Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Pejorative Nature of the Word Socialism

On hearing the constant accusation of Socialism being applied to most of the values I always thought were pretty important I decided to upgrade my education and look the word up in my Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. True, it was published in 1991. But can we agree that the dictionary does not change substantially in that length of time?

Webster, at least in 1991, said Socialism was: n. A theory of social organization aiming at co-operative action and community of property.

Well that’s weird. I guess I am a Socialist after all. I live in a rural area. I have Federal Water, a Federal Electric Co-op and highways and roads maintained by the co-operative efforts and/or combined resources of me and my neighbors, otherwise known as “The Government”. I love our City, State and Federal parks and campgrounds. I am 70 years old and get my Social Security check like clockwork and my health insurance provider will not pay a dime until my Medicare pays the bulk of it.

I rely on community projects managed and funded by me and my neighbors known as 911, fire protection, law enforcement and emergency medical treatment. It’s true I do not use these services much but I want them to be there. Our lives without these first responders could turn pretty grim at the whims of a fate that can’t tell the difference between people’s ideologies.

I get up in the morning and turn on the light, (FEC) attend the necessary, (Public Water District # 1), cook breakfast (FEC AND Public Water District # 1 plus the FDA (who at least haphazardly makes sure we are not eating dirt), head off to work on good highways, (DOT) with the reasonable assumption that other drivers will obey traffic rules (State Highway Patrol and City Police) and put in a day’s work more or less. (I am 70 years old remember ). When I get my paycheck I can reasonably expect it to be the correct amount for the hours I worked. I KNOW that if it is not, no matter where I work, I have a powerful ally at our state capital. I could go on and on and I won’t.

But I will say that I am proud of the results of our country’s combined efforts over the last two centuries to sustain, protect and enrich the lives of all of us. I know it is not perfect. I know it is costly. We always have to dig into our pockets and yes, so will our children and so will our grandchildren. But we would do well to remember that along with the obligations we bequeath them, there will also be a tremendous backlog of structure and resources in place for them to work with.

One has only to read some of the diaries and journals of the generation before last to know how they struggled. Without good water in dry times, and no organization of services, they would stand by helplessly and watch years of work; a house, school, church, barn or hayfield etc., go up in flames. Their children were lucky to look forward to 8 years of schooling. High schools were few and far between. Roads in my part of the world, North Missouri, were pretty near impassable in wet weather. Winters were better because at least the ground froze. Heaven help you if you got caught away from home in a quick thaw! A day long trip to Kansas City, the nearest emergency medical services requiring hospitalization, cost many an arm, leg, and life. When a mother sickened, her children sickened. When a husband died or sickened, a woman and children often went hungry and just as often sickened.

This may sound like the good old days to some but not to me. And not to any rational person, I think. True, I don’t think of myself as a Socialist. I really don’t want to be a Socialist! It really sounds bad when screamed with huge, drippy red letters painted on cardboard signs carried by very angry people.

However, I always thought that we were kind of a homogenous people, a pragmatic but generous people, who had the good sense to pick and choose what worked for us out of the zillions of ideas blood was shed for in the human history.

I am a simple woman with simple ideas. I think clean water, electricity, allweather roads, law enforcement, emergency help and health care are good things. Sick people, hungry children, uneducated young people, unemployed workers, uncared for old people… These are bad things. To keep the good things working and eliminate the bad stuff takes a group effort. We seem to be in dire straits as a country right now. I think we better get to grouping.