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Hey there, Joe Six-Pack

My Fellow Joe Six-Packs:

Sarah Palin et al like to call us "Joe Six-Pack," and they think we like it too. They think it sounds folksy and homey and cute.

Sure. It's a folksy, homey, cute way to euphemistically call us something very close to trashy, ignorant hillbillies. We're just not supposed to be smart enough to realize it.

See, JSP isn't referring to our rock hard abs. JSP literally means "the blue collar guy who picks up a six pack of cheap beer every night after work and goes home to watch Nascar (and probably beat his wife/kids and light a cross on the black neighbor's lawn but we won't say anything about that wink wink nudge nudge)." That is the message that they are trying to get across to America.

We know you. You don't have a thought in your head beyond making sure you have food on the table and beer in the fridge. You want us to take care of you and do all the thinking for you. You're a demographic we've put together based on statistics of race, level of education, and family income. And we think that everyone who falls within those statistics is just exactly the same. And did we mention we don't think you're very bright?

And that, to them, based on statistics, is what they think of us middle Americans.

Are there a percentage of Americans who fit their definition? White (or POCs who are happy with their lot in life), blue collar, no higher education, racist, homophobic, specific brand of Christianity, afraid of intellectuals, jingoistic, sexist...of course there are.

Can we safely assume that demographic is already on their side? Fabulous. So now, JSP just refers to the undecided voter and the folks they want to pull over from the other side.

That is to say, us.

So, Governor Palin et al, let me tell you who the Joe Six-Pack that you think you're talking to really is.

Joe is the guy I worked with who served in Vietnam, worked construction, had four kids, thought Portland micro-brews were for hippies and weirdos -- and told me one day about having to change churches, because "our pastor spends all his time talking about how bad the gays are, and I go to church for God, and I really don't think God cares who you sleep with or who you marry." Oh, and he went back to school at 45 to get a degree in architecture, so I guess he won't be Joe Six-Pack soon. His income will put him into that Better Class of People y'all think you're part of.

Joe is a writer or an actor or an artist who waits tables, pumps gas, shelves books, does landscaping, delivers pizza, scrubs toilets, and otherwise works his or her ass off all day or night to pay the mortgage so they can continue to write or act or make art.

Joe is the lady down the street who is "just a secretary" and never finished college. She also reads D.H. Lawrence and lots of egghead poetry. Oh, and she can also name the newspapers she reads, but then she doesn't actually have time to read all of them.

Joe is a POC with parents of different races, who gets interrupted an awful lot at work to be asked "what ARE you?" by customers, and continues to bag your damn groceries with a smile. Then he goes home and watches Britcoms on PBS, plays long distance chess with a guy in Russia over the Interwebs, and feeds his kids before putting them to bed and reading them subversive stories by Neil Gaiman.

Joe is a stripper (who doesn't have a drug habit and isn't a prostitute.) She's putting herself through school. She's going to be a lawyer and look like one of you on the surface, but you're really gonna hate it when you're up against her in front of the Supreme Court.

Joe spends 8 hours a day on an assembly line with a wrench, turning bolts and hoping you don't send his job to a child in China. On Thursday nights he bowls with a bunch of construction workers and he does share a pitcher of beer with them. Budweiser, even. Then he goes home, puts on his ABBA records, and dances with his partner -- Andrew.

Joe comes in when you call I.T. because you've opened a forwarded executable file from your sister in an email with the header "Smile, God Loves You" and locked up your machine with a nasty killer worm. She smiles politely when you tell her how impressed you are that a pretty little girl like her knows so much about computers. Then she goes to her Tai Chi class and later dances naked in the back yard with her coven. But she drives a Chevy truck, so who knew?

Joe Six-Pack isn't who you think he/she is. You don't have a fucking clue about Joe Six-Pack.

I wish I were only talking to one camp. But I'm talking to my own, too. We "liberal elitists." Because we say the same kind of things when talking about "the average American." We assume we know them, and they are the same people Palin knows.

And that's kind of dangerous, and it's also kind of not true. Like I said, there are those people out there, and we know what camp they are in. But how many of us assumed "the average American" would say that Palin won the debate, because she didn't fall down and start speaking in tongues? And what are the polls saying? And hasn't our side also been moaning about how "Joe Six-Pack" wouldn't vote for a black man? Assuming "the average American" is that special demographic? Do we really think he did so well in the primaries because there's such a vast quantity of "intellectual elites" out there to compensate for all of the average people who'd naturally vote right wing? Come on, people.

Most of the "liberal elitists" I know are not, in fact, rich. Some are highly educated and working in lucrative professions. Some are highly educated and working class. Some, sadly, are incredibly liberal but not terribly educated (formally or autodidactically) and are just as easily led by sound bite as "the great unwashed" that they don't believe they are a part of.

But honestly, I know for a fact, pretty much everyone I know who will read this is, statistically, demographically, Joe Six-Pack.

And how many of fall into the assumed stereotype? Even if you're conservative? Even if you do like to buy a sixer now and again?

Are we the Joe Six-Pack they think they know?

