“We do not find our own center. It finds us. We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” ~ Richard Rohr

Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Hebden Bridge, UK

  

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn

When I realized that this post would be #500*, I immediately froze and wrote nothing. I mean, 500? That’s pretty auspicious, at least in my mind, anyway. If I were to estimate the number of words in my posts and multiply by 500, I would get somewhere between 550 and 600,000 words. 

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . . 

Granted, not all of my posts have been written; a small percentage have been videos. But still . . . I have sat down at my computer (or someone else’s) at least 500 times (more if counting the posts I lost and had to rewrite) and written about . . . well, things. I have to admit that when I began this project, I never thought that I would last this long. Of course when I began this project, I was ecstatic to get 100 hits in one day. 

My how times have changed. Now, I realize that despite my creative ebbs and flows, I will probably continue writing here for some time yet, and fortunately, I am not nearly as obsessed by my stats as I used to be. Rather than numbers, I relish the comments as they are much more tangible (so if you’re lurking and haven’t commented, please accept this as an invitation to do so). 

So here I am, muddling about, trying to think of something to say in my anniversary post. Who knows where this may lead . . . By the way, I was quite surprised to see all of the 500 images that I found when I did a Google search, so I took that as a sign that I should bedeck my post in the company of other historical 500th things, like Henry VIII and a 500-year-old bridge in the UK. Granted, some of these anniversaries occurred before mine, but hey, Henry won’t mind. He was all about self-promotion.

So here I go . . . 

“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.” ~Kahlil Gibran
Image of King Henry VIII in Celebration of His 500th Anniversary

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers.

I have created three sets of five in honor of the big 500. It’s the least I can do. No really, the least: 

  • I have decided that in the history of television, five shows stand out as being uniquely entertaining, at least in my estimation:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: I mean really,  hilariously funny and engaging dialogue (shows up again in another Joss Whedon creation, “Firefly” which I would have listed here, but it didn’t last long enough) 

“The West Wing”: Still waiting for a President Bartlett, unfortunately 

“Law & Order” (original): Twenty years. Just as relevant. Who else can say that? 

“House”: One of the best-drawn modern tragic characters 

“Oz”: Consistently gripping drama with an ensemble cast unlike any other ever seen 

  • Based on the above, I realize that I am a nerd/drama junkie. Sitcoms just don’t do it for me.
  • I still need a haircut.
  • Being the party of “No” is nothing of which to be proud.
  • The war in Afghanistan is too reminiscent of Viet Nam in that it is an unwinnable war. Counterinsurgency in a country that has repelled conquerors for over 1,000 years is lunacy. They don’t want to be Americanized, and the concept of American imperialism is outdated. Bring our military home.
“Brilliance is typically the act of an individual, but incredible stupidity can usually be traced to an organization.” ~ Jon Bentley
A 500 Yen Coin
  • BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward has been reassigned to Siberia. At first I thought that this was funny until I found out how much he is being paid to go away: $1.6 million in salary, and more millions in pension benefits. I guess he got his life back.
  • President Obama appeared on “The View,” causing some critics to lose their minds, saying that the show was not serious enough. Need I remind everyone of Bush’s appearance on “Dr. Phil”? At least most (Snooki aside) of the questions on “The View” were pointedly in keeping with today’s issues. And as far as the Boy Scott Jamboree that Obama passed on, how about the other 12 U.S. presidents who declined the same invitation, including Republicans Nixon, Reagan and Ford? They weren’t called un-American.
  • Jon Stewart is right. Nothing Obama does will ever make the right happy. Nothing.
  • Just a reminder: W. had a surplus coming into office ($236 Billion, according to Congressional Budget Office). Obama had a $1.2 Trillion deficit when he took office (same source).
  • Another reminder: The Wall Street crash happened on W’s watch, not Obama’s.
“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.” ~ Confucius
Darth Vader 500th Anniversary

Well, I just lost one-third of this post when I tried to save because the router went out. Lovely. Let’s see . . . what was I rambling on about anyway . . . 

  • All of Corey’s sunflowers are dead, which means that the beautiful patch of yellow in the backyard is now a sad patch of droopy, green stems and leaves.
  • For some reason, centipedes abound in our house this summer. I don’t care what you might have to say about them, I am terrified of centipedes. I know that this is an irrational fear, but I used to have nightmares about them when I was a child. I dreamed they were in my bed. These things are hard to kill, and before you lecture me on letting things be, you should know that I only swat a few things: cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, and ants running rampant on my kitchen counter. Nevertheless, centipedes just won’t die.
  • I’m ready for fall, which is weird since I still think that it’s April.
  • At one point we had about six tennis balls throughout the house. Today, I couldn’t fine one, which means that Tillie and Shakes cannot play pool ball. They are very sad puppies. Next week, I’ll probably find the missing tennis balls in an unlikely spot.
  • I think that I’ve just about decided what my next tattoo will be, not that I’ll be able to afford one anytime soon. These are the kinds of things with which I occupy my mind. Small things . . .

