Search out the truth

Jake Pickering got one thing right in his letter of Dec. 29 (“Bernie is a sure loser”): he repeatedly urged readers to check out the source material. I have yet to decide who to vote for in the primary, and since Pickering kindly referred to specific written and video documents, I did indeed check them out. My conclusion is that Mr. Pickering is hardly the friend to the Democratic Party he pretends to be. He is either parroting talking points from the right-wing media outlets that top the list of a Google search without viewing the documents himself; or he has seen them, and for reasons he did not divulge, willfully spread slanderous and misleading information, hoping nobody takes the time to take his advice.

It could require a semester-long course of study to detail all the distortions in this letter, so I’ll summarize just a couple of examples. Referring to a 1985 interview, Pickering says, “Bernie … uncritically lavished praise on a number of communist dictators like Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro. …” No. No, he didn’t. In the August interview, he cautiously described both concerns and encouraging developments in Nicaragua while expressing regard for the sincerity of the leaders. He also said the people on the street did not want America funding anti-government rebels or staging an invasion. They understood that interventionist foreign policy destabilizes nations, makes their problems worse, costs American taxpayers dearly and in the end, only benefits multinational corporations.

The paragraph about Bernie being on a Stalinist kibbutz in Israel is simply shameful, on a level of the McCarthyism of the 1950s. It also is dangerous in this era of escalating anti-Semitism to suggest that the communal life encouraged in Israel is akin to Soviet Stalinism. The Russian Jews who founded the kibbutz Sanders visited benefitted from the support of Russia after World War II in the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. But long before Sanders’ visit in 1963, Stalin’s criminality had come to the world’s attention. The Israeli people remembered only too well the ruthlessness of German totalitarianism, understood that repressive governments serve only themselves in the end, and disavowed Stalin. Any attempt to identify Sanders or Israeli kibbutzim with Stalin is reprehensible.

I could go on, but I encourage readers to search each of the talking points in that scurrilous letter. Dig into several sources from a variety of outlets. In this crucial election year, neither news outlets nor we the people can afford to sit back and accept talking points without due diligence. All of us have a duty to turn on our propaganda meter and pay attention, especially when the labeling and dehumanizing begin. “Marxist.” “Stalinist.” “Geriatric Russophile.” Inflammatory language is the lifeblood of the very forces, domestic and foreign, who count on division and animosity to consolidate their hold on wealth and power. Don’t imagine lies will go away if we ignore them. We must call them out.