"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'm sure that some members of my family have experienced this dozens of times and it's no big deal, but it was technically a first for me -- somebody at a public meeting (which was being recorded for rebroadcast on the local TV channel) said the reason I disagreed with him was because I am a 'socialist.'

While there were a number of points on which we disagreed, and even more on which I'm sure we would disagree if we only had more time to explore the full scope of our disagreement, the particular topic was affordable housing development policy. Note that this is a "citizens' advisory committee" established to provide input to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors regarding our county's General Plan update. As far as I can tell based on appearances, everyone on the committee is indeed a citizen and his or her ancestors may even have arrived on the Mayflower, unless some undocumented Canadians snuck in to mooch off the free pizza that the county provides at the meetings. That's actually why I joined the committee, which only proves I'm a socialist because I support this government pizza entitlement.

Apart from, or rather concurrently with, my socialism and the pizza, I'm really there because of my job, and the lack of any low income / non-white citizens on the citizens' advisory committee. I don't think that's any fault of the county; I think it might have more to do with not having any childcare, or not having a car, or at least not one that runs, or not speaking English very well, or being too ill and confused, or just not thinking anyone will listen to you because historically nobody has. Or maybe being too tired.

It's part of my job to advocate for policies that will result in production of affordable housing. One such policy is 'inclusionary housing.' I'm tired of giving my speech about it so I won't right now; suffice to say that some people think it's part of a communist plot to make the system of personal merit and responsibility irrelevant to ones opportunity for decent shelter. The man who called me out on my socialism had posed the very interesting and provocative question, "Is everyone entitled to a house?"

I tried to answer using my secret ninja moves from the government. I said, "Everyone is entitled to have the opportunity for housing and it's up to the individual to decide what he or she will do with the opportunity." Straight out of the Little Red Book. He went on to say how he worked all his life, etc. etc., it's the American dream, etc., arbeit macht frei, etc. etc., everyone starts out in life with the same opportunity...Oops. Maybe I totally misunderstood him, and he meant every white male business owner starts out in life with the same opportunity...but I interjected there, and said "That's where we disagree" and then he said "That's because you're a socialist."

So there you have it. I can hardly wait to go to work tomorrow and tell everyone.

He didn't really speak German. I made that part up. But if I'm a socialist that would make him a fascist. And here we are both on the same committee, eating pizza. It's a great country.


adam said...

Ug. I hate posturing. How does someone like that expect you to respond? Ug. Putting shenpa away now...

And you are definitely not a socialist. Why is this label getting tossed around so much? Even socialists have had to come out and say "no, Obama is definitely NOT one of us."

Allie said...

Everyone does not start off in life with the same opportunities. If I wasn't trying to be nice, I'd want to call that guy a fat-head.

Maybe I'm a socialist too. Around here, it supposed to be an insult if you're called a democrat, or even a moderate republican.

Emily said...

I don't know how I was expected to respond...I sort of cracked up though and I don't think he scored many points by name calling.

Though I wonder...for a long time I've had these feelings of attraction to the idea that government should be like a nurturant parent that allows everyone to grow and prosper while ensuring that the basic necessities of life such as shelter, food, and medicine are covered. Maybe I have socialist tendencies.

Re: fat-head -- Truth is an absolute defense to slander so legally you would have been pretty safe calling him that.

I told my roommate about the meeting and he wondered if that guy will send back his Social Security checks when he starts drawing them or decline to receive any Medicare coverage. I guess a little bit of socialism is fine as long as it's not helping anybody you don't like.

wordsfromhome said...

Well, it is a pretty liberal socialist idea that everyone should have a roof overhead, expectations of minimal medical care, and not have trade one's expectation of a simple meal for a prescription for insulin.
Where do these bleeding hearts come from who have such extreme ideas?
The world would be a wonderful place if every man who had more than what was sufficient for his needs took it upon himself to provide for one or two someone who was not able to do so. We would not need any liberal socialist extremist then, and you, my dear, would have to take up farming for a living, because you would have no clients.
But, thank your lucky stars, the "haves" tend to spend their money in more practical ways, like amassing more stuff to put in their mansions.

Bellabell said...

This guy wouldn't know a verifiable socialist if one gave him CPR. Just last night,
I was reminiscing about Reagan (Ah, those were the days!)and his infatuation with the word "demagoguery." I don't think he had the slightest idea of what the word meant, but he loved the way it echoed around in his mouth as he said it.

Next time someone calls you a socialist, try this: "Well, you're half right: I gave up being an ANTI-socialist when I turned three."