When I get overwhelmed by all the things I feel passionately about -- racism, sexism, homophobia; when I despair that nothing is getting better and we're all just going to go on hating each other; when I start to fall into thinking that the doomsayers are right and nothing has improved and America just sucks...I hear Dr. King in my head.

I say good night to you by quoting the words of an old Negro slave preacher, who said, 'We ain't what we ought to be and we ain't what we want to be and we ain't what we're going to be. But thank God, we ain't what we was.'

And I look at the world, where things have changed a bit at a time, a step at a time. There are states where gay marriage is legal. We have a black Presidential candidate, and not, bless his heart, a Jesse Jackson running independently, but a black candidate who made it through our very inherently racist and generally crappy two party system to be the probable next President of the United States. And had it not been him, it would have been a woman.

We SO AIN'T what we ought to be or what we want to be. We are not even what I would call close. But one step at a time, one person at a time, we are steadily pressing on, trying to get there.

And the rich and powerful don't get to steal the credit for that.

The credit for the ongoing battle goes to Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Goddamn Joe Six-Pack. The agitators, the commenters, the people on the phone banks, the people in the streets marching, the people organizing, the people speaking out, the people working on their families and neighbors to make the changes that have to happen for us to change our society for the better...

Joe Six-Pack.

You are JSP. I am JSP. I grew up white and middle class. I have that endangered mortgage. I worry about putting food on the table. Hell, I'm an artist and a writer, I'm not even as high up as blue collar...I can barely find a good shirt to wear. And I'm bisexual, polyamorous, and pagan. And by the way, I know Cindy Soccer Mom. She's a full time nurse, "single" mother, drives a minivan, takes her kids to soccer and dance classes -- and goes home at night to strap on a leather harness and roger her girlfriend silly.

I am Joe Six-Pack. I am not who they think that they are talking to. Are you?


( 638 with me in Rockland — Howl )
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
I'm A Joe Sixpack too - animusing - Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anibundel - Oct. 6th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 9ff - Oct. 8th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
Thank you.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 08:52 am (UTC)
That was just beautiful, Mia! Thank you :D

I'm from the most Republican of all states and almost everyone I know here is Joe Sixpack: the gay cowboys who do the rodeo circuit; the lesbian moms who take their kids to church and soccer practice; the white, heterosexual Mormons who wish their church would just get out of legal battles over gay marriage in California already; the theatre student with whom I attended college and who stripped to pay her tuition and got As on every paper; my own damn family, every last one of us.

I get so sick of being labeled as an ignorant country girl from a backwater state when I'm not ignorant, my neighbors aren't, and Utah is pretty damn wonderful, even if it has a lot of problems. I mean, Salt Lake City has a domestic partner registry. And health insurance for the domestic partners (gay and straight) of city employees. In Utah.

Yes. Utah's not what we want it to be, and thank God that it isn't what it used to be.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
You know what happens when I get ranty...
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:01 am (UTC)
No, of course not. No one is. Everyone's a world all by themselves.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)
Of course. But we also have to be part of something, because we can't make changes alone very well. I'm proud to be part of Joe Six-Pack...just not *their* version of it.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:04 am (UTC)
This is just so beautiful.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)
Thank you hon.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:07 am (UTC)
Mmmmmm, beer.

Brilliant essay.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:14 am (UTC)
Thank you. Sadly, I had no beer tonight while watching the debate.
(no subject) - raindrops - Oct. 3rd, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - copperwise - Oct. 3rd, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:23 am (UTC)
That was wonderful. Reminds me of a guy I used to work with - actually a Joe, in fact. (Short for Jose.) Good Catholic boy from San Antone. Sent money home to his mom every week. Married a woman who was one of 11 kids - her family went on the migrant trail part of every year, picking fruit up north and somehow managed to send every one of those kids to college. Joe was troubled when the more fundamentalist types we worked with would tell him the relatively liberal ways he'd been taught in church were wrong (the Catholic Church *does* acknowledge the truth of evolution). Joe was proud of his wife for her intelligence and opinionated nature. And whenever something good happened to a friend of his, Joe was genuinely happy for them, with never a trace of "wish it were me". Joe has a lot of conservative beliefs, but also a respect for other people's choices and some experience of what poverty means. I can't imagine Joe agreeing with the favor-the-rich, my-choices-matter-not-yours, plain old mean-spiritedness I see from the right these days.

My mom, who's been a secretary most of her life and doesn't even like beer, is Jo Six-pack too. She's told Dad not to bother coming home if he votes for McCain.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:24 am (UTC)
Thank you.

What did Dad say? *g*
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:35 am (UTC)
This is so brilliantly written - may I link to it? I feel it deserves the widest readership it can get.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you.

