One might be forgiven for thinking that the first suit against the Republican Party for Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST) would have been filed in Palm Beach County, but a 38-year-old from Manhattan’s West Side has beaten her Floridian fellow victims to the punch.
Barbi Weiner, a third grade teacher currently on disability, is suing the Republican party for having taken an active role in returning George Bush to the White House, a circumstance that resulted in Ms. Weiner suffering a nervous collapse last Nov.8th as she crossed West 72nd Street.
"I looked up and saw the WestSideWaffle! sign with its big red 'W’s,'" she says. "And I realized it was true – he won. Then I started thinking about my life and I realized that I couldn’t go on living in a country where a war-mongering baby-killer holds the highest office in the land. I guess I lost it."
Asked why she doesn’t simply make up her mind to leave the country, Ms. Weiner said, "That’s a typical Republican oversimplification - if you don’t like it, leave. Nothing will ever change if we just run away. I chose the principled response. But I didn’t think I’d wind up spending a week in a mental hospital. There’s nothing crazy about wanting the President of the United States to be a Democrat. Anyway, I shouldn’t have had to lose it completely just to bring this crisis to the attention of the American people."
The day after the election Ms. Weiner was unable to go to work, believing that any minute the election would be called for Mr. Kerry. But once he conceded she went into a deep depression. "He just gave up. Just like that. No fight, no lawsuits, no dimpled chads, no recounts, nothing. It was the lowest moment of my life."
Asked why she hasn’t sued Mr. Kerry for capitulating, Ms. Weiner said, "That’s just like a Republican – blame the victim. How would it be fair for me to sue Mr. Kerry for losing to the vast right-wing conspiracy?"
No stranger to lawsuits, several years ago Ms. Weiner won an undisclosed amount, rumored to be in the tens of millions, when she sued Moonraker’s Coffee for having addicted her to caffeine. "Everyone knows their coffee is strong," she said when the verdict was announced, "but the company keeps the exact strength of its product a secret, so anyone who watches her caffeine intake as carefully as I do is completely in the dark as to what she’s ingesting. I wanted to force them to be more open, and I succeeded."
But the cost of openness forced Moonraker’s into bankruptcy. Faced with unending litigation, Moonraker’s went out of business last January. Former President and CEO Pete Luna said, "I’d always assumed that if we went out of business it would be because we couldn’t compete with Starbucks. It never occurred to me that a schoolteacher would be able to knock us out of the box because her hands shook. It’s not like she’s a surgeon or something."
Upon hearing Mr. Luna’s statement, Ms. Weiner said, "That’s such a typical Republican response. If I’d been a rich doctor it would have been all right for me to get any amount of his rotten dollars, but I’m only a schoolteacher so he can’t imagine that the steadiness of my hands might be important to me, too. More for the rich. That is so typical."
Ms. Weiner says her lawyer has told her she faces an uphill battle over her claim against the Republicans. "For one thing, they’re going to say it’s the nature of our system - the Republicans were supposed to be committed to helping that draft-dodging mama’s boy win. They’re going to claim that the Constitution guarantees a Republican the right to be president if he gets enough votes. But I think we can probably convince any reasonable jury that when it’s a choice between a man with the obvious support of the whole rest of the world as opposed to a man with the support of a few marginal groups in just one country, there’s no question which one the Constitution would approve. It’s simply a matter of getting the jury to understand why the feelings of the other people on the planet matter. Anyway, the Constitution doesn’t even mention Republicans. To me it’s a no-brainer."
Ms. Weiner says her life has become very circumscribed since the election. "Before my breakdown I used to enjoy walking around my neighborhood. This is a very diverse area and it used to be such a pleasure to know that everyone you passed on the street thought about life exactly the same way you did. But since the election I have become very distrustful of strangers. Now I can’t be sure that the person walking next to me isn’t one of that 17 percent who voted for the war-mongering liar. I never know who they are, and I could be put in a position of having to speak to one of them. I can’t bear to go out any more. It’s so distressing."
Asked whether she sees a time during the next four years when she will feel like her old self, Ms. Weiner is sanguine. "My therapists have told me I need to start being active again. They’ve told me to find something positive to do that I enjoy. I think that’s excellent advice and I’m going to follow it. After I win this suit I’m going to go after all the people who voted for this war criminal. If voting for a terrorist doesn’t violate the Patriot Act, I don’t know what does."