Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Socialist?

From Terence Ball a professor of political science at Arizona State University:

To many Americans “socialism” may sound vaguely “foreign” and “un-American.” Those at rallies protesting health reform now may be surprised to know that “socialism” and “socialist” have a long history in American political thought and that those terms weren’t always terms of censure.

For the anti-socialism protesters, here’s a quick quiz: The author of the Pledge of Allegiance (1892), was A) a conservative, B) a liberal, C) a socialist. The answer is C. Francis Bellamy was a socialist and a Baptist minister. (Yes, there actually were Christian socialists, then as now.)

The “Pledge to the Flag,” as it was originally called, was not descriptive of then current conditions, but it was aspirational: “One nation, indivisible” invoked a nation undivided by differences of race, class and gender. And “with liberty and justice for all” it envisioned a nation in which women could vote and African Americans need not fear rope-wielding “night riders” of the KKK.

Contemporary “patriots,” I hope, agree with such aspirations, despite their distinctly socialist provenance. It is historically false that the only “real” Americans are conservatives and that people of other ideological persuasions are not or cannot be “real” Americans. After all, what’s more American than the “socialist” Pledge of Allegiance?

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