Tag Archives: health care

It’s All So Clinical

Author’s Note:  I wrote this article in 2009, and given experiences several of my friends and family have had in the past year, I felt as though I wanted to republish this article as a reminder.  

My friend, Rindy’s parents just got her death certificate in the mail.  As I read the details, I realized that on this piece of paper, her data and vital statistics were just numbers and letters.  The description of what happened to her, a record of events not related to the actual emotional experience of that particularly horrific day.

One of my other students, one I have known since she was in seventh grade, just wrote about her friend who has cystic tumors on multiple organs in her body.  At a spiritual level, I am praying for her, but I can’t help but go to that place where I am assessing the medical viability of this poor child.  It helps me to distance myself from the tragedy her parents are experiencing right now.

child with cancerOn a larger scale, I can’t help but think that our debate about health care reform is just like these situations.  We are standing on ideologies, philosophies, and mental judgement about people’s lives to maintain our intellectual distance.  Of course, we can’t simply respond to our emotional selves, placating our strong desire to save everyone from the pits of hellish disease and agony.  I must wonder, however, when it was that we lost our permission to be compassionate human beings with regard to this question?  When did we decide, and a decision it was, to release ourselves from seeing each and every person in our country as a whole person?

Every dollar that goes to health care does not only go to a hospital, or physician, or technician.  Every penny represents a human life that is in crisis.  Every dime eases the pain of a child or maintains the dignity of an elderly person who is watching her life slip away.  Each nickel is a banner waving in our war against chronic pain, epidemiological outbreaks, and insidious cancer.

sad-woman-K133-31-147I am nearly debilitated by our forgetfulness of these truths in this debate.  We continue to talk about dollars as though these pieces of paper and shards of metal are what this discussion is about.  It’s not.  It never has been.

Be reasonable.  Be accountable.  Destroy fraud; but we must do these things with someone’s face always at the forefront of our minds.  Remember your father who died of Alzheimers Disease.  Remember your mother who died of pancreatic cancer.  Remember your daughter who died of leukemia.  Remember your son who died of poor prenatal care.   Remember the pale woman on the street, whose wisps of hair flutter in the breeze beneath her silken kerchief wrapped loosely on her head.

Every time we forget these people, our brothers and sisters, we have bastardized the purpose of the health care system.  Every time we are angry at the legislators for not focusing on costs and income, we become the monsters that walk hand-in-hand with the cells that destroy our bodies.  Every time we arrogantlly chant that people should pay for their own insurance, even when they don’t have a job or health enough to maintain work, we become that against which we fight so hard… a tumor that ravages the body of society.

Remember a face… any face… and only then begin the debate about health care reform.


Governor Attacks the Poor… Again

According to a recent report from NBC affilliate, KCRA 3 in Sacramento, California, Governor Schwarzenegger has once again carved into the lives of the poor, the young, the infirmed, and those least able to bear the edge of his economic scalpel.

Programs like Cal-WORKS, which is the  work-for-welfare program, mental health services, foster parent programs, and other necessary departments are being slashed to accommodate the $20 billion shortfall.  According to the report, this budget reduction will affect 1.4 million people in the third largest state in the union.  With a total population of 38,292,687 California citizens, that means that over 3.5% of the people in the Golden State are going to have to decide what to do in response to this situation.

One must wonder whether the highest paid administrators in state government are taking cuts in their pay, or if there is going to be a reduction in any of their benefits. 

The lame duck governor has also indicated that a budget will not be signed that is not accompanied by budget and pension reforms.   That is akin to saying that we must have better architectural plans for a barn that is currently burning.   I’m certain that in Governor Schwarzenegger’s mind he is trying to avoid future issues of this type; however, as is spoken in the vernacular, he is “a day late and a dollar short.” 

Click here for "Governor Schwarzenothing"

It was less than a year ago, we were discussing the the fact that the governor was flexing his muscles in areas that were not a top priority for the majority of Californians. 

Programs such as research grants, expansion of prisons and universities, secondary transportation activities that are not being supplemented by the federal government, and parks and recreation should be cut long before programs that support children and the ill.  

