POEM: Victor

The war ceased
And deceased
Telling their tales
Red the same
With blood mingling
As parents and children
At won’s mercy
The fodder of another
Bequeathing its soul prize
And ultimate price
as Victor
Victor Frankenstein
With monstrous mettle
So easily mistaken for living
As dead
And littering history
Sow trying
A pieced together humanity
Only Abel too
Udder incomprehensibly
As accompany buy
That haunting refrain
Hell to the victor
That vanquishing breed
And human raze
Anew create or
Victor

Truth is the First Casualty of War - Most of the Rest Are Civilians -- ANTI-WAR BUTTONNo More Win War Than Win Earthquake -- ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONWinning at any cost is the expedient reality of war. That cost is our humanity. As I AM known to say, “Truth is the first casualty of war; most of the rest are civilians.” The monstrous hell that is war cannot be won any more than an earthquake can be won. Disaster capitalism can profit from warmongering, but such a victory can only be earned with a shit lode of lowest common denominations.

This poem uses the classic image and story of Frankenstein, a tale of confusion over what is life and what is death, an iconic creature that traffics in grunts, a monstrous alien-nation whose soul solace is murderous conspiracy wrapped up in the death of innocents. The will to create is corrupted by the ambition to control life, ultimately killing what it seeks to master. Never the less, in the dance of life and death, giving life is the expansive truth more sow than taking life. When we give, it is ours to give; when we take it is an other’s.

INAUGURAL Public Health Radio Show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo — Just For The Health of It: Medicare For All and Toledo Democracy Day

After years in the waiting and making, I am proud to announce the inaugural show of my public health radio show, Just for the Health of It,  on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo (ToledoRadio.org). Just for the Health of It brings you new perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health. Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It. My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.

You can listen here for this show about Medicare For All and coverage of Toledo’s Democracy Day.  You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Here is the script for the show for the week of March 18, 1019:

Welcome to the inaugural show of Just for the Health of It. Normally, the planned format for this show is to do a public health news and research roundup, provide useful health information for you and your loved ones, and interview a local guest to speak to critical public health issues in Toledo. The eventual format will be an hour long; but, until we get the regular studio up and running, I will be doing a shorter half hour version without the interview portion – broadcasting from an undisclosed location which is eerily similar to my den.
Today, we have special coverage of the 3rd annual Toledo Democracy Day public hearings.
If you are wondering what public health has to do with democracy, stay tuned!
Democracy Day was established through citizen’s initiative and approved by Toledo voters in 2016. It functions as an annual public hearing on the influence of money on our politicians that the Mayor and city council must attend. All members of the public are encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the importance of democracy and the corrupting influence of large donors on the political process.

By law, after each Democracy Day, the Mayor must send a letter to our Congressional representatives urging them to support a Constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and political donations are not free speech. Enacting such a Constitutional amendment is the primary purpose of Move to Amend – a national organization with chapters all across the United States. For more information, you can check out movetoamend.org

So, went to City Council chambers,  or, as I like to say, where democracy goes to die.  And, among other wonderful testimony, several citizens spoke to the need for a universal health program. This included myself. Or, at least I thought. I spent many hours in order to prepare 8 minutes of testimony, ending with a call for the passage of the Medicare For All Act of 2019. However, when I got to the public hearing, I found out that they were limiting testimony to 3 minutes. In previous years they asked citizens to keep their testimony to about 5 minutes, and they loosely enforced this time-frame. There was no way for me to cut my testimony in half on the spot, so I expressed my frustration about not being allowed to present my full testimony. I read most of the last paragraph, with my call to action. To further express my deep disappointment with their bass ackward and absurd limits when required by law to listen to citizens’ testimony on substantive issues, I used the remaining minute of my time to read the last paragraph of my testimony backwards. Sometimes the only commensurate response to absurdity is absurdity. And sometimes Toledo just seems like a backwards town. As it happens, they ended a half hour ahead of time. Having ended with plenty of time remaining, I asked to present my full testimony. I was refused.
I must admit, I felt a little bit of democracy die within me. But, I will just add it to my heap of progressive disillusionment…and if you are going to be disillusioned, please make it progressive.

The good news is that democracy need not be limited to the wood-paneled coffin of democracy we call City Council chambers, or limited to the marble lobbies of Government Center. There are other venues, and this is one of them.

So, I will present my full testimony here today.

Though, make sure to stay tuned to the whole show, as at the end of the show, I will bestow the first Just for the Health of It award, in honor of Toledo’s Democracy Day.
But back to my testimony: here goes:

Toledo’s Democracy Day is rooted in the reality that, in America, corporate personhood often trumps human personhood, and that profit is routinely treated as more important than human need or human rights. This battle courses through American life and our body politic. However, there is perhaps no other facet of American life where this battle is so palpable and endemic as health care. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diagnosed, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt. I have a master’s degree in public health. I am the former health planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. I am a past president of the Ohio Public Health Association. However, perhaps my most important qualification for speaking today about health care is similar to most of the people in this room: I have witnessed personally multiple health care horror stories. Is there anyone in America that doesn’t have a health care horror story? I’ve passed out in the so-called “emergency room” waiting for medical triage, slipping into anaphylactic shock – though they did have plenty of time to take my billing information. Three times I’ve gone to the same “emergency” room for severe reactions to bee stings; each time, I’ve been left alone, untreated and unsupervised – once in the waiting room, once in an exam room, once on a gurney in the hallway. To protect the guilty, I won’t divulge the name – Saint something or other . . . probably “other.” The last time I was in there, I had used my expired “Epi-pen” after refusing to re-fill my prescription after they jacked the price up to $600. I told the nurse that if I die, I want them to throw my dead body on the lawn of Mylan Pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters. I could go on; and I have, despite shocking and inhumane so-called “health care.” I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, but I have a long litany of health care horror stories. I’ll leave for another time the cautionary tale about getting a vasectomy from the lowest bidder when I had no health insurance.

Today, about 30 million people in America still have no health insurance whatsoever. For Toledo, that’s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Toledoans. About 45,000 Americans will die this year due to being uninsured. Some might even dare call it a national emergency. If you might consider that designation a close call, consider that even having “health insurance” in the U.S. is no guarantee of being able to pay for needed care. An additional 85 million Americans are “underinsured,” meaning that out-of-pocket costs of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance puts them at risk for financial catastrophe if they seek care. In short, more than one in three Americans have precarious protection against health crises, all topped off with looming financial ruin when they are at their most vulnerable.

Health care is the leading cause of financial terrorism, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and the leading candidate for our nation’s moral bankruptcy. We kowtow to health care syndicates as they hold unparalleled control over our community’s finances and even our very lives. We are held hostage, and in a Kafkaesque fatal twist, we are expected to accept as normal community-wide Stockholm Syndrome, an irrational sympathy for our captors. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of the universal health care of those residing in Stockholm.