So much for the great 500th post. I sort of lost my momentum after part of the post disappeared. I think that I’ll go have a bowl of cereal and watch a “Law & Order” rerun. That always works. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Iron and Wine, “Such Great Heights” 

 

*I realized today that my actual stats show only 496 posts, but, and this is a big but, I have written and posted 500 times. About a year ago I made 5 posts private, but I then decided to delete 4 of them permanently, which puts my total at 500 . . . Crystal clear, right?

“Todo começo é involuntário.” (All beginnings are involuntary) ~ Fernando Pessao

  

December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones  

“I’m astounded whenever I finish something. Astounded and distressed.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

Cold and rainy here today. No snow. Of course there is no snow. But if feels like it should be snowing. At least that’s what my inner voice is saying. Snow . . . snow . . . snow . . .

University of Alaska Campus, November 2009 by Janson Jones

We haven’t had a good snow in this area for years, which is probably best since everything comes to a complete standstill even with a light dusting. These people don’t know how to drive in the rain, let alone the snow.  And ice? Just stay home. It’s safer.  

Corey and I are talking about trying to make a trip to Ohio for a few days around Christmas. With any luck, it will be snowing, and maybe I can get some good photographs. For some reason, I feel most creative as far as my photography when there is snow. Maybe it’s because I’m really a black and white person as far as my own color palette. I mean, on those quizzes when it asks what your favorite color is, I answer black. On rare occasions I’ll pick red or purple, but mostly, it’s just black.  

I don’t have anything against color, I just happen to like black—black boots, black purses, black pants, black leather jackets. And then there are those 10 or so white sweaters that I have in my closet in various stages of comfort wearability. The oldest is probably from the early 90’s, and it is wonderfully comfortable.  

I know. You are probably thinking that I need to get out more, but even when I left the house on a regular basis, it was mostly black, with some red thrown in and occasionally shades of purple and lavender.  

So shooting pictures in the snow is very rewarding for me. I do have to admit, though, that I haven’t figured out how to set my digital camera to take black and white photographs, so I usually just take out the color in Photoshop.  Not my first choice, but it works. Years ago I had wanted to put a dark room in my house so that I could develop my own black and white film. As with most things, never got around to it, which is just as well since I shoot almost exclusively in digital now.  

“My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from finishing: it should inhibit me from even beginning.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

White House Image of President Greeting Salahis

On the national front Tiger Woods is doing a mea culpa. Those White House gate-crashers, the Salahis, are still firmly holding to their story that they had invitations (sure, you did), and in Orange County, California, thieves broke into a warehouse and stole food and goods that had been collected for the needy. Robbing Salvation Army kettles, stealing donations—can’t these people pick their targets better? Not that anyone deserves to be robbed, but robbing from those who can least afford it?  Bah . . .  

Don’t ask me how I feel about President Obama’s speech in which he declares that he will be sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.  I am of very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in the first place. That’s where the war should have been fought, not in Iraq. Perhaps if the previous administration and Darth Cheney had been more focused, there would be no need to send anyone anywhere. I mean, 30,000 troops is a lot of people. A lot. And the proclamation that withdrawal will begin in mid 2011 is ludicrous. There is not way to know that in advance. Another open-ended incursion into another country—not the best news, to say the very least.     

And on a final note, I read a disturbing story about a 13-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide because of sexting bullying. Apparently, this young, impressionable girl sent a topless photo of herself to a boy that she liked. Okay. That’s the first problem. The fact that kids, teenagers, young people can take sexually-explicit photographs of themselves and each other with their phones and not be mature enough to realize the long-reaching implications is truly bothersome (the article cites a poll in which 20 percent of teens admit to sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves over cell phones).  Someone else intercepted the photo while using the boy’s phone, and that person spread the picture throughout the girl’s school and even to nearby high schools. Soon after, classmates began a campaign of fierce harassment, calling the girl a slut and a whore when she walked the school halls.  

