Joe Hummer: Whipping boy for the anti-SUV crowd | SierraSun.com

Joe Hummer: Whipping boy for the anti-SUV crowd

Editor's Notebook, Jim Scripps

Take it easy on Joe Hummer.

You know Joe. He’s the guy with that brand-spanking-new, probably bright yellow, Hummer 2, General Motors’ entry into the ‘urban assault vehicle’ market.

He is a successful family man with a wad of cash in his pocket, and he’s just looking for a fun way to spend it.

When the H2 hit the streets last year, he knew he had to have it – even before he drove it – and he plopped down 60-grand, traded in his Suburban, and waited eight weeks for delivery. Now he has it, and everybody is giving him a hard time, at least everyone around here.

This past week saw two local media assaults on Joe Hummer – or at least on SUV owners as a group.

The Sacramento Bee on Monday ran a piece titled “Make way for U.S., Hummers” by Chuck Raasch, a Gannett News Service columnist. In it he characterizes H2 owners as warmongers.

“And so the popularity of a gas sponge like the Hummer as war with Iraq looms takes on its irony – without such a thirst for oil, we might no have had even to consider such a fight,” Raasch wrote.

“The popularity of this vehicle seems to be saying that if you don’t like the fact that the United States sucks down the oil of the gulf like a parched 10-year-old taking on a glass of Kool-Aid, that’s your problem.”

Wait a minute Chuck. Joe Hummer didn’t consider the geo-economic consequences of his 10-miles-per-gallon investment. He just wanted a big car. One that has features like self-inflating tires, DVD surround sound and 4,000 square feet of cargo space. He also wants to pull his boat. His kids like to water-ski.

To Joe, oil doesn’t come from Baghdad; it comes from Chevron, the one around the corner.

Corey Farley, in a Reno Gazette-Journal column published Sunday (“The truth about those people”), cited a study of auto-industry marketing strategies as indicative of Joe’s over-inflated ego.

“SUV buyers tend to be ‘insecure and vain.'” Farley, a seasoned auto journalist, wrote, referencing research by author Keith Bradsher. “‘They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood.’

“The carmakers use this knowledge to aim their marketing dollars. Over the last decade, the story says, they’ve ‘ramped up their SUV designs to appeal even more to the reptilian instincts of (those) attracted to SUVs not because of their perceived safety, but for their aggressiveness.'”

As it happens, Joe is a Peace Corps. alumnus, ordained minister, little league coach, soup kitchen volunteer and active Shriner, and thus has a place in his tender heart for the world’s suffering. Would a man like Joe buy a beast like the H2 to (gasp!) intimidate drivers of lesser cars?

Joe’s wife, Jane Hummer, thinks the H2 is silly, but she has entertained Joe’s eccentricities for the last 30 years, and she figures he worked hard to earn it. She drives a Ford Explorer to church, the PTA and her weekly knitting club gatherings. She’s almost too busy making cookies for the bake sale to have time to indulge in her “reptilian instincts.”

In our modern world of blame-game, divisive politicking, every group gets bashed, but we have to be careful not to be too hard on people like Joe Hummer.

Take it from this SUV driver. Joe’s actually a pretty nice guy.

Jim Scripps is editor of the Sierra Sun.