Health care in the U.S. is about $11,000 per capita, about twice as expensive per person as health care in other industrialized countries. Health care consumes about 18 of every 100 dollars spent in America. This might be worth it if we were healthier; instead we are sicker, and more likely to die. We chronically drag along the bottom of health outcomes among industrialized countries. If the business of health care is quality care at a reasonable cost, then American health care qualifies as a gargantuan business scam, sucking something on the order of two trillion dollars of value out of our economy – that’s 2,000 billions of dollars, year after year; that’s billions of value sucked out of Toledoans, year after year after year. Would it be undemocratic to demand a better deal? Is the business of American health care a gigantic cash toilet too big to succeed at delivering quality health care at a reasonable cost? I hope not.

We live in the wealthiest nation in human history and we do a frighteningly poor job of producing health. Tragically, this is at an even more dumbfounding financial and human cost. I dare you to find a nation where they get less for their health care dollar than America. If we have any notion of running health care as a reputable business, then we should start firing the heads of those businesses, not rewarding them with huge profits and deferential prestige. If nothing else, at the prices we are paying, we shouldn’t have to fear sending our parents, grandparents, kids or neighbors, into a system that wreaks unnecessary stress when they are most vulnerable.

Further, if you think that America’s health care system is high quality, consider this: health care kills more people than lack of health insurance. So-called “medical errors” kill about 250,000 Americans every year. Medical errors can be considered the third leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease as number one and cancer as number two.

Our addiction to health care as a product to be marketed and sold rather than as a human right, has locked us into a system of perverse incentives that distort the meeting of human need due to corporate greed. This has produced the worst of both worlds: overutilization of expensive and ineffective health care, and underutilization of cost effective care. This is all topped off with unparalleled administrative costs and corporate profits.

There is a way out. A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Dingell, and over 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019. This Act will improve and expand the overwhelmingly successful and popular Medicare program, so that every person living in the United States has guaranteed access to healthcare with comprehensive benefits. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, even dental and vision. With one standard of care covering essential services, no American need gamble their health with substandard insurance to eke out financial viability. This legislation embodies true community, where everybody is in; nobody is out. We need not leave anyone behind. Money saved with administrative streamlining will cover expanded care for over 100 million Americans with no insurance or substandard insurance. This Medicare For All Act will integrate the multitude of health care payment systems and simplify the current labyrinth of administrative requirements for both providers and patients. This will allow for a quantum leap in realigning financial stewardship with patient outcomes rather than mere profitability.

Fortunately, the leap is not that far. About 75% of health care in America is already paid for by taxes, primarily for Medicare, which, serving an elderly population, has the bulk of our nation’s health care costs, and secondarily through Medicaid and military/veteran’s health care. Most simply, expanding Medicare for all will transfer the remaining 25% of private insurance funded health care into the existing Medicare payroll tax. Premiums paid by individuals and businesses will disappear. The generations-long experiment with for-profit health care has failed. We can profit from the generations-long successes of other nations in assuring the health of their people.

The time is now. I call upon Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, each of our local health care conglomerates, and any other interested parties, to join together in efforts to pass the Medicare For All Act of 2019 or similar legislation. I ask that each party provide the staff and resources necessary for such a collaboration to assure the urgent passage of such a national health program. To this end, I ask that ProMedica and Mercy Health devote one-thousandth of their revenue for such a bold and transformative venture. My testimony today will be featured on my inaugural public health radio show on WAKT, 106.1 FM, Toledo’s activist, noncommercial community radio station, the latest in Toledo’s burgeoning democracy. I will be monitoring and reporting on your efforts. May our community lead the way for a shared health care system that will benefit every community across our nation. If not us, who? If not now, when? Thank you.

There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, Just for the Health It is about offering fresh perspectives, and I’d like to highlight three fresh perspectives today:

#1: Health care kills more people than having no health insurance – 250,000 deaths versus 45,000 deaths. As I like to say: a hospital is no place for a sick person. Now, of course, health care saves lots of lives as well. Still, health care is an often dangerous undertaking for our lives and an overtaking for our money. Prevention not only saves us from disease, prevention saves us from health care.

The good news is that while health care’s medical errors can be considered a cause of death exceeded only by heart disease and cancer, if we look at other underlying causes of death, we find there are lifestyle factors that are more important in preserving and promoting our health. For instance, smoking kills about 600,000 Americans each year; and diet kills even more Americans prematurely than smoking. Lifestyle factors such as these are more in our control, and much less pricey, than health care. Other key lifestyle factors include physical activity and adequate sleep. Good news for all.

[non-commercial]

And now for a word from our lack of sponsors…

PR Medica and Merciless Health are rated in the top 100 in clinical excellence in some category that hopefully covers the health care you might be able to access. Warning: such excellence may be severely limited by being delivered in the least effective and most expensive sick care system among the so-called advanced economies. While you may be privileged enough, or lucky enough, to get access to excellent care, your community overall is poorly served. Any such clinical excellence is best taken with a double dose of advocacy for universal health care.

This program is not sponsored by PR Medica or Merciless Health. PR Medica and Merciless Health are unholy owned subsidiaries of Tourette’s Industries, insuring that you will swear by them, whether you like it or not.

Now, back to your irregular programming…

Welcome back to Just for the Health of It, the people’s school of public health, where the people’s health is not academic. You are listening to WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo, your source for local, anti-commercial, activist radio.

The second fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today is regarding ideological battles over socialism and capitalism. Health care is not your typical product or service which might be conducive to efficiencies of market competition. Just finding out what health care costs is nearly impossible. In many cases, often the most expensive cases, health care cannot be planned for, even if we wanted to. Only the richest people can afford to pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket. The need to rely on health insurance because of the great variability and unpredictability of health care needs insulates us from the item by item expenses of health care. Plus, the complexity and technical nature of health care is so great that we typically must rely heavily on expert opinions of doctors. Health care is so expensive to deliver, and adding new services in the marketplace is so costly, that rather than lowering cost through competition, we often end up with duplicative services beyond the capacity needed, the total system costs rise, and prices ultimately rise more. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s hard to provide all the health care facilities and services that people need, let alone two to choose from. Everyone needs health care. Cut-rate health care is inhumane. Decent health care for all is something that we really need to work out collectively. Health care might better be viewed in the same way that we regulate public utilities. Public utilities are a fine example of socialism. Imagine two water lines coming into your home, so you would have a choice of which service to use. Double the infrastructure, double the costs – the height of inefficiency. Imagine two sets of roads to compete, two separate trash services…you get the picture. Well, this is modern American health care – except that there is so much more money involved that many more careers and fortunes are made in gaming the system, jacking up costs. In such cases, capitalism is costly to all but a very few. Lastly, ideological battles over socialism and capitalism often revolve around the trope of taxes. Some people feel better about getting the bill from some corporation than the government. We pay twice as much for health care than in countries where health care is treated as a public good, and regulated akin to a public utility. At about 18% of our economy, that’s about 9% of our economy wasted on health care inefficiency and duplication. In essence, it’s like already having a 9% tax on everything, except we are getting nothing for it – actually less than nothing, our health outcomes are worse. This sounds eerily similar to the nightmare that tax hawks fear, with insinuations of government inefficiency – except that it is brought to us by health care capitalism. Health care capitalism is wreaking havoc on our economy and our people. Whatever difficulties a more socialist approach may bring, it is difficult to imagine making our current state of affairs in health care worse than having profit drive health care decisions.

