Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How long before this lesson is learned?

After nearly SIX milennia, wouldn't you think humanity would figure out that violence just. doesn't. work. ?

Here we are, in the veritable footprints of 5500 year old history, repeating the same mistake. Syria, site of the first recorded urban warfare, is the latest battleground in the neverending MiddleEast conquest. It's the same old story: outsiders coming in with weapons that wreak havoc, destroy lives and local livelihood, and drive out the innocent population for the sake of politics and gain.
Ruins of Hamoukar, Syria
 Hamoukar, attacked and burned 5500 year ago, was the first known victim of urban warfare.
Our President had a chance recently to advocate peace in a speech to Irish youth, but when they read the news, they see he is proposing to arm militants (terrorists or rebels, depending on your perspective) in Syria, a combat zone that has already cost 60,000 lives and driven millions from their homes. How peaceful is that?

Meanwhile back in our own country, our national legislature is preventing measures to curb violence on our streets, instead keeping it easy to arm militants (terrorists, rebels, freedom patriots, call them what you will) with high grade automatic military weapons. How peaceful is that?

Wait, you say, that isn't the same. The people here in the US who commit mass murders are crazy. They kill without reason. There is no political motivation to the slaughters (as if THAT is a reasonable argument to keep weapons trade active in our nation).

But imagine: what if there was a manifesto on the perpetrator's website when U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others were shot? What if the Boston killers had disrupted the marathon with automatic AK-47s instead of homemade bombs? What if there were more than two in the conspiracy to bomb the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City? What if the many assassination attempts of the 20th century were attributed to a coup rather than one lone gunman? What if the Occupy protestors were brutalized, as happened on our streets back in 1968-70? If all those incidents were reported happening in another country, what would our national reaction be?
Murrah federal building, Oklahoma City
Murrah federal building, Oklahoma City 1995
What if another nation, reading about our history of protest and oppression, were to seize the opportunity to arm and train the militants (terrorists, rebels, freedom patriots) here? How would we react then?

I'm sure of the reaction: What is good for US is not the same thing as is good elsewhere.

This inconsistency of attitude is perpetual: We top the list of armament dealers and our legislators support any initiative backed by the NRA. We train terrorists (military leaders, soldiers in the drug wars) in torture at WHINSEC (School of the Americas). We supply mercenaries (security personnel) and munitions (defensive, of course) to hotbeds of civil war and areas dominated by drug cartels (which in themselves have shady ties to our many questionable clandestine operations). We overtly invade countries (Vietnam, Iraq) -- and who knows how often covertly disrupt to install an "ally". We bomb "strategically" with drones wherever those targets happen to be. And in every case, we expect to be hailed as heros by the locals as well as the international community because, above all, we maintain a national self-image of US as peacekeepers.

Get real. Americans need to face the facts: We are aiding and abetting murder; we are perpetuating violence; we are keeping the world in a state of tension and terror. We torture and incarcerate without recourse. We spy with impunity everywhere and on everyone. And most of all, we keep it all secret. We put up with limited "news" and choose denial over believing that the disparities we detect should be investigated, reported, and corrected.

I have to agree (at least about this part of her statement) with Irish politician Clare Daly: The only label for someone who talks peace to Irish youth while perpetuating war by arming militants in Syria is "hypocrite". The Nobel committee should rescind President Obama's Peace Prize if he pursues a strategy of violence in Syria.

Violence only begets more violence. After 5500 years, you'd think intelligent international leaders would have realized this repeatedly demonstrated truth. Why can't humanity learn this essential lesson and come up with a better alternative?
I wonder... what you think.
ps I wonder if women were fairly represented here and around the world how much more cooperative things might become. -- Do you suppose that might be part of the same lesson mankind needs to learn?

Friday, June 21, 2013

What indeed would Jesus do -- in Congress?


I've always wondered at the hypocrisy of supposedly devout religious practitioners who seem to take political positions that seem to ignore the fundamental tenets of their faith. But then, as a child, I always had a hard time trying to reconcile the many contradictory biblical tales I heard -- on the one hand God was busy claiming vengeance and smiting whereas Jesus was turning the other cheek and cautioning against throwing stones. It seemed rather inconsistent and apt to lead to conflicting advice, and certainly that has proven true as the predominantly fundamentalist Christian conservative groups stand steadfastly against abortion while advocating staunchly for the death penalty.
Jesus at church across from the Alfred P Murrah Memorial by tonystl / Flickr.com
When the "What Would Jesus Do?" query surfaced in social media, it seemed like this would solve the problem, but legislators continued to reject empathy for hard and fast rules about quandaries no biblical player ever had to consider. What indeed would Jesus do when a vegetative patient was racking up unaffordable hospital bills while kept "alive" on a heart-lung machine? Before a miraculous healing, he always prefaced the work by asking the person to believe in his ability to heal, and clearly the comatose individual had no ability to produce even a brainwave response, so... What indeed could Jesus have done?

