There are really quite enough unpleasant things hanging around for us to be bothered by without inventing more stereotypes like Joe the Plumber. Here at cabdrollery, we make a bit of fun of the Wise Cabbie who always seems to have the right answer to readers' quandaries. We have fun with it, but somehow there always is a demagogue to make these stereotypes the highest standard, and hang their latest ideology on them.
Yes, I have a really decent plumber, who has been around this little town long enough to be familiar with my nonstandard type of plumbing. He's licensed and doesn't plan to buy out his boss, and if he cares about my taxes he's kept it to himself. Now I'm supposed to think because he might one day be earning a quarter million dollars, he's reason enough to keep an economic disaster going? No, thanks.
I see a lot of Obama's signs in our town, and I am very reassured by knowing that there are many here who want to turn the rascals out of office, no matter what their color may be. It's especially nice to know that stereotypes aren't strong enough to persuade everyone that they have to have their own race in office to be comfortable. Next thing you know my neighbors may even feel safe in New York City... or Philadelphia.
I would like very much to find out that electing Sen. Obama to the presidency will end the unfortunate history of this country of discrimination, much as the election of JFK was the end of bias against catholics in office for much of the country. It really is time we all saw that anyone, of any color, any background or any religion, can do a good job governing if they make that their aim.
Stereotyping has shown it is wrong, altogether. It is past time we stopped promoting the myth that only common folks can command our respect, or see the truth.
Historically speaking, conservatism is a movement organized and funded by society's most powerful members; politically speaking, it lusts for tax cuts and government rollbacks that will benefit those same fortunate folks at the top.
But what it really is, in its own mind, is a crusade on behalf of society's most abject members: the true Americans who are victimized, sneered at and persecuted for their faithfulness.
Who persecutes them? Well, the mainstream media, to begin with, which supposedly chuckles at their unadorned heartland ways from its lofty perches in New York and Washington. Academics, for another, with their fancy rhetoric and their bottomless contempt for the red, white and blue. And the ACLU, for a third, with its unceasing war on Ten Commandments monuments and Nativity scenes.
Then there is "the culture." Who is the butt of every joke you see on TV? Oafish Middle Americans. From sitcoms to Hollywood blockbusters to ads, their customs are disrespected in a thousand ways. Bestselling conservative books remind average citizens, in fantastic detail, the slanders and slights the world heaps upon them.
Apply this way of thinking to politics and every part of the conversation comes unmoored from reality, drifting off into an endless metaconversation about who's disrespecting whom.
Last week I mentioned Joe the Plumber, the Ohio everyman whose distaste for Barack Obama's tax plan has made him a staple of John McCain's stump speeches in these final days of the 2008 campaign. What I didn't mention was the dark nimbus of cultural grievance that is sometimes present when conservatives comment on the unassuming Buckeye proletarian.
Apparently it's not enough to agree with the Plumber on tax matters; one must also deplore Joe's rough treatment at the hands of the media mob, which checked up on his plumbing license and such when Joe became a campaign prop. Certain bloggers find this so horrifying they speak of Joe's martyrdom. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass described Joe's treatment as a decapitation, with the Plumber's severed head impaled on a "media pike." Stock proletarian #2, Tito the Builder, won his own GOP spurs not so much for his thoughts on taxes but for the way he confronted a crowd of reporters at a rally in Virginia and demanded, "Why the hell are you going after Joe the Plumber?"
Can't we judge without these labels forever getting in the way?
I voted for Sen. Obama last week. I feel very confident from what I've seen of the job he's done that our country will be well off in his care.
On the other hand, voting for some one who'd done a rotten job, and had experience that proved he can't do the job - I'd feel a lot better about this country if I knew that he'd not be getting the vote to be our president because he was the right color, the right religion, or the right name for them to check off on their ballot. I look forward to a day when the vote goes to the person who's shown the character, and the ability, to make good government their highest aim. But maybe I'm a dreamer.
Labels: Election 2008, Racism, Religion