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Ask Auntie Pinko
February 5, 2004

Hello readers! Today, it's Auntie's Odds & Ends - several smaller items that have been floating around in the mailbag for awhile...

Dear Auntie Pinko,

Lately, when I go into other forums (those where liberals and conservatives debate), many conservatives have stopped calling me a liberal and started calling me a socialist. Why do you think they are calling me that now? How can I counter them?

Kentwood, MI

Dear LTS,

I think they're calling you that because they have little understanding of what 'liberal' means and less understanding of what 'socialist' means. Auntie thinks it would be awfully fun if, when they do that, you got a really pleased, surprised look on your face and said "Really? Oh, thank you!!" with obvious sincerity.

The ability of the right to demonize and stigmatize the words "liberal" and "socialist" has been most distressing, especially in how it indicates either an unwillingness or (worse) an inability of the would-be demonizers to do sufficient research to really understand what they're talking about. (Incidentally, this goes just as strongly for the lefties who say the word 'conservative' dripping with ignorant contempt. Conservatism is a perfectly valid - and valuable - ideology that makes an important contribution to a thoughtful public debate and the evolution of public policy. No good purpose is served by reducing these perfectly useful and neutral words to the status of name-calling.)

Dear Auntie Pinko,

We seem to be in the midst of a great debate about taxes. My question is how did the government earn its keep before the great tax growth during the First World War? I seem to remember something about tariffs which were very regressive and destructive to certain groups of Americans.

As for me I really would prefer paying a tax that gets divided among all the governmental bodies and is highly progressive. Any chances of that?

Killeen, TX

Dear Glenda,

While it is the wish of Auntie's heart to see the US tax code reformed into a system that taxes both income and wealth accrual fairly and progressively, for both individuals and businesses, I am afraid I would have to say at this point that the snowball's chances in you-know-where look much better. Sorry.

Dear Auntie Pinko,

Often when I get into an argument with a conservative person over something I see as unjust in our society, they will bring out that classic, argument-ending trump card: "Well, that's just life!" or "Life's not fair!" or worst of all, "If you don't like it, why don't you just go to Canada or something?" Now, I realize that I'm not going to be able to pursue an intellectually deep conversation with these types of people, but how should I respond to these "life's not fair/love it or leave it" comments?

Akron, Ohio

Dear Dan,

In one of Auntie's favorite films, "African Queen", the character played by Humphrey Bogart attempts to excuse his loutish behavior by saying to the character played by Katherine Hepburn, "Aw, come on, Miss… It's just nature."

Ms Hepburn's character's response is "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put upon this earth to overcome."

Auntie suggests that this exchange might offer you some interesting insights into formulating a response to the above-referenced remarks.

Dear Auntie Pinko,

If there's one word I can't stand hearing it's "Patriotism." If there's one phrase I can't stand hearing it's "Suppport our troops." Why does everyone have to reaffirm their patriotism before they say they don't support Bush? Am I the only one in the world who thinks patriotism is just a manipulative socio-political tool? Are not most wars caused and prolonged through the concepts of nationalism/patriotism? (I think the two words go together and nothing good every comes from either.) Furthermore why does every anti-war remark have to start with the preamble "I support our troops but..." Is it not ridiculous to say you support the troops but are against the war? In a sense are you not saying "I support the people who are killing other people but I am against the war?" To me starting any anti-war statement with "I support our troops" is merely an appeasement to flag wavers and if you are trying appease flag wavers are you any better than them?

Mexico City

Dear Ryan,

While, as Mr. Samuel Johnson noted, patriotism may indeed be the last refuge of the scoundrel (and it is true that much evil is done in the name of patriotism), it is also a concept that has helped humanity progress from a me-against-the-world selfishness to the modest improvement of an us-against-the-world selfishness. As such, it is not to be despised. Many sincere and noble acts are inspired by patriotism. Don't let the scoundrels tarnish that for you.

Auntie is herself strongly pacifist (I don't think there are many human problems which cannot be solved by other means than war.) I am also keenly aware of the value of self-defense, which is represented in the larger social sense by those individuals who are willing to place their lives between what they care about and the carnage of war - even if, yes, that involved committing some of that carnage themselves. In a system like America's where the military is under the control of a civilian government and commander-in-chief, they have little choice about where and when they are sent to fight. They rely on we civilians, through the government we control by our votes and voices, to ensure that the sacrifice they offer is being used wisely.

The fact that their sacrifice has been so frequently and devastatingly abused in the last fifty years does not negate its value to our continuing freedom. Since the troops have, in fact, no say whatsoever over where or how they are sent to fight, it is both logical and philosophically consistent to make it clear that while one appreciates the sacrifices they are making, one deplores the misuse of those sacrifices that is being made by a civilian government. Wherein lies the problem with this?

Hi Auntie,

I appreciate your views. I live in SW Florida among the conservatives. My problem is every time I open my mouth about the Democratic Candidates these ultra-Republicans puff up in criticism. I need a comeback. Will you present me with concrete reasons to vote for John Kerry, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich, and/or Al Sharpton? At this time I am really impressed with Wesley Clark. Please be brief as I find it very hard to get a word in edgewise!

Ft. Myers, Florida

Dear Belle,

The candidates all have one quality in common which should induce anyone who cares about the quality of America's leadership to vote for any one of them:

None of them is named "George W. Bush."

View Auntie's Archive

Do you have a question for Auntie Pinko?

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Just send e-mail to:, and make sure it says "A question for Auntie Pinko" in the subject line. Please include your name and hometown.

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