Imponderables aside, there are a few clergy these days who think some of the legislative interpretations have failed to consider actual biblical advice, and I for one am certainly glad they are stepping forward with some well-documented guidance to curb the excesses of today's less-than-compassionate lawmakers. Reverend Barber explained, “We’re going to make sure that the contrast is so clear between meanness and immorality and extreme politics and the politics of love and justice and compassion...".

Greensboro NC ordained minister Mark Sandlin has considerately compiled an annotated top 10 political DON'Ts countdown:
10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
 9) Advocate for war.
 8) Favor the rich over the poor.
 7) Cut funding that hurts the least of these.
 6) Let people go hungry.
 5) Withhold healthcare from people.
 4) Limit the rights of a select group of people.
 3) Turn away immigrants.
 2) Devalue education.
 1) Support capital punishment — execution.
Christians, of all people, should never forget that Jesus was arrested on politically motivated charges, tortured at length, and finally executed without due process. How hard is it to imagine what his reaction today would be? It seems like a WWJD no-brainer: Close Guantanamo immediately -- and use those funds to alleviate the suffering of children, heal the infirm, and support the hungry masses. Protect not just the people of the earth but its air, water, and lands from the greedy exploiters. Render taxes as an obligation to the common welfare and contribute help to the needy. These are the Christian sort of things Jesus would do.

That kind of compassionate platform is one I, a scrupulously non-religious voter, could support.

Photo: Jesus at church across from the Alfred P Murrah Memorial by tonystl / Flickr.com

Friday, June 14, 2013

Why can't we burst the Beltway Bubble?

Inside the Beltway, there's a separate world, a protected sphere that keeps legislators unUnited from their elective States. Upon entering the high-lobbied halls, the greed-colored cover obscures reality into self-aggrandizing apportionment. Government of by and for the People becomes distorted as if a bicameral FUNHouse mirror blows inCorporated businesses into giant people while shrinking the tired masses yearning for the fabled Dream into miniscule demographicized bundles of rejectable need. Caught up in the perception warp, it's impossible for the Capitol Hill Players to see that "business as usual" has passed its expiration date and is festering with rot.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported only 10% of Americans have confidence in Congress, the lowest rating ever for any group. It's no surprise to the rest of the nation. When 90% of voters want gun registration tightened but Congress votes it down, when 90% support birth control and women's right to choice but legislators propose instead endless restrictions, when 90% suffer from federal budget cuts while 2% profit, there is something wrong with the bubble-encased system. Outside the I-495 ring, there's an If-Only sense growing today -- if only we could truly vote no confidence in the current government and recycle Congress -- but the BeltwayBubble keeps the three federal branches protected like a DC snowglobe sparkling under a constant shower of glittering corporatopoly dollars.
DC  SnowGlobe
The BeltwayBubble
Within that insular BBubble-view, all is totally capitalpacetic. Every legislative intiative in those dollar-lined lobbies is another glad-handing opportunity to reward inappropriate behavior and try to run other peoples' lives with rules that don't work out in the greater paradigm-shifted network of real existence. Inside the high-lobbied corridors of power, they're too busy putting their money where it doesn't belong to notice the country outside the demarcating Beltway is overshadowed by climate-clouded polluted skies.

Instead of nurturing a nation -- an earthly globe -- of healthy autonomous capable adults, politicians are still treating citizens -- here and abroad -- like second-graders who are incapable of learning lessons and making informed decisions. They still believe we need an Electoral College to vote for us -- when we can all see that, these days, graduates of academic institutions (particularly those from the Reaganomic "Chicago School" and WHINSEC "School of the Americas" fraternities) are woefully unprepared to lead us safely through the reality of today's interdependent psychobioeconosphere.

In that BBubble where the cash-hierarchy still rules with pyramidal might, the collaborative value of knowledgeable, inspired, passionate entrepreneurs working in the micro-interdependence of the WorldWideWeb is all but ignored. Instead of allowing the effective commerce to expand, the BBubblers try to legislate nooses around its independent web while exploiting loopholes to allow their own bailout inflated profits to escape taxation into offshore safehavens. University of Pittsburgh Professor of International Affairs Michael Brenner says, "nearly 80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2 percent, 65 percent to the upper 1 percent."

This paradigm dichotomy is not just dividing but slashing the Dream into shreds. Decimated hopes and plans litter the pitiful countryside while greedy self-serving agendas reap excessive rewards into political and corporate coffers.

Greed is NOT capitalism. It's greed. Consistently employing obviously wrong tactics is not capitalism. It's self-serving stupidity. Promoting oneself at the expense of, and to the detriment of, others is NOT capitalism. Political duplicity is not capitalism, nor is political obstruction and terrorism. Arrogance, dishonesty, and ruthlessness are not capitalism. This behavior best describes assholes in action. Assholes in Action isn't capitalism. ~ Judith Stephens on FaceBook

We've "elected" a congress where political expediency reigns on both sides of the aisle, and the highest bidder rules. The electorate has sold their votes for loyalty to party rhetoric that like a campaign promise is routinely ignored except at soundbite opportunities. The best interest of the common welfare has given way to rewards that boost the best interests of the ruling wealthy.

