Terms such as socialist, communist don’t apply to Obama
April 26, 2009
Lately, voices have been raised in blogs, columns, e-mails, and on TV claiming that President Obama is proposing socialism or communism or even is a Nazi, fueling fear that resonates with angry people. One congresswoman even called us to arms.
A blogger wrote recently, “If you are not scared or angry, then YOU aren’t paying attention. Wake up America.” I am not falling for it. I’ve seen the real thing: communism, socialism, Nazis, and what fear and anger can do.
“That person has not a clue about what socialism or communism is,” was my husband’s verbal retort to the blogger’s comment. Husband Mike lived in Yugoslavia under a communist Stalinist-type regime and later practiced medicine in Western Europe. “What President Obama is doing or planning is nowhere in the ball park …or even close,” he fumed.
Instead of a book-learned comparison of economic systems and insinuating that what Obama is doing is communist or socialist (we have already addressed that in prior columns and in blog discussions), let me address what really is going on here: If others do not buy into your arguments, then tag it with a scary word. Those who oppose all that Obama is doing nod their heads in agreement. Those scary words sound right to them.
I spent my college junior year abroad in 1958-59 at the Free University of Berlin (west) on a Presbyterian church sponsored program. Those were the years Khrushchev threatened another Berlin blockade. (Instead, later he built the Wall). It was political science and modern history 101 applied in a living laboratory.
Thirteen-year-old ruins and remains of Nazi life were everywhere I looked and permeated the psyche of those with whom I spoke. I lived no farther than a 20 minute walk to East Berlin, occupied by the Soviets but still with open borders. I saw the depressed shabbiness of the East contrasted with the thriving West. The value of democracy and the market system was dramatically visual.
I saw the contrast again when I traveled with a fellow student through Yugoslavia during spring break (the first Americans most had ever seen since before World War II), to look over the country and the relatives of the man I met at the University, Mike Muftic, who would be my husband for the next 50 years. It was the land of Tito, who ruled it at first with an iron fist and a command-communist economy.
Dr. Mike Muftic made his first return trip to Yugoslavia in 1972 when the communist government declared amnesty for refugees. Harassment and luggage searches by border police on our arrival and departure were terrifying experiences that gave Dr. M nightmares, but that did not deter us from making frequent trips to Yugoslavia later. We saw the country morph from communism to capitalism and democracy and self destruct in the Balkan wars. I witnessed firsthand those painful transitions in Croatia, a part of the former Yugoslavia, to an independent western-leaning nation.
Some of our family history contains violent episodes. Dr. Mike was 12 years old when, in the days of post-war chaos, the communist revolutionaries burst into his house and confiscated everything, throwing his family into the street. He saw the violence on the streets of Zagreb when mobs committed unspeakable atrocities.
Dr. Mike experienced violence firsthand once again in the long hot summer of the late 1960s, when he was a physician in the East Side Health Center in the Five Points area of Denver. The clinic was firebombed. What he did in response was to befriend members of the Black Panthers and bring them into the fold of the democratic system. Many of them became upstanding members of the community in later years.
Nazis colored our lives again. Thirty years ago there was a rash of terrorist letter bombs mailed by ethnic Croatian neo Nazis to those they thought were their enemies. People were killed in Chicago by them and the Denver bomb squad opened suspicious mail on our home’s back deck for a couple of years.
Dr. Mike understood where all were coming from and why lack of inclusiveness, poverty, hate, and racism are the real enemies of stability and democracy. Above all, he fears mob violence and extremism, whether perpetrated by the right or by the left.
He also treasures the protections the Constitution and its amendments have given him. He understands the significance of unlawful wiretapping and torture rationalized by the manipulation of legal opinions in the name of fear and a war on some enemy. He knows that fairness in our domestic policies is one of the most important contributions we can make to the stability of our nation. He is an ardent supporter of what Obama is doing for all of those reasons. I can only add “amen”.