Lately some of my conservative friends have joined the Right wing chorus in calling Obama a Marxist. I suspect few have actually read Communist Manifesto. I also suspect they’d be hard pressed to show clear and convincing evidence. Yet they’re all too willing to pin a scarlet “C” on his lapel.
This observation has nothing to do with supporting Obama or Romney in the next election. Neither does it have anything to do with critiquing his performance, a subject about which much can be said. I’m thinking more about how we use language in our discussions about important issues. Having recently slogged through much of the Communist Manefesto, which should be marketed as a cure for insomnia, calling Obama a Marxist is hyperbole and a lazy argument.
The language we choose controls whether the discussion is a fair exchange of ideas or a blood sport. Describing him as a European style Social Democrat. comes closer to the mark. But even that isn’t really accurate. To me he’s more of a Roosevelt Democrat. Labeling him thusly sets Obama squarely within the mainstream of the modern American political spectrum while leaving plenty of room to disagree with Obama’s policies and for criticism of his performance. But voters then must think for themselves.
I’ve also been contemplating the other Roosevelt as well–Teddy. He understood the American economy and our culture are at their best when there’s a greater distribution of wealth.
Just as unfettered socialism leads to dissolution, monopoly and oligarchy are the end result of unbridled Capitalism. With both come a host of social ills that impoverish people and our country. No offense, but anyone who thinks lazy people will work without necessity or businesses will police themselves is a moron. History has shown empires crumble when people get lazy; human degradation occurs when a small group of people control all the wealth and power.
The American way is based on a wider distribution of wealth and power. That makes America unique in history and what makes it a great country. This situation did not happen by accident. It required a culture of civility and acceptance of policies and regulations that limit the big guys while creating opportunities for the the small guys.
Nobody with the intelligence and drive to succeed likes limits or rules that stand in their way of achievement. Yet both are foundational elements of our way of life.
To be sure limits are there to be pushed and rules to be questioned but no one gets his way all the time. An unwillingness or inability to accept that is a sign of immaturity.
Coming back to my thoughts about language and how it shapes the public debate, lazy or cynical rhetoric that pander to prejudices and fear are divisive by definition and rob us all of the opportunity to thoughtfully consider the options.
Feckless partisanship and an unwillingness to compromise have resulted in unproductive conflict.