I have spent the past weeks trying to find Joe Six-Pack, AKA Joe Average, AKA the real American, a political heavyweight with more aliases than the average Wu Tang Clan member.
I’m in a pretty liberal mountain town but there are still some W stickers on cars from 4 years ago, and some war vets, cowboys, and bikers who live here and frequent local establishments and wouldn’t take kindly to a fellow diner/drinker in a “Bush lied, they died” shirt (which are also produced here).
I’ve been led to believe that Joe, if he was to be found, would be found amongst such folk.
So I started my search for Joe, with the intention of getting his views on the election and possibly buying him a six-pack.
I live in a sort of economic limbo between Flagstaff’s main drag and the ghetto. If I had to guess I’d break my smallish neighborhood down roughly into equal thirds White, Latino, and Native, my wife representing the only Asian presence I’m aware of and two nearby neighbors representing the only obviously Black faces.
You don’t see a lot of Tibetan prayer flags like you might have a mile east, but you also don’t see a lot of Confederate flags on trucks. We do have a gang in the neighborhood, but they generally won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. This is where I started.
I began with people I knew, mainly Native (I at first assumed Joe would be White, but this was a baseless supposition), using a two-pronged approach of asking questions about lifestyle and politics.
Joe certainly would not have to be a political conservative but he would, according to his advocates, tend to avoid intellectualism and go for similar, Six-Pack Americans like Sarah Palin and John McCain, who very likely got a cut of the last six-pack Joe bought.
My criteria were fairly simple, based on various accounts I’d heard; Joe should be solidly working class. Joe should not have any aspirations towards higher education for its own sake, but could want to get rich and very possibly consider it a likely event. Joe should express a strong distaste for the the elitists (however he defines the term) of the media and/or Washington and a distrust of intellectualism.
Joe should be monolingual unless he is the child of non-English speakers, or has picked up some Spanish on the job. Joe did not have to exude machismo, but should not be at all effeminate and while he could be single or married under no circumstances could he be gay.
And most obviously, Joe has to drink. Joe is not a Mormon or a Muslim, or at least not a good one. Joe may not be an alcoholic, but if he regularly consumes a six pack, he may not be too far away.
I talked briefly with a friend who is a local small business owner, wondering if Joe could be a little sneakier than I gave him trouble for. My friend works often with his hands, has a fondness for western wear, enjoys a cold beer and Nascar and Rodeos, and has a son in the army. Sure, he’s from New York and of Jewish and Afro-Caribbean descent, but that doesn’t rule someone out, especially such a symbol of good ol American self-reliance right?
And he’d supported the Iraq war at its start. But later said it was a bad idea and disowned it. And really enjoyed Christiane Amanpour’s “God’s Warriors,” as he considered Religion one of the greatest sources of strife in the world. And he’d travelled to Asia and France as a younger man to study cooking. Nobody said Joe couldn’t travel a little but this seemed unlikely. I dismissed him from consideration.
Okay, maybe Joe was less sneaky. I tried to confine myself to people who had been born in this part of the country, and just to be safer (and FIND the guy) assume that like roughly 85% of America, Joe would be at least nominally Christian.
This did not help.
Nobody I met seemed to meet the criteria. I found working class drinkers, but there was always something askew. Politically apathetic. A lack of animosity towards education. Being able to speak Navajo.
I looked for a Jane Six Pack. Nothing. I tried walking into the only business I’ve seen in Flagstaff with a McCain/Palin sign in the window and requesting to talk to someone, but they politely told me that they no longer give interviews after bad representation in local media (they’re a gun store; I considered telling them that I’ve bought a gun from them before and lean right on that issue, both of which are true, but decided it was pointless).
I considered calling a relative, an amiable and extremely right-wing military employee who is about as all-American as it gets; he plays baseball, for the love of god. And he enjoys a drink. He even considers MSNBC “communists”.
But he has a respect for higher education and certain elite institutions, among other things being a mason and having a fairly solid economic profile. My parents (and grandparents) are working people from humble backgrounds but are all educated (sometimes by themselves) and worldly.
My dad, for example, is an auto-mechanic, but rarely drinks, can discuss subjects from advanced physics to politics to history intelligently, has had dinner with a Nobel prize winner, and is one of the few Americans I know who’s been to Cuba.
This gave me pause to think. To find Joe, I had to ask; had I ever met Joe?
Dave, you grew up in the sticks in a red state; Joe should have been everywhere, I thought. And I had known a lot of working class, incurious drinkers. But anyone who, to a T, could be held up in front of America and they would say “YES, that’s Joe Six-Pack”? The embodiment of one of Jeff Foxworthy’s “jokes”?
Sure, I knew people who technically fit the above criteria, but always, always, something popped up that ruined it. Did I know a Joe Six-Pack?
Joe Six-Pack isn’t some kind of center-right Jungian archetype, he’s not even alive. American politics are not being influenced by a living being, but rather an unliving ghost.
The spectral wail of “USA! USA!” at some rallies may convince us that he exists, but when Sarah Palin addresses him from the podium, she may as well be speaking to Stagger Lee or the crew of The Flying Dutchman.
When David Brooks praises the ghost he may as well be delivering a Eulogy. I was thinking that voting for Obama and referring people to AA might help us ease the approach of Joe Six Pack. Now I realize that we need two things: salt and cold iron.
Happy Election Season.