Thursday, November 12, 2009


I love this country. Myth thought it might be in many ways my experience is that of the American Dream. My mother and I arrived on these shores in 1977 and while not exactly being huddled masses yearning to be free between the two of us we basically had $600 and the clothes on our backs. 30+ years later we are comfortably lower middle class. There's a roof over our heads and money in our bank accounts. The refrigerator is full and there's a big flat screen TV in the living room. We have cable, we have a car, a motorcycle, central air conditioning and indoor plumbing. This might seem like a very simplistic way to look at life, but basically its my way of saying our lives are good in comparison to the lives of many, many others. So are the lives of most Americans. America is not perfect, but in many ways it is unique among nations and even thought it might be slightly tarnished of late it still is a beacon for democracy and a shining example for the world.
I love this country, but I've never really been capable of loving anything or anyone blindly (which often makes life difficult for those who've had the fortune or misfortune to be loved by me), and perhaps its that simple fact, or perhaps, its just the crankiness that comes with advancing middle age, but of late the number of things to which I can't turn a blind eye to has been reaching epic proportions. All I have to do is listen to the radio, turn on the TV, or read the news and something gets my blood a boil. Here's one example.


I was born in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. When the Soviets invaded in the 1940s my family lost everything. My maternal grandfather was executed for the crime of being a former military officer, a member of the intelligentsia, and the crime of wealth. My grandmother, my mother, aunt and uncle were exiled to the harsh labor camps of Siberia. I am about as rabidly anti-communist as you can get. But if I hear the word socialism mentioned one more time by anyone I am afraid I might break something. If ever there was concept or an idea the meaning of which has lost any real significance its the word "socialism" as used in the American body politic.
Most people's personal politics can be complex. No one is 100% this or that. I can be very conservative on some issues (law and order issues for example) and very liberal on others (gay marriage, decriminalization of illegal substances, etc.). I can be an an extreme economic conservative (government spending) and a borderline socialist (government regulation over markets). For the record (and since we all try to pigeonhole each other anyway) I consider myself to be a liberal. Another word which has lost any significant meaning here. For the most part, all of the above have become synonyms meaning the same thing (might as well add to the list: democrat, stalinism, maoism, marxism, leninism, etc.). They are not. Not by a long shot. I am not going to waste my time or yours by pretending to be a political scientist and try to explain the difference, but just trust me on this, they are all very different things. Here's Webster's definition of liberal:

Main Entry: 2liberal
Function: noun
Date: 1820

: a person who is liberal: as a : one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways b capitalized : a member or supporter of a liberal political party c : an advocate or adherent of liberalism especially in individual rights

I do not belong to any political party (which makes me an independent), but when all is said and done I tend to vote almost exclusively for Democrats. Now that that's out of the way, back to socialism.

Sorry. President Obama is not a Socialist. No member of Congress is a Socialist. Europe is not Socialist. Government spending is not Socialism. Taxes are not Socialism. Anyone who puts these terms together, sorry, is a raving idiot. Its an insult to reason, logic, and just plain common sense. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with President Obama (I voted for him). I have no problem with anyone questioning the motives of members of congress (I voted for some of them). I don't like paying taxes. I don't even much like Europe. But what passes for political discourse in this country is starting to border on sheer lunacy. Again, no problem with anyone disagreeing with anyone else's ideas or policies. That's what democracy is all about. When ideas clash what remains in the shards are the shreds of truth. But if that clash starts out with lies of convenience, mischaracterizations and pandering to peoples most basest instincts (and regardless of which end of the right/left spectrum you find yourself everyone is guilty of this) the only thing that come of it is a tangled mess and a wasted fight.

One perfect example of this.

I was listening to an NPR (I told you I was a liberal) story the other day. It was all about Joe Wilson's by now infamous "You Lie!" outburst and whether or not its an indication of underlying racism (I don't think so so does this make me a conservative?). The story tried to present both sides of the issue in depth (this is why I like NPR) and interviewed who they felt could offer subjective and representative opinions. Side A was: of course its racism. Its always racism, etc. I didn't buy that argument (see, I am a conservative). Side B: of course it wasn't racism. Its about policy, etc. I didn't quite buy that argument either (the liberal is back). Then for a moment it actually got interesting. The person making the argument for side B brought up a point that I agree 100% with. Their complaint was that the charge of racism is usually politically motivated. Basically once you raise it you put your opponent on the defensive. The debate then becomes about racism and not about any policy differences you could possibly have. It stifles any kind of point you can make because all of a sudden you find yourself having to defend against a charge so heinous that it obscures anything else. Basically you just labeled every single opponent of policy X as being a RACIST and any argument they would possible make, regardless of whether it is racism or not, is now tainted. I 100% agree with this. But... and you knew there was a but coming. Then this very same person who raised that point and articulated it really well, that I 100% agree with, without nary a pause or a breath, continued with, well, the real problem with this country, the one true REAL problem that we need to look at is this country's path and turn towards SOCIALISM!

And this differs from calling someone a RACIST how? You just labeled an entire group and policy with a label that is neither accurate nor deserved. Just like labeling someone a racist pretty much eliminates any chance of real debate, labeling someone a socialist eliminates any chance of real debate. I guess its different when I do it?