Thursday, August 21, 2003
It's late, I'm tired, and I don't feel like dealing in heavy stuff, so instead, I'll engage in some Joe Conason-style idiocy by making a transparently partisan and one-sided list. The original list by Joe Conason I found over at Megan's, where I've made some un-pithy comments; the article it comes from is at Salon, though you'll have to shell out real moolah to get the whole thing. Reading its summary was enough to convince me that my money would be better spent elsewhere -- for example, I could deposit it in an Enron pension fund. Megan kindly republishes Conason's list, saving me the effort of paying for Salon:
If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights -- you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable -- you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family -- you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green -- you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism -- with the support of the American people.
You know, honestly -- I'm not really all that right-wing. My mind is not made up on many things, and I am certainly not of the opinion that Medicare or protection of the environment is just Communism by another name! etc. But stuff like this... well, let's just say it doesn't really help the left wing when I read it. I've given plenty of objections on Megan's site; no point in repeating them here. Specifically, I voiced some major misgivings about the use of the terms conservative and liberal; feel free to give them a read if you get hit with bouts of insonmia. Still, I'll use the words here the way tradition -- and Conason -- allows them to be misused. For the purposes of this post, liberal is a synonym for left-winger and conservative really means right-winger. Pejman, who is solidly to my right, has tried to come up with his own list of what conservatives should be thanked for. However, I think it misses the mark in places:
If you are one of those people who believed that the Soviet Union really was an "Evil Empire," didn't laugh when Ronald Reagan consigned it to the "ash heap of history," and was glad when it--and the Warsaw Pact--fell, you can thank conservatives... If you believe that you should keep more of your money through tax reductions, and that you can handle your money better than the government, you can thank conservatives. If you believe that the Second Amendment should be taken seriously when it says that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," you can thank conservatives... If you believe that people should have the right to invest their Social Security retirement in private markets, you can thank conservatives for championing this issue. If you like the idea of free markets in general, you can thank conservatives.
The problem is that these statements aren't really designed for broad appeal. If you fit any of these criteria -- well, you are a conservative, really. Conason's list has an advantage in that it appeals to consequences, and takes credit for things that are universally liked: I mean, really, who wants filthy rivers and poisoned food? (How did the human race ever survive all that poisoned food, anyway...) When it comes to Conason-style demagoguery, Pejman just doesn't rate. How he sleeps at night knowing this, frankly, I will never understand.

Let's see if I can do better. Without further ado, here's what I think a right-wing version of Conason's list should sound like:

If you own a nice house in the location of your choice; if you were not "assigned" your meager apartment by a bureaucrat according to "need"; if you have an air conditioner to run when it's hot, and cheap hot water for your shower -- you can thank conservatives. If you enjoy our country's high productivity and high standard of living; if you like knowing that you are paid for your work and that you are free to choose another career -- you can thank conservatives. If you drive a car to work, drop off your kids and run errands at your own pace, and arrive at the time of your choosing without being tied down to schedules arranged at your local transit authority -- you can thank conservatives. If you own more than one car, allowing your family even more flexibility and control over where you live, where you work, and how you get around -- you can thank conservatives.

If your country is the technological leader of the world, producing wonders of electronics, telecommunications, transportation, and medicine that were science fiction only a few years ago -- you can thank conservatives. If your doctor's visits are not rationed, and your surgery does not require a month-long wait -- you can thank conservatives. If today you are able to live thanks to advanced surgery, and tomorrow miraculous new drugs are developed and made available to cure cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes -- you can thank conservatives. If you are able to snag a few cheap plane tickets to visit friends across the country, you can thank conservatives. (If you couldn't find cheap air fare, but were able to jump in your car and drive a few states over -- still thank conservatives.) If you are able to open a business without waiting years for permission -- you can thank conservatives. If you are able to keep enough of your paycheck to cover luxuries such as your computer -- thank conservatives.

If your country is not a decaying, hollowed-out shell of its former glory, able only to impotently spit venom about "simplisme" -- thank conservatives. If you are not dominated by an evil, tyrannical doctrine -- be it Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, or Islamism -- thank conservatives. If you are Jewish, and still have a land to call your own -- thank conservatives. If you are Iraqi, and will never again worry about being shredded -- thank conservatives. (If you have family members tortured to death between November '02 and March '03 -- thank a liberal for that.) If you do not have to tremble before the words of thuggish dictators; if you, your wife, your sister, or your daughter never wears a burka, if your life is not spent fearing a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice -- thank conservatives. If you are able to indulge in "sinful" pleasures such as drinking, smoking, or eating high-fat foods -- thank conservatives. If, one day, you have a choice of not sending your child to a delapidated public school whose primary mission is keeing teachers' union members employed -- thank a conservative. If your children are not considered state property -- thank conservatives. If you are able to post your opinions on a global network, without having to receive "license" from bureaucrats, pending proof that you will be operating "in the public interest" -- thank conservatives for that, too. If you're able to wake up every morning, feeling that you ultimately control your own destiny, and are not at the constant mercy of The People -- thank a conservative.
Before people write angry letters -- yes, this whole list is stupid, simplistic, and grossly unfair. That is the whole point -- it's classic demagoguery. Frankly, I hate the sanctification/vilification exercises both sides of the political debate engage in; I know liberals, and I know conservatives, and the fruitcake contingent of each camp aside, most have the same principles, and want roughly the same things, which is why our society is so successful. (If either side were anything like its opponents describe, the U.S. would be one miserable hellhole to live in, that's for sure -- between all those crypto-fascist racist brown-people-killin' conserrrvatives and the proto-communist authoritarian France- and UN-worshippin' librulls.) But hey, occasional demagoguery is fun -- and it seems good enough for Conason.


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