What dismays me the most about this story is that at 13, girls are in the midst of one of the most confusing times of their lives. Hormones. Emotions. Body image. Peer pressure. It doesn’t matter what kind of home life these kids have, adolescence is adolescence, which is to say, it’s one of the most tumultuous, stressful, suckiest times of a person’s life. The girl did not tell her family about the bullying, and eventually, it became so bad that she felt that she couldn’t go on, and she hung herself in her bedroom where her mother found her.  

Teenage Girls With Cell Phones

So many things wrong with this situation: the lack of privacy as a result of cell phones with cameras, the lack of good judgment on the part of those involved, the cruelty with which teenagers and children treat each other, never realizing just how horribly words and actions can affect a boy or girl who is already feeling isolated, or confused, or sad. It just makes me ache inside for this girl’s family and friends, and it makes me want to throttle the bullies, which, I know, is not the best reaction.  

“But I get distracted and start doing something. What I achieve is not the product of an act of my will but of my will’s surrender.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

I speak from experience when I say that teenage girls are most vicious when it comes to other teenage girls. I think that the jealousy hormone ratchets out of control with the onset of puberty. These young girls are so starved for attention, even the wrong kind, that idle gossip can soon turn to slander which can then escalate into bullying. Teenage boys, because they have pretty much one main focus, will easily become caught up in these campaigns. No one wins.  

The gossip-mongers learn that being vocal gets them noticed. Their friends don’t want to seem unsupportive, so they join in. The victims, not having endured workforce mongering and backstabbing, are totally unprepared for the onslaught. If you don’t believe that middle schools are hotbeds of jungle socialization, then you are living with your head in the sand.  

Is this solely a family problem? No, because no amount of good parenting can prepare a child for the ferocity of what can go on in school, any school, from one day to the next. Is this a school problem? No, but yes. Teachers and administrators aren’t responsible for peer pressure and psychological factors; however, that being said, they should be responsible for alerting parents and guardians to potential problems when they are aware of them, which in this case, they did not. Is this a societal problem? Yes, absolutely.  

I know. I’m beating that long-deceased horse carcass again, but it would be a lie to say that children aren’t socialized by countless factors from a very young age to fit in, to be pretty or handsome, to get invited to the right birthday parties in pre-school. It starts that soon.  

I know that there is actually no one right answer to this problem. I also know that access to technology is not always a good thing. Witness the number of adults who have made sex videos only to have them surface after the breakup of a relationship that was supposed to last forever.  If grown-ups don’t have enough sense not to do these kinds of things, how can we expect impressionable youth to know better?  

“I begin because I don’t have the strength to think; I finish because I don’t have the courage to quit.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

I’ve worked myself into a lather, so perhaps this would be a good stopping point. Or perhaps, I should go back to boycotting the news. Whatever.  

Other than those tidbits, not a whole lot else going on. Everyone has retreated to the comfort of their own niches: Corey is on the computer in the dining room; Eamonn is sleeping in his room, and Brett is in his room, probably watching television. I’m sitting here in a white sweater and jeans, Christmas socks on my feet, and snowmen earrings on my lobes.  

Admittedly, it was hard motivating myself to write this post. I played a bit of spider solitaire and then sat here looking at the screen. Turned on one of my playlists and hoped that music would inspire me, but truthfully, it didn’t. So I thought that I’d just ramble for a bit and call it a day, but once I got started, the steamroller took over. Weird how that happens.  

More later. Peace.  

K. D. Lang’s “Barefoot”  

  

                                                                                                                                     

Lyrics to Barefoot  

When the sun goes down here
And darkness falls
The blanket of winter
Leaves no light at all
  

You search for shelter
To calm the storm
Shaking with an instinct
Just to stay warm
  

Chorus:
But I’d walk through the snow barefoot
If you’d open up your door
I’d walk through the snow barefoot
  

You hear the howling
Of dogs and wind
Stirring up the secrets
That are frozen within
  

The ice will haunt you
It lays so deep
Locking up inside you
The dreams that you keep

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Pentagon War Dead

Fallen Troops on Transport Plane Arriving at Dover Delaware

“War is wretched beyond description, and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.” ~ John McCain

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” ~ Jose Narosky

(Yes, I—screaming liberal that I am—have begun my post with a quote by John McCain. I know that this choice probably surprises those of you who have read me on a regular basis and know how much I opposed McCain’s bid for president. That being said, I will in no way dishonor the service that Senator McCain gave to this country, nor diminish the sacrifices that he and his family made. And as I was searching for the perfect quote to begin my post, I happened upon this one by McCain. I believe that his quote, spoken as someone who has seen war firsthand, sums up exactly what I am trying to say.)

Yesterday was Good Friday. I did not post. I was absorbed in my own little world, sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine and reading a book. Days like that are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated. And that is what I did.