For the third fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today, I’m going to switch it up a bit. I’m talking about the direct link between health and democracy. Why should public health and health care advocates talk about democracy?  The clearest reason is that dead people don’t vote – well, except perhaps in Chicago. The reality is that inequalities in premature death directly affect elections. For example, the excess deaths that Blacks suffer over Whites results in over a million missing Black votes nationwide. If you include excess deaths of other people of color and poor whites, this results in millions more missing voters. Clearly this skews election results in favor of wealthier, healthier and whiter populations, reinforcing existing inequalities. This dynamic reinforces health and wealth gaps across generations. For instance, Whites can expect to draw on social security about 44% longer than Blacks, simply by Blacks dying off prematurely. Blacks contribute social security over the span of their whole working lives, but the grim reaper cuts short their reaping a full span of benefits. While I love a good metaphor as much as the next person, we must realize that for tens of millions of Americans, democracy and justice means literally fighting for their lives. Health justice is directly tied to a healthy democracy that truly represents all of its people.

Now that we’ve established the direct connection between public health and democracy, I offer a bonus testimony from the first Toledo Democracy Day, my testimony in response to a 5 minute limit on citizen testimony, entitled “Five minutes of Democracy.”

Here it goes, Just for the Health of It:

[See TESTIMONY -“Five minutes of Democracy”]

And now…what you’ve all been waiting for, a WAKT first, the Just for the Health of It, 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award:

By the powers infested by me, I do hereby confer upon Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives, the 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY. After being confronted with over three hours of democracy during the 2018 Democracy Day, Mr. Komives, with heroic efficiency, scheduled only two hours for the 2019 Democracy Day, and ingeniously combining this with a three-minute limit on public testimony, succeeded in City Council only having to listen to 90 minutes of citizen testimony, thus, empowering Toledo citizens to truly declare: “Democracy Day, now with 50% less democracy.” Should Mr. Komives, in all humility, consider that he doesn’t deserve this award, then may he share this with all others who have made democracy in Toledo passable. In any case, may Mr. Komives find within him the moral fiber to relieve himself of this distinction.

WAKT Just for the Health of It 2019 Toledo Democracy Day Award to City Toledo Councilperson Nick Komives for MOST CONSTIPATE View of DEMOCRACY

I will deliver a signed, framed copy of this award to Mr. Komives.

Lastly, in regards to Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives’ expert shepherding of our citizenry, on behalf of all us sheep scattered across Toledo, I just want to say, “Baaaad democracy, Baaaad democracy.”

If you have feedback or ideas for this show, please feel free to email me at: WAKT@TopPun.com

You can listen to Just for the Health of It on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo or online at ToledoRadio.org.

You can listen to this show here.

You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Medicare For ALL POLITICAL BUTTONgot health insurance? POLITICAL BUTTONBleeding Heart Liberal - Help - I Need Universal Health Care-FUNNY PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON BUTTON--Public Health-BHLH

Will Gladly Pay Taxes For Public Health POLITICAL BUTTONUniversal Health Care NOW POLITICAL BUTTONHealth Care is a Right Not a Privilege-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON

Public Health is Everybody's Business-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONOur Health Care System is Neither Healthy Caring Nor a System - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONUniversal Single-Payer Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

Single-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody Out POLITICAL BUTTONPublic Health Works for You - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONWill Work For Universal Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

Supreme Court Nominee POEM: Ostensible Merit, Garland

Ostensible Merit, Garland

Senate Republicans bemoan
We can’t Ford
No delay
We just
Long to confirm
As weave past attest
Merit
Garland

This poem is my owed to Senate Republicans’ stellar hypocrisy, in this case regarding confirming Supreme Court nominees. They entirely delayed and fully denied the Merrick Garland nomination of the previous administration. Yet, they are hellbent on ramrodding their Brett Kavanaugh nomination through, all while a credible allegation of sexual assault goes without nonpartisan investigation. Mean wile, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, is vilified and must cope with multiple death threats. Less that sympathetic, more like pathetic, Senate Republicans claim ostensible merit and they are craven that garland across that abridge too far.

For the record, I took poetic license with the slant rhyme and pun of Merrick/merit. Also, I will from now on refer to Brett Kavanaugh as Bart O’Kavanaugh, the character that portrayed him in his character witness’ memoir: Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, by Mark Judge. Judge Kavanaugh’s profoundly poor judgment of his fellow Judge and alleged fellow sexual assaulter as a character witness may very well be disqualifying in itself.  Brett’s prep school buddy unabashedly portrayed his view of women by this quote on his high school yearbook page: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”  The past matters. The present madders too.

FUNNY POEM: Weight Fore It

In the dark
Weight fore it
There it is
That singular smile
Making light
Of everything
Taking a twinkle
Over
Awe the whirled
As never
Settling for number one
Even as wading for it
On and on
As inevitable
As unstoppable
Groan
Only doing what comes naturally
Going
That second smile
On that throne
Laughing
In efface of death

	 Human Race has one really effective weapon: laughter - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONCourage to Laugh Master of World as He Ready to Die - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThis poem is autobiographical, reflecting on my persistent inability to be serious while simultaneously and chronically dealing with serious issues. While my joking may be self-deprecatory, I specialize in deflating and parodying the powerful, dangerously powerful, if that’s not redundant. For me, the lightness that characterizes the best of life comes face to face with the all-to-often brutality and injustice that intersects, often vivisects, our lives. This laughing in efface of death is my most treasured place to be, in the role of jester, for which I am willing to die, that is, die laughing.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers – Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

Prez Donald Trump has called for death to drug dealers. He has been inspired by the war on drugs in the Philippines and China, where drug dealers are executed. I am opposed to the death penalty for anyone, except for corporate persons. Perhaps we should consider revoking the corporate charters of pharmaceutical companies when their drugs kill thousands of people. Killing “corporate persons” was a common practice earlier in American history, when corporations did not meet the public good enshrined in their corporate charter, which allowed for their existence as legal entities. Currently, the opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year and this can be traced directly back to corporate malfeasance.

