Jesse and Joe

Traditionally, ‘conservative’ churches campaigned against the dangers of alcohol. They used to promote legislation regulating where and when alcohol could be sold. ‘Conservative’ once meant protecting children from the dangers of alcohol. But for Jesse, ‘conservative’ meant conserving the right of alcohol companies to market their wares freely to whomever had a little money.

Now, John McCain has taken up this mantle from Jesse Helms. In his quest to make America a more profitable union, McCain raised his son, Andy, to become an alcohol industry marketing executive. While John preaches “conservative values,” his son works on beer marketing, including working with youth sports leagues.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill

Perhaps every one of those little roadside crosses which mark the crash site of a car full of drunk high school jocks should have a McCain sticker fixed to it.

In his autobiography, John McCain writes about his father’s alcoholism. So John knows, personally, the tragedy of a drunk in the family. Yet he raised his son to help the alcohol industry increase its profits by increasing the opportunities for drunkenness. This reveals the same ‘conservative values’ McCain displayed when he lobbied and voted against giving today’s vets the generous education benefits that he was entitled to after the Vietnam War. The G.I. Bill tradition that stretches back more than 50 years is too radical, and too dangerous to McCain’s corporate policy masters, and so he opposes it with the same energy Jesse Helms devoted to opposing public education.

“Joe Hill ain’t dead” he says to me,
“Joe Hill ain’t never died.
When workers strike and organize,
Joe Hill is by their side.”
From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
Where workers stand up for their rights,
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.

The ‘values’ Jesse and John promote will always survive the death of the flaks paid to mouth the corporate message. Jesse made millions working for the textile mill owners and tobacco cartels. John proudly shows off the lavish lifestyle, multiple houses, luxury travel, etc. that corporate loyalty affords him.

But Joe Hill shows up only where workers strike and organize and stand up for their rights. No politician, beholden to corporate ‘donations’ is eager to trot out Joe Hill’s name or the values which improve workers’ lives.

Workers benefit only when they stand up for themselves, work to educate their children and their neighbors, and get out the vote for candidates who care for something beyond corporate power and profits. This year, John McCain is working hard to abandon all of his ‘maverick’ imagery and to embrace the sponsors and ideals that had been Jesse’s natural territory. When one of their champions dies, corporate leaders just buy a new one.

Tom HallBut the values of Joe Hill appear only when we invoke them. On election night, Joe Hill will be there, on Obama’s victory stage, if we organize and stand up for our rights to a free nation, free of the “Patriot Act,” free of telecom immunity, free of oil-war politics, and free from the politics of fear mongering. Free to spend our budget on health care reform, education, and rebuilding our mouldering infrastructure.

by Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family law attorney. He is originally from Boston, where he grew up in the Cambridge Friends Meeting (Quakers), thinking that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people to participate in highly disciplined nonviolent demonstrations (real disciplined nonviolence is just plain maddening to police forces who count on demonstrators giving them reason to get ‘messy’ during public demonstrations). After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make himself a comfortable life. The Bush administration has shocked him back into social concerns. Tom can be reached at

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