As soon as Janet stepped through the kitchen door, she could hear the sound of crying--deep, gasping, soul-wrenching sobs. “Oh no,” she sighed to herself. “Not again.”
She put the tea kettle on and then walked over to put her arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Brenda, honey, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Brenda kept her head bent, tears pouring down her cheeks, as she stared at the kitchen table. “It’s Barry,” she finally managed to choke out. “He and his friends are saying the meanest things about me.”
“What kind of things, Brenda?”
Brenda had temporarily brought her crying under control. “He accused me of being unfaithful. He said I didn’t really love him, that I didn’t understand all the things he has to struggle with. He acted as if I was stupid and ungrateful!” And she burst into a new round of tears.
Angry on her friend’s behalf, Janet said, “What’s the matter with him? Why is he saying those things?”
Brenda looked up, distraught. “I don’t know! I don’t know! Oh, I think I’m going to be sick.... She jumped up and raced to the bathroom.
As she pulled two cups from the cupboard, Janet could hear Brenda retching. “What would be best at a time like this?” she asked herself. “Mint? Chamomile?” Finally she settled on Tension Tamer™. “When will she ever learn?” she thought.
Brenda finally emerged, looking wan and shaken. She sat, cuddling the warm teacup with both hands. “Thanks, Janet,” she whispered. “You’re such a good friend. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She seemed to settle herself, and then reflected, “He seemed so perfect. Not just tall, dark, and handsome, but so articulate, so intelligent, so sensitive. He convinced me that we shared so many hopes, so many dreams. We were going to walk together into a new world. And now it’s all gone wrong.” She raised her eyes, and she had the look of someone staring into an infinite, sucking void.
“It’s not fair!” she screamed, and then burst into a new set of tears, this time hot, scalding tears of rage. “He betrayed me, he turned his back on me, he acted as if I didn’t even exist! And now he expects me to be enthusiastic when he turns up at my door. When I’m not, he accuses me of being unfaithful! After all the money I gave him, after all the calls I made on his behalf, all the friends I nagged to give him a job! I walked the streets for him!”
“You gave him money? How much money, Brenda?” demanded Janet, shocked.
“I don’t know,” said Brenda despondently. “A lot. Sometimes a check. Sometimes my credit card. He just always needed a little more. Every bit was critical, you know. He kept saying he was desperate. He depended on me.”
“Brenda, you work in a daycare center. He’s a lawyer. And you were giving him money? When this is all over, he’ll be even richer, and you’ll be no better off than you are now.”
“It was never about me,” Brenda said. “It was always about making the world a better place. The common good.” She looked up. “You think I’m hopelessly naive, don’t you? You think I’ve been a sucker for the same old line. As soon as he was elected, he stopped calling. He found new friends. But I just thought that he was really busy getting settled in, that he still cared, that he was still true, that he would keep his promises to me.
“But I finally got tired of waiting. He never had time for me and my friends. He surrounded himself with the same people I thought we were hoping to replace. He kept so many of the same policies he attacked during his campaign. I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. I told myself I might be exaggerating. Blowing minor things out of proportion. So I made myself sit down and put together a list of ways he had changed. When I finished, I could hardly stand to look at it, it hurt so much. Now he’s in trouble, and he’s angry because I’m not satisfied with the way things are going. He says that I need to fall in line, that I’m hurting him, and I’m the only hope he has.”
“Oh, Brenda,” said Janet sadly. “Sweetie, we’ve been through this before. You’ve got to learn sometime.”
“I don’t know what to do!” shrieked Brenda. “Why does it always come down to a choice between being assaulted by people whose entire political philosophy revolves around greed and aggression, or being betrayed by people who claim to care about fairness, community, and peace?”
© Tony Russell, 2010
Brenda’s list (admittedly incomplete and a work in progress) :
- Instead of the change he campaigned on, he actually kept Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and Bush’s favorite warrior, Gen. Petraeus, as his leading voices on national security policy. For all the rhetoric, we are still at war in Iraq, and waging expanded campaigns now in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Instead of repudiating Bush’s landmark embrace of “preemptive war,” Obama used the occasion of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance in Oslo to specifically endorse it as a strategy. His “Peace Prize” speech was seen over most of the globe as a glorification of militarism.
- After criticizing the Bush administration for its use of torture and promising to comply with a court order to release Pentagon torture photos , Obama moved to block any investigation of the torture, denied the release of the photos, and has worked hard to help cover up this violation of human rights and international law.
- Obama has incorporated the most heinous and undemocratic features of the Bush administration’s police-state policies, including support for “extraordinary rendition,” domestic spying, and the holding of terror suspects indefinitely, without charges.
- Despite campaigning on behalf of the struggling middle class, with its millions of unemployed and underemployed, he has shown none of the urgency his administration demonstrated when Wall Street investment firms, banks, and auto makers were threatened.
- Instead of taking steps to embody the hope he campaigned on, he has done nothing to stop the endless drumroll of home foreclosures.
- Instead of using his “stimulus bill” to drive work on alternative energy expansion, environmental improvement and restoration, or to build permanent social assets, as did the CCC and the WPA, he aimed 90% of the new jobs created toward traditional, existing private businesses.
- During his campaign, Obama championed the public option for health care and opposed forcing people to purchase private insurance; once elected, he ruled out the public option before negotiations on health care even began, and supported mandating the purchase of private insurance.
- During his campaign, Obama promised to negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN; once elected, he negotiated behind closed doors.
- Instead of the change he campaigned on, he turned his economic policy over to Tim Geithner and Larry Summers--the same Wall Street corporate insiders who helped get us into our current mess--and only accelerated the widening of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
- Obama promised to close Guantánamo within a year; that hasn’t happened.
- During his campaign, Obama supported ending the Cuban embargo; in office, he has ignored the embargo, allowing it to continue.
- During his campaign, Obama promised to reopen negotiations on NAFTA; once in office, he has done nothing, perpetuating the status quo.
- As a Senator and candidate, Obama courted labor and supported the Employee Free Choice Act; since being elected, he has done nothing to secure passage of EFCA, which will be dead in the water once these mid-term elections hand Congress over to the GOP.