But then, I went to bed early as I was not feeling well. How many times have I written that in this blog, “not feeling well”? I’ve lost count.

Today when I finally got myself moving, I was trying to think about what I wanted to post. What’s on my mind? What am I thinking about? What might catch a reader’s interest? So I sat down and began my usual routine by reading my comments first, always something from Maureen on White Orchid, and an interesting comment by my friend Sarah. Then I went to My Comments section in my dashboard.

This section on Word Press lets you keep track of threads of which you have become a part. So I was thinking about how aggravating it is to continue to see comments on a thread in which I have absolutely no interest, when I saw a thread from WillPen’s World (http://willpen.wordpress.com/), one of my favorite blogs.

“I finally saw that the story was not about the media at all. It was about honoring the heroes who sacrifice their lives to serve us all. ” ~ Courtney Kube

The comment made in the thread, which was regarding a previous post on WillPen’s site, was posted by regular visitor, Starshine, who always shares interesting tidbits and feeds to good posts. But this one brought me up short. It was a link to two different Daily KOS posts, both about U.S. casualties in the wars.

The first post, by greenies, was entitled IGTNT: With A Family’s Permission We Bear Witness. IGTNT, which stands for “I Got The News Today,” marked a bittersweet anniversary with this post: five years of posts in memory and gratitude to our fallen service members and their families.(http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/4/9/718378/-IGTNT:-With-a-Familys-Permission,-We-Bear-Witness).

The second post, entitled No One Could Have Asked For A Better Brother, was by noweasels (see link below), and although quite long, it was heart wrenching. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend both posts to anyone who cares about our troops. The post brought to mind that the first anniversary passed in February of the death of one of my friend’s fiances. He was a U.S. Navy Seal, and he had already been in Iraq and Afghanistan far too many times. But it was what he did, what he loved to do, and he died serving his country in the company of his brothers, his Seal unit.
 

 

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” ~ Aeschylus

military-flag-draped-caskets1In February of this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the lift of the 18-year ban by the Pentagon on media coverage of the flag-draped coffins of war victims arriving at Dover Air Force Base. The ban was imposed by Bush senior during the first Iraq war. Many people argued that the ban was the administration’s attempt to hide the very human cost of war so that the country would stand behind the president’s actions.

Others, Republicans and Democrats, have argued vociferously that the ban should be lifted: “We should honor, not hide, flag-draped coffins,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. “They are a symbol of the respect, honor and dignity that our fallen heroes deserve.”

Sunday, April 5 marked the first time that the media was allowed to witness the ritual of returning the remains of fallen U.S. service members.

While I have long been vocal about how this imposed cloak was a disservice to our fallen warriors, there are others who are still opposed to lifting the ban, citing the possible misuse of the images for anti-war propaganda. Apparently, those families who do not want any pictures to be taken or any videos shot will have the final say in their participation. I can respect that need for privacy and hope that the media does as well.
 
Courtney Kube, Pentagon Producer for NBC News, movingly comments that “While the family witnesses the event just a few yards away from the media, the Dover rules strictly prohibit the media from taking any photos of them. Even though we all do our best to avert our eyes and give them their privacy, their presence is palpable and heartbreaking.”  (http://fieldnotes.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/04/08/1885755.aspx).

“If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war.”  ~ Pentagon official explaining why the U.S. military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War

But we must remember, the images of war help to educate the public. During the Viet Nam war, the images sent back home from war photographers and the footage beamed into American living rooms became the initiation of the American public to the stark realities of war. No heroic songs. No heroic slogans. Only young men dying in a brutal war that divided the nation in every conceivable way: class, race, and politics to name but the obvious.

That is why I was completely dismayed by the continued non-coverage during this Iraqi war and the war in Afghanistan. My belief is that if the people in our society and societies of other countries participating in these wars—regardless of political party affiliations— see the ultimate sacrifices made, then the war will cease to be an abstract idea, something thousands of miles away in a distant land that doesn’t really affect our day-to-day lives.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers; in war, fathers bury their sons.” ~ Herodotus

But war isn’t distant. It isn’t abstract. War is ugly, and it is brutal. And it should affect our day-to-day lives. As Americans, we should always be mindful of the prices paid to keep our country free, that these prices affect families in our own hometowns and neighborhoods every day of every week of every year that we are involved in battle.

The following statistics are taken from a Daily KOS post by noweasels:

To date, 4266 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. The death toll thus far in 2009 is already 45. More than 31,000 members of the military have been wounded, many grievously. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start of each entry in this diary was drawn, can be seen here. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least 200,000 and quite probably many times that number.

