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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The first reading at Mass today resonated with me, especially in this fractured time we live in, with all the vitriol that has been spewed from both sides of the political spectrum.

Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call and the Lord will answer,
you shall cry for help, and He will say:
Here I am!
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

And the next verse:

Then the Lord will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.

Source: Isaiah 58:7-11 from The New American Bible.

Recently I’ve been thinking about going offline permanently, except for work. Staying away from social media, specifically. But also trying my hardest to stay away from the comments on news sites. Recently I was watching a video about President Trump’s travel ban and its implications. The comments were acerbic; the name calling was rampant. There was no opportunity for intelligent people to have a constructive conversation about the pros and cons of the ban. No opportunity to question, no opportunity to attempt to understand the other’s point of view.

Recently on Facebook, I asked a simple question about a relative’s shared post. At least I thought it was a simple question: Why didn’t President Trump include more countries in the travel ban, specifically those countries that spawned the terrorists that have attacked or tried to attack our country? I don’t understand.

And I still don’t understand. The question was never answered (at least not as of the publication date of this post). Followup comments included telling me to get my facts straight about our current vetting of refugees (I mentioned that I thought the 1.5-2 year vetting by 15 government agencies was sufficient). Another comment said that I need to “check my facts on radical Muslims attacking our shores… I need to read what’s really happening in our country. The media only tells how and what they want us to know.” But, no source was was given for these facts she speaks about. When I asked where she gets these facts about radical Muslims attacking our shores, someone else listed everything from the shoe bomber, to the underwear bomber, to the Fort Hood shooter, to the World Trade Center bombing, to the attacks in London and the attack on the USS Cole. This culminated with the comment: “Those are a few facts, would u like more.” Again, this still didn’t answer my original question. All of these bombings and shootings were committed by people who were born in countries other than the countries on the travel ban list, including by some U.S. citizens. And some weren’t even committed in this country. So, again, why didn’t President Trump include countries that have spawned terrorists who have actually attempted to or carried out attacks on our country? I may never know my relative’s thoughts on the matter (especially since this relative has since un-friended me on Facebook).

Exasperating!

I guess I should be used to this by now and not just in the political realm. Ever since I asked my teacher a math question in the first grade, and she refused to answer, the response has been the same by everyone that I’ve tried to ask a question of since. That’s largely why I stopped asking questions in school. Things did not get better in adulthood. My husband once chided me about spending too much time analyzing characters and plot lines from my favorite TV show (I’m a former English major, so analyzing characters I care about is fun for me). He says I should spend my time on learning something new. So, I asked him about the braking system on trains (he programs train simulators for a major railroad company). He never gave me an answer.

Again, Exasperating!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my father. When it came to whole groups of people and his attitude toward them, there was no denying he was a racist. More than once growing up I heard the Polish translation for the “N” word come out of his mouth. And, considering his experiences in life, I can totally understand his attitude. But, on an individual basis, once he got to know you and you got to know him, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you no matter your race or ethnic background. Not too long ago I was at an event and someone who was good friends with my father kept saying what a good man he was and what a good friend my father was to him. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this from his friends, former neighbors, and their families. It warms my heart that even after all these years (he died in 1993) his memory brings a warm feeling to so many people’s hearts. He truly was a light of the world.

We need more light in this world. A way to be that light is to get to know people who don’t look like we do, who don’t think like we do, who are in different circumstances than we are. Ask questions. Answer questions honestly. Don’t be defensive. Truly try to understand another person’s point of view. Only then I think we can stop seeing the “other”. Only then we can begin to see what we have in common, what unites us rather than what divides us.

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Leadership

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

— John Quincy Adams

 

Do our leaders, political or otherwise, live up to this standard? Something to think about…

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Finding Meaning

Recently I came across an opinion piece that I clipped from the local newspaper in Socorro, New Mexico back in 2010 when I was visiting my in-laws. I intended to write a blog post about it, but in the hub-bub of the holidays and travel I laid it aside and forgot about it until I uncovered it this week while attempting to declutter my desk.

