(cross-posted at The Smirking Chimp)
My kids are big fans of the 'Blue Collar Comedy Tour', and especially of Larry the Cable Guy, a comedian so conservative that he named his daughter Reagan (I kid you not.) They have Tivo'ed several of the shows and so I hear a lot of it from the living room. Most of the time I tune it out, but one bit of Larry the Cable Guy's caught my attention. He was extolling the virtues of Wal-Mart, and deriding liberals who don't like Wal-Mart because they pay their employees so little. His advice to those weenies who don't like how employees are treated at Wal-Mart is - "Don't work at Wal-Mart!"
Those four words (or five, depending on whether Wal-Mart is one word or two) sum up the basic precepts of conservative philosophy.
You'll hear conservatives say, "If you don't want to work at Wal-Mart, then get an education and work hard and you won't have to." Pull yourself up by your bootstraps; put your nose to the grindstone; have some self-discipline. The old 'personal responsibility' routine.
What that does not address is the question, "If I don't work there, then who else should be working there?"
In other words, a job that pays so little that a full-time worker is still below the poverty line and is eligible for welfare is fine and dandy - as long as it's not me working there?
That's the essence of the conservative worldview: as long as I've got mine, I don't care if you have yours. The idea of everyone pursuing his or her own self-interest, then by the invisible hand, the self-interest of all will be maximized, or in the parlance of the Eighties, "Greed is good!" - is the one-size-fits-all answer to poverty, to injustice, to inequality. But what it boils down to in real life is "I've got mine." The idea that every person that works full-time is due enough compensation to support themselves, let alone a family, doesn't even enter into the calculation. It's okay for other people to be underpaid, overworked, taken advantage of. All that matters is - it's not me.
This is why conservatism just plain doesn't work - at least for the kind of society we say we want as Americans. There has to be some kind of consideration for more than just 'me and mine'. The place we're at right now - teetering on the brink of an economic collapse that could easily become a depression, embroiled in a grotesque, bloody occupation with no end in sight, pretending to be 'liberators' with no concern as to whether the country we're occupying wants us there or not, with a Vice-President who doesn't care how many Americans object to the war (apparently the two-thirds of Americans who say it's not worth fighting are merely exhibiting 'fluctuations in opinion', like toddlers who don't like apple juice today, but loved it yesterday), with the largest divide between rich and poor since the robber barons of the Gilded Age - is a place that conservatism, with its selfish, childish and short-sighted "I got mine" has brought us to.
And eventually, my conservative friends, even you may find yourself holding the short end of the stick. You may end up being the one treading water while someone else roars away to safety in the speedboat, oblivious to your cries for help. The policy of "I got mine" only leads to fewer and fewer people who have "got theirs" and more and more people who get next to nothing. Sooner or later, you'll be one of the latter. It's just a matter of time.
If you don't object to the mistreatment of your brother or sister, what will happen when it's your turn? Maybe you'll end up competing with Larry the Cable Guy for that swell greeter job at Wal-Mart.
How uniquely American.