To date, 676 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The death toll thus far for 2009 is 46. 452 members of the military from other countries have also lost their lives. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/4/10/718820/-IGTNT:-No-one-could-have-asked-for-a-better-brother).

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

army-bugler1
Army Bugler at Military Cemetery

My father’s own casket was draped with the U.S flag at his funeral. He had a 21-gun salute. A veteran of World War II and Korea, and a non-military veteran of Viet Nam, he fought for a country that was not his original homeland. He earned a Bronze Star with valor. He earned the right to that flag-draped casket and that salute. And as much as it tore my heart out, he earned the right to have “Taps” played when he was laid to rest.

Fading light
Dims the sight
And a star
Gems the sky
Gleaming bright
From afar
Drawing nigh
Falls the night.
 
 

Major General Daniel Butterfield

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” ~ Hugo Black, Supreme Court Justice

The wars in which our country has been immersed since Bush 2’s declaration of victory continue today. Tomorrow, someone may have a knock on the door that they never could have foreseen and have prayed intently against ever hearing.

For too long, the citizens of this country have not been allowed to grieve collectively about our fallen military men and women. Without imposing upon the rights of their families, I believe that the lift of this ban could be healthy for our country. As one person commented on Kube’s story:

When you cry for and mourn a fallen soldier (especially one that you didn’t know), I believe that you are really mourning all of the soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom. I think that witnessing and really feeling these moments allows us to realize just how much the sacrifices these men and women have made actually mean to us.

and another:

I caught myself wanting to stand during the ceremony in my den.  This is something that this country has been missing since the war in Iraq started—honoring those who have given their lives.  We need never forget the sacrifices of the fallen heroes and their families.

“If we don’t bear witness as citizens, as people, as individuals, the right that we have had to life is sacrificed. There is a silence, instead of a speaking presence.” ~ Jane Rule

boots-and-rifles-memorial
Soldier's Cross: Boots, Rifles, Helmets, and Dogtags of the Fallen

We must continue to bear witness, as painful as that may be. We must continue to hold in our hearts and our thoughts our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends and school mates. It is the very least that we can do.

So the next time I complain about not feeling well, about having a headache, or how my back is in so much pain, I need to remind myself that I am here in my house, writing what I want to write, when I want to write it because of the men and women who haven’t had a real shower in weeks, who sleep without pillows and soft mattresses, who wear the same dirty clothes day after day, who carry with them the smallest of talismans to remind them of home.

I must admit that they are doing what I could not. Many are over in that desert for the third or fourth time. Living in a community filled with military families, I am aware that people all around me are waiting for their loved ones’ safe return, and hoping against hope not to get  the letter and the knock on the door.

And so I will leave you with this quote by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a video to remind you that your bad day will never be as bad as those who have been sent to war:

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

 

 

If the content on this post has offended anyone in any way, I apologize.

More later. Peace be with you and yours.

The Silence of a Falling Star Lights Up a Purple Sky

falling_stars800

The Silence of a Falling Star Lights Up a Purple Sky

I’ve Never Seen A Night So Long

Emotionally Raw, Tired, and Overwhelmed

I’m really tired tonight, emotionally exhausted. Trying to write my Grace in Small Things list for today was really hard. I took on a hard topic last night, and it’s still with me. Any one of the three stories that I found would have been pretty bad on its own, but to put all three together—I think that it was just too much.

I cannot get out of my head the image of the 93-year-old man who froze to death inside of his house because of a bureaucratic decision. I cannot forget about the two EMT’s who made the decision not to resuscitate a man based on the condition of his house. My god, if they came into my house right now, this very moment, if anyone who worked for social services or the city government came into my home right now they would think that I’m a terrible mother, that my children are deprived, that my house should be condemned, and most certainly, that I am not worth saving.

My house is a complete and total mess. I have cobwebs because I cannot reach them with my ostrich feather duster to clean them. The last time that I tried to do that, I pulled my back. My living room still has two dining room chairs in boxes because my eldest son refuses to take the ornaments off the Christmas tree. It has become a point of downright contention. My youngest son’s room is neat and tidy.

My room is relatively organized, but dusty. The kitchen looks like a disaster, but is wiped down daily with disinfectant spray, and the sink is scrubbed with liquid bleach. Clothes are washed and dried daily. Everyone bathes daily. I personally clean the bathroom on my hands and knees with a cloth and spray disinfectant because I don’t trust my sons to do it right, and Corey has enough to do around here. I can’t walk after I do it, and I have to get in bed and take my muscle relaxers afterwards, but it’s clean.

