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Reasons To Be Cheerful, part 4


by: on January 15th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Coming across some good news I wanted to share it and that made me think of reason number one, which you may have missed when it happened long ago:

1. Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt 3, by Ian Dury. Great back-up band. Hone your cockney by catching the words. Here are some of them:

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome, we can spare it – yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 – no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret – anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain’t spotty,
Sitting on the potty – curing smallpox

2. Along the lines of curing smallpox, did anyone catch the results of the The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 which came out last month?

“The study underscores significant achievements, such as the dramatic drop in child mortality, which has fallen so quickly that it has beaten every published prediction.”

I went hunting for more statistics and found this chart, above, from the WHO, labeled “Global under-five mortality dropped 41% since 1990.”


A Public Outcry Against Fracking In New York


by: on January 13th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

On Wednesday, January 9, nearly 2,000 people rallied against fracking outside of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, in Albany, New York.

Folks danced, chanted, shouted, drummed, and waved signs. Pete Seeger sang, the Reverend Billy Talen shook and shouted halleluyah, Sandra Steingraber, Debra Winger, and Natalie Merchant spoke. Voices of the thousands rang out loudly for hours.

Activists called (and call) for a permanent ban on fracking in the state of New York.

Geologists, chemists, biologists, and medical doctors argue that fracking is a threat to public health, will produce hazardous air and water pollution, and will endanger the state’s food supply. It contributes negatively to climate change as well, according to Phil Aroneanu, campaign director of 350.org. Of additional concern to many, as reported by Treehugger and the New York Times, among others, is the release of dangerous radiaoactive materials into the ecosystem through the fracking process. As of now, the gas industry has no means or plan to contain such radioactive waste.


Adam Lanza and All of Us


by: on December 21st, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Adam Lanza in sixth grade

I am a Jew from Israel, where the Holocaust is a core formative story we all imbibed. One of the most astonishing experiences of my life was the moment in which I felt compassion for 7-year old Adolf Hitler. So astonishing, in fact, that I am a little afraid to expose this in public. I was reading Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, and I felt my inside shifting and changing as I was reading. Almost every word fell into a clear place, my heart and mind opened and stretched and realigned, and then, without knowing it was coming, there it was. The monster became human, so painfully human. I no longer hated him. It was a milestone on my path. Over time, I lost my ability to hate altogether.

From Alice Miller, and from many other sources, I have come to accept without any doubt that no one does violence to others without violence having been done to them earlier. From James Gilligan, whose work I have mentioned here before (e.g. here and here), I have come to understand the mechanism that translates violence received into violence enacted on others. From Marshall Rosenberg and my years of working with Nonviolent Communication, I now have a clear frame for making sense of the work of Miller, Gilligan and others. The language of human needs helps me understand violence with an open heart, without collapsing, without blaming, without shaming.

By far not everyone who experiences violence passes it on to others. I am no expert, I have done no research, and I cannot claim to know anything. My humanity is strained when I hear of what happened in Newtown last Friday. I am aware, mostly, of helplessness, of profound, unspeakable grief, of a fundamental inability to change the violence I know about, or to even grasp the violence that remains hidden. And, yet, my heart aches to say something, to summon my strained humanity, in all its limitations, to the task of bringing love and understanding to what I have learned about violence and how it may apply to Adam Lanza and our thinking about what he has done.


A Call for A Politics of Love


by: on November 14th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Dear President Obama and Democratic Members of Congress,

I invite you to embrace the radical notion that there are fundamental truths and values that the vast majority of US citizens believe in and support. They have chosen you to be the messenger and implementer of those ideas in the form of legislation and actions on a federal level. Now is the time for you to step out of a politics based on fear and limiting beliefs and into the very real possibility and actuality that when you choose to stand in a politics of love, your actions will be celebrated.

This is what a politics of love looks like:

1. Genuine care for the well-being of all, both in the US and abroad.

2. A commitment to the repair of our planet, food and water resources.

3. A belief in the sacred nature of every being.

The vast majority of citizens as evidenced by the occupy movement, votes at the polls, and public discourse, are tired by the politics of hate, fear and money that dominated the 2012 election and our public discourse for years. Instead of a politics of fear, hatred and money, they are yearning for a politics based on love – where the well-being of all overrides the desire of a few.