Our public health would be much better served by nonjudgmental and easily accessible drug treatment for addicts than by returning to failed drug war policies which criminalize and militarize drug war policies. Huge profits in both the legal and illegal drug markets drive the death and destruction wreaked by drug use. Holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for their malfeasance would be a good start, since legal drugs drive the killing of far more Americans than illegal drugs. Then, legalizing drug use, in conjunction with widely available addiction treatment, would be best way to undercut the destructive profit motives in illicit drug markets. Such an approach has proven effective in other countries, and is our best hope for minimizing the ill effects of drug addiction wrought by both legal and illegal drug dealing.  If we are going to kill drug dealers, make it the corporate persons and illegal cartels pushing destruction to reap huge profits.

Please feel free to share this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers – Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers - Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

RAMBO JESUS: Taking U.S. To School – Salvation is in Hand – This Time You’ll Pay For Your Own Sins

In surreal fashion, I await for the U.S. followers of The Prince of Peace to provide moral leadership in fighting the unrelenting epidemic of mass shootings carried out with military-style guns. Perhaps U.S. Christians are too busy making plans to escort their children to school in tactical gear and scheduling armed posses to patrol school grounds. Of course, Jesus will be by their side, to the end of time. In times of prayers and preyers, perhaps they are asking, “Which assault rifle would Jesus use?” Right-wing American Christians seem comfortable relying on supreme military might and households full of guns to deal with neighbors both nearby and afar. Their one crucifixion to rule them all seems to offer carte blanche to kill whichever chosen people their tribe sees unfit. Gee, that couldn’t backfire at all [insert sarcasm here]. Of course, if sacrificial love to the point of death was easy, then everybody would be doing it. I’m not surprised that people are afraid and want their guns, or hired mercenary guns, to protect their interests, just let U.S. stop pretending that it’s Christian. This hypocrisy just adds insult to injury. Such lethal hypocrisy is worthy of mocking. In that spirit, please feel free to meditate upon this political cartoon: RAMBO JESUS: Taking U.S. To School – Salvation is in Hand – This Time You’ll Pay For Your Own Sins.

RAMBO JESUS: Taking the U.S. To School - Salvation is in Hand - This Time You'll Pay For Your Own Sins

Also, please feel free to browse my peace and gun violence prevention designs.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump’s Tax Cut Cut – 15 million dollars each year, just like yours

Prez Donald trump has claimed that he will have to pay more under his tax plan. Of course, this is a lie. He will personally gain millions and millions each year. When he dies, his heirs will make millions more due to a cut in the estate tax. While incentivizing his death may be one of the better ideas in the Republican tax plan, the long-term net effect will be the largest transfer of wealth ever from the bottom 60% of Americans to the top 1%.  So, as a tribute to this fiasco, I have created the first free poster in what may unfortunately be a series, “Make Me Eat Again,” parodying Trump’s faux working class heroism and feigned self-sacrifice: Trump’s Tax Cut Cut – 15 million dollars each year, just like yours – MAKE ME EAT AGAIN.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump's Tax Cut Cut - 15 million dollars each year, just like yours

A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

Bee Sting Allergic Reaction Health Care Experience Number Three

On Monday, July 17, 2017, I was stung by a yellow jacket. I am allergic to bee stings and the like. This is the third time I had been stung by a bee since I found out that I was allergic to bee stings [see here for account and poem about previous bee sting]. If untreated, a bee sting would cause anaphylactic shock and probably death. The first line of treatment for bee stings in people who are allergic to bee stings is an injection of epinephrine. This can prevent the onset of anaphylactic shock.

Fortunately, I had an epinephrine autoinjector. Unfortunately, this autoinjector had been expired for two years. I had not refilled a prescription for a new epinephrine autoinjector, since the most common brand, Epipen, which has 95% of the United States market, has in recent years been price gouging consumers who rely on such a life-saving device and insurance companies who may pay for it. I could not bring myself to be held hostage to a price gouging pharmaceutical company, even though my insurance would pay 100% of the cost. Since acquiring the company that manufactured EpiPens, the new company (Mylan) kept raising the price until it was 600% more than the original price. Such entrepreneurial genius was rewarded even more by granting the CEO of the new company a 700% pay increase. Not being a complete fool, I had researched if expired epinephrine autoinjectors retained their effectiveness past their expiration date. I found that given reasonable storage temperatures, the bulk of their effectiveness was maintained even years past the expiration date. Thus, I decided to wait until alternative products were available or until the offending price gouging company made their price reasonable.

So, back to the story. After being stung, I looked quickly in the neighbors driveways to see if a car was there and somebody might be home who might be able to drive me to the emergency room. No such luck. So, I injected myself with the epinephrine autoinjector. Since I don’t have a car, I rode my bike to the emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital about a mile and a third from my home where I was stung. It was a nice sunny day in the low 80s. I rode there vigorously on my bike. I was feeling pretty well and had no welts blooming like in my two previous bee sting occurrences.

When I walked into the emergency room, there were two people at the desk and one clerk. After waiting a few seconds after receiving no greeting or acknowledgement of my presence, I asked if somebody was available to provide medical triage for me. I indicated that I had been stung by a bee, that I was allergic, and that I was in danger of going into anaphylactic shock. The clerk called for another person. This person turned out to be another billing clerk. This person took my personal and health insurance information and asked no information about my current emergency. This person walked me through two big double doors into a hallway where I was told to sit on a gurney and wait for help. I was left unsupervised. I was in partial line of sight of the emergency room nurses station. After sitting there for a few minutes, a man in scrubs moved into my view. I asked him if I could get some help, and asked him somewhat facetiously if this was an “emergency” room. He very nonchalantly said that he would see if somebody could assist me. Some minutes later, someone came to ask me questions. They took me into an emergency room examining room. This was about 10 minutes after I had walked through the front door.

They immediately hooked me up to many of the usual devices, such as a finger oxygen monitor, a blood pressure monitor, and EKG leads. Eventually, they gave me an IV. Apparently, my heart was racing, not too surprising since I was having a serious allergic reaction, had an epinephrine injection and a vigorous bike ride. However, the EKG showed abnormalities, which they diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is where the upper chambers of the heart send signals sporadically so smooth, coordinated, regular blood flow is impaired. My heart rate was moving back and forth from about 80 or 90 up to about 160, which is my maximal heart rate. To my knowledge, I had never previously experienced atrial fibrillation. They were concerned that this may be an underlying condition, triggered by the stress of the sting allergic reaction, and/or the epinephrine, possibly in conjunction with vigorous exercise. I indicated to the nurse that if I should die that they should throw my dead body on the lawn of the corporate headquarters of the pharmaceutical company practicing price gouging for epinephrine autoinjectors, i.e., EpiPen made by Mylan pharmaceuticals.