Regardless, the house still looks terrible because there are things everywhere from where we pulled things out to start the remodeling. Boxes, furniture, all sorts of things in the wrong places. Would that mean that I wouldn’t get the needed attention from an EMT because it wouldn’t look as if I deserved it? Who were these people to make this decision. I am completely flummoxed.

And then there is the story of the two children: Sage and Bear and their father. I have tried all day to put them out of my mind and find that I cannot because there are too many stories of too many children like Sage and Bear. I just came across another story of a 19-year-old and her boyfriend who beat to death her two -year-old daughter for not saying please, but she did manage to keep saying “Mommy I love you” while they beat the very life out of her.

There are too many stories like this for my heart to hold. I do not know how the men and women who work in these professions can do it, can go to their jobs everyday and hear about these children, or on the opposite side, hear about these monsters. I don’t know how social services can try to work with families who are so obviously dysfunctional but the courts say that placement with the biological parents is preferable. I don’t know how the doctors and nurses can look at the shattered bodies who are brought to them in the aftermath of parental and spousal warfare. I don’t know how the EMT’s can go into a house and remove the body of a 93-year-old man who died on a technicality.

Think of all that this man had survived: two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, the Twin Towers, desegregation, women getting the vote, a man landing on the moon, cars, television, and telephones. He saw great inventions and terrible creations of mass destruction. He saw all of the wonderful things that our country celebrated: the end of wars, ticker tape parades, the first step on the moon, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and he saw all of the evil of the world: Pearl Harbor, Nazi Germany, Waco, 9/11, and all of the rest. And the final helplessness of dying of hypothermia in his own home.

To all of the people who do the hard jobs that I know that I would like to do but cannot, I offer my sincere gratitude. You walk into houses. You look for the lost children. You do not stop until you find the monsters. You live with the monsters, carry them with you, tucked away in you back pockets so that they do not touch the sanctity of your own families, but they are always with you until you can pass them along to the next link in the chain.

And some of you are never able to let go of the monsters, even when they are dead and gone. That is their heinous legacy to those whose lives they have stolen.

Newest Statistic That I Never Needed To Know

So today I learned from one of the Veterans’ websites that everday approximately 18 American war veterans commit suicide; every month, almost 1,000 veterans receiving care from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs attempt suicide (http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/11/8868).

This startling statistic is news to most Americans because the Bush administration did not want this news to be made public to Americans. It has taken a law case, officially known as Veterans for Common Sense vs. Peake, for this news to reach the American public. This case is a class action lawsuit brought by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for United Truth on behalf of 1.7 million veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the conditions of the case, the VA had to produce a series of documents.

In one letter from Dr. Ira Katz, former head of the VA’s Mental Health Division, Katz opens his key e-mail with “Shh!” Katz advises a media spokesperson not to tell CBS News that 1,000 veterans receiving care at the VA try to kill themselves every month.

Another shocking number is 287,790—the actual number of American veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who had failed VA disability claims since March 25 2008. Other casualty statistics not normally revealed:  Number of American troops wounded in Iraq: 31,948;  Number of troops “injured” in Iraq”: 10,180; Number of  troops “ill” in Iraq: 28,451.

back-of-angel

Those three number total represent soldiers who are so damaged physically that they have to be evacuated to Germany. By splitting the numbers into three categories, it makes the number of casualties appear to be lower. Or, at least that was the thinking in the Bush administration.
 
Personally, the number manipulation just makes it that more tragic. These numbers are people, not numbers. If the American people were aware of just how many of its warriors were dying not only on foreign soil, but also on American soil, after they have come home, after they have been taken out of combat, if they only knew just how its veterans were waiting years for decisions on their benefits, perhaps they would be less complacent. If only we had seen the flag-draped coffins sooner, perhaps the reality might have moved beyond our periphery sooner.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day. More later. Peace.

Right of Conscience Rule is All Wrong

Dear President Bush,

Please Keep Your Laws Off My Body.king-george

Two days ago, the man who-would-be-president decided to sign one of the foulest pieces of legislature in his eight years of office, knowing that it will take some work by President-elect Obama to undo this last-minute attempt to circumvent basic rights for women: It’s called the Right of Conscience Rule, and it goes into effect the day before W. leaves office, part of the legacy.

But what people don’t realize is that this rule goes far, far beyond abortion rights into very murky waters in a galaxy not so far far away. This rule will allow refusal of AIDS treatment, blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, stem cell research, psychiatric treatment instead of prayer (Christian Scientists), even in extreme cases, the selling of condoms to minors.

