Posts categorized “Observations”.

“Good Things Are Happening in South Plainfield”

GoodThings

From December 27, 2012

Something I didn’t notice on previous trips to our borough hall; the main hallway has a painted inscription that says “Good Things Are Happening in South Plainfield.” I didn’t notice it, but it was pointed out to me the night Eric and I went to have our civil union ceremony performed by the mayor of South Plainfield last Thursday night.

What was very nice about the entire event, beyond the inherent goodness of the event that marks our ten years together and giving it an actual, legal, recognized status, is that everyone involved at the town was very helpful and positive. Not a single odd comment or look. Quite a different experience in general than visiting the Village Hall where I used to live. Or when I went to the bank to change an account and the officer couldn’t seem to process the notion that my beneficiary is my partner.

Despite some homeowner problems, like needing a new furnace and a new air-conditioning system, and repairing damage done to the house by a mover about 90 minutes after we bought the house, good things are happening in South Plainfield. We have very nice neighbors, one of which was our witness for the civil union license. The house has withstood a few weather events, like Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot to be happy about, in a year that was, quite frankly, very trying.

In addition to the general rancor of the election cycle and the horrible destruction brought about by Hurricane Sandy, Eric and I lost a dear friend to cancer. Another acquaintence also passed on, also cancer. About five friends went through the rigors of cancer treatments and luckily, they are all doing well.

The big event of the year, beyond being joined in civil unity, was moving. Closing up a home that has been in our family for 45 years was quite difficult. Looking at homes and trying to figure out where to move? Also difficult. Someone should have blogged about it!

So, we are very happy to end the year on a high note. We’re grateful to have great friends and family, many of whom we have seen this month, and we are also happy that the house in one piece, the heat is working (and if it’s not, I have a LOT of quilts), and we have jobs. My own job went full time in September, which is a very good thing, although I am still getting used to working nights exclusively.

Happy New Year everyone!

Cataloging to Declutter

A friend of mine recently hired a professional to help her declutter her house, and I read his professional blog. In one entry, he had a woman go through a seemingly neat and orderly bookcase, next to her messy overstuffed closet. The logic being, did she actually need all the books that she had on the shelf?

Given that I probably have more than 1500 books, I decided to take the same approach. First, I went through every bookcase and box of books I have and I immediately culled the books I know I would never read or did not want anymore.

There is a good likelihood I will never, ever read all the books I Have, even if I had independent wealth and nothing to do but read.

After the initial culling,  I decided to turn go through all the books again, this time using LibraryThing.com to actually catalog the books.

I first learned of it in 2007, probably at an convention of the Special Libraries Association. I cataloged about 200 or so books. It only costs $25 for a lifetime membership–so you can go beyond the limit of 250 books.

In about two days, I wound up cataloging 1000 more books.  Using ISBNs or LC numbers, it was quite easy. It not only let me create subcollections (which I did by bookcase), but it also helped me realize I had doubles of certain titles, and also, it helped me put more like titles or themes together on the shelves.

It also helped me get a bit tougher on myself and get rid of more books.

It might seem odd, a librarian getting RID of books, but librarians do weed out collections all the time. And as a librarian myself, I have an idea of what I am likely to read, and what I can probably find at a public library if I really do want to read the book later on.

If I live that long!

Goodbye to a Good Cat

Nero my beloved black cat died last month, age 15 and a half. Everyone has a cat they love, and every cat is unique. So everyone thinks their cat is the best.

When I entered my cousin’s home 15 and a half years ago, she said, “By the way, we have eleven cats in the house.” Actually, it was three cats and eight kittens. Nero and his sister were part of a litter of six, who lived underneath cousin Beth’s bed.

When I went to see the kittens, Nero came right out from under the bed, made a bee-line to me, and crawled right into my palms, just about filling them. So, I like to think that he pieked me.

Over the years, Nero had a variety of health problems,  but put up with the poking and prodding. Some of it was quite intense–the radiation treatment for his thyroid, the hematoma that had to be cared for after scratching away at his ear. Nero made a fan of his master’s friends and of his vets. It’s amazing how much he put up with, including daily insulin shots for his diabetes.

A lot of people don’t understand that cats can be quite as loyal as dogs. Nero often vied for my attention against his sister Diana, often licking her butt until she moved from the spot he wanted. After she was gone, Nero got a little bit needier, following me from room to room. Sleeping most of the time, but liking that I was always someplace nearby. Nero also made his needs known, reminding me constantly  that dinnertime was every two hours.

