Politics in Focus | Socialists, Liberals, and Fascists, Oh My! | Rich Elfers

Labeling people by using these terms puts individuals into boxes and diminishes their humanity—making them something less than human. Labeling someone with political "slurs" turns the object of these attacks into two-dimensional caricatures, rather than the complex humans we all are.

Seeing the words socialism, liberals and fascists in letters to the editor irritates me. They irritate me because the way they are used is incorrect in their historic context.

Labeling people by using these terms puts individuals into boxes and diminishes their humanity—making them something less than human. Labeling someone by using these terms turns the object of these attacks into two-dimensional caricatures, rather than the complex humans we all are.

As a high school social studies teacher I often had to deal with this labeling issue when I taught the political spectrum to my students; the political spectrum refers to a range of political ideas from different parties. I’d like to explain these three terms from a social science perspective.

Socialism

All societies have to deal with balancing competing values: what’s good for the individual versus what’s good for society, i.e. socialism. Healthy societies are those that allow for both individualism and socialism.

Unions were formed to fight the abuses of big business. The legalization of unions eventually evened the playing field. Unions helped to raise wages for all workers, creating a large, stable, middle class.

Because of socialistic laws we now have state and federal highways, public schools, police and fire departments, Social Security and Medicare. For most Americans, these “socialistic” programs are popular and accepted because they give to society what individuals cannot do for themselves.

On the negative side, unions can be selfish and grasping, driving some companies out of business and raising costs. Communism—a more extreme form of socialism—controlled society too much in the Soviet Union and took away freedom and incentives to produce, eventually causing the collapse of the nation in 1991.

Liberal

Liberals are those who want to bring improvement for the masses – to lift them from their oppression by the wealthy. In that sense Jesus Christ was a liberal, as were Republican presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft, and Democratic presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. Modern usage of the word has twisted its meaning into slur.

That’s why those who are liberals now call themselves progressives, reminding people of the good they did the nation in the early 20th century when industrial monopolies like Standard Oil and the railroad trusts were controlling the nation’s economy and government. It was a time where workers slaved 70 to 80 hours a week in hazardous working conditions for pennies per hour. It was an era when children as young as 5 worked in factories and mines. Progressive newspaper journalists—“muckrakers,” as Teddy Roosevelt called them—revealed these evils to the public, causing laws to be passed that ended or limited these abuses.

Liberal policies also stifle business and encourage people to rely upon the government rather than themselves, creating higher taxes and excessive government controls on freedom.

Fascism

This term came out of Italy in the 1920s and Germany and Japan in the 1930s. It is a system of government where right wing dictators like Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo ruled with the support of the big industrialists in capitalistic states. This system of government was very aggressive and bullying and brought about World War II. Calling someone a fascist means that person supports a right wing military dictatorship supported by big business.

In conclusion, using these emotional words in letters to the editor is a misunderstanding and misuse of the true meaning of the words. They are being used as shorthand for evil, where, historically speaking, their meanings are entirely different. My response to such words is to figure that people who use them as epithets really do not understand their origins or their true meanings.

More in Opinion

More information needed on proposed recycling site

We want to bring awareness to your readers about a 34 acre wood recycling center that is in the permitting process with King County.

North neighbors keep a close eye on the U.S.

How much do you know about Canada? If you’re like most Americans, not much.

Trickle-down equation may not add up, Dems say

A tax overhaul plan drawn up by Republicans in Congress will be a good deal for many households, though not every one, or nearly every one, as promised by its authors.

America’s monster

I’m not sure when it happened, but I recently realized I’ve stopped asking myself, “What are we going to do about mass shootings and gun violence in this country?” Instead, I now ask, “When is the carnage going to come to Enumclaw?”

Avoiding loss means more than gaining something else

Some studies have shown that losses are twice as psychologically powerful as gains. American history and our current political situation help reveal a great deal about the American/human psyche.

Congratulations, Jan Molinaro

In every election, one person must win and the other will lose. Now more than ever, it is important to show our children how to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

Don’t give into the pressure of driving drowsy

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that still challenge me today.

Baxley and Young should have showed up at public forum

On Tuesday, October 17th, was the Black Diamond Maple Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum, where the Black Diamond candidates for Mayor and two City Council positions had the opportunity to talk with the citizens of Black Diamond, and to answer questions put to them by these citizens.

Issues to be addressed in Enumclaw elections

Who should I vote for in the Enumclaw City Council and mayoral races?

Enumclaw helped raise $3,500 for Special Olympics

The last couple of weekends the St. Barbara Knights of Columbus have been involved with our annual Tootsie Roll Program.

Court grapples with school funding

When the legal battle on education funding returned to the state Supreme Court Tuesday, the leader of Washington’s public school system was closely monitoring this installment of the McCleary drama from his office down the street.

Baxley is an important choice for Black Diamond mayor

Judy Baxley has been part of our local civics for years, and thank goodness because citizen involvement is critical to monitoring big developers.