Thoughts on Family

Family is a very full word.  It carries most of our memories, aspirations, relationships and identity.  Defining family is the closest we can come to approaching but not reaching the act of defining self.

When I think of the division between conservatism and liberalism (as strange and twisted as both definitions have become in American politics), I cannot think of a starker difference in opinion than on the nature and significance of family.

On the one hand, you have organizations like the fundamentally ugly quiverfull, and the people their brand of thinking inspires (via inmate1972):

So I’m in this cafe with the Super Breeding Quiverfull Family of 14 and while some people giggled at the father trying to remember one his daughters’ first name, I focused instead on the incredibly sad look on the girl’s face and she corrected him no less than three times. But who is this kid to expect to feel special when she exists soley as a fullfillment of a mission?

That’s heartbreaking.  But I think its a mentality that plays out in many right wing positions.  In the war that grinds through a generation of soldiers, leaving some dead, and more deeply wounded in both mind and body.  In posititions on birth control that have led to preventable deaths.  The idea that a child is a punishment for having sex outside religiously acceptible terms is best viewed through the lens of people who have made the conscious decision to have children.  When you see the effort, love, and weird transformations (“I’m comfortable with picking another person’s nose now” – Rich) involved, you can’t help be see the child who is viewed as a weight as a victim of the cruelest loss.  And of course there is health care.  Any political idealogy that counts uninsured children as a necessity has embraced a cold and detached violence that replaces compassion with psychotic indifference.

On the other hand, there is the liberal view of family.  Blonder than You wrote this incredibly moving post on her accompanyment of a friend to the Emergency Room:

i kept playing it over in my head….you are not family…you are not family….

what the hell do these people know about family???? they dont know him they dont know me..they certainly dont know about our “family”….they dont know:

that his parents are assholes and kicked him out of the house when he told them he was gay

that i moved in with him for several months a few years ago when he first got cancer…to take him back and forth to chemo and to care for him after the treatments left him a mess…

that he gets realllly scared at hospitals… i mean you really only have to go through cancer treatments once for hospitals to leave a bad taste in your mouth…three times… and well…. you’ll pretty much freak out when they try to put an iv in your arm too…

that when i needed it..he offered to let me live with him…rent free… for as long as i needed (seriously… isnt THAT family)

Family is more than a social unit.  It is a level of connection that reaches compassionately into our deepest weaknesses to offer support.  Its knowing you can call and share your latest ideas, fears, passions and triumphs.  It leans over the line where the terms “close friend” and “best friend” sit as close as they can to each other.

Defining family is powerful:

but i swear … the whole thing…. made me agonizingly aware of the magnitude of not allowing gay partners to marry…i know that gay couples go through this kind of thing often… and … its awful… i cant really imagine it…two hours and i was near crazy…

step back folks…it isnt about having two dudes or two chicks on the top of a cake…. it isnt just about having a “wedding” … isnt about what “your god” preaches…..its about being legally defined as family….. not having to explain to a 17 year old receptionist who cant even tie her shoes..(she was born in the age of velcro) … what FAMILY is… cause reallly… its none of her business…

It is a way of defining who we are.  The battle for gay marriage is often viewed “merely” as a civil rights struggle of a particular group of people.  It goes far beyond that.  It is simply one front in the battle over a fundamental question.  Do we posses the liberty to determine our own relationships?

When you take your dear friend to the hospital, and you are the only one there, you are family.

When Obama wins office, one of the key points his platform advocated (as did Clinton, Edwards, and every other Democrat), was the idea of furthering patient’s rights.  The definition of “family” ought to be a part of that.  Hell, if the campaign was really smart, they’d make it a cornerstone.  Because nothing takes the hypocritical punch of “Family Values” out of right wing discourse like shoving real family values into the spotlight.

But on a more personal level, as I reflect back on the conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks, it reminds me how dearly I love the people in my life.  And how no matter how close a friend you are, it is never expected that you would take time to listen to my worries or my adventures, and always flooring to know that I could be the object of such caring.  And it always moves me that I am ever able to be the same sort of person for you.  So I owe some people a very big thank you.  And I am reminded how much is as stake, whether during an election cycle or not.

So I invite you, dear readers, to make politics personal.  Politics isn’t an abstract and filthy thing politicians do to keep the country running.  It is the energy that builds the world we live our lives in.  So it is by nature personal.  And what is more personal than how we are allowed to define family?


Happy in Youtube Form

Feeling anything south of utterly amazing?  Watch the 2008 version of where the hell is Matt:

There’s so much world to see.

Peace and Love

I’m off on adventures, computer access will be random for a week or so.

