Those Tricky Labels



Is Bernie Sanders really a “Democratic Socialist”? Is Donald Trump “conservative”? Is Barack Obama truly “black”? The debates go on and on. But what is a Democratic Socialist? Or a conservative? Or a black human being?

Obviously, the labels mean different things to different people.

To me, a Socialist – democratic or otherwise – believes that a society’s means of production should be owned by the government. That would include steel mills and oil wells, copper mines, logging,  auto manufacturing – the whole industrial kit and kaboodle.

That kind of Socialism was tried in England after World War II, and it failed miserably. But the British people were left with some institutions that have lived on successfully. The National Health Service, for example.

Bernie Sanders  has nothing so ambitious in mind.

He isn’t proposing to take over anything. His most radical objective is reform of America’s out-of-control financial system. The rest of his proposals boil down to a modest tax increase on the weathiest Americans and improved social programs for the poor and middle class.

Promising voters a better life is not Socialism. It’s as old as America. You might have heard or read about Herbert Hoover’s 1928 promise to put a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. And I’m sure you wouldn’t call Hoover a Socialist.

As for being conservative, I have to confess I am at a loss to tell you what that means today. I used to think a conservative is someone who wants to preserve the good in society, who is wary of reckless change, who would insist that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But today’s “conservatives” are as radical as any movement in history. They are very much for reckless change and are clamoring to “fix” a lot of things – broken or not.

As for President Obama’s “blackness,” I am totally confused about that. What makes one person “black” and another “white”? How much of each ethnic type makes you what?

Take my sister-in-law Faye. She was born in Nova Scotia. If I remember correctly, her mother was half black and half German. I think her father – or his ancestors – came from Scotland.  She tells me she grew up “black” and considers herself “black.” Yet on one of her visits to Jamaica, a man told her to “get out of the way, white woman.”

Is Barack Obama the genuine article when it comes to blackness? Or is Ben Carson a better brand of blackness? To me, they are simply human beings, both of them. And, as such, they are equally precious in God’s sight, regardless of what labels humans impose on them.

It would be nice to avoid labeling everything – although I have to admit it can be convenient.

When I say I am a liberal, for example, it saves a lot of explaining. But how liberal am I? That would take at least one more blog. Perhaps two.

Click for one view of Socialism.