Black cats get a bad rap and have often suffered horribly for the color of their fur. Nero crossed my path for years, and I feel like I was the luckiest guy for a decade and a half. He was a furry little friend who saw me through good times and bad, and was always glad to see me.

Especially at dinner time.

Finally, a Stolperstein for Cilly Stiebel

Today is the UN’s International Holocaust Rememberance Day, as it was today, 65 years ago today that Auschwitz was finally liberated. Auschwitz is often synonymous with the Holocaust, and with just cause. It was the largest of the concentration camps built by the Nazis, and 1.1 million people were killed there.

By coincidence this week, I received an email from a man in Frankfurt who works with the group that puts Stolpersteine in German streets. Also known as “stumbling blocks,” these are memorials put into public spaces to commemorate people who were deported and later murdered by the Nazis. I had written to them in 2007 before my trip with Eric to Germany, but I never heard back, until this week, when this man asked me if I was still interested in a Stolperstein for Cilly Stiebel.

And who is Cilly Stiebel? She is my boyfriend’s grandmother’s grandmother. I discovered her name while doing genealogy research, and she was the nearest relative left behind when the family left Frankfurt am Main. She was either too old or unwilling to leave, and maybe they couldn’t get permission for her to leave. Within two years, she appears on the Nazi’s “Minority Census” in a Jewish nursing home. In 1942, all the residents were deported to Terezin, where she died two weeks later, in her early 80s.

So, imagine your own infirm grandmother in a nursing home being herded up and sent to a concentration camp to die. It’s hard to imagine it, Yet this happened all over Germany, as many of the people who couldn’t get out wound up in this situation. “Luckily,” another cousin of Eric’s told us that her grandparents escaped this fate because they died before the deportations, but they were so poor they are buried in unmarked graves in their town’s Jewish Cemetery, kept decent only by the good graces of the one Christian man in town who wants to remind them that yes, the Holocaust happened there too, even in a small Rheinland town.

Before I did my genealogy work, for myself and Eric, I never thought my family suffered any Holocaust deaths. And, in time, I found that most of the relatives my parents had in Europe were in fact killed. And then doing Eric’s genealogy, I found that 10 relatives died in Terezin, including his great-greatgrandmother, and another  10 in Auschwitz, and one each in Sobibor and Izbica. The tales are tragic. One man gets stir crazy hiding in a Dutch home in the countryside. He goes for  a walk and is immediately spotted, winds up in a death camp. Another one is arrested and the Matthausen records claim, “shot while trying to escape.” A patent lie, and yet they are recorded meticulously by the Nazis. And how awful it is to hear an 89-year-old cousin tell us that her 9-year-old sister died of starvation in the Riga Ghetto, her parents helpless to do anything about it, and later dying in Auschwitz themselves. Also horrible, the uncle who disappears and there’s no record of what happened to him.

But in all of this horror, there are glimpses of humanity and survival. One cousin tells us of the neighbors who left them food in a basket on the doorstep in the dead of night–good Christian friends who risk being publicly shamed for “helping Jews.” We all know about the recently deceased 100-year-old  Miep Gies, the woman who saved Anne Frank’s diary after risking her own life helping keep the families she hid fed for two whole years. We recently reconnected with cousins of Eric’s in Israel via Facebook, who tell us that their ancestor saved himself by literally walking over the Pyrenees to Spain to save him from being rounded up in France, where he escaped initially from Germany. And so, an ignorance of our own personal relationship to the world’s most horrible genocides are replaced with a horrible new knowledge, but also, connections to family members and people separated from us temporarily by history.

And, finally, there will be some sort of memorial for Cilly Stiebel, out  in front of the address where she once lived. Not exactly a tombstone, but also not hidden away in a cemetery, either. A stumbling block of reality for passersby on the Ostend of Frankfurt.

Religious School Report to Parents

Okay, here are my Hebrew School report cards. Mrs. Rutner was my first teacher. I love how things are rosy, followed by “but.”

“Seth is quiet in class but he seems to be absorbing the oral language nicely.”

“Seth is making very fine progress in every area. Please encourage attendance at Junior Congregation on Shabbat.”

“It was a pleasure to have Seth in my class. Promoted to grade Bet.”

The next year I was taught by septuagenarian Mrs. Kaplan.

“Seth has made considerable progress. He shows effort and interest.”

“Seth has show much improvement in all areas. He should practice reading to improve his speed. [Where was I going?] He should do his homeworl more regularly.”

“Seth has made good progress. However he could do better. Comes unprepared.”

