Reflections on “Joe the Plumber”

From Vietnam vet William P. O’Connor:

A limbless victim of a forgotten war sat and watched me run by his wheelchair yesterday. While jogging past him at the Veterans’ Hospital two things crossed my mind. First I thought, despite aching calves and shortness of breath, I was lucky to be a Vietnam Veteran with legs. Then my thoughts segued to past foreign policy blunders and the current race for president. Lately, the candidates’ obsession with Average Joe, Joe Six pack and Joe the Plumber got my attention. I’ve been a soldier, oil rig worker, bartender, truck driver, and firefighter; and unlike the plunger pusher from Ohio my thought streams remain clogged by ideas and facts.

My opinions don’t warrant national attention like Joe the plumber, but I consider myself fortunate. Forty years before I was born, progressive labor leaders fought to get children out of factories and into schools.  Civil Service jobs, like firefighter, were given by political appointment and offered no competitive exams for promotion.  New York labor marches as late as 1914 had children carrying signs that read, “Support the 72 hour week” and “Please let us play on Sunday.” Decent working conditions, minimum wage and fair trade are all benefits demanded by the many from the few.  Before organized labor, employers denied health care, pensions, vacations, or other benefits. Giants of labor sacrificed their lives to get children off factory production lines, and their martyrdom should be neither taken for granted nor forgotten.

Sit in the day room or kitchen of a New York City fire house – which I proudly did for 23 years — and you’ll hear rants about liberals screwing up this country. The God damn left wing, bleeding heart socialists don’t care about the working man. They give our hard earned taxes to illegal immigrants, and minorities on welfare. Despite statistics showing more whites on welfare than minorities, false perceptions like this pervade blue collar America. The corporate media has persuaded Middle America that liberal is a prefix to be followed immediately by bastard. It behooves those in control to keep workers divided; pitting one class of sufferers against the other is a tenet older than labor negotiation itself. To paraphrase Steinbeck: keep them apart, make them hate and fear each other — this is how to turn we to I. 

Read the rest at Counterpunch

via wood s lot

Also from wood s lot my quote of yesterday:

“Clearly the McCain campaign is targeting its most important voter: Joe the McCarthy.”
  – Stephen Colbert

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