It's amazing how much can change in a year.
13 months ago our country was as united as I've seen it since 9-11. There was the phenominal aura and feeling that we'd really done something right. Not only had we elected our first African-American president but a movement swept the country demanding, anticipating, and indeed expecting REAL change. America had tired of endless war, constant political bickering, and what seemed like total lack of understanding or care for "Main Street" Americans in Washington, DC. We all aligned behind a charismatic young leader promising change. No more empire building, no more torture policies to tarnish our standing in the world, no more pork. Someone was finally going to put the average American first.
So what happened?
A year later, Guantanamo is still open. No one from the Bush-Cheney administration has had to face justice and many of their worst policies are still in place. Homosexuals are not much closer to equal rights than they were last year. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is still in place. We're still in Iraq, we're escalating the War In Afghanistan - and hearing the same rhetoric about national security and fighting them there so we won't have to fight them here that we've grown so used to. The Fed chairman that steered us into economic disaster has just been reconfirmed. Wall Street bankers continue to get fat while Main Street Americans starve. Climate Change looms larger than ever and Copenhagen has served as nothing more than a reminder that we're nowhere near any serious action to stop it. Hundreds of Americans still die for lack of health insurance every day and health care reform appears to be on it's death bed. And the political bickering? It's the worst it's been in my entire lifetime. One party is determined to say no to anything presented by the other even if it amounts to political suicide (see: Franken Rape Amendment) and the other party is too busy fighting amongst themselves to accomplish anything. To me, the last year has served as nothing more than a public display of just how broken our political system is in the United States of America.
Barack Obama was a lie. Nothing more than a clever marketing gimmick by the status quo to make American believe we were getting change when in reality we were just getting more of the same.
There I said it.
A long way from the kid who was out 15, 16 months ago hitting the street. "Getting out the vote." Contributing $20 to a campaign when I barely had $20 to my name. Backing the man that was going to fix our broken country. Talking, debating, doing whatever I could - my part. Calling every single person I knew to make sure they voted on election day and pestering them endlessly until they did.
And for what?
To watch a man I believed in go back on every single promise he made - EXCEPT the promise to escalate a war? To watch the old saying that the US Senate is where good legislation goes to die play out 24-7 on national television? To watch the party that promised a new era of America prosperity so unable to get out of their own way that the only question remaining is how long before the whole thing implodes?
So where are we now? The first of the troops in the Afghan surge are beginning their fight. Even if this hollow sham they call health care reform DOES get passed it does nothing to help anyone but the insurance companies. There is no reform there. All we get is a mandate - and if Ben Nelson gets his way (and at this point I've no doubts that he will), a 20 year setback in the fight for abortion rights. What else? Insurance companies can't say no to people due to a pre-existing condition? Well that's good. But, Mr. President, you still haven't explained just how the hell we're supposed to be able to AFFORD this health insurance. Subsidies that don't kick in until 2014 (and could be swiftly removed before they ever see the light of day if the Republicans regain control of the House and Senate)? Thanks but no thanks. Just what am I supposed to do for the next 4 years, Mr. President? Me and my girlfriend just got the word that we knew was coming this week at work - our health insurance premiums are going up in January. We won't know how much until next week but we know they're going up. Just like they always do. We can barely get by with what we're paying now. How will we afford the higher rates? Even another $30 bi-weekly (and it'll probably be more) could be crippling. How will we pay it? Hope for a raise? Sorry - the economy you're so proud of is still in the shitter for everyone that doesn't work for a bank. Small businesses - like the one we work for - are struggling just to keep the doors open. There's been a wage freeze for a year and a half that doesn't look like it'll be ending any time soon. So, what are you offering ME Mr. President? Besides a promise - that should me and my girlfriend have to make that painful decision that we simply can't AFFORD health insurance anymore and best to risk our lives and those of our children in the world of the insurance-less than not be able to pay our rent or gas bill or buy groceries - a promise that you'll get that money back by fining us into oblivion? That's not the change I believed in. That's not the change I voted for.
I've held out hope until this point. I'm not sure what the breaking point was. Maybe it was the Afghanistan thing. Maybe it was seeing the White House attack Howard Dean for telling the truth - that this bill does nothing but HURT everyday Americans while promising to line the pockets of private health insurers. Maybe it was seeing the President in Copenhagen today, telling the world they need to do more while offering no new concessions from the United States. Except to do what we always do - throw money at it. "Yeah we know what the scientists say we need to do but really who listens to scientists? What do they know anyway? Here, here's $100 billion, now go away and let us go about our business."
Whatever it was I've finally given up hope. It's funny. I was incensed when Joe Wilson shouted out during Obama's health care speech. While Mr. Wilson's actions may have been out of order and uncalled for - his words ring true. You lied, Mr. President. You lied to us all.
And the sad thing is, we likely won't have any other option in 2012 since the best the GOP can seem to come up with is Sarah Palin.