Monday, October 20, 2008

Jim the Electrician

Jim the Electrician

It started out as a day like any other day. As any other day off, that is. Jim slept in till eight and then sat and drank coffee while reading the paper till his son Jeb woke up. He skimmed the headlines, same old same old, then flipped to the sports section to see how the Phillies did. He planned to make some pancakes and throw in some laundry then maybe go get the truck washed. Then he would settle in for a little football and whatever.

It was going pretty much to plan until he heard a commotion out in the street in front of the two bedroom bungalow he shared with his son. A crowd had suddenly gathered on what was normally a quiet little street, fifteen or twenty people, some carrying what looked like television cameras and microphones. His first instinct was to sit back down to finish the comics but then he recognized the fellow who seemed to be the center of attention, none other than one of the presidential candidates whose face had been in the news non-stop for six months now. Farouk O’Conner was the young Democrat everyone was going crazy over and if he was hoping to be surrounded by adoring fans, Jim thought he might just disturb those plans. Jim would in fact like to ask this slick liberal an embarrassing question of two and see if he could squirm out of it on camera for the six o’clock news.

Jim was raised in a working class neighborhood where dads worked at the Westinghouse plant and most moms worked too. They ate dinner in front of the TV and didn’t say much. Though he made good money as a machinist with only a high school diploma, Jims dad had expectations for Jim to go to college and get a profession, but Jim had little interest or ambition when it came to his studies and he joined the navy like his father had at 18. He spent two years in North Carolina then two years with the fourth fleet and he married a girl he had met in Virginia while on leave. Finding work with a local building contractor, he learned some basic trades then hooked up with a self employed electrician, running wire and drilling holes. He wasn’t going to do this his whole life, that he knew for sure, but it paid the bills.

As Jim approached the tightly packed crowd in the street, he nearly changed his mind about confronting the candidate, “politics is all a big joke anyway” he thought, but his resolve returned when he thought of what direction this joker was trying to take the country. Most weekdays at work he listened to the talk-radio stations and lately he had been feeling increasingly outraged at all the corruption and incompetence he had been hearing about. Where was the commonsense? Where were the old American values of hard work and fair play? The nanny state and the freeloaders who depended on it seemed to be taking over everywhere you looked and nothing was being done about the illegal immigrants taking all the jobs and white males being discriminated against. Government may be a joke but there was no way to stop it because the media and the universities and Hollywood were all in on it. These angry opinions were developed in conversations with other tradesmen on the construction sites where in between sexist jokes and discussions about the merits of various pickup trucks, the occasional discussion about “politics”

would creep in. Guys like Limbaugh and Hannity could put into words the things he felt
were wrong with society and he tried to learn some of the basic talking points from them
and from watching FOX News in the evenings. He thought Lou Dobbs should be the one running for president. He would heatedly deny that he had an “ideology”. He admittedly hadn’t read many books or could really even define the term, but he picked up a Newsweek or Time occasionally and recognized those things he agreed with.

Though he had no savings ,lived month to month on expanding credit card debt and was actually in arrears to the IRS, he clung to the belief that he was destined to be a “player”, that he would hit the big time and live the American dream and that truly such transformation can only happen in America. As the cost of living skyrocketed his hourly wage had not kept up but he put the blame on immigrant labor rather than his bosses’ stinginess. This despite the fact he knew good profits were being made. (bosses’ new boat, flat screen tv, etc) Blame also fell on the government waste that he knew was eating up his tax dollars, his hard earned money that was going to welfare queens and “clean needle programs”. He knew minorities were getting preferential treatment landing contracts so that his dream of owning his own electrical contracting business stayed just out of reach. All this talk lately of the government buying up banks and government run healthcare and zero down loans for illegal immigrants all smacked of socialism and the next thing we’d find is everybody having to dress and act and think the same. Jim wasn’t going down that road. Not while he still owned a gun. This guy O’Conner was saying he would just tax the rich and “share wealth” but that was the same slippery slope to the gulag. Being successful needed to be rewarded, not penalized, or everyone would sit around watching Oprah all day, eating bonbons. Wealth needed to be created, not “re-distributed”.

Jim the Electrician approached the candidate, question memorized, anger and nervousness in check. In fact an eerie calm engulfed him as he spoke up and plunged headfirst into the grinding gears of the Spectacle.