There should be three rules of thumb by which the governor reviews the budget:

1.  Does this item support our children in any way?

2.  Does this item support physical and mental health care for the largest number of people?

3.  Does this item promote employment in the state?

Anything else should be eligble for reduction. 

The ironic thing is that after all these years contending with Governor Schwarenegger, we’re finally realizing that he doesn’t meet any of these criteria. 

Hey! that gives me an idea!


For great websites presented directly to you, go to:  http://alphainventions.com/

Reference:  http://www.kcra.com/politics/23553612/detail.html

A View to Avarice

Eyeglasses 2If eyeglasses range in price from $1,000 to $8, then one must ask why the cost differential? 

If one can get glasses in an hour, as is promoted by Lenscrafters, how expensive could it possibly be to create these glasses, including materials and labor? 

As a nation, we’ve been discussing economics a great deal lately, challenging our government to stay a capitalist society, not drifting toward socialism or communism.  We have indicated loudly and strongly that we wish to have a financial structure in our country that promotes our ability to make the almighty dollar in the best ways possible.  The philosophy that if we work hard, we can make a lot of money has shifted, though.  The problem is that we want to make the most money off of  those who need our services or products the most and can afford it the least.  We’ve gone from capitalism to avaricism, and this greed is being borne on the backs of the unemployed and underemployed across our country. 

Check with any poor person in the country who needs glasses and doesn’t have them, why that is?  They will tell you that they cannot afford them.  They have to be able to see to make a living or to drive; yet, they are subjected to headaches, decreased safety, and other limitations caused by their poverty when the truth is, for $40 on-line, they could get a pair of glasses.

The Lion’s Club provides glasses to poor people all over the globe for free.  They have been collecting used glasses from Americans for decades now.  In America, however, we are still subjected to near-blindness because the eyeglass companies want to make a truckload of money every day from people who simply don’t know that they can go on-line, click a few fields, and get their eyeglasses overnight for about $40.  If you don’t believe me, check out Zennioptical.com.

EyeglassesWhat will happen when Lenscrafters and Pearlvision get wind of these sites?  Will their prices suddenly come crashing down?  I doubt it.  They will simply cater to those who don’t know any better or who can afford not to care about the cost.

The truth is, there are some benefits to having a staff person fit your glasses, and being able to try them on in the store to see how they’ll look; but, if it’s the difference between getting glasses and not getting glasses, I’m willing to take my chances.  Glasses are glasses.  They are a functional necessity. 

For those who can afford designer names on the arms of their spectacles, great!  Have at it.  For those of us who don’t have those liquid assets readily available, it simply can’t be a concern. 

I’ve got an appointment with my HMO ophthalmologist on Monday, and as soon as I get my prescription, I’m going on-line.  The days of my spending $500 on a pair of glasses is over. 

I’ll keep you posted on how that works out for me.

The Many Faces of Mental Health

Facing grief, hearing voices, fighting addiction, stopping cutting, riding the rollercoaster of manic depression. 

These are all experiences that some people have with their forms of mental illness.  Why is it, then, that the moment the words, “mental illness” appeared in your line of sight, you froze?  Your back straightened.  You may have looked around as if to see if anyone else was looking.  You may have even gasped inaudibly. 

depression_by_thirsty5Don’t feel bad.  Everyone does that.  It’s our natural response to the conditioning we’ve received regarding discussions about mental health. 

When we hear of someone who suffers from anything from prolonged sadness to schizophrenia, we shake our heads solemnly side-to-side in piteous sympathy for the poor wretch and his long-suffering family.   Sometimes, we even grow impatient with the sufferer. 

“Why can’t they just get over it?  Toughen up!  Stop being a drama queen!”

It’s not that simple, my friends.  It’s just not.

Even staying on a treatment regimen is difficult for those of us who are fighting our denial. 

So, as you hear yourself speaking the words above, I just ask the following: 

Stop it.  Just stop it now. 

If I said I had cancer, you would likely feel awkward, but concerned.  If I said I had to have a root canal for a long-term dental condition, you would regale me with a story of your own endodontic therapy.  Yet, if I tell you that I have mild bipolar disorder, you become frightened.

Well, I have mild bipolar disorder, as well as seasonal affective disorder.   

