Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Am I a Socialist?

Yesterday someone called me a "socialist." It is not the first time someone has called me that; the last time was as a result of an email that I'd sent, speaking against Bush's first 700 billion-dollar bailout of banks, back in late 2008. The person who at that time gave me that appellative was a conservative Georgian who couldn't think of anything intelligent to use as rebuttal to my communication, other than the cliche phrase, "you're just a socialist!". As if that were the ultimate insult someone could bestow on someone else. Actually, I've never considered myself a socialist; in fact, when socialist Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile back in 1971, it became quite a scary proposition, because in those days the Soviet Union and its satellites were a power to be reckoned with, and their nefarious influence usually meant chaos and mayhem wherever it was allowed to enter--a typical example of a good idea ("from each according to his ability, to each according to his need") gone bad. Which is precisely what ended up happening in Chile. But perhaps that's the subject of a different essay.

So yesterday, this other person called me a socialist--again! Why? Because I have the audacity of supporting Obama and the principles for which he stands; because I consider myself a true follower of the Catholic religion that teaches us to "turn the other cheek," to "love our neighbor" and to exercise charity wherever needed, and to concern ourselves more with the riches of eternal life instead of those of this temporary existence. I really don't mind being called Socialist, Liberal, Tree-hugger, or whatever; what I object to is the manner in which those appellatives are being used: as insults; as labels to be ashamed of.

But what I regret (fear) most of all, is the trend that I'm seeing unfolding before us. Although I didn't live to experience it, I can well imagine this is what must have been like in the early days of Fascist-Nazism. Extremism taken to the extreme. People becoming so entrenched in their righteous attitudes and beliefs so as not to accept any kind of dissenting opinion, believing themselves to be the sole possessors of Truth, misguided into thinking that God or whatever Powers That Be was/were on their side and everybody else was The Enemy, and as such should be annihilated.

Not too long ago I had the opportunity (or should I say misfortune?) of attending a Southern Baptist church service--not by choice, mind. I was absolutely appalled at the virulence with which these extreme ideas and "ideals" are being touted from the pulpit! The idea that "God loves America" (but not the "others?"), that "we should fight against the infidels who want to poison our minds, kill our children," blah-blah-blah...! That we have a right to accumulate wealth and to "take care of our own," in other words, to hell with everybody else (quite the opposite of the true Christian message that I was taught to follow...). No wonder those who blindly follow a certain ideology, which in the case of religion can become a mind-controlling force of monumental proportions, are out there screaming bloody murder against the present government. Don't they know that they are being manipulated by those who stand to gain the most if this administration fails? Don't they realize they are playing right into the hands of the big corporations, big insurance companies, oil companies, and other special interests that have no other motive in life than to increase profits? Those very interests that have everything to lose by supporting the democratic ideals of our current administration will do everything in their power--which is great--to derail any initiative that means helping the less fortunate, holding out a helping hand to those who can't do it on their own, forfeiting for one second the opportunity to profit by cutting into their bottom line in order to help a better cause; in other words by "doing the loving thing," as Christ asked us to do. And here is where the Christian Right is so out of touch with what should be their driving force: WWJD anybody?