Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's a Conspiracy, And I Can Prove It!

Back to my questions format. It's been awhile, but there are so many things to question right now. What an eventful week-President Obama's health care bill was declared constitutional by a conservative chief justice. And I've waited til now to comment on this. I've actually tried to give myself a bit of a political news hiatus, but like any addict-it keeps DRAGGING ME BACK IN!!!*** I'm almost amused by the people who keep insisting that they don't want to see their hard earned money paying for people who are out of work or otherwise can't afford insurance. Some of these people who can't buy their own insurance may work for a small business that can't afford to provide insurance for all its workers. I ride the bus in the morning with a woman who works for a doctor's office; she gets no healthcare, no sick days, no vacation time-no benefits of any kind. This is quite a dilemma for very small businesses and their employees. If she or one of her children get sick, they would have no choice but to go to an emergency room, where they cannot be legally turned away. But the people who must use the emergency room as a primary care physician do not always get the best of care. They are sometimes given something for pain and told to go see a specialist. And the truth is, we are already paying for those people in higher medical care costs, and higher insurance and drug costs. I do compare it to government mandates to buy auto insurance. Someone challenged the validity of this position in a conversation on the day of the Supreme Court ruling by saying that driving is a choice, and therefore the auto insurance mandate does not apply to everyone. But someone who chooses not to drive can still be walking down the street and be hit by an uninsured motorist, and have to pay their own medical expenses. The thing I'm not sure that people think about is that everyone knows someone who has been hit by an uninsured motorist, has had to file on their own insurance, and then the victim of the uninsured motorist saw his/her premiums rise, or their policy get cancelled because of an accident that was not even their fault. We all pay higher premiums for drivers who do not buy auto insurance, but that same link between the cost we pay for healthcare and insurance, etc, is rather abstract and intangible. My question is, what was Chief Justice Roberts thinking when he wrote his opinion in a way that allowed it to be called a "tax?" Was he throwing the right a bone for their campaigns-a booby trap for Obama: "See, the democrats will raise your taxes!!!"

And by the way, why can't the Obama campaign make the distinction between Mitt Romney as a "job creator" and a "wealth creator?" There is nothing wrong with the latter-it plays within a system that we have created, it makes lots of money for himself, and his investors, but it frequently does not create jobs. In fact, it frequently eliminates jobs by downsizing or sending them overseas. That is what the president needs to capitalize on (excuse the pun.) We need a job creator to create jobs in America. Not Singapore.

Next question: Once again, the people telling women what to do with their uteruses, whether before, during or after conception are still middle aged white men. Consider the law about to be passed in Mississippi this weekend, unless it is stopped by a federal judge, that will make it impossible to get an abortion in that state by forcing the only remaining abortion clinic to close, has been touted all over the media by these same kind of white men. On May 10th, Time Magazine published an article entitled "Are You Mom Enough?" The guy whose work informed the article is Dr. Bill Sears, who advocates breastfeeding a baby until the age of two, sleeping with your children, and wearing them in slings around your body wherever you go. Some of this, I have no problem with. Entire clans traditionally slept together in one room-but do working mothers need anything else to feel guilty about?

When hominids first dropped out of trees and began to walk upright across the African savannas, did they worry much about how many ounces of water they drank a day? Or did they drink when they could find it, and be very grateful for every sip before being chased away by a predator looking to feast on their meat?

Speaking of eating, I am very concerned about the unnatural foods we put into our bodies. I am a firm believer that the closer your food is to where and how it originally looked is, the better it is for you. So imagine my shock when we recently had a breakfast at work for someone who was leaving, and the breakfast included biscuits and gravy from a large fast food chain. There was provided something to put on the biscuits called "honey sauce." I wondered what that could be, so I looked at the ingredients: honey, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, water, natural and artificial flavor.Are you kidding me??? Why not just honey? More proof of just how powerful the farm lobby is in this country, and the power of farm subsidies for corn farmers. I promise you, though I won't share the name of the business with you here, I will never eat anything from there again.

And again-I heard that some group that calls themselves something like "A Bunch of Mothers" is boycotting Oreo because they put out a rainbow filling in honor of gay pride month. To them I say, good. Your kids don't need to eat Oreos anyway-they are already overfed, under-active, and malnourished. Do they really need to eat chocolate cookies full of something called "edible oil" and sugar---or is it HFCS (high fructose corn syrup?)

I recently saw a commercial for a mechanic's technical school called Universal Technical Institute. I couldn't help thinking that I would never want to have a degree from a place whose initials are an abbreviation for "Urinary Tract Infection." Can you imagine the conversation? "I graduated from UTI." "Really? Graduated from what to what?" On that same note, not long ago I saw an ad in a magazine for tampons that come in a resealable package. I get it, I really do. But I shuddered at the thought of putting one away for future reuse. That will definitely get you a degree from UTI, won't it?

