When they got on the whole “Joe the Plumber” thing last night, I thought it was a hypothetical person, though I was impressed to see McCain show the first spark of compassion I’ve ever seen him show. So now we know his floor for empathy—if you make a quarter million dollars a year, he can consider you human enough to pity you for your poverty. Below that, you’re some form of animal life, or perhaps a plant. But Marc disabused me of that notion pretty quickly. No, it’s a real guy whose attitude about making a million dollars every four years is to pity himself and grow bitter, instead of the reasonable response, which is eternal gratitude for being extremely lucky. To no one’s great surprise, he didn’t just happen to ask Barack Obama his questions, nor is he anything remotely resembling undecided. When McCain went off on it, I got the impression we were supposed to imagine some hypothetical undecided Joe.
It did provoke an interesting conversation between myself, my boyfriend, and the friend who came to watch the debates about how having a little perspective about wealth and opulence makes for a happier person. You see the bitterness dripping off someone like Joe the Plumber and you have to ask yourself why, and I think part of the reason is that he doesn’t stop to look around and appreciate how much his money does buy him. If I made that much money, and I doubt I ever will, I can’t even imagine what I’d really change about my life, except a few small added security blanket comforts like owning my own place (though no larger than this—who wants to clean a big house?) and maybe making the household car a BMW instead of a Mazda. But I fail to see how you can make that much money and feel anything resembling a pinch that makes you a grouchy motherfucker instead of in awe of your own good fortune.