While they were monitoring the atrial fibrillation situation, they asked if I wanted an ice pack for the bee sting site on the back of my hand which was red and swollen. I said “sure.” They brought in an elongated icepack about 3 inches wide and 15 inches long. Oddly, the covering seem to be somewhat insulated so the cold didn’t seem very cold. The physician noted that this device was meant for another purpose — though she did not indicate what purpose. My hand wasn’t suffering too badly so I didn’t worry about it much. It just struck me oddly that’s some ice in a plastic bag would have done nicely at probably a thousandth of the cost.

At about 50 minutes after arriving in the emergency room, I was given prednisone, a steroid to keep the swelling down and fight back the allergic reaction. Fortunately, I was not blooming in welts as in my two earlier experiences with bee sting reactions, both of which were not initially treated immediately with epinephrine.

Their primary concern seemed to be the atrial fibrillation, which they continued to monitor. I half-jokingly submitted that the atrial fibrillation may simply be due to my broken heart over the Senate Republican health care bill. The doctor did not disagree. The supervising physician first recommended that I’d be admitted for further testing and observation. After some questioning about the nature of this, I pushed back somewhat, partially based on my two previous experiences at the same ER and hospital where I was hospitalized for further testing and observation and my experience proved that this was not useful and perhaps even hampered by treatment and recovery. I have recorded one of these bee sting experiences elsewhere in my blog.

Eventually, after the atrial fibrillation did not resolve on its own, they gave me some heart medicine, and within five minutes or so, my heart settled down. While this atrial fibrillation event lasted for quite a while, perhaps an hour and a half or so, I was feeling pretty well physically and mentally, with only one five or 10 second bout of heart racing where I felt moderately distressed — but, then again, I don’t get distressed too easily.

The doctor indicated that my thyroid stimulating hormone test was high normal, that is, 4.75 in a normal range of 0.5 to 5.0. They thought that this might be a possible indicator for low thyroid activity which could contribute to an atrial fibrillation condition. They asked that I be retested in three months. They were encouraged by the fact that I had no other risk factors and was in excellent general health.

They ended up discharging me without any additional request for my hospitalization. This pleased me. I was glad to be saved a day locked up in a hospital. I was glad to have likely saved the health care system another few thousand dollars. Plus, I was planning to attend a health-care protest the following day at noon, where I had planned to read a poem I composed specifically for that event, dedicated to our own Sen. Rob Portman, who has been equivocating over how many millions of Americans losing their health insurance is acceptable.

In the discharge process, I requested a refill prescription of my epinephrine autoinjector, given that it was a generic or less expensive competitor than from the EpiPen manufacturers. I indicated that I had done some research on this before, and that if they wrote the prescription more generically such as epinephrine autoinjector rather than by a brand name, then a less expensive version may be available. They researched this and discovered that only one local pharmacy chain carried a less expensive version. This wasn’t my usual pharmacy, but it was about the same distance from my home. The less expensive version was $109 versus the up to $600 for the EpiPen.

I am very grateful that this bee sting occurrence ended up being less serious as far as the allergic reaction than in my two previous occurrences.  Apparently, my two-year expired epinephrine autoinjector worked just fine. I’ll have to wait and see if this atrial fibrillation occurrence is due to an underlying condition or simply brought on by the very stressful conditions of an allergic reaction, epinephrine and vigorous exercise. I am still aghast that in none of the three times I’ve gone to this same emergency room have I received prompt medical triage. It seems to me that without prompt medical triage, it is somewhat difficult to actually consider your emergency room an actual “emergency” room. Sadly, they are quite efficient at getting your billing information promptly, but it as to dealing quickly with whatever emergency you are presenting with, that is another and another and another story.

POEM: Cruel After Math — Owed to Sen. Rob Portman’s Health Care Vote

What kind?
Of cruel after-math
Is Sen. Portman working up
The American people
Facing death
Bye the tens of thousands
Buy the tens of billions
For tax cuts
For the richest Americans
For loaded corporations drunk on power
What is owed
To the flush and the flushed
To the affluent and the effluent
How does this add up?
What is the take away?
Is this the American will?
The right to health care
Or merely the extreme right of congress
Into an afterlife
Leaving loved wons behind
And nothing else
A cruel after-math
It’s your cull
A nation divided
Halves and halve nots
And what might
You be culpable of
Americans may ever no
Of a partisan’s last will and testament
Sow telling
In the ends
And the means
Of congress
And its reverse
Progress

This is the poem that I read at today’s health care protest outside of Sen. Rob.Portman’s Toledo office (see video of poetry reading).  A large laminated version of the above poem was delivered to his office.  There were an estimated 45-45,000 protesters.  In the photo below, I am pictured in the center next to “Flat Rob,” a cutout of Sen. Portman that we use to conduct our own town hall meetings on the street, since Sen. Portman does not see it fit to hold official town hall meetings with his constituents.

Sen. Rob Portman Health Care Protest

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom”

In the continuing health care debacle known as senate Republicans trying to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, please enjoy my latest take with this free poster: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom.”

Just when you thought the senate Republican so-called health care bill couldn’t get any worse, along comes Sen. Ted Cruz, who was successful in getting a lethal change in the new version — which allows unregulated insurance plans, essentially making it impossible for Obamacare insurance exchange to function as designed.  As succinctly put,”The new Senate health bill is terrible for anyone who is sick, has been sick, or will be sick.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) may be against this new worse bill but he is being obtuse, still trying to play both sides and be “independent.”  I’ve got news for you Mr. Portman, when there is a civil war over health care, threatening each year to kill tens of thousands of Americans, you can’t carve out neutrality — even famously neutral Switzerland has universal health care!

Feel free to share or print out this poster in your efforts to stop Republican meddling with America’s health care!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob "Lincoln" Portman - The Grate Emancipator - "And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom"

This is the latest addition to my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series of free posters.  I won’t stop my parody until we have parity!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman’s closest health care ally, DEATH, making a critical point regarding his constituents: “I WANT YOU!”

This free poster reveals Sen. Rob Portman’s closest health care ally, DEATH, making a critical point regarding his constituents: “I WANT YOU!”  Sen. Portman is showing cruel ambivalence toward the senate Republican killer health care bill.  Tens of thousands of dead Americans each year still seems to be in the ballpark of acceptable for Sen. Portman.  Sen. Rob Portman, kill the bill, not your constituents!

