Loyalty Is a Treasure – Disloyalty Is a Travesty

I grew up with four younger siblings.  You can imagine the constant turmoil and conflicts.  Really, what we experienced was trivial, but at the time, it seemed extreme.  Despite the changing levels of love, we were a family.  We could have our problems, but they stayed our private business.  Any threats or harm from neighborhood kids were an attack on all of us.  We took care of each other, and never disparaged a family member in public.  That is loyalty.

Loyalty can be a problematic virtue; it is a persistent, sometimes painful promise, and devoted commitment.  We possess our loyalties; we call them my friends, my family, my profession, my church, my team, our party, our country. We are ashamed or proud of them. We take risks or bear burdens for them.

Families expect it; organizations demand it; countries foster it. We expect loyalty in return.

People may forfeit our loyalty by asking us to set aside good judgment, “justifying” unethical conduct, or persistently violating our trust or shared values.

“When an organization wants you to do right, it asks for your integrity; when it wants you to do wrong, it demands your loyalty.”

Public disloyalty is a terrible betrayal; it says the worst about the betrayer.  Private quarrels, confidential problems are not disloyalty, they are getting along with people who share your values.

President Trump’s public criticism of Attorney General Sessions is embarrassing to our country and to his administration.  The crass nature of his publicized complaints violates and weakens the loyalty of his followers when loyalty is at a premium.  This was not a slip, no stealth recording; it was a New York Times interview, tweets, and press statements.  I am aghast at the whole spectacle.

Jeff Sessions was one of the most vocal supporters for Donald Trump during the campaign.  Why would Trump stab this powerful ally in the back over an act of integrity in recusing himself in the Russia/Clinton controversies?  Why this sad, rude, self-sabotage when so many important promises are waiting to be fulfilled?  I cringe when I think of how this will stain his presidency, and cripple the trust of his supporters.

Is it Important to know the sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

Would You Die to Save Your Family? – Look At This Looming Threat

Most people say yes, when asked if they would die to save even one member of their family.  There are different kinds of saving.  The medical costs of extraordinary measures to preserve vestiges of life in terminal patients are also extraordinary.  Who wants their family members to die?  Anyone?  Of course not.  WE don’t want to die either, but we will die, even though we don’t want to think about it or admit it will happen to us.

The emotional storm which comes with the prospect of death of a loved one more than fogs intellect and reason.  The brain chemistry alone prevents most people from thinking clearly.  People die despite our wishes to the contrary.  The fear, hysteria, anger, confusion, and grief renders any normal person witless.

Historically, death, by itself, did no direct harm to the survivors outside of losing the income that person produced.  But things are vastly different in 2017, when death, especially delaying inevitable death can kill the surviving family financially.  And what is life without money in our society?

But, no one thinks of this when they rush to the hospital, or hear the pronouncement that their loved one has a terminal condition. Doctors do not describe anything as terminal any more.  They use euphemisms provided by insurance companies and lawyers to give doubt and hope to the family, even though the doctors are pretty sure of the outcome.

Family members ask, “what is the prognosis?”  The only answer that is forthcoming comes when the patient is dead.  Cannot get around that one.  That is the least threatening to the families’ financial welfare.

The threat arises when “extraordinary measures” keep the body warm, even though the soul has moved on.  This penchant to “heat the meat” is driven by at least four factors: 1. Doctors do not like patients to die; 2. Families do not like family members to die; 3.  Medical technology can sustain the semblance of life with heart and lung supplements; 4.  The billings are huge.

The other side of “billings are huge” is medical bills are staggering, devastating, unpayable, and strangely enough, not the obligations of the patient, but of his “estate,” which means his family.  How many families have an extra million dollars lying around to cover giant bills?  Except for exempted items, most families lose everything and have to declare bankruptcy.  Sad but true, what the insurance company will skillfully avoid paying lands on the grieving spouse, children, parents, or whoever would be a beneficiary of his estate.

The only approaches I have heard to dealing with this threat are:

  1. Amazing, triple-source, health insurance
  2. Multi-million-dollar life insurance
  3. Planning and legal documents

I can only point you to the issues.  It is up to you to do the research and planning.  If you have not considered this issue, consider yourself warned.