Tom Kozeny, commenting on the then-recent 2010 mid-term election, starts out this opinion piece thus: “These days thinking men and women everywhere seem to be scratching their heads. Events around us are calling out for meaning. …What was the meaning of the recent mid-term elections?” Perhaps some of you, my readers, are thinking the same thing about this most-recent Presidential election?

From there on Mr. Kozeny waxes philosophical and doesn’t much allude to the election ever again in the opinion piece. Here are a couple of short, thought-provoking quotes I wish to share with you:

Hannah Arendt said in “The Life of the Mind,” that truth and meaning are two very different things, and that the use of reason is not just to discover the truth but meaning. In the end, we’re after the meaning of life — your life, my life, life itself.

What we need, to unpack the meaning of our world, is a vision poetic — artfully, dangerously, beautifully poetic. It alone can fathom the love in our world and the life that we live every day. …Science and prose and the technical march of the modern machine can join in. The meaning of it all only art will divine.

Source of the quotes: Kozeny, Tom, “Finding the Meaning of It All,” El Defensor Chieftain, December 22, 2010, p. 4.

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I’m currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. I came upon this passage recently:

… a person in charge of a physical asset, such as a machine, may be eager to make a good impression on his superiors. Perhaps the company is in a rapid growth stage and promotions are coming fast. So he produces at optimum levels–no downtime, no maintenance. He runs the machine day and night. The production is phenomenal, costs are down, and profits skyrocket. Within a short time, he’s promoted. Golden eggs!

But suppose you are his successor on the job. You inherit a very sick goose, a machine that, by this time, is rusted and starts to break down. You have to invest heavily in downtime and maintenance. Costs skyrocket; profits nose-dive. And who gets blamed for the loss of golden eggs? You do. Your predecessor liquidated the asset, but the accounting system only reported unit production, costs, and profit.

With the pre- and post-Great Recession economy issues fresh in my mind, thanks to all the campaign ads, this particular passage seemed especially poignaint.

Full source of the quote above: Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Fireside, New York, NY, 1989, p. 57.

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In a past blog entry I commented on the very vocal minority that want to keep religious symbols of the holidays off of public land and out of the public schools. You can read that blog post here.

A recent Rasmussen poll confirms that my views expressed on the subject are indeed views held by a majority of Americans:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 76% of adults believe religious symbols like Christmas Nativity scenes, Hanukkah menorahs and Muslim crescents should be allowed on public land. Just 13% disagree, and another 10% are undecided.

Eighty-three percent (83%) believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays. This figure includes 47% who think the schools should celebrate all religious holidays….

The United States of America is a democracy. Inherent in democratic principles is “majority rule.” If on the local level, the majority of citizens believe that religious holiday displays on city property and in their public schools is OK with them, then I think that those few advocating otherwise should not get their day in court.

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I read an article today that in one form or another comes up every year around this time of year. The full text is here. The article mentions that the Birmingham City Council (Birmingham, as in England) is considering an Equality Bill. This bill “combines all previous equality legislation in the U.K., and includes a range of new provisions.” Now, I’m all for equality, except in this sense:

“Under existing legislation,” Monsignor Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference wrote, “we have seen the development of a risk-averse culture with outcomes as ridiculous as reports of a local authority instructing tenants to take down Christmas lights in case they might offend Muslim neighbours, or of authorities removing the word Christmas out of cultural sensitivity to everyone except Christians.”

And, just so you think that the Monsignor is exaggerating, the Birmingham City Council has officially changed the name of its Tree Lighting ceremony to “Winterval.”

Does this sound familiar? In the United States, we have the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fight for people’s rights. Around this time of year they seem to concentrate that fight on trying to remove Christian or Jewish holiday symbols from city property or public schools.

This is in direct contrast to how I was brought up. I went to a public elementary school in the 1970s. Every year around this time of year in my elementary school we had inclusive holiday celebrations. Admittedly, my elementary school was not that diverse. Christians and Jews mostly. Perhaps a few non-believers. But, in deference to both Christians and Jews, we learned about Christmas and Hanukkah. We sang Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs both in music class and at our school holiday assembly. The mood was inclusive, not exclusive.