Feel free to share or print out this free political poster.FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman's closest health care ally makes a critical point regarding his constituentsThis is yet another in my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series of free posters.  Many more to come, so stay tuned…

POEM: Nonpartisan Shootings

Weather running the country
In too the ground
Or playing hardball
So well practiced
America pines
For that national past time
And return to nonpartisan shootings

The shooting on a baseball field full of Republican congressmen and staffers has jacked up partisan wranglings and a united front of buy partisan preyer.  STOP [with bullet hole as O] POLITICAL BUTTONOf coarse, violence is the ultimate partisan activity, fashioning stiff lines between life and death, conveniently favoring won’s life over an other.  Our national celebrity worship teams with hour enduring desire too be led to brake through our collective amnesia over mass shootings daily reeking havoc among mere pee-ons. Gun violins unremarkably persist as congress works to legalize silencers — strange, I never heard that.  In the end, for whatever end, I am agin gun violence, agin and agin and agin…

Feel free to browse anti-gun violence designs.

NRA Not Representing America POLITICAL BUTTONGuns Don't Kill, Gaping Holes in Vital Organs Do POLITICAL BUTTONGet Real, Like Jesus Would Ever Own A Gun And Vote Republican POLITICAL BUTTON

Guns Are Not Pro-Life POLITICAL BUTTONIf Guns Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Accidentally Shoot Their Children - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONGuns Don't Die People Do PEACE BUTTON

 

Self-Made Trump Has A Fool For A Maker

In Trumpian fashion, fool of irony, I quote myself: “A self-made man has a fool for a maker.”  The man-child known as Donald Trump runs roughshod over the boundaries of lesser fools.  He fashions his fashion as the boss of a collapsing world, his world, his collapsing world.  If Trump where to know God, he would know himself — he knows neither.  His self-masturbatory god head is a lonely impossibility, even in his hugely culpable hands and with such a big mouth — something is missing, however compelled he is to grab it.  The loneliness of this pitiful and pitiless man is captured well in the essay by Rebecca Solnit, THE LONELINESS OF DONALD TRUMP: ON THE CORROSIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE MOST MOCKED MAN IN THE WORLD, with excerpts below:

Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more. He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires. He got a boost at the beginning from the wealth handed him and then moved among grifters and mobsters who cut him slack as long as he was useful, or maybe there’s slack in arenas where people live by personal loyalty until they betray, and not by rules, and certainly not by the law or the book. So for seven decades, he fed his appetites and exercised his license to lie, cheat, steal, and stiff working people of their wages, made messes, left them behind, grabbed more baubles, and left them in ruin.

He was supposed to be a great maker of things, but he was mostly a breaker. He acquired buildings and women and enterprises and treated them all alike, promoting and deserting them, running into bankruptcies and divorces, treading on lawsuits the way a lumberjack of old walked across the logs floating on their way to the mill, but as long as he moved in his underworld of dealmakers the rules were wobbly and the enforcement was wobblier and he could stay afloat. But his appetite was endless, and he wanted more, and he gambled to become the most powerful man in the world, and won, careless of what he wished for…

…The child who became the most powerful man in the world, or at least occupied the real estate occupied by a series of those men, had run a family business and then starred in an unreality show based on the fiction that he was a stately emperor of enterprise, rather than a buffoon barging along anyhow, and each was a hall of mirrors made to flatter his sense of self, the self that was his one edifice he kept raising higher and higher and never abandoned.

I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. That’s how it’s lonely at the top. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures…

We keep each other honest, we keep each other good with our feedback, our intolerance of meanness and falsehood, our demands that the people we are with listen, respect, respond—if we are allowed to, if we are free and valued ourselves. There is a democracy of social discourse, in which we are reminded that as we are beset with desires and fears and feelings, so are others; there was an old woman in Occupy Wall Street I always go back to who said, “We’re fighting for a society in which everyone is important.” That’s what a democracy of mind and heart, as well as economy and polity, would look like…

…Some use their power to silence that and live in the void of their own increasingly deteriorating, off-course sense of self and meaning. It’s like going mad on a desert island, only with sycophants and room service. It’s like having a compliant compass that agrees north is whatever you want it to be. The tyrant of a family, the tyrant of a little business or a huge enterprise, the tyrant of a nation. Power corrupts, and absolute power often corrupts the awareness of those who possess it. Or reduces it: narcissists, sociopaths, and egomaniacs are people for whom others don’t exist.

We gain awareness of ourselves and others from setbacks and difficulties; we get used to a world that is not always about us; and those who do not have to cope with that are brittle, weak, unable to endure contradiction, convinced of the necessity of always having one’s own way. The rich kids I met in college were flailing as though they wanted to find walls around them, leapt as though they wanted there to be gravity and to hit ground, even bottom, but parents and privilege kept throwing out safety nets and buffers, kept padding the walls and picking up the pieces, so that all their acts were meaningless, literally inconsequential. They floated like astronauts in outer space.

Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.

A man who wished to become the most powerful man in the world, and by happenstance and intervention and a series of disasters was granted his wish. Surely he must have imagined that more power meant more flattery, a grander image, a greater hall of mirrors reflecting back his magnificence. But he misunderstood power and prominence. This man had bullied friends and acquaintances, wives and servants, and he bullied facts and truths, insistent that he was more than they were, than it is, that it too must yield to his will. It did not, but the people he bullied pretended that it did. Or perhaps it was that he was a salesman, throwing out one pitch after another, abandoning each one as soon as it left his mouth. A hungry ghost always wants the next thing, not the last thing.

This one imagined that the power would repose within him and make him great, a Midas touch that would turn all to gold. But the power of the presidency was what it had always been: a system of cooperative relationships, a power that rested on people’s willingness to carry out the orders the president gave, and a willingness that came from that president’s respect for rule of law, truth, and the people. A man who gives an order that is not followed has his powerlessness hung out like dirty laundry. One day earlier this year, one of this president’s minions announced that the president’s power would not be questioned. There are tyrants who might utter such a statement and strike fear into those beneath him, because they have installed enough fear.

A true tyrant does not depend on cooperative power but has a true power of command, enforced by thugs, goons, Stasi, the SS, or death squads. A true tyrant has subordinated the system of government and made it loyal to himself rather than to the system of laws or the ideals of the country. This would-be tyrant didn’t understand that he was in a system where many in government, perhaps most beyond the members of his party in the legislative branch, were loyal to law and principle and not to him. His minion announced the president would not be questioned, and we laughed. He called in, like courtiers, the heads of the FBI, of the NSA, and the director of national intelligence to tell them to suppress evidence, to stop investigations and found that their loyalty was not to him. He found out to his chagrin that we were still something of a democracy, and that the free press could not be so easily stopped, and the public itself refused to be cowed and mocks him earnestly at every turn.

