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America, What's it Gonna Be: Democratic Socialist or Democratic Fascist?

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Message John Grant

Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about " the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.

- Martin Luther King

In their [evangelical Christians'] view, Christ did not live a perfect life so that we could follow in his footsteps, but precisely so we wouldn't have to.

- Adam Kotsko

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

- Matthew 5:5

While the left continues its favorite habit of eating itself over identity politics rivalries, Cold War journalists like Chris Matthews are losing their marbles over Bernie Sanders as a socialist. First, Matthews was going off about being shot in Central Park following a Castro take-over of America, then he lost it and compared Sander's win in Iowa and New Hampshire to Hitler taking over in Germany. Matthews' owners at MSNBC yanked his leash and made him apologize live for the Hitler analogy.

Then, in the South Carolina debate when Sanders had the temerity to say something good about the literacy and health programs in Castro's Cuba (things reported on 60 Minutes), the moderates all jumped him and began beating him as if they were an LAPD cop-pack working over Rodney King. When Bernie tried to mention Saudi Arabia and other American gangster/thug allies, the beating just got more intense and more self-righteous. At this point, I think I began to holler at my TV to help Bernie out.

Cold War reaction is surfacing with a vengeance over Sander's success, which has been explained very reasonably by Robert Reich, former secretary of the Treasury. "Today's main divide isn't left versus right. It's establishment versus anti-establishment." What does this mean for the election? "[T]he socialist label doesn't come with the stigma it once did."

The Liberation Theology Jesus in Central America
The Liberation Theology Jesus in Central America
(Image by John Grant)
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[ Was Jesus a socialist? Here, supporters of the Christianity of liberation in Central America in the 1980s saw Christ as a force liberating them from oppression. Photo: John Grant.]

Matthews' reaction is mired in the past. Instead of the frantic hyperbole, there are a host of more apt comparisons in American reform history that contained elements of socialism, such as FDR's New Deal or even the Eisenhower 1950s when strains of American socialism (of course, it wasn't called that) seemed appropriate to educate its returning veterans, to provide them housing and to do things like create a cross-country interstate highway system all supported by healthy public-oriented taxes.

None of the moderate Democrats let alone Trump Republicans seem able to even conceive of a nation with a "mixed economy" that balances all sorts of -isms for the good of the entire population, not just millionaires and billionaires. When it's mentioned that Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist, these moderates go ballistic and compare him to popular historic demons; what's wrong with very mainstream American politicians like FDR for comparison? If you're looking for edge, there's also more radical, home-grown versions like Eugene Debs; there's even the great American poets of bottom-up sympathy for the poor and working people like Walt Whitman or Woody Guthrie.

No, they bring up Stalin or Trump's beloved Kim Jong-un or their favorite, Fidel Castro.

As I watched them in South Carolina beat up on Sanders, all I could think of was my experiences with Latin American "socialism" in the 1980s after being raised in the south Florida of the 1950s and 1960s 90 miles from Cuba. During the missile crisis, I remember a truck-borne missile unit parked in a tomato field near my house, and sometimes we could hear the B52s warming up at Homestead Air Force Base. Sixty years ago, at the movies, I recall Movietone News film that showed a portly man in a rumpled tropical white suit against a wall, then a fusillade of gunfire and the man totally collapsing. The image was seared into my 11-year-old brain. History is serious, but the garbage being thrown around in the debate seemed hysterical, so yesterday, that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or get my firearms in order.

It seems the only accurate way to look at the United States of America is as a huge, complex amalgam of interests and -isms to the point it's impossible to see it as absolutely anything. Of course, with a narcissist as president, the -ism we most have to deal with these days is the reductionism of complexity to whatever President Sparky wants at any particular moment. This is why the teaching of Critical Thinking from first grade to twelfth grade is so vital for the nation's future.

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I'm a 72-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and political (more...)

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