Liberalism should not be confused with communism

Natalie Villalon | Op-Ed Submission

Communist forces are infiltrating the U.S. government. The American government will soon be engaging in totalitarianism abuses on par with those perpetrated by the Soviet Union. As ludicrous as the preceding statements may seem in a contemporary context, they should not be confused with the rantings of a Cold War-era witch hunter.

Based on its demonstration in front of the Women’s Building Monday, the student group “Young Americans for Liberty” would have you accept these statements as perfectly rational. The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall seems to have provided the group with convenient fodder for a reactionary campaign against liberalism.

The display, in case you missed it, consisted of a DIY concentration camp, complete with fake prisoners and kitschy Soviet costumes (complete with fur hats). One of the group members handed out fliers detailing the abuse of prisoners in the Soviet gulag system to passersby. Had the group’s goal been to impart a history lesson, I would only question their methods; the whole display seemed too over-the-top to be taken seriously. However, the Young Americans For Liberty specifically drew parallels between the current political climate in America and the totalitarian Soviet Union. Apparently, America is moving toward socialism, which inevitably leads to a totalitarian state. Obviously, the current administration endorses more liberal policies than the last, most recently concerning health care. The group, as far as I noticed, did not sound off on any particular issues. But the Obama-endorsed public health care option has been met with accusations of communist leanings from some very conservative corners; I would not be surprised if the group cited the public health care option as a symptom of the impending communist coup. The idea of a public health care option would give more power to the government and would be similar to systems socialist European countries use. But conflating mainstream American liberalism with communism (not socialism, mind you, communism) is simply ludicrous. Can rational people really equate a public health care option with the collective ownership of the means of production?

Aside from that, the group equates somewhat socialist policies with concentration camps and oppression. I would like to point out that while France may not have the most efficient system of bureaucracy in the world, the government hardly endorses the violent oppression of its citizens. The same applies to a myriad of other socialist states. There does not seem to be empirical evidence for their conjecture. Frankly, I find the suggestion that America will soon begin violently oppressing its citizens to be absurd. The government guarantees its citizens freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought. We can vote and voice our opinions, as demonstrated by the group itself. The group seems to have little faith in the strength of American democracy if its members actually believe the current administration would get away with implementing a system of concentration camps. Even if the group doesn’t literally augur American concentration camps, using concentration camps for the loss of liberty that would be implemented if the administration got its way on everything seems hyperbolic at best.

Debate encourages critical thinking about policies and keeps any one person or party from having too much power. Indeed, opposition to whichever party is in power should be strongly encouraged. But the conflation of mainstream American left with communism is a gross oversimplification that detracts from intelligent debate about political issues. Intelligent politicians and citizens alike engage in debate about politics every day. They utilize facts and critical thinking to discuss the direction America should take. I won’t deign to detail the logical fallacies involved in equating the Obama administration with totalitarian leadership. The display itself seems to represent a blindly reactionary, rather than a rationally critical, viewpoint. Ignoring the actual political ideologies of those you oppose is not only counterproductive because you’re not arguing against current policy. It just makes you look stupid. I would have laughed at the display’s implications, had I not realized the group’s seriousness.

Political debate demands rational thought because the results have such an extreme effect on everyone’s lives. American democracy constitutes a government for the people, by the people. We all have a responsibility as citizens to critically examine policy issues and the ideological stances of those running for office before voting. I find it sickening when political discussion morphs into mudslinging. But we live in a free society, and all voices can be heard and will continue to be heard. There are no concentration camps in our future.

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