This woman promoted me to Gimel, but the LOWER, dumber track. I skipped two Sunday classes in a row and while she made sure to actually take me into a windowless storage area to give me some extra attention… it didn’t work. But her reports are somewhat pleasant.

I was then handed over to Mssrs. Zapinski and Gerlitz. Loved the former, hated the latter. Mr. Gerlitz told tall Zionist tales to prove a point, when he could have just told the truth. Let’s see what they had to say:

“Seth could easily get good marks–if he were to do his homework. [E.Z.]“

“He seems very happy with his studies, though his marks don’t reflect it.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean, and where is the plan to make me a good li’l Jewish student?

The following year I was graded by Mr. Gerlitz, although I recall a man who taught one of the other subjects. He was the son of another teacher (hence his uterine credentials gave him qualifications?), and he would sweat a lot. Possibly a pedophile.

Mr. Gerlitz reports in broken English:

” A very smart guy, but very lazy to do his work. Seth is not attending enough the Sabbath Services.”

For some reason, Mr. Gerlitz did not include any remarks for the second and final reports that year. I suspect he was spending too much time at Sabbath Services, and very lazy to do his own damned work.

For the fifth and sixth years, there are no narrative, but here’s how I fared gradewise. For some reason, Hebrew Language is not on one report, but I was doing “good” in Torah, “very good, good, and then fair” in Jewish Living, and then Good and then Excellent in History.”

In the next marking period, my marks for Hebrew Language suddenly appear, “fair, to good, to fair again.” Never unsatisfactory, though. The following year, when that bastard Rabbi Mayerfeld was in charge, I am listed as “Fair minus, and then twice as unsatisfactory.” And yet, within ten months, I flew through my Haftarah and Torah portions. Why? Because kindly Mr. Zapinsky was my tutor. And, I had to share my torah and haftarah portion with another kid, and at the last minute, I got the harder, second half because I was told the other kid was not as smart as I was.

So, how the hell did I go from “unsatisfactory” as per the “rabbi” who told the entire class that Mr. Rutner, the principal, thought I was “illiterate,” to being “the smarter of the bnai mitzvah” pairing?

Furthermore, let the record show that during that final year of Hebrew junior high school, I got “Excellent” in every single other subject–Torah, Jewish Living, and History.

I just hope that Hebrew Schools are much better today than they were back when I was a little kids surrounded by vicious homophobic social-climbing semites, and hte horrible teachers with no qualifications who babysat them three days a week for two or three hours.

Ultimately, the problem was this: I was sent to Hebrew School by parents who expected the teachers to teach me, but Mom was unable to help since she received no Jewish education, and Dad did what he could, but he worked hard and couldn’t do it all. And the teachers didn’t really reach out much to the parents.

By the way, I have done a lot of Jewish education, and I am pretty well versed in some things, and not others. But I still wish my Hebrew were better, and that Ulpan weren’t so expensive.

Why Seth Cannot Midaber Ivrit: Still VERY Angry About Hebrew School

So, another Yom Hakippurim Hazeh has rolled into town, and I find myself not  atoning for all of my sins, or some of yours, or fasting. Instead, I just had a snack and then plowed through more stuff here at Breezy Blossoms–my ancestral home since 1966.

Most of it is very pleasant: greeting cards from my first birthday, old photos I thought we lost, and then came the Report to Parents from the Religious School of Temple Israel of Great Neck. And it all comes back to me.

Hebrew School: Where adults who know something about Hebrew, Judaism, or Jewish History come to a school and completely don’t relate to the children they are supposed to be teaching. Most of the teachers were simply not good at teaching. Some even seemed to hate the children. Some in particular I think just hated me. The horror of Hebrew School for me was that by fourth grade, I already was the “class faggot” because of my poor performance in gym. But somehow, word of this spread to the other kids in the Hebrew School who were not even in my elementary school. This guaranteed my complete and utter pillorying as a big fag by the time I got to Junior High School, which was certainly inspired by Dante’s Inferno for Teens ™.

