And while John McCain and Sarah Palin make this self-serving plumber the cause celebre for their campaign, increasing numbers of Americans less fortunate than Joe are losing their homes, their jobs, their health insurance, and more. Yes, while physically imposing Joe 'Wutchagonnadoforme' Wurtzelbacher, alias "Joe The Plumber," bemoans his fabricated tax burden, Americans in greater need than seemingly healthy Joe, are suffering more burdensome tragedies than his phobia of spreading his wealth. Interestingly, what Joe fears the most - the spreading of wealth (be it real or imagined), may one day be his salvation - just as it was on Friday for Jocelyne Voltaire, whose home was saved by the kindness of strangers who spread THEIR wealth to her. These strangers' generosity toward Jocelyne defines the American spirit far better than the vitriol toward SHARING that defines the McCain campaign.
So who is Jocelyne Voltaire, and why is her story more relevant to America's current crisis than that of plumber Joe?
Jocelyn Voltaire is an emigre from Haiti who has lived in this country for 45 years. She's a United States citizen, a college graduate, and the mother of four. She recently suffered the unbearable loss of her eldest son - a Marine who had served in the Gulf. Atop the unthinkable pain of losing a child, Jocelyne's Queens, New York home of twenty years was set to be auctioned on Friday (October 17th), due to a predatory lender scam.
Needless to say, corporate media was much too busy camped out at the home of plumber Joe to pay Jocelyne Voltaire any mind. It took the efforts of independent media heroes ANP, generous spread-the-wealth patriots, and the inspired community organizing of CODEPINK to let humanity prevail. As CODEPINK says,
While our government has taken billions of our tax dollars to bail out the wealthy, we came together to bail out a desperate mother... We modeled exactly what we want our government to do - bail out families facing personal disaster, not financiers.
Now, MY FRIENDS, isn't this the REAL America we want??!! Not the America of corporate greed and CEO bail outs. Not the America of Wall Street fat cats rescued by their elected and appointed government friends. Not the America of selfishness, avoiding taxes, and only caring about ME!! The values demonstrated by ANP and CODEPINK represent the America I want to see. Isn't it time this government honored WE THE PEOPLE and used our taxes to take care of us rather than their friends in Forbes and Fortune?
In the first years of the last century, my paternal grandparents, Giuseppe and Liboria Milazzo (no, I'm not kidding!!), emigrated to the United States from - you guessed it - Italy. More specifically, Sicily. As my family tells the story, my grandfather was a fairly educated man who'd planned to become a priest - until he met his Liboria. After coming to America, Giuseppe and Liboria settled in Rockaway Beach in the New York City borough of Queens. They opened a tiny food store - an Italian apetito shop. As the story goes, during the Great Depression after the Stock Market crashed, my grandparents' customers couldn't pay for their food so my grandparents extended them credit. When the credit they extended depleted ALL the food, Giuseppe and Liboria lost their shop - as they knew all along they would.
Everyone in my family tells this story about my grandparents. It's not an unusual story for that time. There were generous people at every income level who spread what little wealth they had. Spreading the wealth was an essential part of their American dream. My grandparents' America was a nation of us and not me. They were not unique. I have friends who've told me stories of their family's generosity during the Depression. They were proud of their families, as am I. What's troubling in America today is that people would call my grandparents losers rather than embracing their honor.
It often takes a great equalizer like the 1929 Depression or a natural disaster to level the playing field amongst people. In 1999 when Argentina's economy collapsed I heard stories of the wealthy digging through trash next to their former servants. Naomi Klein, author of the monumentally important, The Shock Doctrine, tells of being in Argentina when the banks all shut down, and watching Argentines banging on the bank doors. In those desperate times, few, if any were rich. Everyone wanted the same thing. They wanted to be helped. The Argentine economy was that nation's great equalizer, just as our economy may be ours. Few amongst us can afford to be smug. We are, after all, not in full control of our futures. We never know when it will be one of us who needs help tomorrow as Jocelyne needs our help today.
Yes, Jocelyne still needs us today. Even though the auction of Jocelyne's home has been stopped, she still needs money to keep it and house her younger children. She still needs support to get back on her feet. If it's at all possible, please spread your wealth to help Jocelyn, and participate in this American cause. And keep the humanity going by pressuring Washington and government at every level to put the people before the predators.
In the words of CODEPINK:
Now let's pull together in the coming months, as Jocelyne asked us to do, and move our government to do the same - bail out Main Street, not Wall Street!