A true tyrant sits beyond the sea in Pushkin’s country. He corrupts elections in his country, eliminates his enemies with bullets, poisons, with mysterious deaths made to look like accidents—he spread fear and bullied the truth successfully, strategically. Though he too had overreached with his intrusions into the American election, and what he had hoped would be invisible caused the whole world to scrutinize him and his actions and history and impact with concern and even fury. Russia may have ruined whatever standing and trust it has, may have exposed itself, with this intervention in the US and then European elections.

The American buffoon’s commands were disobeyed, his secrets leaked at such a rate his office resembled the fountains at Versailles or maybe just a sieve (this spring there was an extraordinary piece in the Washington Post with thirty anonymous sources), his agenda was undermined even by a minority party that was not supposed to have much in the way of power, the judiciary kept suspending his executive orders, and scandals erupted like boils and sores. Instead of the dictator of the little demimondes of beauty pageants, casinos, luxury condominiums, fake universities offering fake educations with real debt, fake reality tv in which he was master of the fake fate of others, an arbiter of all worth and meaning, he became fortune’s fool.

He is, as of this writing, the most mocked man in the world. After the women’s march on January 21st, people joked that he had been rejected by more women in one day than any man in history; he was mocked in newspapers, on television, in cartoons, was the butt of a million jokes, and his every tweet was instantly met with an onslaught of attacks and insults by ordinary citizens gleeful to be able to speak sharp truth to bloated power….

…The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence. He must know somewhere below the surface he skates on that he has destroyed his image, and like Dorian Gray before him, will be devoured by his own corrosion in due time too. One way or another this will kill him, though he may drag down millions with him. One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall. Another dungheap awaits his landing; the dung is all his; when he plunges into it he will be, at last, a self-made man.

HOPE POEM: Hope Can Be

Hope can be
Like an animal cornered by a predator
Fighting for life
Hope can be
Like a wisp of smoke
Wafting through the claws of enemies
Hope can be
Like adore number three
A seeding that grand prize of a lifetime
Byway of a constellation prize
Cheep in hand
Not enough to beguile
A way from blazing stars twinkling upon us
Sow far a weigh
Invisible during daze
Soully to serve
That first class purpose
Best suited
Naked to the night
And inextinguishable light

Hope is a common thread in my poems, even in those that deal with brutal injustices.  This poem offers several facets of hope.  Got Hope SPIRITUAL BUTTONHope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONFirst, hope can come in the invigorating immediacy of a direct threat where life is literally at stake.  The awakening of purpose in such situations offers a clarity that is often lost in the muddled vagaries of life.  I see hope in this.  Second, hope can appear as a calm, centered, and artfully wise bypassing of confrontations where violence has the upper hand.  This kind of hope lives within a set of rules not dictated by one’s enemies.  Thirdly, this poem lifts up hope rooted soully in undying truths that can fuel patience for life and fearless courage in efface of death.  As hope wends through our lives, and life itself, may we be bound as won accord as we experience hope’s many threads.

POEM: Just Dew It

Round
Mid night
Countless drops
Fall free
In to the loving alms
Of Mother Earth
Making a mud pact
With trees, meadow, and flower
To dew wet sow ever
They thirst for

Life has an incredible capacity for renewal.  As the snows begin falling in this winter season, this poem can serve as a reminder that we are one day closer to spring.  They can cut all the flowers, but they can never stop the spring -- Pablo Neruda quote POLITICAL BUTTONEven spring in awe of its glory is not my favorite season, due primarily to its muckiness.  I, as most humans, have an incredible capacity to see what I don’t like about something.  As winners of discontent, it is easy to see the parent flaws in creation, weather it be subzero temps or mucky life springing forth.  Nonetheless, in life’s absences or parent death, summer in due course rounds the coroner transcending hour brutal figurings.  Even fall has a frolicsome way of upstaging the looming death weave awe faced.  Still, the con founding cycles of loss and renewal, life and death, seem to fallow us through life.  After witnessing countless of these cycles, how many more must we witness to deem them reliable, trustworthy?

I am a fan of the simple comic genius of the movie, Being There, a more spare forerunner to Forrest Gump.  This movie is a conflagration of innocent naivete and mighty inanity.  In Being There, starring peter Sellers, as Even on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile. Deng Ming-Dao quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON“a simple-minded gardener named Chance has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television. After a run in with a limousine, he ends up a guest of a woman (Eve) and her husband Ben, an influential but sickly businessman. Now called Chauncey Gardner, Chance becomes friend and confidante to Ben, and an unlikely political insider.”  A signature dialogue in the movie juxtaposes the simple experience of a gardener, naive in the ways of the world, with the dinnertime musings of Washington power brokers:

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.Raise your words, not voice; it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder -- Rumi quote POLITICAL BUTTON
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hmm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

God reigns on…the just and the unjust.  It is hours to thirst for righteousness and feed the dewy dreams of one another:  To dew wet sow ever/They thirst for.

POEM: Unforgettable

She was a spark
Spanning but instant generations
Clothed in stardust
Naked to that place before birth and after death
As thought of God
Less of a dream
More of a smile
Merging within that space-time continuum
On the face of awe that is
A hopeful fuel
In the tinderest of worlds
As an owed flame
Meeting for the first time
Caught up
Not in making memories
Sow much as the unforgettable

This poem is about human life lived in the presents of our mystical or divine nature which is both immediate and ceaseless.   To love another person is to see the face of God. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThe joy and assurance of ever-fresh possibilities and abiding, sublime companionship sets the bar much higher for what a full life encompasses.  A full life is leavened by unforgettable experiences more sow than a mere collection of memories.  Life is more fully characterized by lively experiences than sheer existence.  This poem seeks to present a daringly dual encounter of both first love and oldest friend, the simultaneous experience of the freshness of emerging love and the comfort of a steadfast confidant.  May your life be steeped in such marvelous moments.

Being A hopeful fuel/In the tinderest of worlds speaks to the vulnerability of unabashed hope and irrepressible joy in a world that is far too fixated on command and control, and is busied with armor more than amour.  May love overwhelm your every defense.  May your life be less about getting and more about un-forgetting.

Got Joy SPIRITUAL BUTTON

HOPE POEM: Why God Invented Dark

God invented dark
As a respite
From high noon
That searing sun
Of which mortal men are made
To see
Sow much more
Innumerable lofty stars
Unseen in mere day dreams
Beyond won’s highest hopes
Awe at once
A mist unbelievably rare life
Thou dust hold together
Awe that matters
When noonday returns

Here is yet another poem about hope, just in case you may need to re-stock, or stock up.  Life is replete with cycles.  Only in the darkness can you see the stars. MLK QUOTE BUTTONDay and night, sleep and wakefulness.  Opposites teem in a paradox packed reality.  Belief and skepticism are life-long dance partners.  Our quest for unity requires acceptance of diversity.  The immeasurable value of life is most evident in the face of death.

