Alon Ben-Meir: ‘I am proud to be a socialist’
It is sad, appalling, and outrageous that much of what Bernie Sanders is advocating is denigratingly labeled as socialist, as if it were a stigma detached from the day-to-day realities of life that affect every American man, woman, and child. I have and continue to be apolitical, but for me, anything to do with human rights matters because in the final analysis, no one has any right whatsoever to undermine another person’s right to be free, to believe, to feel secure, and to be treated humanely and equitably, as long as it does not infringe upon someone else’s rights.
So, if the issues that address human rights are labeled “socialist”, then I must proclaim that I am a socialist to the core, and I invite anyone to challenge the premise of my conviction.
If a woman’s right to choose and decide her own reproductive future, and chart a future for and with her family, and rejecting the status quo where largely white Republican men decide what women should be doing with their bodies is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If taking climate change seriously—which scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms and is affecting the quality of life and livelihood of billions of people on the planet, and believing it must be tackled immediately is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If addressing the tragedy of child poverty, in a country that proclaims to be the richest yet is where more than 12 million children go to sleep hungry each night and little is done about it, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If recognizing that the minimum wage must be raised to at least $15 per hour to allow people, at a minimum, to make ends meet and have a roof over their heads and live with some dignity rather than on the streets is called socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If believing that healthcare is an absolute human right, that every American should have medical care, and that those who don’t have it currently should be able to acquire it through a universal health care program is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If lowering the cost of prescription drugs, which can save the life of one individual, let alone the millions who cannot afford life-saving prescription drugs and are dying needless deaths as a result, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If revitalizing the crumbling small towns and villages across America, which are rapidly becoming uninhabitable with rampant unemployment, to allow the people there to live a normal life and preserve their jobs is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If reforming the prison system, where nearly 2.3 million are imprisoned and 60 percent of the prison population is black or Latino, the majority of whom are incarcerated for non-violent offences, especially drug charges, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If confronting the national opioid epidemic by providing the necessary medical help and cracking down on the pharmaceutical industry, which has heavily fueled this crisis while making billions in profit, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If rectifying the immigration system and providing the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants, on whom many American industries, especially farming rely, with a path to citizenship is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If granting a pathway to citizenship for the 1.25-3.6 million DREAMers, who came to the US as children, speak no other language than English, and are productive Americans in every way that matters, with pride in their families, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If providing free tuition to all public colleges and universities, to give every young man and woman an opportunity to get an education and be productive citizens who contribute to the betterment of themselves and their family life, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If forgiving the student loan debt of over 44 million Americans (totaling more than $1.5 trillion) – a debt that is only increasing because of exorbitant interest rates, preventing them from progressing further in their lives, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If tackling the problem of widespread homelessness, estimated at 568,000 in the United States—the greatest stigma on a country as rich and innovative as America—is called socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If dealing with the epidemic of corruption—starting with the White House and filtering down to many government officials and businesses who make exorbitant profits while riding on the backs of their employees—is called socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If facing head-on the scourge of racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and the rise of white supremacy in America, and seeking to become more inclusive regardless of race, religion, and ideology, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If the need to end the political polarization of the American people, which is instilling distrust, hate, and animosity and destroying the very social fabric of America as we know it, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
If addressing inequality of wages – between men and women, whites and people of color – in their place of work, for people performing the same job with the same responsibility, is socialism, then I am proud to be a socialist.
Enacting rules and regulations and fostering a sense of national unity while embracing the premise that human beings have equal rights, which the constitution provides, does not negate capitalism but in fact enhances it. Capitalism thrives when there is a reason to believe that a better life and more opportunities await us, when despondency is replaced with hope, when equality and social justice prevail, and when national challenges are addressed with a unity of purpose.
This is the true meaning of the American dream; it is the solemn duty and responsibility of every Republican, Democrat, and independent alike to preserve and make America once again a light unto other nations.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.