Joe The Plumber: American with a Capital A

My girlfriend wanted to go shopping for Halloween costumes on Thursday, during her lunch hour. Now, she works in downtown Sacramento and we live in Folsom, which presents a problem because there’s a good twenty or thirty miles between the two, and Al Gore tells me if I drive my car too much I’ll kill the planet, something I don’t want to do. So I packed up my son’s lunch and homework and saw him off to school, then hopped on my bike, with my AM radio piping in some talk radio for the trip.

One of the last things I did before I left the house was a quick update to The Blog That Nobody Reads, which involved an unusual wistful request about upcoming cultural changes, something that is typically outside of our field of interest. Of course, it had to do with the elections — a recurring four-year event in which all our lives are impacted, and practically shaped, by whatever values and sentiments emerge from the ballot box as “prevailing.” And so it is the one time I’m forced to care about what others think. So now I’m worried. I’m particularly worried that the signs indicate, with an undercurrent of certainty, that we’re about to botch it and botch it good.

I asked that a “meme” take over on the innernets with regard to Joe the Plumber; that people rise up, and say loud and proud, “I AM JOE THE PLUMBER.”

That was Thursday morning. On Friday Iowahawk, intentionally or not, obediently complied

I hope you will join me in expressing a simple bit of solidarity with this guy, Spartacus style. I AM JOE. I am a Wal Mart schlub in flyover country who changes my own oil and unclogs drains without a license. I smoke and drink beer and toss the football in the front yard with my kid, and I figure I can fend my way without handouts from some Magic Messiah’s candy bags. Most everyone in my family and most everyone I grew up with is another Joe, and if you screw with them, you screw with me.

Are you a Joe? Say it proud. Leave it on every g*dd*mn newspaper comment section and online forum. Let these pressroom and online thugs know you won’t stay silent when they try to destroy the life of a private citizen for speaking his mind — because for every one of them, there are a million Joe Wurzelbachers. And for that we should all be thankful.

No, he didn’t “obediently comply” quite so much. It’s a case of great minds thinkin’ alike. Whatever; that was the kindling catching under the big-wood, and now the bonfire is ablaze.

Blogger friend Buck thinks I was ahead of my time. I prefer to think of it more as a natural resonance thing. Real Americans exhibit a common behavior, that is synchronized not through genuine collaboration, but by shared values. Joe the Plumber did not come looking for Obama; Obama came looking for Joe, and when Joe didn’t give Obama the answer Obama wanted, the Obama campaign started looking for ways to destroy Joe. I have an emotional reaction to that. Real Americans have the same reaction to that, that I do. The small-a “americans” who support Barack Obama, don’t react the same way and can’t react the same way, because it would conflict with their rabid, tingly support for their messianic but decidedly lackluster presidential candidate.

But anyway.

I put out my call for solidarity with Joe early enough that it preceded any real knowledge I had about the fellow. It came before what emerged as a swelling of new facts about Joe the Plumber…the whole license thing, tax lien thing, etc. etc. etc. None of which really matters to me at all. But what does matter to me, is something I heard coming out of Rush Limbaugh’s program just as I took my mountain bike off the Jedediah Smith recreational trail and pointed it down J Street, into downtown:

Joe the Plumber does not make 250,000 dollars a year. He doesn’t even make close to that.

He just wants to.

This does not detract from my admiration for the real Joe the Plumber. It doesn’t change my desire for people to pull the “I Am Spartacus” thing with Joe.

Quite to the contrary, I think that’s thirty tons of awesome.

You see, Joe is not speaking out about his objections to Barack Obama’s Robin-Hood tax plan with regard to his current economic status. He is objecting on behalf of his own dreams, which is quite a different thing. Joy Behar revealed herself to be a small-a american when she called those dreams “fantasies.” I’ve been familiar with that mindset for awhile. Years and years ago, the Sacramento area had a left-wing radio talk show host piped in from Los Angeles, and I remember this talk show host had a caller who was discussing tax plans and social programs and what not. The talk show host asked how much money the caller made, and I think the number was 44,000 a year or something. Talk show host said “Okay, then; you, will never, ever make more than sixty thousand a year. In your life. EVER. I guarantee it.” Or words to that effect. I’m paraphrasing. But the point was that we’re stratified, economically, and we’re stratified in perpetuity, womb to tomb.

I am Joe because I do not believe that is the case.

When You Dream...I do not believe we walk around from cradle to grave with “R” or “P” etched into our foreheads, marking us as rich or poor. I believe we ascend and descend; I believe we ascend and descend quickly and strongly. I would even add “violently.” Furthermore, I think that is the point of having an America. At all. I think the country was founded by people who figured out life is not about abundances of security, quite so much as of opportunity. Liberty…to succeed, to fail, to rise, to fall. Real freedom — when it’s sweet, and when it’s sour. I think they figured out when you have too much security, that things don’t move. I think they figured out what life is, and like babies emerged from the womb, were hungry to live it. They figured out life is motion, and therefore, life is danger. At least, that’s what life is if you’re of the mindset that equates responsibility with danger.