Thoughts on Hospitals and Healing


by: on November 10th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

For many hours every day for more than two of the last three weeks, I was in a hospital setting, supporting my beloved sister’s recovery from a major surgery. I have a lot of very personal experiences – of sorrow, helplessness, and moments of grace – that are now part of who I will forever be. This piece is about what I learned from all of this about why so many of us hate being in hospitals and what it would take to create hospitals that are truly designed to support healing.

Despite everything that I am about to say, I am confident that all of us who were with my sister during this time would rate the care we received as excellent. We were in a hospital ranked in the top 5% in the US. Nonetheless, my overall conclusion is that hospitals, as currently conceived and designed, are not conducive to healing. I have no research to cite for any of what I am saying, only my own deep intuitive humanity that speaks to me, my soul’s mourning about what I saw. This mourning is made especially poignant given that I have absolutely no doubt about the dedication, care, and commitment to the well-being of patients on the part of everyone we encountered while at the hospitals. I am not talking here about the rare individual whose spirit has been so damaged that they end up taking their suffering out on other people (commonly known as sadistic). I am talking about a system and a setup in which people whose hearts shine are unable to create a healing environment.

To clear up any confusion there may be, in talking about healing I am making a distinction between healing and curing. A quote from the book Choices in Healing, by Michael Lerner from Commonweal, an organization dedicated to individual and global health, might help make this distinction clearer: “A cure is a medical procedure that reliably helps you recover from an illness. Healing is an inner process through which the human organism seeks its own recovery–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.” There is no question whatsoever that hospitals are places where people’s lives are routinely saved, where multiple diseases and conditions are treated with stunning success, and where everyone is committed to supporting such processes in happening.

This remarkable success, however, is not relying on our innate, organismic capacity to heal. While everyone is aware of this almost miraculous biological and spiritual process, it is assumed and taken for granted, not nourished, not actively mobilized, and it is often interfered with in order to allow for the efficiency, reliability, and technical accuracy of the procedures that take place at the hospital. To whatever extent healing happens, it’s because life is so glorious and powerful, that healing happens despite the hospital environment, not because of it.


On Zombies and Assisted Suicide


by: on November 1st, 2012 | 20 Comments »

zombieTwo powerful op-ed pieces in today’s New York Times help me to clarify my disquiet with the Obama presidency.

The first by Amy Wilentz, explains the origins of the concept of the “Zombie.” The life of the slave in Haiti was so brutal and unbearable that the slaves often preferred suicide, which was imagined as a return to Africa (lan guinée), a phrase that in Creole even today means heaven. Against this threat, the masters devised and played on the idea of the Zombie, a species of living dead, who would never be able to return to Africa and instead would perform slave labor forever.

The second piece by Ben Mattlin opposes the Massachusetts assisted suicide law, to be voted on next week. Mattlin was born with spinal muscular atrophy. He has never stood, or walked, or had much use of his hands. Roughly half the infants born with this condition die by the age of two, but Mattlin is nearly fifty and, as he writes, “a husband, father, journalist and author.” Living his whole life so close to death he recounts the many times well-meaning doctors and relatives wanted to “spare” him, and the state. No one chooses suicide in a vacuum he notes.

The two stories make the same point: the priority of the human spirit over the body. Mattlin writes so beautifully that it is hard to imagine the wracked body from which his words emanate. It is in good part to affirm the beauty of the human spirit– in other words, of freedom– that most Americans, and citizens of other countries, gladly spend so much money on keeping the very ill, and the very old, alive. Wilentz’s story teaches the same lesson from the opposite point of view. Without a spirit, without freedom, the body is worthless. If we give up our understanding of the priority of the spirit over the body we tend to become zombies ourselves.


Yes Mitt. People do die because they have no health insurance.


by: on October 11th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

On Wednesday October 10th, in a conversation with the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch, Mitt Romney said “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

Sit with that quote a minute and think.

Really? Beyond knowing in your gut that we do, in fact, have people who die in their apartments, homes, backyards, on the streets, in shelters, at soup kitchens, and in all sorts of places, in part, because they don’t have access to adequate health care, Mitt Romney is missing other parts of the nightmare that is, for 50 million Americans, the reality of not having health insurance.


