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Does anyone in America still know what these words mean?

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newtothegame Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:26 PM
Original message
Does anyone in America still know what these words mean?
Socialism. Fascism. Communism. Nazi. Racist. Sexist.

We've all been using these words for so long as tools of political convenience that they've been completely drained of all meaning. Our kids and grandkids will have NO IDEA the horror (or non-horror) that originally lay behind some of these words.
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Posteritatis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:27 PM
Response to Original message
1. Simple: they mean "anything I happen to dislike" these days. (nt)
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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:29 PM
Response to Original message
2. I could also add "improvement" to that list
so many seem to think it means "perfection". At least they try to refute it that way.
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LostInAnomie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:30 PM
Response to Original message
3. Don't forget "Patriot" and "Un-American".
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JuniperLea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:31 PM
Response to Original message
4. Conservative doesn't really mean conservative anymore either...
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 12:31 PM by JuniperLea
I think Reagan and Goldwater would have a hard time recognizing the people who use that moniker today.

Edited to say... I'm beginning to think that Reagan wasn't half as bad as those who today use his name in vain.
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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:04 PM
Response to Reply #4
11. Sorry, but he was every bit as bad, if not worse.
Goldwater hated Reagan because of what Reagan did to American conservatism. That tell you anything?
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JuniperLea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. Uh... where did I say he wasn't bad?
Jeez... I was using him as a bad yardstick for crying out loud!
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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:41 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Whups - that's the problem with speed reading.
I was replying to what I thought you said rather than what you DID say. My bad.
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JuniperLea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Wow! What a nice DUer you are!
I so rarely see a retraction around here:)

:yourock:
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Obamanaut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:32 PM
Response to Original message
5. "Robust" appeared a lot in the news the last few months. nt
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sui generis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:43 PM
Response to Original message
6. exactly - bogeymen, all.
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 12:44 PM by sui generis
Socialism is not a single unified concept - it has as many nuances in definition as there are poli sci professors and philosophers, and even more nuance in practice.

Nazi? A member of the Nationalist party in and around WWII Germany. Of course when we say "Nazi" what we imagine is the evil helmeted cartoon german soldier and a dozen other two-penny one-dimensional villains. Yes, there certainly were those, but for the most part the german soldiers that fought and died on the front lines were scared conscripted hungry german boys pressed into service just like ours were.

It is both diminishing and inappropriate to infer holocaust prison camp guard gestapo from the term "Nazi", and better to choose a more judicious comparison. HOWEVER, in common vernacular it now means a totalitarian absolute authoritarian, without reference to reality of any kind.

What is a homophobe? Is it always a rabid "death to gays" psychopath, or does that also include people who are under-exposed to the broader culture and haven't learned to accept other people? I have a lot more patience for the ignorant than for the hateful.

Ironically, I have been told here many times that I'm a racist and a bigot and even (snork!) a homophobe right here on DU. Not to mention that I'm also anti-semitic, misogynistic and elitist. And all because I refuse to see the world in black and white.

Good grief, some days it's like being in kindergarten all over again. The main thing is it's a desperate red herring to intentionally align someone with a distasteful moniker that they must vehemently deny or else tacitly admit, thereby side stepping the main logic (or lack of logic) of the disagreement under way.



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Fumesucker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:53 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. If you haven't been labeled with two completely opposite terms in the same day..
You aren't trying hard enough. :)

Actually I've found the easiest way to diminish the power of a label is to embrace it, make it your own, I actually changed my handle to "Slanderous Bastard" on one forum I used to frequent and it totally flummoxed everyone who was trying to give me a hard time.

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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 02:14 PM
Response to Reply #6
12. Actually, Nazi is very specific and did NOT include scared conscripts.
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 02:15 PM by RaleighNCDUer
Just as not everyone in the soviet union was not a communist, not everyone in Nazi Germany was a Nazi - but if you WERE a Nazi you deserve every bit of condemnation as any death camp guard. And the system they belonged to, and believed in, and that their modern counterparts believe is WAS an absolute authoritarian totalitarian system which is the only system that could have created the holocaust. If someone espouses Nazi principles today, knowing what they once led to, then he is a Nazi whether he claims the name or not.

There were NO good Nazis.

Not every term is a meaningless boogeyman. When I call someone a Nazi, it has a very definite meaning.

(edited for typo)
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sui generis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 04:12 PM
Response to Reply #12
17. really?
I have personal knowledge sir.

My family is from Bavaria, with my jewish grandfather marrying into an aristocratic family (the Wittelsbachs). Before there were jews in prison camps there were socialists in prison camps. And catholic priests. He should know, he was sent to Dachau twice, the first time for having socialist friends, and the second time for being jewish. My older 14 year old uncle died in Dachau, a victim of a decompression experiment, for the crime of being gay, something he confessed to a counselor at school.