I think the country was founded by people who wanted things to move. Joe gets it. He’s got his big ol’ dreams, and being a capital-A American he’s going to work toward them. Maybe his dreams are on a completely different level from anything he’s done before. In fact, maybe when measured on a probability scale, they really do become fanciful. Maybe he will never succeed. Maybe he’s got his on-days when he works like a Tasmanian Devil toward achieving those dreams, and maybe he’s got his off-days when he never lifts a finger to bring himself any closer to those dreams. Maybe his lack of a license is a tell-tale sign that he isn’t really dedicated to what he’s supposed to be doing.

But they are dreams and they are not fantasies. Because here’s the difference: Barack Obama walks up to Joe, and says…if & when you make a quarter million a year, I’m gonna take some from you and spread the wealth around. And Joe, who I presume is not a loyal Republican or democrat and doesn’t really have a historical stake in the right-versus-left thing, says to himself…hey, that’ll work out alright for me in the here-and-now, but he’s screwing around with my dreams.

And so he safeguards the future. If you’re reading, Ms. Behar, that is the difference between a dream and a fantasy.

The small-a americans can’t have dreams like those. They’ve given them up. And they know it. That fills them with fear and rage; when they see someone like Joe, a Genuine American, who has dreams about the future and thinks they’re real enough that they deserve protection, it all bubbles up to the surface. Michelle Malkin calls it JTPDS, for Joe The Plumber Derangement Syndrome. And she’s got examples. Lots of ’em. Go read up.

I have seen this kind of anger before. I have seen it…roughly…a month and a half ago. When Sarah Palin started making the news. Women hate Sarah Palin because — and when they explain it, themselves, they don’t make an awful lot of sense.

 • She is seen as ideal because her son is being deployed to Iraq… does that speak to her credibility as a candidate?
 • children with crazy names: Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper…. i feel sorry for them!
 • married to high school boyfriend…. come on how about some exploration! [emphasis in original]

This is not the way right-wing “hate” works, I notice. You haven’t long to wait if you’re looking for examples of how people on the right wing are perceived to be puttin’ the hate on people on the left wing. The accusations fly fairly often. And if you look at what inspires or provokes those accusations of right-wing hate, you see the motivation is something similar to what set off Plumber Joe.

It isn’t tax liens, or plumbing without a license, or hunting moose or giving one’s own kids crazy names. It is “HEY…your tax-the-rich plans are screwing up my dreams.” Dreams of starting a large, successful business; dreams of teaching my kid how to use a target rifle; dreams of buying my wife an enormous SUV that she can’t commandeer without a hydraulic stepladder on the side, just because she’s a wonderful woman and I think she deserves it.

The Left, on the other hand, just dredges up ugly tidbits…some of which aren’t even ugly. Sarah Palin’s got a tanning bed. Todd works for BP oil. Joe the Plumber called Social Security a “joke.” He’s divorced. Over and over again, they play up these things as scandals, and in so doing reveal how out-of-touch they are. And, the lengths they’ll go to putting America under the control of the “correct” people.

I Am Joe The PlumberIt’s the kind of snarking you do when you catch someone doing something wonderful, that you could’ve done awhile ago, and in the days since then have made some kind of commitment toward not doing it. And to think — all Joe did, to set off this kind of anger, was dare to dream. To imagine himself as bigger tomorrow than he is today, to to make some substantial choices toward bringing that “fantasy” to reality. And to do some thinking, which leads to Step One: Don’t support Barack Obama, or any other soft-socialist, for any position of power.

He saw the light, along with millions and millions of capital-A Americans. If this guy gets his way, then what is the freakin’ point to what I’m trying to do? That’s the dangerous message. That’s the genie that was let out of the bottle. That’s where the American identity lives. We don’t prove to each other, or to a bunch of foreigners around the world, what wonderful “civilised” people we are by backing the “right” policies…abolishing guns…abolishing capital punishment…signing carbon emission treaties…etc. Americans are not here to be wonderful — we aren’t here to be, period. Americans do. We dream, and then we do.

Joe The Plumber speaks for me. I am Joe The Plumber. His story is my story. So say we all. Or, at least…many of us. We think the way he thinks. We do not see ourselves, tomorrow, bound by what defines us today. To us, this is what being a real American, is all about — we dare to dream big. And when you screw with Joe, you’re screwin’ with the rest of us.

The rest of you who hate him so much…there are lots of other countries out there, who hate Joe for the same reasons you do. They’d love to have ya, I’m sure. Think on it. Hope you get your place overseas all set up and furnished by the end of the month, and no, DON’T take an absentee ballot. It’ll just weigh you down, and that’ll make your jet plane emit more carbon.

Cross-posted at Cassy Fiano and House of Eratosthenes.

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