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

Chris Hedges’ Interviews Noam Chomsky on Precarious State of America

Once again, Chris Hedges nails it in his article, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,’ discussing the precarious state of the current American political landscape and bringing to bear Chomsky’s rigorous and insightful analysis over the last several generations:

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered.

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” FAUX NEWS - Rich People Paying Rich People To Tell Middle Class People To Blame Poor People (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONChomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.Stop Terrorism Stop Participating in Terrorism--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever be lost.”

May we have enough hope and faith in one another to act courageously for a bold new world.

POEM: Picket Fences

More people are imprisoned
By picket fences
Than steel bars
Sometimes by splinters
Sometimes by stakes
Through the heart
Lonely in the end
To come home

Dreams of white picket fences have waylayed many more lives than prisons or jails.  The temptations of desperation and criminality that lead to prison are much more easily identified, and such temptations have obvious negative societal reactions that help keep them in check.  The temptations of materialism and comfort are much more subtle, and even more pervasive.  The structure and mores of Western civilization reinforce, even laud, such temptations.  The fact that the worldview where “greed is good” can persist at all is the best evidence for the backwardness of modern, capitalistic society.  Religious folks have commented that the greatest accomplishment of the devil is to convince you that he doesn’t exist.  This is a stunning metaphor for recognizing the powerful human tendency to downplay, ignore, or even lift to the highest value, our dark side.  Only by a steady awareness of our dark side, and a commitment to an equal compassion for ourselves and others, can we hold in check our baser instincts.  Of course, wrapping our most base instincts in dreams of white picket fences may pass for civilization, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. The sadness and disillusionment reflected in this poem is about the all-too-common reality that chasing our dreams may leave us feeling alone, even in our dream house.  May you set your eyes and heart upon the finest things in life, and wherever this leads you, may you feel at home.

POEM: Disillusionment

You say that you’re disillusioned like it’s a bad thing

My whole life I’ve heard people talk about being disillusioned in one way or another.  Not once have I heard this with anything but a negative connotation.  This one line poem alludes to another way.  Some years ago, it dawned on me that losing your illusions is a great thing.  Disillusionment may, in fact, be one of the grandest goals in life.  What greater meaning can be attained than aligning one’s life with reality, as it is, not as we happen to think it is.  And how can this happen except by letting go of our illusions?  I would like to see humanity reclaim the term disillusionment.  Will you join me in claiming an attitude of gratitude when our illusions run into reality and those illusions lose handedly?  Let’s rejoice at this inescapable process of disillusionment on the way to enlightenment and more truthful living.  Alas, hope springs eternal, even in the face of determined cynicism.

Silence Will Not Protect You

Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Pink Triangle–Gay Pride Rainbow Shop BUTTON

Your Silence Will Not Protect You - Pink Triangle--Gay Pride Rainbow Shop BUTTON

Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Pink Triangle–Gay Pride Rainbow Shop BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

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This gay pride design is a classic that was popularized during the gay community’s struggle to combat HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.  There is a mode of being that is very common in life that if we just quietly get along everything will be alright.  This may work much of the time.  This definitely does not work all the time.

While this design is specifically geared to the gay community, with its issues of coming out, speaking out, and dealing with all the crap that comes with that, this design and saying is universal for all of humanity.  You might even say that breaking out of that common mode of just quietly getting along hoping that everything will be all right is what it means to be queer!  And one queer reality is that we are all queer in one way or another.  What I mean by this is that we are all minorities in one way or another.  We are all disenfranchised in one way or another.  We were all put down in one way or another, for who we are.  It is out of this universal queer experience that speaking out becomes necessary.

