Within the context of modern America’s political terminology, the word “socialist” is considered foul. The idea of redistributing wealth is lost to the uncompromisable strive for individual gain.
In America, it is widely unpopular to associate oneself with a socialistic ideology. Americans use the word “socialism” to imply negative connotations to a political theory most know little about. Commonly categorized with Nazism and communism, the idea of socialism in America is derogative and unappealing.
Just saying the S-word strikes shock and terror in the hearts of Americans. A term that represents a governmental system that focuses on the well-being of its citizens evokes the fear of oppression and tyranny.
During the 2008 presidential election, the word “socialist” was thrown about the political arena to imply anti-Americanism, used as a political curse word with a barrage of negative implications.
Candidates brashly accused each other of being socialists while news pundits and commentators applied negative connotations to the word, creating a distorted representation of socialism and furthering confusion about the term among the American populace.
After Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin made a comment directly linking Barack Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment to a socialistic agenda, the media exploded into a firestorm of sensationalism.
“Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth … Joe the Plumber said it sounded to him like socialism, and now is not the time to experiment with that,” Palin said.
Socialism became the hot word in the mass media, and “spreading the wealth” became synonymous with the media’s reconstructed definition of socialism.
Perpetuating the negative connotations given to socialism works against building a society on the foundations of equality and social welfare.
Though it may be hard to assign an exact definition to the word, shared wealth, social equality and equal opportunity are typically linked to the idea of a socialistic society.
Socialism also emphasizes the importance of governmental concern for its citizens’ welfare. This includes programs that seek to help the less fortunate, such as universal health care.
As Americans, do we not teach our children to embrace the joys of sharing and friendship? In school, children are taught to be generous and avoid greed and selfishness.
Many people may remember the story of Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Children view Robin Hood’s reclamation and redistribution of wealth back to the lower classes as a noble deed.
Children look up to Robin Hood as a hero, but as they grow into adulthood they are taught that Robin Hood is a thief who upsets the balance of capitalism and individual accumulation. Robin Hood’s views of social equality seem inspiring when confined to fairy tales, but distasteful when brought into the grown-up world of capitalistic self-preservation.
Robin Hood saw the defects of a wealth-based economic system and took action to destroy the hierarchy of an oppressive ruling class. In the real world, when politicians use this methodology to bring hope to the poor, they are criticized for not accepting the standard capitalistic platform.
What would happen today if Robin Hood leaped from the pages of fiction into the harsh reality of American politics?
Americans frown upon any social and political structure not based solely on the foundations of capitalism. Social welfare assumes a bad name because it contradicts the greed of a capitalistic society in which people are left to fend for themselves.
Labeling socialism as something bad not only leads to a misguided understanding of it but also impedes the creation of a more equal and caring society.
Socialism should be understood for what it is: an idealistic governmental system that stresses the importance of social welfare.
Bryan Friesen is a junior majoring in journalism.