I saw this, and it made me happy.  With all the bad news its easy to forget there’s a lot of positive energy out there.

“Let’s make my birthday, July the 7th at noon, all over America… whichever state you’re in, Pacific or Eastern, Western… peace and love,” Ringo told Access.

Ringo is instructing fans to say the phrase “Peace and love,” when the clock strikes 12 PM, no matter where they are in the world.

“Everybody goes ‘Peace and love,’” he explained. “In the office, on the bus… wherever.”

“It’s still peace and love for me, I’m a product of the ‘60s and it was a very influential period in my life, and you know, my head was turned around a bit, my eyes were opened as it were, ” said Starr. “In fact, I even have it on my arm, peace and love. I see nothing wrong with peace and love.”

Peace Inside and Out.

Love for All Sentient Beings.

Thanks for reading, hopefully when I get back the world will be just a bit warmer.

Continue reading

Finding Happiness: Do You Love Your Job?

Wall Street Journal (emphasis mine):

Mr. Magness’s parents say they no longer ask when he’s coming to visit or about his plans. “You can’t buy him the things you might buy a normal kid, since he doesn’t live in one place,” says his mother, Linda Magness. Mr. Magness’s father, Mark Magness, a retired Air Force lawyer, says he spent 23 years in a job he couldn’t stand. So he avoids pressuring Mr. Magness to find traditional work. He admires his son’s resourcefulness and spirit, but says he still struggles to accept that Mr. Magness lives in a van. “It pushes all these buttons,” he says. “There was part of me that said, ‘You need to be secure; security is important, happiness can wait.’ Though watching him, that’s become less obvious to me.”

Happiness can be esoteric. It encompasses such a wide range of quality and intensity that the word is only the briefest introduction to the experience itself. Finding happiness in what you do for a living is an integral part of the art of living. It delights in the unexpected.

Just over a year ago, I was fired from the first real job I ever had. I had been there for just over two years. Two years in which I poured myself into my work, and struggled to survive and then excel in a job I would have been barely qualified for had it made only normal demands of my ability and energy. One would have expected this to have been a jarring and painful experience. Yet it was deeply liberating, joyful, and ultimately very satisfying. I found myself able to compete for positions that offered far more flexibility and pay, with healthy work environments.

The one year anniversary of this would have been enough to have reminded me of this. But my friend Brad recently left the same company, and his experience echoed my own in many ways:

Thursday marked a major event in my life. Not only was it the day that I quit my first job, but it is also the day that I learned how awesome it feels to know you don’t have to go back to a place that was sucking the life out of you.

I should have this sadness about me because this was three years of my life. This was three years that I poured myself into my work. Three years that I gave everything I had and then even more to do my part to make this company kick butt in the IT space. Three years that I sacrificed sleep, vacation, health, friends, family, and everything else imaginable to do a job. But aside from missing a handful of people there, I don’t have any sadness at all. You know why? Because after these three years, this company refused to even acknowledge my 2 week notice, refused to pay me out upon leaving, and refused to even acknowledge that me not being there might have a slight impact on them.

There is, of course, more to both of our stories. But the essence is that when we are able to free ourselves of negative attachments, the experience of that is not a wrenching sadness, but rather a mix of calm and happiness. Which brings me back to the story of Jason Magness. His life isn’t perfect by any means (he himself worries about how to balance his urge to be with people and to be free to explore). But that freedom he experiences goes beyond feeling and escapes into a kind of conviction, a way of approaching life.

For me, I’ve found that in a number of places. One is in cultivating a sense of detachment at work (which can be quite difficult at times). I find this allows me to see the situation I’m in with greater clarity, and to be able to respond appropriately.

I wish Brad the best of luck in his new job, although I know he won’t need it. Great skill comes from a mix of natural talent and hard work, and he possesses both virtues. I also wish for him the same thing I wish for myself. The chance and ability to better see what happiness truly is, and find more of it in how we spend our time in this life. To that end, while I am not quitting my own job by any means, I have taken the first steps towards reawakening the burning purpose that has been patiently simmering on low since I moved from Massachusetts down to Virginia. Perhaps I will post more on this later. It is a spark of an idea that seems impossible at first blush, and upon introduction finds a warmth, curiosity and interest that suggests a world of kindling.

And I seem to have meandered off a bit. So I’d like to pose my question again, but phrase it with a little more courtesy towards its meaning: Are you happy?

