Joe the Plumber: Dreaming the flawed dream

Joe Wurzelbacher may be finding his new-found notoriety a nightmare following the intense scrutiny of the media on every aspect of his life, but for many Americans, "Joe the Plumber" epitomizes an American dream many see disappearing right before their eyes.
The American Dream still represents belief in the freedom that allows all citizens and residents of the United States to achieve their goals in life through hard work. The dreams of the sharecropper to one day own his own farm that would be passed down to future generations providing income and stability for his family; The dreams of the early wave of immigrants for greater political and religious freedom and to achieve greater material prosperity than was possible in their countries of origin; The dreams of the factory worker for their children to grow up and receive an education and career opportunities that would allow them to live better than previous generations.
Although the dream has been arguably flawed in respect to women, people of color and other "minorities," over the course of American history it has, never-the-less, evolved to represent that "gold standard" by which we have measured our success as individuals and a nation.
On the surface, "Joe the Plumber" represented the average Joe/Jane's dream of today. The dream that has come to refer to one's material prosperity – that next generation doing better than the last, the house in the suburbs with the two car garage, the two cars, and a college education as an expectation – not the exception – as a sign of success.
The focus on material prosperity is just one aspect of the American Dream. For many, the belief in the freedom that allows each of us to achieve our goals in life through hard work comes with the responsibility to ensure every American – rich, poor, black, white, male, female, young and old – the right to this same dream.
Today's reality of failed economic policies, banking collapses, plant closings, job losses, foreclosures, rising education costs with failed education systems and inadequate health care have plunged us into a nightmare that increasingly denies many Americans even the remotest hope of prosperity.
Rather than eliminating poverty and racial/social injustices, two of the main goals of the Great Society reforms of the '60s, the gap between the haves and have nots has widened. Reduced funding of programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation have only exacerbated the problems and accelerated the decline of the middle class. But like Joe the Plumber, we still cling to that old American dream, looking for ways to hang on to our diminishing piece of the pie via failed policies that far too often overlook the human casualties.
The dream is becoming a nightmare as more and more Americans find themselves out of jobs with unemployment rates higher in August than a year earlier in 354 of the 369 metropolitan areas. The number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time high with approximately 46.6 million people lacking health care. The poverty rate has risen each year since 2008 with over 36 million people, many children, women and minorities, now living in poverty. Hate crimes are on the rise for immigrants, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans not only on the streets but in our schools. Our children are not being educated to compete on a global level and see the promise of a college education evaporating. Babies are having babies while babies are killing babies. Our dependence on not only foreign oil but foreign banks, most notably China, threatens our national security but we still can't find Bin Laden or eliminate the threat of terrorist attacks by al Quaeda. We spend millions on a war in Iraq while our country's infrastructure crumbles and the Iraqis bank millions in U.S. institutions. Our earth is dying, our environment toxic and our future is endangered.
We keep doing the same things, the same way, hoping the same ideas will get us a different outcome. Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Think about it for a second. My mother would say "we're going out in the world backwards. Insane or backwards, isn't it about time we change our experience?
Joe the Plumber, in his search for tax breaks and protection of his "middle class" dreams, showed us why we must change. The dream is over. It's time to wake up.
For all his entrepreneurial bravado, Joe is just like you and I – just another working man living in a modest home in middle-America with a dream not just for a business but for his family.
As the facts came out about Joe Wurzelbacher's real life, many pointed the finger and scoffed at the Plumber saying "You see. He didn't even have a plumber's license. He only made $40,000 last year and owed the IRS. What was he talking about?"
Yes, he was less than forthright, but doesn't that often happen as you watch your dream slipping through your fingers? You dream of better days, how it could be and try to convince yourself everything is alright.
But if you look closer, Joe "the plumber" Wurzelbacher reminded us of how it really is and who we really are: a scared public, grasping on dreams of what could be, while looking for, hoping for and calling for a change.

Topics: Opinions

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