Even before the Cold War and the so-called "McCarthy Era" (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term "Socialist" as an expletive from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a Conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by opponents of Senator Bernie Sanders who has described himself as a "Democratic Socialist."
As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe, according to the World English Dictionary, Socialism involves "a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole," where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.
No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.
I, therefore, would say to those who thrust the term "Socialist" as a curse word, if a Socialist is one who advocates for a governmental single-payer quality universal health care system, which includes safe and reasonably-priced prescription and over-the-counter drug therapies, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who demands that our country protects and enhances our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safety nets, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who advocates for the further nationalization of our parks, forests, mountains, rivers, streams, shores, and off-shore waters, rather than allocating increased corporate mining, drilling, and timber rights, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who advocates for free and quality education, not only through grade 12, but throughout higher education and after for everyone who desires and works to achieve their fullest potential, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who advocates for a government-sponsored program that guarantees our seniors a retirement system that ensures a high quality of life free from economic burdens, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who advocates for the rights of workers to organize and to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who battles to eliminate workplace and larger societal inequalities based on race, nationality, citizenship status, age, sex, sexual identity, gender expression, disability, socioeconomic standing, religion, and other social identities, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who works to ensure that everyone is guaranteed a comfortable and secure place to live, and one who fights against a banking system that forecloses people's homes through scurrilous business practices, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who supports effective governmental regulations on food producers to safeguard our food supply and protect against the maltreatment of animals, and on corporations, companies, and individuals to defend our environment, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who supports severe restrictions on the political process to prevent mammoth contributions by individuals and corporations to buy and own politicians to influence public policy, while locking out individuals and groups unable to amass large political funds, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who challenges a military industrial complex that marches to the beat of industry, and a prison industrial complex that perpetuates the racial and socioeconomic class inequities pervasive throughout the society, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who contests and advocates for effective restrictions on the so-called "free market" economic system that enables the creation and enhancement of mega monopolies, outsourcing of jobs, manufacture of defective products, and inhibition in the development of clean renewable energy technologies, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
If a Socialist is one who demands a true progressive tax structure where everyone pays their fair share, one that inhibits massive inequities in the overwhelming accumulation of wealth by the top one percent of the nation as is currently the case, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!
This year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted its "Better Life Index" to determine the "happiest countries in the world," according to its residents. Based on an 11-measure survey assessing quality of life, including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction, most of the Scandinavian countries, plus Netherlands, Iceland, and Switzerland, and only one North American country, plus Australia, New Zealand, and Israel reached the top 10 ranked countries.
Included in descending order are number one, Denmark, followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Israel, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada (which provides a single-payer health care system unlike its North American neighbor, the United States), and Australia (which places severe restrictions on firearms ownership). I am saddened, but definitely not surprised, that the United States did not make the cut in the top 10. Therefore, we might do well to look to these countries for some of their Socialist policies that sustain high levels of quality of life issues for their residents.
I welcome and embrace the term, philosophy, and practice of Democratic Socialist as a declaration of empowerment, pride, and hope for a better social structure in a better tomorrow.