This rule basically allows people in any position, not just physicians and pharmacists—but receptionists, cashiers, nurses, even the people who clean the instruments post operatively—to deny service if their consciences are against it. And I call that a great big bag of Bush bullshit. Let me clarify. If a cashier at a pharmacy is a Roman Catholic, and you come through her line with your monthly prescription of birth control pills, she can refuse to ring up said pills because she does not condone birth control pills. To her, these pills represent the killing of babies. And under this rule, she cannot be punished by the store’s management for refusing to give you service.

Let’s take another scenario: If a woman who has been raped goes to a drugstore and asks for the morning after pill because she does not want to report the rape, but she just wants to make sure that the rape does not cause her to become pregnant, and the pharmacist is a strict Fundamentalist Christian, he can refuse to supply her with this non-prescription drug that any woman can ask any pharmacist for. What’s more, said pharmacist can tell the woman why he doesn’t believe she should have this pill. The woman, who is already traumatized, will have to be humiliated and traumatized again.

Let’s take another scenario: A couple has a very sick child who needs antibiotics for his infection and fever. They don’t have a car, so they call a cab. They ask the cab driver to take them to the Children’s Hospital. The driver refuses on the grounds that he is a Christian Scientist and does not believe in medical treatment and offers to pray with them. Far-fetched? Probably. Possible? Who knows?

Latest true scenarios: In Virginia, 42-year-old woman was refused morning-after pill by pharmacist and as a result became pregnant. In California, a lesbian couple was refused artificial insemination. In Nebraska, a 19-year-old female with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously-affiliated hospital.

What’s the common thread here? All females. And who will be affected by the Right of Conscience Rule? Predominantly females and gays and lesbians—the populations who usually are underserved medically. Will straight men be refused Viagra? On what basis? My conscience does not want you to have better sex . . .

In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is quoted as saying, “This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.” With this rule, providers, ” including hospitals, clinics, universities, pharmacies and doctor’s offices — can be charged with discrimination if an employee is pressured to participate in care that is ‘contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.’Violators would lose their federal funds.”

bush20frustratedOne of the fears of opponents to this regulation is the withholding of information from patients. For example, an emergency room doctor who does not believe in emergency contraception does not have to provide information about this contraception to a rape victim if it goes against his or her beliefs. Or an antiabortion doctor in a federally-funded clinic does not have to tell a patient if she is carrying a fetus with severe abnormalities if he doesn’t believe that she should have an abortion.

Okay, let’s stop for a moment and look at the far-reaching implications here. First of all, why am I in the medical profession if it is not to provide health care? Is it my place to pass moral judgments on my patients? Did I become a pharmacist only to decide which medicines I will and will not dispense even though a customer has a prescription? If a woman has been raped, who am I as a man to decide that she should not receive emergency contraception? As a patient, do I now need to screen all of my doctors to find out what religion they are before I begin treatment with them to make sure I don’t hit any bumps down the road, just in case? Do I need to find out if the local Walgreen’s has people on its registers who will ring me up without any problems or cause me any embarrassment before I go back in for a prescription I’ve been getting for years?

These are not silly questions any more, not under this new rule. Let’s take it a step further. Will any of my gay or lesbian friends be refused treatment because the medical staff believes that homosexuality is a sin? If Eamonn goes to college and has too much to drink and is taken to the emergency room, will they refuse to pump his stomach because drinking is wrong? If my daughter became pregnant and had an infection and needed a D and C, would she be refused because she isn’t married? These are things that you think about when you hear about the sweeping broadness and open-endedness of this new law.

bush_shrug2But I also have to ask, exactly when did George Bush get a conscience? Over 4,000 of our troops have been killed in an unjust war? We have—on the record now—used torture as a relatively ineffective means of gaining information on an, as yet, unknown number of people. We have acted without honor for the past seven years and lost the respect of numerous other world leaders—all on George Bush’s watch. Our veterans have come home to reduced benefits; they have been subjected to loopholes that have decreased their treatment options, and we have more veterans living on the streets and more warriors doing repeat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, all so that W. could prove to his daddy that he is a man.

Well, I have a conscience, too. And mine says enough paying for Bush’s mistakes. My conscience says that we should have universal health care by now. My conscience also says that we should be much farther along in alternative energy. But most of all, my conscience says that way back in 2000, George Bush should not have been allowed to steal a national election and get away with it. And the same could be said of the election in 2004. Enough already.

Go to this link to see the complete Federal Regulation HHS FRDOC 0001-0042:http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064807e2d39. You can download a PDF.

