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In the Ground


In 2009, my son went to Washington, DC. He was among hundreds of thousands swept to excitement by an unprecedented moment. I discouraged—didn’t want him on the road. Probably, had I been his age, 22, I’d have driven all night, too. It was one hell of a party.

On election night, 2008, a weeping Jesse Jackson was captured on film, his tears reflecting history’s sadness and future’s possibilities.

Festivities were heard around the world.

The party’s long been over for all but the uber-wealthy.

I am remembering Michelle Obama on the campaign trail, her admission and the criticism she took when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.” She prefaced this with, “People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics.

So many were expecting the change of which she spoke to be an improvement for the middle class and working poor.

So many were expecting a departure from the Bush/Cheney economic tyranny, militarism, imperialism, contempt for The Other, torture, and environmental devastation.

And then the excuses:

“He inherited a mess.”

“He needs more time.”

These tired justifications must be put to sleep.

Because we have seen the circus of the absurd, the standup tragedians, much emoting about entitlement programs, a president offering more to the shredder than was asked, and little mention of the costs of war, the number of countries with which we’re at war, and the trillions in stimulus money distributed to the personhoods responsible for toxins in the bundles.

The entitlement program needing the most excision is Bailing out the Banksters, corporate welfare, not safety nets that protect the most vulnerable.

Still left to manipulate is extension of Bush-era tax cuts (set to expire at the end of 2012) that hugely benefit those who hold black American Express cards. Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats are concerned that Obama may entice with hope and change, something from his pre-oath, transformational phase, to salvage his reputation, galvanize a progressive base, and use as leverage for less slicing and dicing of liberal priorities.

Don’t count on this.

The middle class is dying. Inequality is thriving. Obama is owned by Wall Street. Congress is owned by Wall Street. The system is working exactly as big capital dictates.

This is the New World Order.

The opportunists have erased all that early revelry, planned by the people, to celebrate the land of opportunity. Never again should young and old alike feel that inexorable rush of anticipation, compelling them to go, to travel to Washington, DC, in honor of someone whose pre-presidency promises seem trustworthy.

The “different kind of politics” about which Michelle Obama swooned is nada, zip. And the tear that rolled down Jesse Jackson’s face is a symbol of what could have been and isn’t. Hope has been laid to rest—the American dream lowered in the ground.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Reach her at

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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