If you’re agitated by knowing that about me, I’d ask you if you are frightened that my mental illness is catching, or if by hearing it, you will soon discover that you or someone you love will be diagnosed with some like condition.  In this particular case, ignorance is complete bliss.  It is the kind of bliss you fight hammer and tong to maintain. 

I understand, though.  I really do.  I’m just asking you to rethink your belief system about mental illness.  I’m inviting you to become more educated about this pervasive disease. 

The latest numbers by the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that 26.2 percent of adults, 18-years-old and older, have some form of mental illness.  No wonder we worry about it when fully 1 in 4 Americans have to contend with it.  What does it say that 57.7 million people in the United States of America have been diagnosed with some mental disorder.  That’s not including the many who are suspected to have yet been diagnosed and/or treated.

With the economic crisis still causing fear, with the threat of terrorism crossing our borders, with the increasing costs of medical care decreasing our treatment resources, we are being herded like sheep into a world of untreated mental illness.  Only through education and activism are we able to find our way out of this morass. 

The last thing we need to add to this process is shame.  The truth is, shame is a very real component for most people with mental illness.  That, more than anything, must change first for real social growth in this area to happen.

schizophreniaHaving been a consumer member of the Executive Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) many years ago, I know that this organization can be of immense assistance to all people involved in the mental health arena.  As patients, diagnosed or not, family members, friends, and co-workers, I’m asking that you take this step in participating in the care of those most at risk. 

Education is a small thing to ask.  Take 15 minutes.  Look up a definition for something you’re interested in knowing more about on the websites for  NMHA, or the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the WebMD Mental Health page.  Your choice to investigate another’s process will make all the difference in the world.  It will be a testament to your love and concern.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and to go the websites I’ve recommended.  With your fearless choice to grow in understanding, you have no idea just how important your education is to others and to yourself.  

By the way, what’s it like to have such an open heart?


Source:  http://nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml

A View of Obama and America

Barack Obama addresses a huge crowd in 2008

Barack Obama addresses a huge crowd in 2008

President Barack Obama was elected by a mandate by the people of the United States of America in November 2008.  Clearly, people were ready for the changes Obama assessed the country needed.  Now, we’re complaining.

I had a family member once upon a time that, no matter what happened, she would complain.  If she were to receive a million dollars, she would complain about the taxes.  If she were to wake up one morning thirty pounds lighter, she would complain that she had nothing to wear.  We have become a country of that same person.

Change is painful.  Change is scary.  Change, for America and Americans, is necessary. 

When will we get it through our short-sighted, fear-riddled brains that what we’ve been doing for the last several decades is not working and we must fix it.  The economy is in the gutter, our health care is suffering because of the insurance companies’ insistence on higher and higher premuims nearly no one can afford, and our culture is becoming more violent and full of crime.  What will it take for us to dig in, in the way our forefathers and foremothers did to elevate themselves out of the Great Depression?  Where is our work ethic?  Where is our warrior spirit?

crowd-hugeThere is no dirt under the fingernails of those who are doing the complaining because they want everything handed to them without doing the work.  Is that who we’ve become?  That is not the energy that built our country in the first place.

It’s time for us to understand that nothing in the world is going to change the fact that we have to rework our economy, our health care system, our criminal justice system, our sense of unified culture, and our access to the entire American dream, no matter what labels others give us,  if we want the changes we voted for a mere ten months ago. 

Already, we’ve seen our place of respect in the world rise to levels we haven’t seen in at least nine years.  We’ve seen white collar criminals going to jail for duping the American public.  We have been exposed to truths about which we had suspected for many years about our government.  These are all good things.  These are the events that will transport us farther toward our goal for an open government, a new vision, and unified action.

Oakland Raiders fans have the right idea.  No matter what their team is doing, they stand behind the organization.  They disagree.  They get angry.  They hope for better.  Ultimately, however, they remain part of the Raider Nation.  When a new leader comes aboard, they always have hope for a brighter future.  Perhaps, as Americans, we should stand behind our Red, White, and Blue, the same way Raider fans stand behind their Silver and Black.  

long roadTake a deep breath, America, hike up your collective skirts, and get ready for the long road ahead of us in correcting the errors of our past.  President Barack Obama can, and will, get us there.  I know it.  The challenge is that he cannot do it alone. 

