Joe The Author & The American Dream
by Charles Lemos, Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 03:59:08 PM EST
Actually, it's more like Joe with ghost author Thomas N. Tabback who has one work of historical fiction with a religious bent to his name but whatever. Joe's book, Joe The Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream isn't as yet available but being the one-man marketing machine that Joe is, you can pre-order it. Buy it now and you can chat with Joe on his up-coming blog, plus you'll get a one year subscription to "Joe The Blogger" Newsletter. But wait there's more, act now we'll throw in free shipping on all "Shop Joe" merchandise. Thankfully, his shelves are bare for a quick perusal of his on-line store reveals not a single item beyond the aforementioned upcoming book.
Joe, however, does have a dream and a website Secure Our Dream. Here's his message to President-elect Obama:
Congratulations to Barack Obama. The American electorate has decided that he will be our next president. As I have stated, I will honor and support my president, but there will be no free ride. When President-Elect Obama takes office in January, his term of service to the American people begins. We wish our new president blessings of wisdom and good judgment, and we pray he hearkens to our voice if ever we feel our American Dream is being threatened. It will be a loud voice, so good luck trying to ignore it.
Since we have launched this website, tens of thousands of you have expressed your desire to join this movement. I am truly humbled by your support, your kind words of encouragement and your becoming a part of something that I believe we all feel can truly change the course of this country for the better.
For those of you just visiting this website, remember that real change in America will only begin if the backbone of this country becomes personally involved in demanding more from our elected officials, and by helping one another in times of need. This is our mission. This is our fight. This is our time to secure our American Dream.
It's not clear what Joe's version of the American Dream is but I'll hazard a guess that it won't include a progressive tax scheme, broad redistributive economic policies nor heathcare for all. Joe's American Dream is all about Joe and only Joe. Charity begins and ends at home. And that's my problem with the construct of the American Dream when conservatives take up that emotive cry. The American Dream for conservatives seems more about individuals or at best the nuclear family than it does about the nation as a whole.
Historically speaking, the American Dream is a rather recent development of the American credo. The term first entered the political lexicon not even a hundred years ago when historian James Truslow Adams published a book entitled The Epic of America. Adams had originally wanted to title his history of the United States written in 1931 just after the onset of the Great Depression and a little over a year before FDR became President "The American Dream" but his publisher, Ellery Sedgwick, nixed the idea stating that "no red-blooded American would pay $3.50 for a dream." Adams, it is said, quipped that "red-blooded Americans have always been willing to gamble their last peso on a dream." The rest, as they say, is history. Those two words "American Dream" have since then been a powerful part of the American political and social psyche.
Americans are dreamers. There is little question about that. And there is no denying that the dreams of Americans have resulted in tangible benefits for all of humanity. Americans, after all, did take us to the Moon and given us many Earthly delights. But the American Dream seems a largely personal one more than a collective one. The American Dream emphasizes a traditional family values orientation, economic growth, self-reliance, a Puritan work ethic, personal wealth, material comforts and independence. Historian Matthew Lassiter notes that the post World War Two embodiment of the American Dream was "a heterosexual nuclear family with a working father and a stay-at-home mother living in an upward mobile suburban neighborhood" but that by 1970s that dream "appeared on the verge of collapse" for a variety of reasons from economic to social and therein lies the last gasp of the right to fight for an American Dream gone astray.
The problem I think with the right's vision of the American Dream is that it is based on antiquated notions of how we live and who we are. The social changes that erupted out of the 1960s took hold in the 1970s and 1980s and have not been undone by forty years of largely Republican rule. If the conservatives aimed to restore some version of Norman Rockwell's America that actually never was, they have failed. In this light, it was really illuminating seeing the Sarah Palin rallies. Those in attendance were often wistful, speaking of an America that was disappearing. In truth, that America never really existed or only existed for a select few. It is a myth but Adams was right Americans would bet their last "peso" in pursuit of a dream. Rather than settled for being comfortable as say Danes and Swedes are, they want the chance to have it all even the chances of such are slim or next to none. Thus the GOP's mantra of lower taxes and trickle down played well. But it hasn't paid off. Freidmanism is as dead as Milton Freidman. Alan Greenspan's recent mea culpa, I hope, marks the end of the economics of individualism.
My version of the American Dream isn't all about me, it's about us. It's the freedom to live my life and the pursuit of my happiness certainly but it is also about health care for all, it's about affordable education for all, it's about a sound energy policy and environmental protection for sake of generations yet to come. Let's dream but dream of all of us. If one is left behind, then the American Dream hasn't been fulfilled.