Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Some years ago, a presidential candidate accused the opposing candidate of being a philatelist to generate distrust. It actually was the absolute truth, and the smear campaign worked as the polls for the accused candidate dropped precipitously and the perpetrator of the campaign went on to become our president.
It’s also true that a “philatelist” is a stamp collector.
How did you feel when you read this opening statement? Did you know what it meant? If not, did you think it something awful? Or did you think you didn’t know what it means? Or did you realize that, since you did not know what it meant, you need to find out what it means before deciding?
It seems like it’s human nature to fear what we don’t understand. Four years ago, a late-night comedy “news” show sent one of their people out to interview supporters of one of the candidates, asking if they would support a known heterosexual. Interestingly, many people railed against this concept, obviously not knowing what the term means. Of course, they didn’t share how many people did know; the concept was just to poke fun at those who do not. But it shows an interesting point, the readiness to jump to evil assumptions for words that we do not know. Imagine a heterosexual philatelist candidate. Scandalous.
This trick has been used by politicians for probably as long as politics has been in politicking. One of the greatest examples must be the vilification of the terms “liberal” and “socialist”. Liberal simply means “forward thinking”. It was liberals that gave us social security when elderly were having trouble making ends meet because humans are not so good at saving for retirement. Here in Nebraska there’s a commercial by a Democratic candidate that claims that after a lifetime of work, we have “earned” social security. This isn’t exactly right.
We haven’t earned social security; we own it. We’ve paid extra taxes (of which we have had no choice) that were supposed to have been kept safe to help pay retirement and health benefits. Our money has been collected specifically to return it to us. It is ours. Unfortunately, conservative politicians look at this and see nothing but a pool of money, and often feel entitled to the money seeing it going “unused”. Republicans have already “borrowed” from the Social Security fund, with the promise of returning the “borrowed” money, in 1981 during the Republican Reagan administration. As it turns out, 13.3% of our current national debt has been borrowed from Social Security (roughly 3 trillion dollars). When we hear that we cannot afford to pay social security benefits, the reality is that we’ve already paid for these benefits. What this actually means is the government cannot afford to return to social security, and the people of the United States, the money they’ve “borrowed”.
Other liberal successes include the interstate system, unemployment, education, and so much more. The term “socialist”, on the other hand, literally means thinking of society. In the days when people feared the “Red Menace” of communism (a political concept where the people own everything), socialism was equated to communism. I blame Italy for this, when in world war II the socialist party aligned closely with Russia and its communist regime, at least as I understand it. Socialism gave rise to things like workers rights, unions, voting rights for minorities and women, and civil rights. Combined, these two concepts basically mean putting people first and finding ways to help them out.
The basic concept is that as the people succeed, we all do better. This is a far cry from the modern incarnation of the conservative Republicans. There are times, to be sure, that we need to favor industry for growth, but this isn’t the time. Today we have social divide, excessive inequity of resources, and more people without the resources for education or even food than we have had in a very long time. Unfortunately, people don’t think about the social pendulum swing. They tend to choose one side or the other and assume that’s the right way every year and every circumstance. In the industrial revolution, we needed to build our industries, resources that would help us win three major wars (the civil war, the first war to end all wars and the second war to end all wars which were all won by the US and the enormous resources available from the war industry). But when people are hurting, as we are today, we don’t need to put more wealth into the hands of those who already own over ninety percent of the total wealth, or power into the hands of the party favoring undoing all social progress made over the past hundred years including women’s rights and voter rights, or that are clearly more interested in working for their wealthy donors than the citizens they are supposed to represent. Don’t be brainwashed by those who vilify words. Look at what the candidates have done historically, what they are saying on the campaign trail, and their character.