He will require our help.  We must raise our voices in support and unity.  We must challenge what we think is wrong in a dignified and respectful way.  We must never let our drama overshadow our need to change. 

Change is not coming.  Change is here.

Empty Hospital Chairs

hospital8It’s all about perception.  I’m sure of it.  What happens within, happens without. 

As I watch and listen to this discussion about health care reform, I am moved by the chasm that exists between the decision makers, all of whom have more than adequate health insurance, and those for whom their decisions will ultimately be made.   The tragic part is that this chasm is deadly. 

American citizens are suffering and dying, directly and indirectly, because they, A.) Don’t have health care; B.) Have inadequate health care; or, C.) Are under the delusion they have adequate health care.

Even when one receives Medic-Aid or Medi-Cal, one is still vulnerable to those who control either the purse-strings or the medical care itself.  If those directing the healthcare systems are unhappy with the fact that a patient is expressing her frustration or are asking for more information than the medical provider can offer at the time, they rise grandly upon their high horse and direct the patient elsewhere.  This dismantling of this patient’s medical support system is obscene, at least, and criminal, at best. 

As human beings, which is all physicians are in truth, they are subject to the frailties that each of us experiences.  As human beings, which is all lawmakers are in truth, they, too, are subject to insufficient wisdom to make worthy decisions.  As a patient, one must remember these truths.

turkey-backpedaling-on-armenia-ties-us-lawmakers-say-2009-07-31_lAs lawmakers, humbly, they are obligated to maintain open minds to ensure they receive all the pertinent information so that that may make humanely compassionate and fiscally responsible decisions.  As  physicians, they must remember that they are always in a search for the truth.  More than anyone else on the face of the planet, they must keep their minds open for all possible symptoms.  They must listen to the unspoken part of what a patient is saying.  They must continue learning so grow in knowledge and understanding. 

My father was a pharmacist and I was privvy to seeing physicians in action on a daily basis for many, many years.  Our friends were physicians.  Our family is proud to have medical care specialists of many types populate our numbers.  As a patient with multiple diagnoses, I’ve seen excellent medical care in action. 

The dichotomy between my life experiences and that of those I love around me is jarring. 

hospital_accidentUltimately, it becomes about legislating one of the most intimate, non-familial relationships in the world, the doctor-patient connection.  No one knows your body better than you do.  A physician, however, comes close.  If that is so, then how can a doctor send a patient away because they have inadequate insurance?  How can a physician ignore what he or she is hearing from a patient in lieu of an arrogant assumption of their own correctness or entitlement?  How can they send a patient down an empty hall toward a world of pain, illness, and possible death without providing another option?  This is cruelty beyond reason.

Physicians are in service.  Legislators are in service.  They are in service to us, the American citizen.  We must never forget that.  We, too, have a responsibility in this realm.  We must bidirectionally communicate honestly and respectfully with our medical and legislative team.  We must also expect that same level of honor to be returned.   

Nothing less should be expected or tolerated.

New Thoughts for a New Time in Health Care

obama_healthcare_090225_mnAfter reading a rebuttal to some anonymous e-mails that are going out, spreading mendacities throughout our country about President Obama’s health care reform bill, HR 3200, and its companion Senate bill, one thing is crystal clear:  some people simply cannot and will not abide change.

These are the same people who, many years ago, fought for the right to own slaves, beat women legally, and work children at little to no wages in sweat shops.   The people who are asking our country to remain stagnant in the area of health care are attempting to impose a life of pain, struggle, and insolvency for an enormous group of our citizenry.  How is this possible in 2009? 

There are preposterous charges being levied by the plan opponents that this reform will force people to commit euthanasia upon the elderly, mandate end-of-life choices, receive merely rationed medical care, and have little to no power to choose their health plans at the corporate or individual levels. 

Even at its face, these charges are ludicrous.  No one in the United States would allow these mandates to exist; yet, there are those who believe this fantastical rhetoric. 

The larger question is, what is so wrong with us as a nation that we would allow ourselves to believe, beyond reason, that any of these things could be possibly true?  Have we strayed from our sanity so far that these fairy tale-level horror stories would ring true to our fragile ears?