I digress. There were clearly two teachers I think were very nice people who loved teaching. There was Mr. Zapinski, who truly seemed to love the children, and was fairly patient with them, and even once let us take turns listening to his pacemaker after one kid heard it ticking during  a test and was convinced this dear old man was going to explode. “You should listen to it–so you know there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

There was also Mrs. Rutner, who was a truly lovely, maternal woman married to one of the most fuckingly sarcastic educators I ever met–he was the principal of the religious school. By the time I reached my fifth year there, I was struggling horribly in Hebrew. Around the time you are 11 and a half, they suddenly get interested in seeing if you are going to make it through your Torah portion at your own Bar Mitzvah. I could barely read a random Hebrew paragraph out loud, and Mr. Rutner (his real name) was so sarcastic, as if it were completely my fault that I was not fluent in Hebrew. I am as mad as he was. I should have become fluent in Hebrew. I should be able to read every Facebook update my cousins in Israel write in Hebrew. Instead, I only understand every fifth spoken word. All I can say in Hebrew with real certainty is “not now” and “I don’t know.” That might come in very handy at the El Al interrogation before you board the plane. I was able to read a word in Hebrew, and they let me board.

What annoys me most about Mr. Rutner–his real name–is that he was so nasty. There was not an ounce of compassion, or any thought to want to help me improve. Five years into the game, he wonders why I am not doing well at Hebrew? And to make matters worse, he shares this deprecating attitude about me with Rabbi Mayerfeld, not a rabbi from our Temple, but someone with the title Rabbi who was our teacher in the fifth and sixth years, who would openly mock me and taunt me, completely on his own initiative–nothing I did–in front of the class, telling them that the principal thinks I am a Hebrew illiterate. So, when the person who is there to teach you is a role model for the other bullies in the class, do they expect me to be running Mosad?

I don’t know if these two men are alive, but I hope they are in hell. Now, Mr. Rutner I hope is in the Jewish Hell where you go to the Second Avenue Deli and they are out of everything except sardines. I hope Rabbi Mayerfeld (his real name) is in Catholic Hell, where he is force to spend his days in an Irish Pub or something equally Goyish. I think Protestant Hell is too good for him–for them, Hell means flying coach, always. I say Catholic Hell because they mean business–those medieval woodcuts make it look pretty bad. Pretty-bad.

The other problem was my parents. First, my mother: She was raised orthodox, so she never sent for any religous instruction because girls didn’t need to know Hebrew or Halachah. If you can light candles on Friday night, keep a kosher kitchen, and put up with no electricity one out of every seven night, you get an A. This resulted in my mother lighting candles on Friday night and then serving us bacon or sausages before I was sent now and then to Junior Congregation on my own. On-my-own. My mother only went on the High Holidays, where she would hector us in whispers to pray louder. “Let’s hear it!” she would hiss between whispers, to which I dangerously replied, “Why aren’t you singing?” Because she didn’t know. And when I first learned Hebrew and was ecstatic to learn about how verbs were conjugated and nouns declined, Mom made it clear she didn’t want to hear about it. Because she couldn’t appreciate it.

I am giving a major pass to my Dad because he worked very hard and had a disability, and while  we never once went to Shabbat services together, he did go every single Sunday we had Hebrew school to go to the weekly breakfast with the rabbi, a wonderful, learned man who made the group read the books during the week and then discuss the Jewish meaning over a bagel.

Also, it was the 1970s. I watched an awful lot of TV, and helicopter parenting was not yet invented.

The really sad thing is that I should have become fluent in Hebrew, and those first six years should have been a lot more nurturing, instead of more of the same. Luckily, I actually continued onto the Hebrew High School, where I liked the remaining students a lot more, and we had younger teachers who actually felt they had a mission, and were encouraging of the students. Except for one older jerk who decided that my Aunt Mary should be called “Aunt Miriam” even though that was not her name. We also had the nonsense earlier on of my teacher telling me my Hebrew name wasn’t possible. This put my mother into Missile Mode, and she made it know LOUD AND CLEAR that she very well knew her father’s name and that I was named for him. They stopped fighing it after that. It was probably part of the cultural imperative to make our Yiddish given names more ivrit chaya–Living Hebrew. In the 1960s and 1970s, emulating modern Israel seemed preferable to Yiddishkeit. That was wrong. Not only was my mother right, but I have seen my grandfather’s ship record and naturalization, and he had a good Hebrew name with a Yiddish pronunciation. How dare the Hebrew School tell me and my mother the name did not exist? This is also the Hebrew School that sent us home telling our parents to vote for NIXON. Believe me, if you want to send my mother’s head into a low orbit around the Earth, talk to her about how great Nixon was.

More on this later: Excerpts from my Hebrew School report cards.

The Bearable Lightness of Dementia

There’s a woman in my Mom’s nursing home, we will call her Flora, who has Alzheimers, or something similar. It used to be that she roamed the halls endlessly and would enter other patients’ rooms and go through their things, thinking it was her room. Flora only knows Spanish and thinks that she is back in El Salvador. She told me once that my Mom should learn Spanish, “if she’s going to live in this country [El Salvador].” Mom’s first roommate there was from Columbia, also only knew Spanish, and she told me, “Now that your mother is with me, I will teach her Spanish.” Unfortunately, that nice lady passed away a few weeks later.

