No, “I think I’m pregnant” is a universal constant. The four words are “It can be better.” Recently, maha and I have written some posts about conservatism. I’ve also finished reading Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus which is an excellent natural history of Southern conservatives (note: I grew up about 60 miles from Bageant’s hometown of Winchester). I’ll have more to say about the book, but one part that crystallized something for me was this (italics mine):
Being a southerner, I have hated in my lifetime. I can remember schoolyard discussions of supposed “nigger knifing” of white boys at night and such. And like most people over fifty, it shows in my face, because by that age we have the faces we deserve. Likewise I have seen hate in others and know it when I see it. And I am seeing more of it now than ever before in my lifetime, which is saying something considering that I grew up down here during the Jim Crow era. Fanned and nurtured by neoconservative elements, the hate is every bit equal to the kind I saw in my people during those violent years. Irrational. Deeply rooted. Based on inchoate fears.
The fear is particularly prevalent in the middle and upper-middle classes here, the very ones most openly vehement about being against using the words nigger and fuck. They are what passes for educated people in a place like Winchester. You can smell their fear. Fear of losing advantages and money. Fear there won’t be enough time to grab and stash enough geet to keep themselves and their offspring in Chardonnay and farting through silk for the next fifty years. So they keep the lie machinery and the smoke generators cranking full blast as long as possible, hoping to elect another one of their own kind to the White House–Democratic or Republican, it doesn’t matter so long as they keep the scam going. The Laurita Barrs speak in knowing, authoritative tones, and the inwardly fearful house painter and single-mom forklift driver listen and nod. Why take a chance on voting for a party that would let homos be scout masters?
That is what Buckley was in reality defending when he talked about “standing athwart history” and yelling “stop.” To put it another way, it could be summed up in a single phrase, “It could be worse.” Never mind that all you have in front of you is thirty years of backbreaking work to pay of the overpricing, zero-down mortgage on your double-wide. Even if you’re well-off, there is a fear that it could all collapse, that everything could vanish you could slide down a notch or three (and have to do that backbreaking work that you currently employ others to do for you). As Shakes put it recently:
We see workers who would rather see other people denied a benefit they don’t have than see as many benefits extended to as many people as possible.
….Because it’s just oh-so-easy to say that people deserve what they get once “I got mine.” And once “I got mine,” then it becomes all about protecting “me and mine”–and oh what an extraordinary capacity the Social Darwinists have for suffering all manner of indignity being imposed upon others to preserve themselves.
So why should one “take a chance on voting for a party that would let homos be scout masters” or that would ‘give’ healthcare to the ‘undeserving?
Because it can be better.
That little phrase is why conservatives went into full slime mode over Michael Moore’s movie Sicko. Because it attacked the oppressive cult of American Exceptionalism–and, yes, it is oppressive, because the first step towards improving anything is recognizing that you might not actually be the best.
We should be able to have a healthcare system as good as France or Denmark.
We should be able to provide for the elderly and the infirm.
We should have an economy that doesn’t have usury as a major ‘industry.’
When we ask those questions, we stumble across the next phrase:
We can do it better.
Not only does that piss off the “the government is the problem, not the solution” conservatives, but it also is a daggerstrike to the heart of the theopolitical conservatives. Because another way of phrasing “We can do it better” is “Why wait for Jesus? Build a better world, here and now.” That is not only a threat to the economic conservatives, but also the theological ones–there’s a reason they make such good bedfellows: they are united in their pessimism.
That’s what makes liberals different from conservatives–a belief that “It can be better.”
Related post: Oliver Willis has some similar thoughts.