The irony of the �socialist� scare
By Mary Shaw
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 25, 2009, 00:42

Back in the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy tried to instill fear in the American people over communism. Many in Hollywood were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers. So were academics, trade unionists, and free thinkers in general.

Now McCarthyism is back, but updated for today�s times. It is a new McCarthyism. And this time the perceived threat is �socialism.�

The right-wing fear mongers have their sheep in a frenzy over allegations that Obama, in general, and health care reform, in particular, are leading this nation into �socialism.�

The sheep are naive enough to fall for the spin machine that tries to equate socialism with Marxism and/or communism. That�s kind of like suggesting that all dogs are pit bulls. These people never were too appreciative of semantic nuance.

And they apparently didn�t pay a lot of attention in Poli Sci class, either.

Or else they are just willingly allowing their fears and emotions to subconsciously deny what they might actually know to be the truth. Because fear, especially racially induced fear, is that powerful, unfortunately.

And so they descend on the health care town hall meetings with their pictures of Obama with a crudely drawn Hitler-style mustache. (I guess socialism equals Nazism now, too, for those who will not think. Except that Obama wants to kill all the old people instead of all the Jews.)

They descend on the health care town hall meetings with enough ignorance to challenge the premise that the United States of America should provide for the health and well-being of the citizens who form this nation (although they don�t -- i.e., cannot -- word it that way). But then, of course, it�s not as though this were still a government �of the people, by the people, and for the people.� At least not since Reagan.

And they descend on the health care town hall meetings with their guns fully loaded. And sometimes they get away with it.

So who are the real extremists here? Who are the real threats?

Within all this exhausting drama lies a number of ironies.

First of all, is it not ironic that the right-wingers get to show up at Obama�s town hall meetings with loaded guns, when George W. Bush�s handlers were famous for systematically banishing citizens who merely sported tee-shirt slogans that they disagreed with?

Next, we need to remember the Terri Schiavo case. The Republicans in the White House and Congress actually saw fit to intervene in this private family medical matter. And all for the wrong reasons. But when a black president tries to provide for the well-being of everyday Americans, and give them some control over their own lives, suddenly he is accused of wanting to kill your grandmother. Even though he doesn�t.

Furthermore, we must distinguish between popular socialism and corporate socialism. The right wing will not stand up for the well-being of everyday folks. They don�t want to stand up for the workers, or the minorities, or the poor and underprivileged. But they waste no time in rescuing the banks that prey on the vulnerable, and the automobile companies that have kept their heads buried in the sand for the past 20 years. That, dear reader, is corporate socialism. And that, dear reader, appears to be okay -- while populist socialism is not.

Corporate America equals too big to fail. You and I equal too small to matter. Welcome to America, 2009.

Finally, it is amusing to note that these are some of the same people who send their children to (socialist) public schools. These are some of the same people who expect a (socialist) ambulance to appear when they dial 9/11 in a medical emergency. These are some of the same people who hope that a (socialist) fire truck will arrive quickly when their house is on fire. And these are the some of same people who rely on a (socialist) police force to help keep them safe from crime.

Because it all benefits society as a whole in the long run. And that, by extension, benefits each of us.

That is what socialism (in this context) is really all about.

And that, apparently, is what the right-wingers are really so afraid of.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author�s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail:

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