But back to Flora. Usually when I come in Flora says hello and tells me how fat I am (¡gracias!). But now, Flora just sits in a chair cooing over a baby doll. She insists that the doll is her baby, and she said, “She follows me everywhere. If I go outside, she cries, ‘Mama, ¡no vas!’ and I stay.”
So Flora now obsesses on her cute little baby, exclaiming ¡Mamacita! to her. When I met Flora’s daughter and granddaughter, they told me that Flora used to take care of the granddaughter. She thinks the granddaughter is her daughter, and wanted to know where the baby is. She thinks her daughter is some nice person who comes along now and then.

My own mother is immobile, but it doesn’t matter, because in her head, she’s been out walking today, and she spoke to her mother on the phone a few times, and she asks me, “How’s Mama?”

Mama died 60 years ago, that’s how she is. But Mom has forgotten all of that. She’s forgotten that she’s lived 20 plus years longer than her mother did, and all those visits to the cemetery. Mama is someone she talks to on the phone. There is no phone in her room.

So I have had to create a posthumous relationship with the grandmother I don’t know, using the knowledge I have of a grandmother who was a bit different than the one I did know. She was quiter and less animated, but could get her message across. Mom wants to know where Mama is, and I tell her that I live with Mama and Papa now, and that Mama stayed home with a head cold and didn’t want her to give it to Mom. When the visit with Mom gets to be too much, because we are on the endless loop of “I want coffee,” I can use Mama to get out sooner. I tell Mom that Mama needs me back home. I tell her that I pretty much do whatever Mama tells me to do. One Friday I was able to use the excuse of shabbos approaching, and how angry Papa might get if I was late.

This is exactly the sort of life Mom never would have wanted, but she is actually not unhappy, and not the bad patient I expected she would be. If you asked Mom ten years ago, she would have preferred for the stroke to have killed her.
Living in a huge self-made delusion seems so preferable to being completely aware of how horrible your situation is. Eric’s cousin is barely able to walk but is completely with it and hates the worsening of her own existence.

Eric once said that perhaps there’s a reason why Mom is still with us like this. It’s possible that this continued quasi-existence is preparing us for the horrible possibilities of the future. At least I still have a mother who knows me and appreciates me. She is actually much nicer to me now than she was previously. I hate words like “closure,” but at least I have this last part of her life as a kinder memory than the previous one. And I also have a strange imaginary relationship with my dead grandparents, via Mom’s delusion.

Many older people go back to their roots, to the memories imprinted on their earliest existence. Mom cannot remember the stroke or where she actually is, but she knows where the Loews Pitkin is in relation to her first home. She remembers Uncle Slotnick farming in his backyard, visible from her bedroom window. It’s got to be some comfort that the earliest memories are good and comforting ones. My own grandmother often asked how her own mother and sisters were.

These things remind us we need to provide good things to the young ones in our lives–they might need that soft landing place one day many decades from now. Being there for them now means being there for them long after we are gone.

Mom remembers me, at least. For now.

Missing the Point Entirely

I spent the past day or two seeing everyone’s Facebook statuses memorializing Patrick Swayze in some way or another. To me, Patrick Swayze seemed to have had two memorable movies (Dirty Dancing and Ghost) and many more I cannot think of, but deep in my heart, Patrick Swayze IS Road House. There was an ad campaign in the late 1980s that proclaimed that. “Patrick Swayze is… ROAD HOUSE.”

It seems whenever celebrities die, people remember what made them famous or revel in the posthumous details, but in the aftermath, how much attention is paid to the cause of death? That’s about the only good thing that comes out of a celebrity who dies of a particularly horrible disease that’s hard to beat, and hard to diagnose.

Eighteen years ago, my friend’s mother had a stomach ache. Her doctor of many years, convinced she was a hypochondriac, died six months later of pancreatic cancer. There’s no way to detect it early, and once it is spotted, you are doomed. My cousin Rita lost her mother and sister to it. She found out, quite accidentally at the hospital while pursuing some other ailment, that she had it also. She died three weeks later. That was about three years ago. I think she, at 85, was resigned to her fate, and mercifully, she had no pain.

So it is hopeful, perhaps, that Patrick Swayze, and my neighbor down the street, Mr. Zupnick, died of pancreatic cancer more than 20 months after their initial diagnoses.