Why I’m Going to the Women’s Congress For Future Generations and Why You Should, Too


by: on September 5th, 2012 | 9 Comments »

Eighteen years ago, a year after my mother’s death, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Disease. When my mother passed, she had lymphoma. Five years prior to my diagnosis, my Dad died, after a long battle with Melanoma. It metastasized to his brain.

All that cancer so close to home was my wake up call. I knew something was wrong, and I knew it couldn’t just be genetics. Maybe the lymphoma was connected to Hodgkin’s, but what had Melanoma to do with my cancer or with my mother’s? And, what about my maternal aunt, who had breast cancer? What did those other cancers have to do with my Dad or me? And all these folks had cancer in mid to later in life. I was diagnosed at a fairly young age.

Suddenly, everyone else I knew seemed to be getting cancer, too. Neighbors. Children. Friends.

Maybe it all had to do with the poisoning of our environment. Toxics and radiation? This concern weighed heavily with me, nagging in the back of my mind as I went through the grueling ‘healing’ process of a cancer patient.

A few years later, I became pregnant. What joy! All I wanted to was to become a mother. I had waited for so long.

But, I wondered, what right did I have to become a mother at all? I felt guilty trying to become pregnant. What might I pass on to my little one, and how could I protect her from all the environmental hazards in our polluted world? What dangers coursed in my veins?

I knew that my ability to protect my baby daughter was limited. Sure, I did some substantial cleanses post Chemo, ate as well as I possibly could during the pregnancy (as well as before and after), used non-toxic products on my body and in my home, but no matter how much I did and do as an individual, given the boundariless nature of pollution–my maternal blood would still carry toxins right through the placenta and into her growing fetal body, and my breast milk would transmit pollutants as well after the birth, and after birth, well, it’s a polluted world we live in, and none of us can fully keep the pollution out. Sandra Steingraber documents all this in painful detail in her book, Having Faith. Or watch her film, Living Downstream and listen to Sandra as she holds up a cup of human breast milk and explains the high number of toxins in that precious liquid.


Why the ACA is the Most Important Women’s Civil Rights Bill Since the 19th Amendment


by: on July 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

In the last year, attempts have been made in the US House of Representatives and the state of Arizona to defund Planned Parenthood. “Personhood bills” have been introduced in the same time frame in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Colorado seeking to ban both birth control and abortion. Bills were also recently introduced in Georgia and Tennessee to criminalize miscarriage, potentially making it a capital offense. And who can forget Virginia’s effort to force medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds on females with the temerity to seek medical care?

The ACA may be the most important piece of civil rights legislation effecting women since we gained the right to vote in 1920.

Sadly, the value of the ACA to women remains America’s best kept secret.


Why the Affordable Care Act Will Not Remedy the U.S. Health Crisis


by: on June 28th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Many liberals are describing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold “Obamacare” as a resounding victory for the president and likely to contribute to his chances for re-election. I don’t see it that way.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act rally outside the Supreme Court following the ruling to uphold "Obamacare" on June 28, 2012. Credit: Mackie Lopez/SEIU.

Though I am happy about this development and feel we should celebrate these small steps in the right direction, I see this victory as severely limited by a deep flaw within the health reform plan: it requires people to buy health insurance but has no effective way to keep the insurance companies from endless increases in what they charge the public (and then blaming those charges on the fact that they have to cover people who are sick).

For those of you who have not heard the details yet, the Supreme Court ruled today that most of the “Obamacare” plan was constitutional in a 5-4 vote. The majority opinion – penned by ultra-conservative Chief Justice John Roberts – presents a rationale for why the “individual mandate” (the part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires everyone to buy health care and imposes a penalty payment on those who do not, so that they too can contribute to the well-being of everyone who does need health care) is consistent with Roberts’s interpretation of the Constitution. The court also ruled that some states can opt out of parts of the plan.

I’m glad that parts of the plan that were pressingly needed – including its elimination of the right of insurance companies to deny coverage on the basis that the applicant has a “pre-existing condition” and its part allowing coverage in a family plan of children up to the age of twenty-six – have been validated, though they are unlikely to be implemented before 2014. But a truly resounding health care victory would be one that ensures health care for all, without handing more power to private insurance companies.