Lastly, a couple more political comments/questions. We've been hearing alot lately about the so called "Fast and Furious" program devised by the ATF to track the movements of guns sold in the US. Now the republicans in congress who wear aluminum foil on their heads to keep the aliens from exercising mind control have devised a conspiracy in which the Obama administration planned the whole botched program in order to prove that the ready availability of guns cause mayhem and murder in order to take away the Second Amendment right of American citizens to bear arms. Really? Sigh.....Really? On January 8, 2011 Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, along with nineteen other people at a grocery store in Tuscon, AZ. She survived, but four others did not, including a child who was born on 9-11. There was some talk that after an event like that, perhaps the government should look into banning the 34 bullet clip that the gunman was able to buy (NO ONE EVER, EVEN AFTER THAT, MENTIONED ELIMINATING GUN RIGHTS, JUST CERTAIN TYPES OF AMMUNITION) in order to mow down that many people that quickly. No legislation was ever introduced-it was just the media talking. So now the Justice Department and the ATF are colluding to take away our guns based on the fact that 200 Mexicans have died from our weapons being bought in the US, transported to Mexico and used in their drug wars? Congressman Issa, I really thought you were smarter than that.

I can think of several times historically that the press has been used by the government or a corporation in order to further a program that they wish to pursue. The most recent was the use of Judith Miller of the New York Times to push the notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The press was also used to discredit Jane Fonda, Ralph Nader and Rachel Carson. But now, in 2012, when we know what a terrible waste of time, treasure and human capital the war on drugs has been, when we have now had at least three presidents who admit to having used drugs in their youth, suddenly the press is telling tales of young men being made violent by pot!!! They are suggesting that Trayvon Martin, the seventeen year old who was shot by a neighborhood watchman, had pot in his system when he allegedly 'attacked' the man who shot him. When the Florida cannibal incident occurred they said at first it was the fake THC in the new drug called "bath salts," but this week they said it was not bath salts but marijuana in his system when he attacked a homeless man and chewed off the man's face, and was ultimately shot by police. Speaking as a child of the seventies (wink, wink) either they are buying pot that is dusted with something else, or this is one of those planted stories to justify the continuing drug war and the president's breaking of his promise to stop prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of pot, but in experience, and that of most people I know who have ever tried pot, it makes one mellow, not violent. Maybe hungry. Maybe a little horny. But not violent. So my last question for the day is: Is the press colluding with the government again on this one? Why?
***Al Pacino in the movie "Godfather Part III," 1990

Sunday, June 17, 2012

But I Was So Much Older Then...***

When I was a pre-adolescent, and member of a large Baptist church, my sisters and I would talk amongst ourselves about the conversations we constantly heard around us with elderly members, and how we would never allow ourselves to become the kind of old people who sat around and talked about our aches and pains and medications, and how much it can hurt to get older. And when I started this blog in 2009, I intended it to be about politics and religion-not about life in general, not about dogs and music, and not about getting older. But sometimes life gets in the way, and plans change. This year I will turn 55. That number sounds daunting to me-more than 50 did! It struck me this week that people who were born in the same decade I was are now turning 60. I just got a new knee in March. Now, I can say that my surgeon told me was not used to saying to a person "as young as you," that I needed a new knee. That helped some, but there is still the looming prospect of 55 and then 60 that take my breath away. 

I talk to alot of people on the phone in my work. Sometimes I hear a woman's voice, and think she must be rather "old," and then I find out that she was born around the same time I was. At what point do our voices begin to sound "old?" But I also spoke to a woman the other day who was born the same year as my mother, and she sounded considerably older than my mother. Is that perhaps because this woman had health issues that aged her, or do I not see my mother as old as she is? Her voice is my mother's voice, no matter what? It's hard to say. Now when my girlfriends and I get together, there is always some time spent talking about our medications, our pain, the slowing of the motility of our guts and the vaporous indignities that creates. 