Somewhere in this jaded, middle-aged man still lives the cockeyed optimist who believes we, as a people, can make more sense than this.  We are not going to be herded, like babbling bovines, into a pen of illogical muck and mire.  We will stand as a national community, review the accurate systems being suggested, and make a reasonable and dynamic choice that, if politics are set aside, can be a healing direction for our country.

We can actually imagine a day when our smallest, sickest child, born to poverty and crime, will have adequate care, both medically and socially, to grow into a productive, joyful adult.  We can forsee a life of painlessness and nurturing for our elderly as they choose how to spend their final days.   We will forget someday that at one time, a very long time ago, our family members wept because they could not receive the care they needed for serious and debilitating medical issues. 

We cannot, however, forget those days lest we fall, once again, into that storied complacency that has left the poor, indigent, and culturally marginalized members of our community without any health care whatsoever.   We must not allow our middle class moms and dads one more day when, after all their work and planning, they are left destitute because their child has cancer or cystic fibrosis or an as-yet-unidentified neurological disorder. 

We must set aside our fears of new thoughts and new ways of doing things and heroically stand with those who are building a changing era.  We’ve had the Stone Age, the Bronze Age,  the Industrial Age, and the Technology Age; now, it’s time for the Healing Age. 

This new age will be vehemently opposed by those who would remove choices from others’ lives based on the needs of a few.  This is not a time for divisiveness.  This is not the nay-sayers’ day.

This is a time for unity and our singular resonance of purpose.  To each person, we must repeat the mantra, “Take action for healing… now!”  Write to the President of the United States.  Write to your senators and representatives.  Talk with your neighbors.  Everyone must do their part so that we find that one voice with which to sing the symphony of health and well-being for all Americans. 

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our future.

How Stupid Can One Person Be? *Puff Puff*

Our recent collection

Our recent collection

For a person with a moderately good education, keen intuitive insight, abundant knowledge about and access to health care, the question is raised, “How stupid can one person be to continue smoking for forty-one years?”

Since the first introduction of tobacco onto the North American continent, it took over two hundred years for the United States Surgeon General to make his first report on the dangers of smoking.  When Surgeon General Luther R. Terry presented the report, Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General, in 1964, the research that had begun in the 1930’s had culminated in the advisory that there was a “70 percent increase in the mortality rate of smokers over non-smokers.”

I began smoking in 1968 at the age of nine-years-old.  At the time, my mother kept a pack of cigarettes in the refrigerator, from which she took an occasional drag.  She was very nearly a non-smoker; however, not quite.  To my young mind, it was so rare that she smoked, she would never remember how many ciggies she had smoked and would assume she would forget one of those times.  In the retrospect of a multi-decade smoker, I realize now that each and every stick is accounted in the mind of the periodic smoker.  It appears Mom assumed Dad, who had a brief history of smoking, took a periodic puff himself. 

I bought my first pack from money I had earned working for my father at eleven-years-old.  I walked to a distant store in south Dunsmuir and told the cashier that my mother wanted a pack of Parliaments, her brand.  I had written a note in my best forgery of her writing requesting permission for me to purchase them for her.  A mini-criminal in a town of 2,400 residents. 

Cigarette holes in my beloved Story & Clark piano keys circa 1970

Cigarette holes in my beloved Story & Clark piano keys circa 1970

Kharma reared its ugly head when, at about that same time, I wanted to be as cool as the singers in the movies and on television.  My mother was at work with my father this one summer day.  I took a cigarette out of its pack, lighted it, and set it on the edge of the piano over the keys.  As I played a cool, jazzy piece on our piano, the cigarette, in all its round construction, rolled off the ledge and landed on what I thought were its ivory keys.  My error was in that the keys were actually made of plastic and melted under the tiny fire-cherry that descended from on-high.   The blackened pits it left in the keys sent me into an emotional tailspin.  I began crying, knowing my mother would have my hide for this transgression.  I finally summoned the wherewithall to figure out that if the keys were plastic, perhaps they could be cleaned like Tupperware.  I got a wet cloth and wiped the holes so they were, at least, no longer black. 

Although my mother was always so aware of everything around her, to her dying day, she never mentioned those pits in the piano keys.  I, of course, never brought them up either.  This cigarette-caused injury can still be seen today on my fifty-plus-year-old piano that continues to reside in my home, a constant reminder of that day nearly four decades before.  

