How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Americans Are Assholes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; upcoming political elections. People are yelling and screaming and disagreeing and calling one another names like “idiot” and “moron”. I’ve never really understood the name calling as part of our democratic process. If someone doesn’t agree with you I don’t think calling them names is going to magically make them see the light and come over to YOUR side.  “Wow, this person just called me a moron so I must be wrong about everything I think. I will give this person hot doughnuts for helping me see the error of my ways”.

Throw into this grand mix a few thousand refugees who are fleeing a war torn, decimated country (that WE have had a hand in creating) and you’ve really got a show to rival anything ever conceived on Broadway.  I am expecting any moment for someone to take a chisel and chip away the words engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty. You know those words? That whole “Give me your tired, your huddled masses” thing?  The words to that poem for the 21st century America should read something along the lines of: 

Not like the brazen giant of capitalistic fame,
With conquering limbs astride from Wall Street to Silicon Valley;
Here at our BP-oil washed, smoggy gates shall stand
A paranoid woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Go-Away. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide scorn; her suspicious eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Stay in your war torn lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With tight lips. "Give me your Christian, your bootstrap able,
Your low wage masses yearning to breathe McDonald’s grease,
But the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to refugee camps,
I lift my lamp beside the locked door!"

Am I crazy? Do I not understand that terrorists could be hiding amongst those refugees? Do I not understand that the children of these refugees could grow up to bomb a town in Wisconsin or Ohio? Do I not understand that the refugees are going to destroy American Christian values with their Sharia law? Do I not understand that Halal law could effectively close down Big B’s BarBQ restaurants? Yes, I know, I know. Paranoia run rampant (you still thinking you’re going to end up in a FEMA camp, right?). Are we really going to keep professing that Christianity is such a great loving religion and keep harping that the U.S of A IS a Christian nation, but in the next breathe refuse to admit to our shores a small fraction of homeless, war torn, cold, hungry refugees based on unmitigated fear that we allowed to take root and bloom?

 Yeah, I know, “Why isn’t Saudi taking them?, “Why isn’t the UAE taking them?”, Why isn’t Qatar taking them?”. I used the same logic before I realized that argument isn’t logical at all but childish selfishness. As a teacher nothing drives me crazier than when I get onto a student for some misbehavior and the first thing that student utters is, “Well INSERT NAME is doing it and you’re not getting onto them.” Let me cry you a river, kiddo. WE are supposed to better than THEM, remember?

Our country was founded on taking chances. It is in our DNA. We are the ancestors of the persecuted, the slaves, the down trodden, the hungry, the stateless. We are Irish and English and Scottish and African and Cuban and Chinese and German and Egyptian and Japanese and Filipino and every other nationality one can think of.  America has long been famous for being the Melting Pot of the world. And being a melting pot is what all Americans have to thank for our advanced technology and medical research. Americans take chances and reach further into the unknown than others dare to, and the more anyone tells us we “can’t” then we somehow “do.” THAT is what being an American is all about. Or used to be. Or maybe it never was and I am living in a past that never existed because I was told over and over again while I was growing up that that is who and what Americans are.. 

Back to the refugees: If you take the time to educate yourself about the process these refugees would have to go through to even be considered for entry into this country, the whole “I want to protect my country” argument starts to fall apart.  Notice I wrote the word educate. That doesn’t mean reading one news story in one news source and then proclaiming yourself informed.  How did we come to be what we are? How did we come to look upon another group of people and hate them simply for the way they look or for their religion or for the fact that they want a better life? America has become a country of “It’s mine and you can’t have it,” all the way from the 1% down to the lowest person on the economic ladder. 