The pundits take party-line sides; the bloggers bemoan the lack of alternative -- and take party-line sides; the public complains but does nothing -- except cling to THEIR incumbent, the known side of an undefined worse possibility. Despite the disparity of escalating inequity, there seems to be no non-partisan incentive to change.

What America's government today needs is for We the People to really shake up that BeltwayBubble snowglobe so that the weight of those corporatopoly dollars floating around bursts out the BBubble with a paradigm-shift that showers common sense from sea to shining sea.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How happy is this birthday?

My mom turns 87 today. She's mentally impaired, in a nursing facility, getting therapy for her latest stroke. They've put her on a higher dose of seizure medication so that she's in a constant twilight of near-sleep. She doesn't have the memory to recall her life, my dad, our family. I can't imagine what she'd celebrate if she miraculously remembered this is her birthday.
4 generations last March
Two weeks ago, on Memorial weekend Friday, she collapsed. Again. Her doctor happened still to be on site and sent her off immediately to the ER. We endured the HIPAA communication nightmare but previous bouts with the hospital administration rewarded me (her HC POA) with a call back. Her blood was thick, despite the coumadin, and her atril fibrillation meant it was likely a clot of thickened blood had lodged in her brain (no bleeding in the CT scan). She couldn't move her right side or swallow, and her speaking was impaired. Her pacemaker meant they couldn't confirm with an MRI and the coumadin meant there was no treatment, so they admitted her. She has a DNR but she was stable, so no extraordinary measures were required. She didn't get worse, well at least on their medical scale, which doesn't consider her increased continual drowsiness.

Because of her lifecare community's nursing availability, she was released in "only" a week. We haven't got her bill yet for non-covered expenses, so no rants about the exorbitant charges.

She gets up to 100 days of therapy from Medicare: occupational (can she take care of her hygiene? of course not, she couldn't before!), physical (can she resume the manual walker? Are they kidding? The more operative question is: since the right-side weakness will likely require a motorized version, will her mental ability be enough to learn its operations?), and speech (can she recover her words? She'd groped to communicate before; at this point, can she even understand the questions and make the appropriate physical responses?). I don't see 20 100% covered days or the following 80 @ 80% (costing her thousands and the taxpayers more) to be likely to improve her quality of life.

It's not that I'm hard or unloving. If I could do anything to make my mother's current existence something more than a body going through the motions of living, I would. If there were any way to recover her memories and help her share them with the fourth generation, I'd be more than happy to sit with her for days and record innumerable audio hours to draw out her stories. The sad truth is: none of that is possible. She doesn't remember the summers she and my daughter travelled to all 50 states; she doesn't remember the house she and my dad built; she doesn't remember the college degree she earned after being widowed; she doesn't remember... anything. She's a decade past recovery. And on the Keppra, all she wants to do is sleep.

I have to wonder: Do we do our aged parents any favors by allowing medical intervention when there's NO hope for a life of quality? In centuries past, my mother's condition would have claimed her by now. She's on a dozen daily medications that didn't exist mere decades ago. She's got her second pacemaker. They've done every medical intervention possible, and still she can't resume a healthy, functional life. All we can do is hope that what the doctors are doing isn't a form of lingering torture for her; she can't express how she feels -- or what she desires.

We know it's fortunately not Alzheimer's but the reality isn't all that better. She doesn't know me or anyone else in the family, and she wouldn't remember you 2 minutes after the introduction. When she met her great-granddaughter, she was like a child with a new toy, delighted for a while but when the fascination wore off, that was enough. She loves to "read"  but only picture articles because the words while they register drain off as easily as rain, with as little lasting impression. A visit may get her up and about for a few minutes, but then she needs double the time for recuperation. She fills her days with hours in her chair, eyes closed, doing nothing. It appears very Zen, with no ego -- but also with no awareness.

My dad went walking with my mom one morning shortly after he retired. While mom was showering, he collapsed and died. She never finished grieving his loss. Thirty-some years later she's still waiting for her chance to follow. My grandmother endured a similar 30-year hiatus.

I'm in that 30-year window now myself, but I refuse to experience the same lingering wait. I want to be fully functional right till the end, still learning and growing and contributing to life on the planet. But when my responsiveness has run its course, I don't want medical interventions and medical treatments and medications to take away my time to die.

Will my mom have a happy birthday today? Who knows? I'm not sure even she has a clue what's behind the bland smile and vacant expression that's all the world can see. I wish blowing out another round of birthday candles could make Mom's happily ever after come true and let her value living another year.