My father was a pharmacist with whom I helped deliver oxygen to former and current smokers suffering from emphysema and lung cancer.  My birthmother and her father both suffered from emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  My former mother-in-law died of lung cancer.  I worked for the California Department of Health Services in the Director’s Office in the 1980’s during the Proposition 99 funding for the anti-smoking campaign.  In fact, I actually reviewed some of the print materials for that campaign. 

I admit those are some significant credentials for a rampant non-smoker.  What does it say that with that huge background, I’m still smoking? 

It’s not that I don’t understand about addiction.  My family has suffered with alcoholism, myself included, drug addiction, food addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, and many other very challenging issues.  Yet, here I am, a half-century into my life and still I pick up these poisonous, paper-rolled tobacco products for passionate consumption. 

It’s not as though the media is inundating my consciousness with tobacco ads.  They’re not even legal for the most part.  It’s not like the information isn’t out there.  My health maintenance organization, Kaiser, sends me regular literature on how to quit smoking, as does my personal physician.   This is my daily choice all on my own.

The one time I truly made an effort to quit, I ended up poisoning myself by swallowing the mucky goo being evicted from my lungs.   We always called it lung butter.  I write these words with all their disgusting images attached to clarify just how awful that period was.  I nearly died of phlegm-induced gastroenteritis. 

When will enough be enough?  When will I stop smelling like a filty ashtray?  When will I allow my clothes to carry the aroma of dryer sheets and not burning ashes?  When will I be free of this life-ending addiction.

The truth is that the diagnoses of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and early emphysema, with their accompanying medications, have all been presented to me as current fact.  Ta da!  I have successfully followed in the sad path of my ancestors.  After a mild heart attack at twenty-eight and two strokes in my forties, I still have not mustered the strength to quit.  I do not blame anyone else for this, however, since this has been my doing alone since adulthood. 

The worst part, for me, is the knowledge that under my tutelage, all five of my children began smoking.  Even my granddaughter was affected by smoking when she was born prematurely from what I believe to be partially due to my daughter’s smoking.  

As a teacher of vocal music, my example to my students is poor in regard to proper vocal health.  They all know that I smoke and I am fully aware that my actions have had a much stronger impact on them than the horrifically vivid lectures I gave on the dangers of smoking.

Perhaps, today’s message is a statement that I am close to the switch being thrown toward a cigarette-free existence.  Perhaps, this is simply a drowning man’s panicked gasp.  We’ll see.

For now, however, I’m going out to my lovely poolside lanai for a cigarette.  Stupidly sad, huh?

The Poignancy of Passing Time

James in 1959

James in 1959

As I approach my 50th birthday in twenty-four days, my brother is awaiting his second child.  This year my youngest child will be twenty-nine.  My eldest adopted child just turned forty-one.  My birth mother died at the age I’ll be in July.  For some unknown reason, this birthday is a big deal to me.  The others just haven’t been this weighty.

I remember vividly being a young father in some ways.  In others, it seems like a long, long time ago.  With my granddaughter turning sixteen in September and driving a car now, I realize that my days of active, day-to-day parenthood are far behind me in my lifetime’s rear view mirror. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about where I am.  I’m married to a wonderful man and have a sweet, little dog.  I see my grandchildren every so often and my children call or write to me regularly.  I have no complaints.  My work is good and I am loved.  I have everything a person needs to be truly happy, and fortunately, I am.

The thing is, the poignancy of the passing time is remarkable to me right now.  On that day in March 1976, when my first birth child was born, I never thought I’d get here so fast and so early.  Today, I’m forty-nine years old and I’m at a life place at which most people arrive usually when their fifty-five or sixty-years-old. 

All this hyperbole about fifty being the new thirty is ridiculous to me.  In my life, fifty is the new sixty-five.   That patronizing language is used by people who either didn’t have their first child until they were thirty-five, have pawned their offspring on nannies and boarding schools for them to rear, or don’t have children at all.  For those of us who have walked our children and grandchildren to school, and those of us who have dealt with losing a son to miscarriage and a daughter’s cancer, and those of us whose entire nuclear family of origin has passed away from suicide, pancreatic cancer and the consequences of alcoholism, well, for us, fifty is not the new thirty.   For those of us who have paid attention to the changes and the sameness of last eleven Presidents of the United States, and those of us who have watched everything from the assassination of a beloved president to the hanging of an Iraqi dictator, and for those of us who watched our hair turn gray and our skin develop little spots on our hands, fifty is not the new thirty.