We don’t want to share. We don’t want to give. We want our 155 channels, our new cars, our specialty grocery stores, our green lawns, our new patios, and our shiny new smart phones and we could give two shits if another human being is going hungry or going without needed medication or has a decent education or a warm house in winter. Hell, we don’t even take care of our own in the U.S.A so whatever makes people like me think that America would be willing to show some human compassion towards nameless, faceless refugees from a land far away? And you think that America is still the land of The American Dream?  Take a long drive through the Mississippi Delta, the lesser known streets of Detroit and Philadelphia, and the outreaches of the Appalachian Mountains and then tell me that America is the land of opportunity and equality.  America has become the land of assholes. And I apologize to the world for that. I’m sorry we are assholes. And yes, I just resorted to name calling, but I included myself. 

Happy early holidays everyone…. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

In the Shadow of Alzheimer's

I read a CNN story today of one man's battle with Alzheimer’s and his unique ways of being able to actually describe what he is going through. Mr. Sandy Halperin, like my father did in his early to moderate stages of the disease, uses his intellect and creativity to compensate for the disease. My dad did that: that is why he was able to hide what was happening to him for so long. There is such an twisted irony in the fact that Alzheimer’s often strikes people who exhibit high intellect and creativity.

Mr. Halperin talks of feeling like cotton is stuffed in the front part of his brain. He talks and then pauses, his train of thought erased in a millisecond.  All too familiar patterns I saw in my father. Dad used to refer constantly to a whisk broom in his brain literally sweeping information and brain connections away. Dad could be sitting watching t.v or eating dinner and he would suddenly say, "That broom is back."  He could hear it inside his head. The entire family knew what he was talking about because he had explained it to us so many times.  Unfortunately my dad also had Parkinson’s that affected his ability to speak. Mr. Halperin is able to articulate well what he is going through. My dad couldn’t. He would stutter and stammer and maybe finally blurt out a few words of a sentence. My family and I were always playing a sort of sad game of charades.  If I could have had anything while dad was still in the moderate stages of the disease I would have asked for his ability to speak to be restored. I missed out on so many important conversations with him that I would have liked to have had. But, in spite of, and because of, Dad’s dysphasia, he learned to talk with his facial expressions and his eyes and his body language. And sometimes that communication was louder and clearer than any words could ever have been.  Until a year and half before his death he was still able to whisper “I love you” in my ear when he hugged me. Eventually he was only able whisper the word, “love” but I knew what he meant. Then it was only the hug, but I could still hear him say “I love you”.

It has been two years and almost three months since dad died. I can actually write the word “died” now instead of referring to it as one of the many euphemisms our language supplies for death; “he passed on” or “he left us” or “we lost him”.  He died. Plain and simple, the way all of us are one day going to die.  Now I can admit that. I can look at photographs of my dad and smile, I can remember how his eyes would twinkle (I swear, they twinkled, that is not a figure of speech), I can remember him grilling his famous Fourth of July hamburgers. I can remember him sitting over his steel guitar hour after hour trying to get a portion of song to sound just right (and he always did). I can remember a lot now and not be sad. Time is taking care of that deep grief and gifting me with all the good memories. My heart still has am empty place and I still miss him so much that it is a sharp ache in the center of chest that feels like a stone, but I can work around the weight of that stone now and smile at the memories.

 Dad didn’t want us telling people that he had Alzheimer’s because he didn’t want them to treat him any differently. And he was right. After people found out he had Alzheimer’s they did treat him differently. They treated him like a child and he wasn’t a child. He was a grown man who knew that parts of his brain and his self were being slowly eaten away. Maybe with more education and knowledge and with people like Sandy Halpern coming forth the fears will be eased and others will be able to understand how vital it is to keep on relating to the person with Alzheimer’s as a person instead of a disease.

Back to Mr. Halperin and HIS story. I hope that the stories of people like Sandy Halperin can offer more insight into the disease and lead to more understanding. His story is important.

My thoughts are with the Halperin family because I truly know what it is like to watch someone you love sink into this disease. And I thank you for telling your story, Mr. Halperin. You told it with dignity, grace, and gave a peek into your daily struggles that will enable others to dispel the many fallacies about Alzheimer’s that simply are just that: fallacies.

Please take a moment to click on the link below and read Sandy Halpern's story.