Taoists seem to have the keenest awareness of the importance of opposites and their complimentary nature.  That the nature of something is inextricably bound to its opposite, or even comes from its opposite, is mind-boggling.  The mind reaches one of its natural limits when it comes to logical contradictions.  Of course, the Taoists’ purpose is not to jar the mind, but un-jar the mind — and free up the heart.

Hope is the purview of the heart.  Hope may not make cents for those demanding a foolproof return on their investment.  Delving into the vital depths of paradoxes and life’s necessary contradictions is not for the fainthearted.  Wholehearted living demands assent and even gusto in the thralls of uncertainty and unpredictability in order to make the most of life.  Hope is the life-blood of an entrepreneurial life spirit.  The attachment to conventional power — those well-known levers of control — and the insistence on dominion over others, is the nemesis of hope.  Hope arises from a place beyond mere control.  Hope, awash in possibility, is an existential reality ever-present on the threshold of human life.

For many, the contemporary context for this poem is a looming Donald Trump presidency.  Many fear that their existence may be taxed beyond bearing.  This is undoubtedly true for some.  Still, the contrasting values brought forth by the Don’s cartel will as surely offer high relief.  Once Game Over King and Pawn Go Back in Same Box -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTONStarker choices can favor moral humans as much or more than amoral or immoral humans.  If you want presumed victory, take the sociopath, limiting the struggle to the well-worn levers of control.  If you want more, let your heart take hope, take time to see the light amidst the darkness, and listen intently to whatever maybe herd for the duration of human game.

POEM: Gordian Knot — Owed To Mother Hope

Reality can be a mother
Halving given
Cynicism wide berth
Big brother
Too hope
A mist
Crying incessantly
And the crapping of won’s pants
Entrapped
Flanked by sterility and fertility
Fenced buy utility and futility
Until something
Something all inspiring
Ever knew
But barely seed
Shh
It happens
As springing from dis illusion
And groan together
From that exasperating brood
In awe
That kin be done
And what might be
A parent
Or knot

This poem arose this day from the comment of a friend who did not see hope where I saw some, and yet he still hopes.  As a poet, I often see humanity in an epic struggle between cynicism and hope.  Idealists Raze Hell -- POLITICAL BUTTONHell is where hope is abandoned, to allude to Dante.  Heaven is where hope flourishes.  Hope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONAs John Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher and author, wrote famously in his play, No Exit, “Hell is other people.”  Know argument here.  Of course, I wholed to the other half of truth, as well: Heaven is other people.  Solidarity trumps alienation.  Hope is the better portion of reality, that mother that teaches us sow much.  Those caught in the mine of this earth may argue quite rationally that hope is the leanest in the efface of the meanest.  Still, hope strikes me as both the lightest and most profound portion in the efface of darkness.  Life and death.  Heaven and Hell.  Hope and cynicism.  The thin line between genius and insanity is less of a border than a union. Stuart Hayes quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWho dares dance in their mist?  Many people at most times choose to fight over merely what they halve — that is given.  Fortunately, we don’t have to live in most times.  We only have to live in the present.  Let hope be the present.

As I am prone to obscure references, I must note the meaning of Gordian knot, though you may myth the point with or without it.  A Gordian knot is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) solved easily by loophole or “thinking outside the box” (“cutting the Gordian knot”):

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Gordian knot was an extremely complicated knot tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia in Asia Minor. Located in the city of Gordium, the knot came to symbolize a difficult problem that was almost impossible to solve.

According to legend, Gordius was a peasant who married the fertility goddess Cybele. When Gordius became king of Phrygia, he dedicated his chariot to Zeus and fastened it to a pole with the Gordian knot. Although the knot was supposedly impossible to unravel, an oracle predicted that it would be untied by the future king of Asia.

Many individuals came to Gordium to try to undo the knot, but they all failed. Then, according to tradition, the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great visited the city in 333 B . C . After searching unsuccessfully for the hidden ends of the Gordian knot, Alexander became impatient. In an unexpected move, he took out his sword and cut through the knot. Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them. Albert Einstein quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONAlexander then went on to conquer Asia, thus fulfilling the oracle’s prophecy. Alexander’s solution to the problem led to the saying, “cutting the Gordian knot,” which means solving a complicated problem through bold action.

May you live in the won reality where everything is knot as it seams.

POEM: Human Beans In A Chili World

What’s too like
To be
Human beans
In a chili world
Offering ourselves
As nourishing fare
In the face of
Ingrate full consumers
Somehow besting
Our pre-sumptuous purpose
Of going to seed
And razing our own
Only to be
Food agin and agin
As brood over
What incite us
And what has meaning
At the end of your daze
Is the same
What’s eating you
Those unpleasant spitting images

This poem is an ode to one of the deepest paradoxes in life: that you must lose your life in order to gain it.  No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for. MLK QUOTE BUTTONSuch a paradox is replete with metaphors of seeds, death and resurrection, of sacrificing that of great value for that of greater value.  Plus, in life there is no dress rehearsal: we won’t be food again!  Of course, that perplexing aspect of human life which is infinitely complicated is humans: ungrateful, self-centered, and irreducibly exasperating.  In my view, the best way to see more clearly in the fun-house mirror that is human life is to cultivate self-awareness of psychological projection, the powerful and cunning tendency to attribute to others what is subconscious in ourselves, particularly the bad stuff.  In laymen’s terms: spot it you got it!  Of course, such cultivation is mirror reflection if there isn’t any skin in the game — little is harvested with simply good intentions.  Pacifism - A Way of Life - Man Does Not Die By Bled Alone -- PEACE BUTTONSelf-sacrifice is inescapable if we are to unearth enduring meaning rather than perpetual mean-ings on earth.  The ubiquity of iniquity, the proclivity to project our own evil onto others (“Those unpleasant spitting images”) is the tragic root of writing people off as chaff rather than cultivating seed.  Would You Die For Common Ground PEACE BUTTONThe paradoxical solution is that by becoming food for others, and — as in vice versa — by becoming food for ourselves, we are awe saved.  Such wonderment eternally returns me to loving my enemy, a journey that can only be made within one’s self and never without others.  I find this mysterious process at the heart of social action — the nexus of the inner and outer journeys, joined at the hip — perhaps most succinctly described in the social activist creed and Mexican  Zapatista proverb: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Or, in an earlier version, from the Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos:  “What didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot that I was a seed.”  The counterculture reality embodied by Mr. Christianopoulos was as a homoerotic poet in the 1950’s, accompanied by its commensurately dangerous seed.  Whatever you may offer as a human bean in this chili world, may it be nourishing fare.

Old Hippies Never Die We Just Flower Year After Year POLITICAL BUTTON