When Americans decry socialism what they often mean is sharing.
It took me ages to understand that. For many Europeans living here the intensity of many American's objection to public programs of any kind is a terrific surprise, particularly when you notice how generous they can be one on one.
So something as helpful as a national health care program, which you'd think would be probably a national priority, is instead refashioned as a terrifying communist plot - and the lives of Senators and Congressional leaders are actually threatened over its implementation. Glenn Beck actually says "the war is just beginning," on his show in response to it. Talk about doomsday rhetoric.
But why? What do they actually fear? It's seems pretty evident: that poor people across the nation are going to get sick and stick the rest of us with the bill.
Screw that, says America, toss 'em out on the street instead. Don't give us any of your bleeding heart liberal compassion about our fellow citizens. It's sink or swim here, and it always was, and it always will be, and just why should it be any other way?
No one helped me, I'm helping no one.
American commentator Stephen Colbert put's the viewpoint succinctly:
"If this is gonna be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition - and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
It's become quite clear that many Americans just don't want to do it. They can wrap themselves up in the flag but when the time comes to walk the walk they'll say no their neighbor, their state, their nation, their president and even Jesus himself.
Ever notice how the "our country was founded on Christian principals" crowd grow strangely silent when their own Christian principals dictate they materially help their less fortunate neighbors?
Suddenly their competing inheritance of "self-discipline and self-reliance" drowns out the mushy liberal sounding stuff.
Most American conservatives live somewhere inside this paradox: where the biblical commands to share are met with the supposed constitutional claims that refuse it.
And there's no way out of that labyrinth, which is why America can't find the exit.