CDC Gone Wild – Get the Real Monster

Highly publicized articles, including grandstanding lawsuits by states’ attorneys’ general are pandering to news hungry media and ignoring the pain inflicted on compassionate pain management. Death by dying method (drug overdose), without distinguishing source (legal vs. illegal) is a misleading abuse of authority and power.

The recent blitz campaign against opioid drugs is terribly flawed.  According to the latest official data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (as of 2015) more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015.  Sad, we lost fewer to drugs than to automobiles (38,000), plus homicide (16,000), and slightly fewer than those lost to suicides (43,000).

But of the 52,000, how many died of prescription drugs vs. illegal drugs?  Nearly, 30,000 (58%) died from prescription drugs, the balance of 22,000 (42%) died from illicit drugs.

Opioids include prescription drugs derived from opium (such as heroin), and synthetic drugs (e.g. fentanyl) which are both prescribed, and sold illegally (manufactured and sold to drug dealers).  These illegal synthetic opioids are largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths, because they are 10 to 100 times stronger than morphine.  Drug dealers mix them with heroin or other drugs to enhance the strength.  The potency is often inconsistent and unknown to the user.  Illegal fentanyl is a popular additive which is 10 times stronger than morphine.  Even a slight mismeasurement is multiplied by 10.

CDC is foreclosing options for legal, and legitimate pain medicine, even though illegal drugs are aggravating the overdose statistics.  They are implying that doctors are responsible through overprescribing opioids to pain patients.  Pain management specialists, who deal with chronic pain patients are often ignoring real suffering by undertreating the pain to avoid criticism from the CDC.

Readers who have real spine and neck problems know what pain is, even after surgery and other efforts to repair the damage.  I have talked to people just beginning treatment and surgery, who are being given glorified Advil and other ineffective drugs, when what their pain indicates is opioids.  Some people do get addicted and abuse opioids.  I do not dispute that.  But, not everyone who takes pain medicine becomes an addict, even though they depend on the relief they get from their prescriptions.  Dependency is not the same as addiction.  It does not automatically lead to ever-increasing desire for more and more.

Carfentanil is the scariest invention yet.  10,000 more powerful than morphine, this relative of fentanyl has been a recent bogeyman for illicit drug users.  Primary producer:  China (recently banned).  This drug is meant to tranquilize elephants. As little as 20 micrograms will kill you.

This scary substance is, knowingly or unknowingly, used as a cheap booster for other illegal drugs, mostly out of Mexico.  Think you are buying heroin, or meth?  Think again.  Houston police recently seized what they thought was methamphetamine and found lethal amounts of carfentanil instead.

The old days of drug abuse are officially over with the advent of this drug.  The next terrorist attack could easily be a batch of white powder.  A car bomb or suicide vest filled with this drug could kill hundreds or thousands, including first responders.

The point, let legitimate pain-management doctors do their jobs; spend the millions of dollars now devoted to opioid suppression on the true shadow of death: illegal superopiods.

 

 

 

 

Sails or Sea Anchors? – Who Do We Need as Our National Leaders?

What happens when what always works does not?  What happens to leaders who are blinded by the momentum of power from past successes?  Equally fair, what happens to leaders who are thrust into power by overreactions to the establishment?  Answer:  nothing good.

A maelstrom of entropy is looming over us, the world’s only superpower.  Quixotic tilting against objectified “evil-minded devils” fills our bandwidths.  Our national cortisol has spiked to threatening levels.  Our unity as Americans has disappeared, deflated by our own in-fighting.  Mean-spirited feuding has become our national sport.

Why, in less than two decades, have we Americans let our powerful family disintegrate from compromise and cooperation into rabid rabble-rousing, closely paralleling the vicious personal attacks, and snipes that preceded the Civil War?  Has such hyperbolic, gladiatorial nastiness become the minimum standard for political success?  Has the anonymity of virtual communications emboldened us to self-righteously attack and degrade people we do not know?

The winds of political change are blowing furiously in all directions; sails of power are becoming sea anchors of defeat; populist cannons are blasting broadside the galleons of the establishment; long-time admirals of state are too far from the shores of reconciliation to avoid going down with ships of hubris.

Who is ready to transform our thinking, our attitudes, and our beliefs about one another?  Who is ready to turn our swords into plowshares, to make peace with our greatness, and to make room for other ideas?  Who is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans and salute.  Isn’t anyone else tired of this war?

