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Hell Yes, I'm Bitter



It's 1:25 a.m. in a Pennsylvania small town, population about 4,000. I've lived here for nineteen years, and I am bitter.

Here's my dictionary's definition of "bitter": "Angry, hurt or resentful because of one's bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment."

If "unjust treatment" doesn't cover the deaths in Iraq of more than 4,000 of America's sons and daughters in a senseless war, what does? If it doesn't describe more than 82,000 civilian deaths in Iraq in the same five years (source: Iraqbodycount.org), what will? If it doesn't cover the physical and mental anguish of so many of those who did make it home but are being ignored by our government after putting their lives on the line, why? If it doesn't include the enormous waste of not only human life but also money, how come?

I'm angry at what is happening to the economy. One of my "economic indicators" lately was a young couple of neighbors with two little girls and a dog. The husband had a good job, and the wife was in college to get a degree she could put to work. The girls played in the yard, and my husband and son played with the dog. All seemed well. Then the couple looked at their bottom line and decided they had to sell the house.

They couldn't. They tried it twice, with a realtor and on their own. They couldn't get a decent price. The family tightened their belts, then tightened them some more.

Then, one day not long before Christmas, they were gone. No couple coming home with groceries, no little girls playing in the yard, no dog rolling over for some attention from his buddies next door.

I found out through the grapevine that the couple had split up.

My husband told me about the new trend of "jingle mail," when someone can't pay the mortgage and simply gives up, sending the house keys to the bank.

I'm reading that not only home loans but student loans are getting tougher to get -- just the news I don't want to hear when we have a 16-year-old planning to go to college in two years. (His preferred school -- not an Ivy -- costs about $48,000 a year. I hope the community college is building a new addition, because something tells me the student body will be growing fast in coming years.)

My parents don't live in Pennsylvania yet, but they are about to (if they can sell their home in their local housing slump), then they will be faced with the dilemmas of other seniors here: the cost of a home, surging bills for groceries, health insurance and medications, and the ever-higher prices at the gas pump. Filling my tank sets me back almost $50.

And Pennsylvania is home to once-booming communities which had busy steel or textile mills or coal mines in their heyday -- the kind of cities Billy Joel described in 1982 in the song "Allentown": "Well we're living here in Allentown/And they're closing all the factories down/Out in Bethlehem they're killing time/Filling out forms/Standing in line..."

Has the Bush Administration remembered people like these? Has it tried to help them? Would they be a priority in a McCain Administration?

You know the answer. You also know that Barack Obama is speaking out for people like this, who have "felt abandoned by Washington and political leaders when it comes to an economy that’s falling apart." People who are struggling are being heard.

That's the bottom line. Let's keep our eye on the ball. I have not always expressed myself perfectly in my life, nor, I suspect, have most people. But our commitment to the people in our lives -- their character, their values, their caring -- endures. We don't pick a badly-phrased comment from our husband or our child and slam the door on them. We look at the bigger picture.

Barack Obama noted yesterday that "politicians seek to divide" people by using "wedge issues" involving gays, immigrants, etc., "that I think distract from the very difficult issues that we have to deal with."

Absolutely. And that's the way to say it. Now, I expect someone like John McCain to try to score cheap political points rather than focus on human beings whose lives are being destroyed. But with a Democratic victory in November on the line, I don't expect (or I didn't) such cheap shots from Hillary Clinton.

Evidently, with Hillary unwilling to keep the focus on the people who need help most -- in Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the country and the world -- it is up to each of us to help our struggling fellow Americans, with our time, our money, and our vote.

Till the bitter end.

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