Not many of my high school classmates have died, but a few have. But many have had some terrible health problems-diabetes, heart and lung problems, others have had joint replacements or have arthritis and need new joints. Most have silver hair, or much less hair than we remember. Someone recently posted photos from a class get-together, and one of my good friends asked us when these other people got so old. I felt differently-I still see the people as I remember them from "then." I still feel as I did "then," except better in some ways. Yes, I inherited my dad's jowls, which make my mouth look thin and frowny. I have some turkey neck. My hair too, is salt and pepper and the hairline keeps moving backward. I didn't know that was supposed to happen to girls. My lashes and brows are getting thinner. Of course, my hair has been graying since my 30s, but I covered it up for years. Yes,  I have joint problems, but on the one hand, I have also reached a point where I don't much care what other people think about what I do or say. I once weighed 300 pounds, and was always a chubby teen, and as a result of having lost over 100 pounds, and the ever present pull down of gravity, I have ugly thighs and bat wing arms. But I wear shorts, and sleeveless tops, and if someone has a problem with that, it is their problem. There was a time that I would never, ever go without sleeves because I knew people would be looking at my arms. Now would be a good time for me to go and try to make it on Broadway or in Hollywood, as I always dreamed of doing when I was younger, because I have lost the self-consciousness that made me too afraid to take that plunge when I was young enough to be (maybe) successful. Thank you, Kathy Bates and Roseann for showing me that heavy women could be successful in performing arts!*** I wish your fame had come in the mid-1970's.

This is the hard part of reaching "a certain age." It is the time that we spend too much time looking back rather than ahead. We think of the love we rejected, the job we turned down, the comments we made and the fights we never apologized for, and there is regret. My first marriage broke up in 1995, and it took many years for me to stop feeling like a failure. Having been raised in the church, I'd been taught, "In order to get a divorce, you must consider divorce an option." So for 11 years, my first husband and I did not consider it an option, and we believed we had chosen rather to work through our problems. I didn't consider him leaving me for another woman an option either, but that was something I was not in charge of, and  another story altogether. Back then, I used to say that the only thing I feared was dying with regrets. But now regrets are ever-present. I regret that I was too afraid of failing to go after what I believed my career would be. I regret that I didn't have children, though I adore my stepsons, and their children. But if for some reason my husband and I were  no longer be married, I would be the one left alone because there is no blood between us. My husband's side of the family would be afraid that keeping a relationship with me would be uncomfortable for my husband-I get that. I regret the cost to my health of having grown so large when I was young enough to make my middle years super healthy. I regret many times that I've said something hurtful or angry. Words cannot be taken back, and sometimes in the things I've allowed to make me say ugly things, I turned out to be in the wrong.  I regret that I haven't been more active in fighting either for or against the things that are important to me. I've signed lots of petitions, I've given money when I've had it. But there are so many things I could have done that I didn't-I've never got involved in politics at the precinct level, which could have led  to a greater ability to make a real difference. 

More than personal regrets, I look at the aged among us, and wonder if our wonderful, amazing advances in medicine are doing people any great favors by keeping people alive so much longer. Yes, some of the people being kept alive have the will and resources to make their "golden" years truly golden; they are the exception, not the rule. But there are aspects of aging that are beyond our ability to control. My father will turn 73 this year, and is in intractable, unfixable pain. The drugs they give him to control the pain have terrible side effects, and make him not want to take them. This is true of many drugs that allow our lives to be lengthened-it is not the job of medicine to address quality of life issues. The elderly miss their friends who have died, and when they outlive their children they never recover-even if the children were elderly when they died. We now have new guidelines about preventive health measures for the elderly-no colonoscopies without cause for people over 80, limiting pelvic exams for women over 50, etc. My mother finds this appalling. And while I see the point of looking at numbers and reducing the number of tests run brings the cost of medicine down, I also see her point-preventive care catches cancers earlier and saves money too. But which is the right answer? I'm guessing that the people who write these guidelines didn't ask anyone over 80 how they felt about them. Many of them tell me that they would not object to not being kept alive simply for the sake of being kept alive. Before my father's health began to decline, my mother used to visit  nursing homes with her friend every Monday, and she told me over and over that many of the residents felt that they didn't see any real reason to be alive anymore. Sadly, sometimes it hurts to be old. 

In the past the word "crone" was not a pejorative. But now it is. We don't value the old for their wisdom, and the lessons they learned in their younger years. I look at my stepsons, nieces and nephews (who are all just about grown now, and some have children of their own) and wonder why they don't see how similar my life was  to what they are going through-I could save them so much pain. But I am old enough to know the truth-my mother felt the same way about her 5 children, and could not keep us from the necessity of learning the lessons on our own. My friends and I have been where the kids are now, and can look back and see where we screwed up, but we don't get do-overs, and the kids don't want to believe that choices and mistakes are repeated generation to generation. That may be the cruelest cut of all. 

***Song "My Back Pages," Bob Dylan, 1964
Kathy Bates, actor from such movies as "Fried Green Tomatoes," and the recently cancelled TV series, "Harry's Law"
Roseann (Barr) comedian, actor, political activist