Yes, we’re living longer.  My uncle is 102-years-old, for goodness sake.  Yes, we have more technology and access to information than at any other time in history.  Yes, our country is 233-years-old, and yes, I’ll probably be around another forty years, God willing.

James in 2009

James in 2009

For today, however, I’m looking back and seeing the long road on which I’ve traveled and marvelling that I got this far.  For me, it’s a miracle.  With several great-grandparents who died at thirty-four, a birth father who had multiple bypass heart surgery in his mid-fifties and myself having a heart attack and two strokes, I’m grateful for the journey I’ve had so far and the wonderful people with whom I’ve sojourned.  God knows it could have been very different.

I understand that in the big scheme of things, fifty-years-old isn’t “old,” but it is a milestone, and as I take stock of my life thus far, I am in awe of what has happened in these 18,214 days of my life.  And, yes, my precious and vibrant friends, it is poignant to me.

Why Is Hate So Easy?

In every regional idiom of our American English language, we have many ways to say, “I hate that.”   It’s as simple as a sound and a face, “Ugh,” with our mouth and eyes and nose looking as though we have just smelled something phenomenally foul.   Why are we surprised when our government says the same thing to us?  Our elected officials are selected by us and reflect our values.

15488-07at“You may not marry.”

“You may not serve your country with pride.”

“You may not receive adequate health care or education.”

“You may not be considered beautiful.”

Those who have had to live with the impact of these messages are all being told that we have no value in segments of society and that our needs and dreams are unnecessary to the overall happiness of our country. 

Why does this disregard, discrimination, and distrust come so easily to us as a nation?  At this point, with the media having such a rich influence in our lives and policies, we cannot claim ignorance any longer.  We are making these choices consciously and with the full understanding of how our fellow citizens are being affected by these choices.  We are fully responsible legislatively, culturally, and personally. 

And, yes, it is personal. 

To someone I love very much, when she is told by a physician that he doesn’t have time to discuss why he is making the determination he is on her health, he is saying that because she is brown and poor, she doesn’t deserve compliance with the hypocratic oath he took when he became a physician.  This person is going to be allowed to continue his practice for many years to come, I’m sure, because who is going to listen to his painfully neglected patient? 

When only twelve percent of our nation’s states have acknowledged the love and commitment between two gay people, we are saying that a large majority, 78%, of our people feel that our lives together as a couple have no meaning.   These 78% of states are being supported by the United States Supreme Court when they said that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” policy was not unconstitutional at the national level, and when the California Supreme Court did not overturn Proposition 8.

It’s as simple as not receiving an e-mail from a teacher.   When a parent writes and asks for information that will assist her in supporting the assignments the instructor gives, and all she receives is silence, the teacher is saying, “Your child has no value to me.  His education doesn’t count and what happens to him at the end of the year is of no consequence.”

Here in Sacramento, there was a shock jock who stated that if his son ever wore high heels, he, as a father, would beat that child with a shoe.  This was not something he said in the privacy of his home.  This person said this statement on the air and laughed about it. 

Now, we must face the truth that one of our citizens has walked into a museum honoring the memory of those who lost their lives during World War II and shot someone to make the statement that the shooter believes that there was no holocaust.   

When does it click, my friends?  When do we get that we cannot allow this to continue?  When does everyone in our country become full Americans to everyone else?   We have waited for 232 years.  Isn’t that long enough?

It’s time we decide, consciously and lovingly, that we will only tolerate respect in our homes and on our streets.  We will only permit those who understand the genuine value of every single person in our country to be elected to our legislative and judicial offices.   Only those who recognize the critical need for an exceptional education for every child, even when it’s difficult to accomplish, will be allowed to receive a teaching credential.  Every physician will be personally held accountable for ensuring that each of their patients understands his or her medical situation.

Simply put, we must only allow love to guide us.  Everywhere.  Always.