Not a good rule. Certainly not a good Christmas present from the current president. More later. Peace.

“You Can’t Be Forever Blessed” or No One Gets Away Unscathed

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken

“And many times confused
Yes, and often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’
m alright, I’m alright”

“I’m just weary to my bones”

I wrote about a commercial right before the election that featured words from Paul Simon’s song “American Tune,” and then a few nights ago, Simon himself was on “The Colbert Report” talking about his new book, Lyrics: 1964-2008. I have a real appreciation for Simon’s lyrics. In fact, when I used to teach English, I would always incorporate, “Sound of Silence” in my poetry selections because it is a wonderful lyrical poem, as are many of Simon’s songs.

But “American Tune” is haunting me these days for a number of reasons—politically and personally.  So I was not at all surprised that when Colbert said that Simon was going to sing a song at the end of the show, the song turned out to be “American Tune.” For me, it was one of those signs to which I allude occasionally. Simon’s voice unaccompanied is weaker than in years past, but of course, he is older; as are we all. But his scratchier voice was the perfect sound for this soulful song.

“I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered

I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees”

Do any of you know anyone who hasn’t been affected in some way by what’s going on, with what’s happening out there? I mean, stop and think for a minute. If you don’t know someone who isn’t out of work, surely you know someone who has been affected by the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Is someone you love over there? Have you lost someone you know or love? Is someone you know on the brink of losing their home because they are behind on their mortgage payments? Do you have a friend who is gay who has a longtime partner? Do you know someone who doesn’t have health insurance but has an ongoing health problem? Does your child have someone at his or her school who is homeless?

Did your retirement account lose a significant amount of its worth and now you are having to reconsider when you actually stop working? Do you have a child with special needs? Have you had to curb your spending in any way? Are you thinking of trading in your car for something that uses less gas? Were you thinking of buying a big ticket item, but now you are delaying the purchase because, well, it might be more prudent to wait and see? Are you bringing your lunch more and eating out less?

See. No one can claim to be untouched. It’s like the six degrees of separation. Even if you are on the periphery, it’s still touching you somehow. That is, unless you are part of that uber elite, and then you can turn your head and pretend that it’s not out there. But really, how can you? How can you live in your bubble world so completely oblivious to the suffering of others? But then, why do I bother to ask because as Fitzgerald said: “The rich get richer, and the poor get children.” I suppose that’s how it’s always been.

“Oh, but it’s alright, it’s alright
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
Road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong

I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong”

I wonder every day what’s gone wrong, and last night, I felt as if I were dying. I felt as if my soul rose and was looking back down on me and was wondering what in the hell had gone wrong. What’s goes wrong in a country in which a 19-year-old teen commits suicide in front of a live audience on a web cam that he had been blogging with for 12 hours. How could no one notice over that 12 hours that he was getting progressively worse from a drug overdose? Are we so obtuse collectively that we just do not notice what is literally in front of our faces?

“And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly

And I dreamed I was flying”

I used to cry a lot more, and then, for a while, I hardly ever cried.  Someone sent me one of those e-mail updates, and it had a question that asked when I had last cried, and I honestly couldn’t remember. But in the last three months, it seems that I cry all of the time. I think that it’s a combination of the larger things and the smaller things. For example, Obama’s speeches make me cry. I cried when the Democrats took Virginia. Obviously I cried when Obama won the presidency. But I also cried when I saw the “American Tune” commercial. I cried when I read about Addie Polk shooting herself in the chest so that she wouldn’t be evicted. I cried over last week’s episode of “ER” and the entire last few episodes of last season’s “House,” which devastated me. I couldn’t even delete the shows from my DVR for weeks. It was too personal.

slow-boat-to-the-moon
Slow Boat to the Moon

So last night, I had one of those cathartic cries that came out of nowhere and resulted with my body curled into the fetal position and my face in a pillow. Then, I finally realized that today is the seventh anniversary of my father’s death. November absolutely sucks for bad anniversaries for me.  Unlike with my daughter, I wasn’t with my father when he died, something that I will probably always regret.

But I still feel my dad’s presence often, not in that wacky, seance kind of your father is here, knock on the table kind of way. But at times, I know, just somehow know, that my dad is still with me. But not last night. So I had my little breakdown, which led to this entry on an “American Tune,” because in the end, even with all of the weariness and displacement of which it speaks, in the end, it’s all right. And I like the fact the we come on “a ship that sailed the moon.”

“We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the a-ges most uncertain hours
And sing an american tune
Oh, and its alright, its alright, it’s alright
You can’t be forever blessed”

There will be more later. Peace.