From South of Left Field: Political Drugs by Jimmie Galbreath

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History is the unsung foundation to understanding politics. Not the history of names, dates and short little paragraphs taught in our schools today but history as the story; richer, deeper and alive. The connections between what is and what was are direct and real. It is the things we know little about that make it easy for us to be frightened and manipulated. It is real knowledge that gives us the courage to choose our own opinions rather than accept the opinions of others. Only babies should be spoon fed.

Poking around my mental closet of ‘common knowledge’ learned from childhood, another gem that changed over the years relates to governments in general. America was the gold standard Democracy and Russia and China the failing evil dictatorships because that is what a Communist government is. The Democracy I was taught was childish in its simplicity, and it remained that way for quite a number of years. Vietnam, Watergate and time opened the door to new research. What had my teachers failed to tell me?

Today Democracy means any government structure made up of elected representatives. Ooooh, impressive sounding, isn’t it. Then it got a little complicated. The Russian (Soviet and today) and Chinese governments have elected officials. Do we amend Democracy and say it must have more than one political party?

From there I began to read books on Soviet and Chinese modern history and moved on to ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Much to my surprise both communism and socialism were not models of government but economic systems. The thrust behind these systems was to remove the wealth inequality that exists in a capitalistic economy. The philosopher Karl Marx proposed that the evolution of economic systems from slavery to feudalism to capitalism would continue on to communism. Communism as the next evolutionary step would remove private ownership of factories, mines, farms, etc. and all the people would own everything in common. The adjustment here was mind-bending. I have chased my tail around and around trying to comprehend how that economic system would work to produce the complex items we have today which requires resources from around the globe. I guess I am not evolved enough yet.

Looking for a government structure in this system I kept running into either ‘direct Democracy’ or ‘representative Democracy.’ You read that right; the ideal new economy still requires people to work together to reach decisions which still needs votes which is still Democracy. Imagine that.

‘Direct Democracy’ would be citizens voting directly for a law rather than having elected representatives such as our Congress to do it. That would be cumbersome. ‘Representative Democracy’ is what we already have! There is no dictatorship in communism or socialism if it is implemented exactly as the founders laid it out. Russia and China aren’t really communist because both have a capitalist economic system. Now folks, from here it is time to circle back to where we are today. The system laid down by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, while ideally eliminating income inequality requires that we all become selfless and totally trusting and sharing with each other for this to work. A level of social evolution that is clearly absent in our current leadership and largely lacking in our current society.

This may sound bleak, and I don’t mean for it to be. The range of forms of Democracy are amazingly broad. Our flavor of Democracy has changed since first established by the Constitution. Originally the States decided who could vote, and they generally allowed only white adult property-owning males to do so. Only members of the House of Representatives were elected directly. Senators were selected by the State House of Representatives for each state. The President was selected by an Electoral College. It was a pretty narrow Democracy compared to what we have today.

The thing about a Democracy is you can have a wide variety of voting rights and freedom, or very limited voting rights and few freedoms while still meeting the definition. It is not enough to say a country is a Democracy; rather one should say WHAT KIND of Democracy a country has.

Iran has all the organizations of a Democracy with elections. There is a Supreme Leader (Executive), Legislative (Parliament), Judiciary and an Assembly of Experts (legal and religious). The last organization has to approve anyone wanting to run for office. This version of Democracy is a Theocracy, and the State religion exerts tremendous power over the people and government. Our religious fundamentalists seek to move us down this path with rule by their religion rather than a political party. Hearing repeatedly statements that America is a Christian nation sends shivers down my spine as the Founders clearly had no such criteria in mind.

China has the Executive branch (President and State Council), Legislative (National People’s Congress), Judicial (Supreme People’s Court) but only one political Party is allowed. Once again control by a single entity with a restricted set of voters while still having the trappings of Democracy. It is ironic that the Party claims to be a communist Party despite the fact that capitalism is rampant there. There are no real communist or socialist economies as there are no countries without capitalism. Don’t believe me? Find a country without a corporation or a businessman. Good luck.

Today we have a democracy in America that follows the desires of wealthy families and corporations more than the will of the people. I am amused and repulsed listening to Republican politicians trying to sound humane while touting a medical industry solution to healthcare. Insisting that all Americans can afford decent healthcare from a corporation is an epic smoke and mirror act. Universal corporate healthcare is only universal for those who can afford it. This stance, profit over a healthy life, supports the idea that American Democracy is moving toward being an Oligarchy: a Democracy driven by a wealthy few placing the well-being of corporate wallets over the well-being of the general population.

There is no danger of communism or socialism overtaking America with anything other than a large scale revolution. Casting a national effort to secure a healthy life for all citizens as socialism is a baseless effort to paint a humane policy as something to be afraid of. Universal healthcare ends capitalism in the hospital where it should never have been allowed in the first place. It does not end capitalism overall. If caring for human life and quality of life is socialism then what does that say about capitalism’s goals in the hospital? Hint, the only thing a capitalist wants is money.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family-owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Bravo!!!

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