Silence is not enough.  We need to communicate and assert who we are to others, particularly when who we are is different from others.  Otherwise, who we are will never be adequately taken into account by others, that is by the majority or so-called norm for any social group.  How could we expect otherwise?  This is just the groundwork and footwork that needs to be done for us to live in community, which is inherently diverse, no matter how much we may try to homogenize things.  Communicating who we are with one another is the only way that we can live together in a way that truly honors one another.  Otherwise, while we may be technically living together, we are just in the same vicinity, living in our own little realities.  Doing the hard work of speaking out and communicating with one another leads to a lot of disillusionment, that process of shedding our illusions.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that we have a choice in this matter.  Living authentically, that is, in consonance with reality, demands that we learn about the reality of others and communicate our own reality to others.  The difficulty in this is rooted in the fact that in those areas of our life where we experience fitting into the dominant norm, we have little built-in incentive to do the work of learning about minorities, those ways that others are queer.  Thus, the incentive, or burden, falls to those who are in the minority, the queers.  This will always be an uphill battle, with the less powerful doing their duty to inform the more powerful.  Fortunately, acting in consonance with reality is ultimately the most powerful way of being.  In this case, the less powerful are doing double duty by serving their own palpable interest and the less recognizable but equally important interests of those in a particular dominant norm.  If this seems somehow unfair, please remember, again, that we all have areas in our life where we are living into the dominant norm, and we all have areas in our life where we are living into a queer norm.  Thus, by recognizing this, there is a solid basis for compassion toward one another and ourselves.  In this sense, we are all in the same boat.  Normal is not normal.  We are all queer.  The seeming paradox of a queer norm is only paradoxical if we don’t recognize that we all experience one or another queer norm.  It’s just a matter of doing the hard work of sorting out our experiences of difference, and truly appreciating that difference, diversity, is as valuable as it is inescapable.  I do not believe that reality is cruel.  There is a beneficence to reality that favors the beneficent.  May we heed this reality and live into it joyfully whoever we may be.  Let the process of self and other discovery continue!

POEM: I will not insist that you misunderstand me in a certain way

POEM:

I will not insist
That you misunderstand me
In a certain way

This short poem is a mere dozen words, yet, it touches on many themes.  The primary theme of the short poem is about understanding and misunderstanding.  The secondary themes are about not insisting on one’s own way, and letting go of how others perceive you, and as the case may be, mis-perceive you.

It may seem that there are few certainties in life, but you should be able to chalk off being misunderstood as one of those eventualities.  I believe that being misunderstood is a certainty because there is an intrinsically private nature to our inner life of who we are.  In fact, I don’t believe that complete self-knowledge is even possible, so we are stuck with the least a certain amount of misunderstanding of who we really are.  The trick I suppose is to recognize this and accept it.  The poem focuses on being misunderstood by others because this is a common and palpable source of pain and confusion in our lives.  Also, from a psychological perspective, I think that there is a tendency for humans to focus on other people’s’ deficiencies and limitations, rather than to do the oftentimes difficult task of recognizing our own deficiencies and limitations and dealing directly with them.  The “not insisting” part of this poem is intended to lead the reader to let go of focusing on others.

The mention of “a certain way”, hopefully, elicits in the reader a certain sense of foolishness in our frequently vain attempts to be understood, when actually the best we may be able to do is to be misunderstood in a particular way.  Again, this foolishness is a result of not accepting the irreducible reality that some misunderstanding is inevitable.

This poem is not intended to be discouraging. It touches on an awareness of a theme that I’ve noticed in my life in recent years.  That is, that disillusionment is actually a good thing.  After all, shouldn’t we be shedding our illusions?  The negative connotation of disillusionment is pervasive.  Accepting the reality for what it is, not simply what we would like it to be, is a sign of maturity and health.  I love paradoxes!  I believe that truth lives in the neighborhood of paradox.  Paradoxically, learning to accept our own limitations and deficiencies, and the limitations and deficiencies of others, is necessary to experience and live truly free.  Just because I can’t run 100 miles an hour, doesn’t mean that I’m not free.  We should let go of illusions that distract us from actually accomplishing and living the magnificently great things that actually are within our own power.  This may not be easy, but I find it helpful.  And it gives me something to do, to pass the time with.