My general linking policy is, if I haven't locked it, go right ahead. :)
(no subject) - kairon13 - Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:39 am (UTC)
Loves you back. Give Joe Growler a hug for me. *g*
(no subject) - fvinnash - Oct. 5th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 10:13 am (UTC)
I am a woman who has cried in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood because she didn't have the money to get the medical treatment the sliding scale clinic told her she needed. I am a woman who relied on Planned Parenthood to avoid having babies she couldn't support, but who was punished for that foresight by being ineligible for any state-assisted healthcare to GET permanent sterilization because she had no offspring. I am a woman who has had to steal for food, and has had to steal iron pills so that she wouldn't die of anemia. I am a woman who went four years without buying any clothes -- any -- because the $5 she could spend on a thrift store blouse will buy a hell of a lot of bread and Ramen noodles. I am a woman who went unmedicated during a complete mental breakdown because there was no money to see a doctor, pay for drugs, "get help." I am a woman who sat up at night afraid because her neighborhood wasn't safe, and she didn't have a phone in the house to call for help or money for a gun. I am a woman who has been so sick she couldn't hold down food or water for three days, but refused to go to the emergency room for dehydration because there was no money to pay for it. I am a woman who, but for the grace of fate, might have fallen in love with a woman instead, and wouldn't be married now because of someone else's opinion of my love. And I don't drink beer.

Am I Jenny Six-Pack?

There are those worse off than I've ever been. I've come pretty far from the bad times. I'm not what I ought to be and not what I want to be, but I'm not what I was. I bought a house today that's nicer than my dad's. Three of my relatives had to die so I could pay for it, but at least it's there. So I guess that puts me in that class of folks she thinks she's preaching to.

I'm just not buying it. And I'll bet my left foreleg that not many of the rest of us are, either.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:25 pm (UTC)
You, me...see, if we were smart, we'd all be running oil companies. They think. Since we're not running oil companies, we must be gullible. It makes perfect sense, if you're that convinced of your own superiority. Let's never mind that half of them only went to the Ivy League schools because they came from Family Money, and couldn't have gotten in otherwise. They're successful because they're qualified to lead, right? Right? I don't hear anything...
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
There are times you leave me speechless.

(but I have to tell you that, so you'll know how much this means)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC)
Aw, you make me blush. Thank you. You know sometimes I just have to go OFF, lol.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
This guy is Joe Six-Pack.

This guy is Joe Six-Pack.

And you? You rock. I'd like to buy you a six-pack.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Oh yes. I was thinking of both of them, among all the others, when I wrote this. Trumka's speech put a huge lump in my throat, especially as my dad's family in Buffalo are all steelworkers, and I myself was union. I've been listening to people for months say that the rank and file union members are just average racist Americans and had nothing to do with the unions endorsing him. Yeah, look at the crowd they scan...that's Joe Six-Pack.

Then Ryan showed me this article today. That's Joe, too.
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
May I link my flist to this post? Because it's perfect.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and sure. :)
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
That was utterly fantastic.
I hemmed and hawed about watching the debate. My choir (we rehearse on Thrusdays) asked that I let them go early so they could watch it.

I decided not to watch it. When I get insenced (can't spell for a damn) I can't sleep.

I am a JSP. Professional Musician, working my way through a new degree program as a desktop monkey tech as I like to call myself.

But that is as eloquent as ever. (And I have been called elitist because I can use words. LARGE words. Of course I can, I am in a scientific field. Geomorphology is not a word the every day blue collar worker is going to use, unless they are a Geologist. )
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: That was utterly fantastic.
Thanks. :)

It was actually quite worth watching for Joe Biden alone. I knew about him, but hadn't seen much OF him. I was impressed. Very, very impressed.
Re: That was utterly fantastic. - gythiawulfie - Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
Beautifully done.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
I can't be Joe because I don't drink beer . . .

(And I'm one of the Wall Street Fat Cats, because I own shares in a bank that tanked. Sixty-something, that _was_ part of my retirement. "There are no good Plan B's -- if they were good plans, they'd be Plan A.")
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, I think of you as Joe. They forget that Joe doesn't even necessarily drink beer. Some of us like wine. Or soda. *g*

Well, except for that owning shares thing. I mean, Joe Six-Pack doesn't invest in things, he expects Social Security to be enough to cover him when he retires, right?

Which is why a whole lot of JSP's end up working right up until the day they die...
(no subject) - jhetley - Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
A-men. Wow. Thanks.

I noticed you told others 'tis okay to link if'n it's not locked, so I'm taking that as an Okay To Link. If not, please advise ASAP and I'll take it away.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks, and sure, link is fine. :)
(no subject) - mlerules - Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
Phenomenal. *applause*
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
Linking....fucking genius.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you, so much. It is nice when I rant in the wee hours to know that I've managed to be at least semi-coherent. Note I'm still up, so the chances of that over the next few hours are getting rather slim...
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Well said and a very good reminder.

Thank you.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm going to link to this in my LJ.
Love you.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Love you back, lots.
(no subject) - acerzen - Oct. 3rd, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - copperwise - Oct. 3rd, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
Another internet stranger here to say that this was a fantastic read.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
(no subject) - ferlonda - Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
I linked to this, just so you know. 'Cause it's sensical.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
I saw. And thank you. *hugs*
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
Mia Nutick, you rock my world.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

*enormous hugs, and heaping piles of respect and admiration and joy*
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
*hugs back*

Love you, and thanks.
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( 638 with me in Rockland — Howl )


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