 

 

 

Fathers’ Day Is Also Sons’ Day – Sports We Learn to Play and Live

Perspective makes a huge difference.  Most men get their attitudes towards sports from their fathers.  As boys, Dad is the first, safe, ball-playing partner.  As babies, we learn to track a rolling ball with awkward, sometimes amused, unfamiliar, jerky head and eye movements.  At some point, Dad encourages us in high-pitched, baby talk, big smiles, gentle hands, giant gestures, by rolling the ball towards himself, and closing his hands on the ball in broad, wide, exaggerated pincer movements.

Then the light goes on.  We try to copy him.  Wobbly little fingers reach behind, miss, deflect, miss, and finally connect with the ball, grasping it swiftly to our eager mouths, inspecting it for edibility, like everything else at that age.

Once we discover, with some curious disappointment, and numerous bad tasting attempts, that this round thing is not good to eat, we find out its true purposes – toy, play, fun, and time with Dad.  Boys would never learn the skills they need to practice and play without their Dads.

Much of growing up as a boy relates to balls.  Nothing surprising about this, as balls connect us to our earliest ancestors’ relationships with eggs, skulls, bladders, and rocks.  Balls to roll, balls to throw, balls to catch, balls to dodge, balls to bounce, balls to kick, balls to hit with one kind of stick or another, balls to hit other balls, balls to run with.  Big balls, little balls, hard balls, soft balls, pellets, and even balls that are not round, like footballs and rugby balls.

Aside from natural sports, like wrestling, fighting, racing, catching, and spearing, almost every other “sport” involves a ball variant, (e.g. I consider a hockey puck a flat-earth-equivalent of a ball;).  Sports are mostly derived from instinctive self-defense, and evolved hunting/fishing skills. Team sports grow from coordinated hunting/fishing efforts.  Boys learn how to play as part of a team when their Dads show them the power and fun of coordinated efforts in sports.

Until our recent era, spectators were limited in number and influence; pretty much participants only. Sports “reporting” started as the successful hunter/fisher displaying the game/prize, bragging about prowess, belittling the losers; the unsuccessful quietly moaning excuses, and looking for a rematch.

The paucity of witnesses to most events led to plenty of fireside tale telling, and retelling embellished, detailed descriptions of heroic sacrifices, powerful portrayals of excruciating pain, encounters of life-threating dangers, frightening exploits, arguments about winners, extended “if only’s,” and “if it hadn’t been for’s,” bets and guesses on next time, and other highly imaginative exaggerations.  Today, a large part of male friendship still lies in the modern versions of these rapport-building exchanges.  Sons still need to learn the important, intimate skills and secrets of play and sports from their Dads.  So, let’s “Play Ball!”

America’s Legacy – Can We Remember on Memorial Day?

Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, and for many Americans it is another holiday, albeit with precursors to the 4th of July, American flags, and hot dogs.  It seems that we have developed short attention spans, given the acceleration of information, the associated decline in verity, the expansion of scope, the collapse of objectivity, the explosion of assertions, and the evaporation of examination.

This is my 71st Memorial Day; I was born two weeks after Japan surrendered, ending World War II.  Sixty to eighty million died in that horror, about three percent of the over two billion people who inhabited the earth in 1940.

Twenty to twenty-five million military deaths included about five million prisoners of war. Some estimates show thirty-five million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and another twenty million died from disease and starvation.  No one has tallied the deaths and disabilities of the aftermath.  The mental scars darkened the lives of the survivors for generations.

More than four hundred thousand Americans died in that war, with another six hundred seventy thousand wounded.  In other words, one million Americans dead or damaged.

Then, only five years later, America engaged in the Korean “Conflict.”  Thirty-six thousand killed, one hundred three thousand wounded.

Eleven years passed before our official entrance into the Vietnam war.  Fifty-eight thousand killed, one hundred fifty-three thousand wounded.  My brother and I are fortunate, surviving, Vietnam veterans.  We both have friends on the lists of dead and wounded.  My wife’s little brother is one of the fifty-eight thousand.

Our casualties in the Middle East are not final, but six or seven thousand have died, nearly fifty thousand have been wounded.

This is the evidence of our courage and strength, despite the critics of those wars.  Please take a few minutes to remember the grim violence, the constant terror, the pain, agony, suffering, and sacrifice of those men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

I still cry.