You Don’t Deserve Health Care

Hello there mendicants.  My name is Yaron Belvidere Brook Ashington Boisonberry the 5th, Esquire Doctor.  I write for the Forbers magazine-paper.  And heavens, here is my latest article:

The Democrats, not surprisingly, are proposing a massive increase in government control, with some even calling for the outright socialism of a single-payer system. Republicans are attacking this “solution.” But although they claim to oppose the expansion of government interference in medicine, Republicans don’t, in fact, have a good track record of fighting it.

Indeed, Republicans have been responsible for major expansions of government health care programs: As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney oversaw the enactment of the nation’s first “universal coverage” plan

::Ruffling through html:: I’m sure I left the point of my article somewhere:

Today, nearly half of all spending on health care in America is government spending. Why, despite their lip service to free markets, have Republicans actually helped fuel the growth of socialized medicine and erode what remains of free-market medicine in this country?

Ah yes, there ’tis!  Free markets my fellow Americans.  We don’t need universal coverage because free markets take care of everyone willing to work.  You see, if you work one, two, or even three jobs, you can afford health care for you and your brood.  Excessive government involvement in health care leads to more coverage and patient rights.  I say, if you have a bad doctor you’d better go get a jolly good one straight away.  The  very same goes for insurers.  If an insurer denies coverage for your daughter and she dies, then other peasants won’t choose that insurer in the first place.  The free market wins again!  And of course families can afford to turn down company administered plans and purchase cheap plans of their own.  In an unregulated markets, health insurers will follow the bold and principled lead of cable companies like Comcast and drastically lower their rates to keep customers happy.

You are free to see a doctor and pay him for his services–no one may forcibly prevent you from doing so. But you do not have a “right” to force the doctor to treat you without charge or to force others to pay for your treatment. The rights of some cannot require the coercion and sacrifice of others.

Precisely.  Everyone knows plans for universal coverage entail not paying doctors a damn penny.  Just look at Norway and other countries with socialized medicine.  Their doctors have to take on second jobs just to obtain income!  Although in retrospect please ignore that last piece: “The rights of some cannot require the coercion and sacrifice of others”.  As a good old conservative, I only apply that dictum to taxation, definitely not to items such as war and human rights.

Ending the Health Care Debate

Countries that implement socialized health care are able to prevent deaths we are not.  How many?  Approximately 101 thousand a year.  Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.

If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.

Key Points:

  1. We can afford it.  If every other industrialized country in the world can afford socialized health care, so can we.
  2. It will save lives.  No system is perfect, but know our current system is deeply flawed.

The opposition pulls some pretty fancy footwork attempting to argue against it, but in the end they fail utterly to make the case.  Universal Health Care is practical, and the alternative is unethical.  Because some Americans are concerned about taxes, other Americans die.  There is no way to twist reality and have that be right.

Right now, of the viable candidates only John Edwards has a plan to insure all Americans.  No wonder his second place victory in Iowa was ignored and he is demonized by the conservative media as a socialist.  Hard core conservatives are afraid of an authentic liberal gaining power in this country.  And no issue speaks with more fire to the very core of that liberal ethos than universal health care.

Although it is a liberal issue, it has a uniquely bipartisan appeal.  This is something Americans want.  As Hillary and Obama look for an edge, they might want to take a second look at their health care proposals.

Why Cigna’s Stance is Suspect

Cigna has apparently decided to stand by their decision to override her doctors and deny a teenager a vital liver transplant.  The teenager later died.

Initially, they reversed course at the very last minute.  It was too late by that point to save the girl.  Now they are saying their decision was the correct one:

Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare has a record of approving coverage for more than 90% of all transplants requested by its members, as well as more than 90% of the liver transplants, company President David Cordani said in a memo addressed to employees and distributed to members of the media.

Nataline Sarkisyan’s request was evaluated on an expedited basis using “evidence-based guidelines published by independent physician and medical organizations, as well as expert scientific journals,” Cordani said.

Funny how the doctors charged with her care thought she should get the transplant, and the bean counters using “evidence based guidelines” and “expert scientific journals” charmingly decided on denying the costly procedure.

What do we expected when we mix private corporations with public health care?  Profit at the cost of human life is an extreme, the kind of theoretical example one brings into a debate to make a point.  Not with the expectation one might come face to face with such a callous disregard for human life.  Cigna President David, by making the denial of care an official point, has made the cold, greedy nature of himself and Cigna blazingly apparent to the world.

And this is the story we heard about.  How many other patients were denied coverage, didn’t protest, and simply died?  How many were denied procedures, and continue to live with debilitating medical problems?   All for Cigna’s profit.

Removing “for profit” from Health Care, and recognizing Health Care coverage as a fundamental human right, is one of the cornerstone issues facing humanity.  For what cynical joke is the “right to life” if that right can be denied to balance a spreadsheet?