The Silence of a Falling Star Lights Up a Purple Sky

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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.

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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.