Ironically, my grandfather was also in the German army serving in his vocation as a master civil engineer. He wore the uniform. He had a choice, about being in the army. If his wife wanted food stamps to get rationed butter, sugar, milk, flour and what few eggs there might be available (and you needed stamps, not money), he had to serve. German soldiers didn't have a choice about what party they were aligned with, even if only nominally, in a one-party system, if they wanted their children to eat.

An American would have shot my grandfather on sight. There is considerably more horror and grief in this story that is not appropriate for casual discussion on DU.

But what I can say is, my younger uncle also died a few days ago, in 1945, at the age of four, while my grandfather was in Dachau the second time. He died of malnutrition and pneumonia, with only a few undeveloped photos to document he was ever here. My grandmother, alone, deposed and destitute, buried him quietly in the field out back of the house she was staying at in Ansbach.

After the American occupation took hold, my grandfather actually was able to get miraculous things from the Americans -- fresh apples, a small tube of toothpaste, some soap, from the Americans. On the way home, carrying the camera that had the last undeveloped film of his son, an American soldier stopped him and asked him for his papers and searched him. He accused my grandfather of being a FUCKING NAZI, roughed him up, confiscated the fruit and toothpaste, and when my grandfather pleaded for him in English to not destroy the film because it was picture of his son, the soldier tore the film from the camera and threw it on the ground, and ground it into the dirt.

So tell me again, what is a Nazi? Is it whatever you or any other American thinks a Nazi is, based on some internal dialogue? Or some stereotype? And how willing are we to act on those narrow definitions? The only "nazi" there that day was that American soldier, by the most common american definition. He finished what Dachau started; assaulted a man for an idea, and took away the last link this man had to his son, forever, beat him physically, and almost destroyed him in spirit.

I can step away and think that most ignorant use of the term today just means unreasonably authoritarian, and let it go.

Life is too complicated for simple blanket rules in language.

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RaleighNCDUer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-21-10 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. I think you proved my point -
you might note that I was specifically referring to my own use of the term, not anybody else's. I know a fair number of lefties who are injudicious about the term 'Nazi' (though not to the degree that righties are with 'communist' and 'socialist'), but when I use that term I am not speaking about run of the mill authoritarians, but about those whose authoritarianism is rooted in racial hatred, who elevate themselves above other races and cultures, and who have a disregard for those people which can, and does, lead to murderous excess.

The American soldier you spoke of was not a Nazi - he was an ignorant, authoritarian boor. And your grandfather, though wearing the Wehrmacht uniform, was not a Nazi as he did not espouse the core principles (if you can call them that) of the party. I will even go so far as to say that some few who had party membership were not Nazis, being forced to join the party to continue in their professional careers while privately holding no such beliefs.

But Nazism is not just a movement relegated to one particular time and place. There ARE Nazis in America who have never had any connection with Germany. They may go by different names - KKK is one - but they are Nazis and need to be recognized as such. Relegating Nazism to some point in the dead past is an invitation for it to rise again.
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sui generis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-21-10 02:27 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. just the same, I don't condone language policing -
that's a form of authoritarianism itself.

and I especially don't think that we should elevate and enshrine our linguistic devils, or us gay folk could never tolerate being "queer" for exactly the same reasons. There are also people whose authoritarianism is rooted in xenophobia, and they elevate themselves merely by aligning themselves with the majority and pretending to speak on its behalf.

I suppose the best blanket rule is each his or her own, at least in language. In conversation the responsible contender is the one who hears the message before judging the words that crafted it.

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deaniac21 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #12
18. Stalin was pretty good at dealing death to very large groups
Edited on Tue Apr-20-10 04:55 PM by deaniac21
as well. Edited because I just thought of the Nazi Oscar Schindler.
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Biker13 Donating Member (609 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 12:56 PM
Response to Original message
8. K&R
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zipplewrath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 01:15 PM
Response to Original message
9. Technical vs emotional
The problem with many of those words, and more, are that they have technical definitons, and more emotional ones. There is a technical definition of communism, and it has little to do with the form of government in either the USSR or China. Discrimination is a good thing when trying to choose targets, or cancer cells. The problem with the "XXXists" (or the slighly more modern "phobes") is that it has been equated with some sort of active or conscious decision, as oppose to the result of cultural up bringing. There is bias, and that can cause prejudice. However, not all bias is intentional or concious. All of these words develop a strong negative emotional context however, that makes them difficult to use in anything approaching a social context. Heck, remember the poor guy that used (correctly I might add) the word "niggardly"? He had to quit his job. Try to tell someone that their understanding contains a bias and they'll respond (forcefully) "Are you calling me a racist?".
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Ozymanithrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 01:55 PM
Response to Original message
10. "You keep saying that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." n/t
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Jennicut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 03:12 PM
Response to Original message
16. Nazism was facist. Some argue fascism is neither left nor right.
Communism,socialism, capitalism are easier to define. But that darn fascism is just too complicated for the idiots on the right to understand.
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