About twenty years ago, I was sweeping the parking lot of the McDonald's where I worked when this car that had just been in drive-thru pulled up along side me. The driver lowered his car window and, in a pissed-off voice, said to me, "I thought we were supposed to be different from the communist countries!"
"Huh?" was my honest, heartfelt reply.
"I thought we were supposed to have choices in this country. That's why we're supposed to be so much better than the communists."
This was right after the Berlin Wall fell. It didn't literally fall, but East Berliners were now allowed to visit West Berlin without getting their heads blown off. Meanwhile, other Eastern Europeans countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were peacefully replacing their communist leaders with capitalistic democrats. Or democratic capitalists. Take your pick. And the whole thing had been set in motion by the sphere-influential leader of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Glasnost himself, Mikhail Gorbachev. As a result, there was a lot in the U.S. media about how the formally enslaved peoples of the Iron Curtain countries would now have more choices in their lives.
What kinds of choices? Well, they could now choose their own leaders. And they could now read anything they wanted. They could now criticize the government if they wanted. And they could write and paint and draw and compose and sculpt and direct and perform whatever they wanted without fear of being sent to some gulag in Siberia.
But that wasn't the kind of choice the guy in the McDonald's parking lot had in mind.
"Sir," I said. "I really don't know what you're talking about."
"I tell you what I'm talking about! I wanted Hot Mustard sauce for my Chicken McNuggets, but the girl in drive-thru said they were all out. She tried to give me Sweet 'N Sour instead! What kind of choice is that?! This country is supposed be about choices. I might as well be in Russia!"
With that, he did an angry burn out of the McDonald's parking lot, leaving me standing there in a cloud of carbon monoxide.
Let's jump 20 years ahead (and 70 years back) to an ism other than communism, shall we?
As you may know, both the House and the Senate have produced their health care reform plans. Plans that, hopefully, promise universal coverage at affordable rates. For the last six months or so, the political Right have been comparing such efforts to Nazism. You remember Nazism, don't you? Adolph Hitler. Goosesteps. Swastikas. Book burnings. Tattooed numbers. Cattle Cars. Barbed wire. Showers. Zyklon B. Ovens. Crimes against humanity. None of which I believe is mentioned in the current health care bill. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently appeared at an anti-health reform teabag event, sharing the podium with some guy holding up pictures of the dead at Buchenwald. That's not in the health care bill, either.
The Nazis did offer free medical attention to twins, whether they needed it or not. Usually not. Again, not in the current health care bill.
Really, you shouldn't compare what happens in the U.S. or other western countries to what happened under communism or Nazism. It's like comparing apples and oranges.
Or Hot Mustard and Sweet 'N Sour.