given any choice as to who runs their government.
Wiktionary, an online dictionary, defines socialism as “any of various political philosophies that support social and economic equality, collective decision making, and public control of productive capital and natural resources (.http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/socialism).”
Fascism is a difficult word to define because it has taken on various forms throughout history. All fascism, however, contains a common thread of fanatical nationalism and class superiority. Since the image of Adolf Hitler is currently being evoked, the German example of fascism was characterized by a psychotic nationalism that promoted the idea that the Germans (Arians) were a ‘Master Race.” The German fascist model was based on an idea of some people being more superior to others. Social equality was anathema to Hitler’s basic premise. He took his delusions of racial superiority to extreme by brutally exterminating those he felt to be inferior.
Adolph Hitler was anything but a socialist. In fact, he made the Chinese capitalists pale by comparison. In addition to producing munitions to arm the German war effort, prisoners in concentration camps worked on the production lines for over 2000 private corporations including Siemens and even the German branch of the Ford Motor Company. Hitler’s agenda lined the pockets of wealthy capitalists providing them essentially with free labor. Hitler despised any form of socialism because socialism emphasizes economic and social equality among all people (see above), whereas fascism does just the opposite.
To suggest that President Obama is both a fascist and a socialist is a sad testament to the high level of ignorance that pervades American society. The two terms are practically polar opposites and an individual cannot be both. In reality, President Barack Obama is neither. His proposal for a “public option” in health insurance would simply provide a single competitive option in an otherwise thoroughly capitalist health insurance system. If we pass healthcare without a public alternative, our taxpayer dollars will be going into the profit margins of the already rich private healthcare industry rather than to the people who really need help. It is no wonder the insurance companies are fighting so hard to make sure they maintain their monopoly.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the people in the United States who would benefit the most from public healthcare, average working middle class Americans, consistently vote against their own self interest because they are so easily swayed by the emotional propaganda perpetuated by powerful corporations bent on maintaining their vice grip on the multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry.
Even in the face of being confronted with real facts, most if not all of the fear mongers and rabble rousers will continue to misuse the English language to strike fear into the hearts of undereducated Americans. The self-described patriots that appear with firearms at town hall meetings claiming to uphold the Constitution are imposters. Our forefathers envisioned a political process shaped by factual, respectful discourse with hearty debate and civility rather than fear and intimidation. Fear and intimidation are the tools of real fascists. It is the true patriot’s duty to stamp out the scourge of ignorance with truth whenever it appears. Let’s start by learning the meaning of words before we use them.
Discussion on healthcare to be continued...