The United States of America was founded, at least in theory, on inclusivity. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a country as diverse as the whole world itself, with people from every nation and every religious background. Didn’t those who came here (remember the pilgrims anyone?) come here so that they could worship freely? Why can’t we in the 21st Century learn about other cultures and religions and embrace all that is good about them, rather than be offended by them? Why do we have to remove all symbols of this season, rather than include those of all religious faiths?

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Recently there’s been alot of debate about what will be included in the Health Care Reform Act that’s due to be passed sometime this year. In some Catholic circles the debate has centered around the inclusion of taxpayer-funded abortion and euthanasia. Yes, you read me right, some would have you believe that buried in the massive bill currently before Congress, H.R. 3200, is a sinister plot to euthanize our elderly (anyone on Medicare).

Where did this get started? Well, as part of this massive bill, there would be a requirement for anyone on Medicare to meet, in 5-year intervals, with a qualified person (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant “who has the authority under State law to sign orders for life sustaining treatments” [p. 428]) and discuss advanced directives. “Do not resuscitate orders” as some would call them. But, this is not a mandate telling Medicare patients they must sign anything saying that they want doctors to just stand around and let them die. Far from it. The bill simply mandates a CONSULTATION about end of life issues and directives. No decisions will be made except by the Medicare recipient him/herself.

“The level of treatment indicated … may range from an indication for full treatment to an indication to limit some or all or specified interventions…” [p. 430]

Clearly, as stated in this bill, the Medicare recipient can choose full treatment, including ventilators, tube feeding, etc. or he/she can choose “do not resuscitate” or anything in between.

Hardly government-mandated euthanasia.

Whether this is needed is what should be debated. I think it’s a good idea to inform people about all the options in end-of-life care ahead of time, when a person is of sound mind and body. This is the best time for a person to make the decision about what would happen if they ever got to a point where their wishes could not be communicated. This, at the very least, gives the family peace of mind knowing what Mom’s or Dad’s (or Grandma’s or Grandpa’s) decision would be in that situation. And, because the consultation is every five years, the patient can review their decisions periodically and make any changes necessary. (The consultation can also take place more often than 5 years depending on when the patient feels a review is necessary.)

Advanced directives I believe are a good thing. And, would’ve been helpful when my father was in a nursing home.

A personal story: When my father was in a nursing home back in the early 1990s, he developed an infection in his lower leg. Eventually the doctors said that the leg would have to be amputated. My father for years increasingly had trouble walking and feared the loss of his legs. He repeatedly said that he would rather die than have his legs amputated. My father was dying at this stage. He had been having mini strokes for three years prior, and a larger stroke that paralyzed him a couple of months before. He was bedridden 24/7. His pulse was so weak in one of his arms, the paramedics that took him to the hospital could not even get a pulse. Considering all this, and especially my father’s wishes not to have his leg amputated I decided against the amputation and for keeping him comfortable until he quietly passed naturally. The doctor threatened to take me to court to force my father to have the surgery. My cousin convinced me to let the surgery happen, saying that there would be no medicines that would lessen the pain of the infection and dying from the infection would be worse. My father’s leg was amputated. Surprisingly, my father survived the surgery. A week later, I got a call from a doctor’s office saying I had to take my father to his office so he could fit my father with a prosthetic leg. I couldn’t believe it. They wanted to fit a dying man, a man that’s been bedridden for months with a prosthetic leg! I refused. The doctor let that slide. A couple of weeks later the wound from the surgery got infected. Shortly after that my father died of a massive stroke and septicemia.

Another personal story: my father had to deal with end-of-life issues for a loved one too. In 1974, at the age of 38, my mother lay dying in a hospital room, on a respirator. My father begged the doctors to take her off the machines, but they refused. She lingered like that, breathing just once every minute or so, for weeks (or maybe it just seemed like weeks to her loved ones) before her heart stopped.

No one should have to fight with doctors to deny unnecessary procedures to dying family members. Granted, end-of-life care has gotten more humane since these incidents, as evidenced by my aunt’s last days in hospice in 2002. However, it’s unnecessary, costly medical procedures like the ones mentioned in my personal stories that President Obama and whoever drafted the provision for the consultations wants to avoid, or at least minimize.

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