It’s hard to imagine what cancer was like in the 1950s. I don’t know if they had any effective treatments or detection, but my grandfather spent nine months dying of cancer in a Brooklyn Hospital. I don’t know if it was a blessing that Mama died at home of her cancer. But what I do know is that for the survivors, deep scars have been left. Mom and her sister were always very conscious of how old Mama and Papa were when they died (barely retirement age) and how much longer they have lived past their own parents’ expiration dates.
You could think that cancer might have been conquered by now. It does seem like it is studied more than anything else. It’s hard to know what’s worse, dying in six months or battling it for 12 years. A friend of my aunt has had chemo and four lung cancer surgeries, and should be dead, but she’s not. She was supposed to die in April, but she didn’t. She went to hospice, but didn’t die. They wanted to send her home, but there was no place else for her to really go, because she’s in a lot of pain, or on morphine.
It’s hard to know what’s better or worse: being resigned to your fate and going quickly and quietly, or fighting like hell and putting up with a lot of bullshit for a dozen years. I am at an age now where I have had several friends who have had their own cancer battles, and most of them have won.
So when someone who is a celebrity dies of a horrible dread cancer, it would be nice if more attention were paid to what actually did them in. The Facebook statuses tend to reflect a song lyric or movie quote, but what resonates for me is that this man survived four times longer than he should have, he had a basic cable TV series during his battle with cancer, and that he brought hopefully some more awareness to the time bomb that is pancreatic cancer.

ROTT: General Admission

U2nydI am in the process of redecorating my old bedroom, and as much as I love this U2 poster, it needs to go. But it reminds me off that far-off time when you could actually buy a general admission ticket and join your friends at a concert. FOR TEN DOLLARS.

What’re U2 tickets these days, $150

In the summer of 1983, my friend Jeff and his girlfriend Laurie were going to see U2 and the Alarm at the pier on the Hudson. I think that pier is gone now. I wanted to join them, so I went to Mom, who worked the Ticketron counter at A&S sometimes, and she got me a ticket for ten dollars. I am still marvelling at the $10aspect. I think it was cheap even then.

All I had to to was join my friends, and mind you, I got the ticket a few days before the concert.

The rotting-away West Side Highway was in the background. It was the first concert of the summer, and Mayor Koch introduced the Alarm and U2 and said, “Make sure they hear you in New Jersey.” This was back when Mayor Koch was admired and his various cabinet members had not yet imploded. Remember Bess Meyerson shoplifting, and Donald Manes slitting his wrists and ankles while driving on the Grand Central Parkway? This was back when Koch was an actual Democrat. Today, he claims to be a Democrat while endorsing D’Amata, Bush, and various other embarassments.

I couldn’t imagine going to a big concert anymore, partially because of the huge cost, and the rigamarole of just trying to get tickets. My next concert is probably going to be Suzanne Vega at the Landmark in Port Washington.

Godzilla vs. The Health Care System

I am dumb with amazement at the people who are against universal health care. If I sent Godzilla in to fight with the hundreds of insurance companies, I doubt he would win.

The thing about Americans that amazes is me is the idea that some people deserve health care and others do not. Our society, for better or worse, is based on Judao-Christian ethics, a cornerstone of which is charity.

Many did not seem to mind plunging the country into debt with the ill-conceived and floundering war in Iraq. We already have Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Universal health coverage is a natural extension of this.

We pay more when people use ERs for minor ailments, because they cannot go to a doctor. We pay more when there’s more reactive care than prophylaxis. I paid for diphtheria medication ($68) because my insurer wouldn’t cover it when I went to Sri Lanka; but if I got sick, they would have covered it, for much more money.

These people screaming in town hall meetings? Who are they? Why are they so angry. Believe me, if there was an outbreak of the flu, they would be screaming for the government to do something, but at the same time they want people to not be covered, because they pay for health coverage (a portion of it via work), and some might not?

I am currently unemployed and spending $300/month for Healthy NY via Empire Blue Cross. That $3600 could go to a LOT of other stuff I need to do to keep up the house, but I have to keep myself up as well. People go nuts over the notion that they don’t have a choice of doctors. Well, you don’t under the current system either. I changed jobs 10 years ago and had to leave a doctor I liked to one that turned out disasterously during a time I had a (false) cancer scare. The actual problem, which I won’t reveal here, was actually hilarious.

The bottom line is that a society that thinks it is built on some primary religious ethics should be a lot more charitable. We already have a lot of the basics in place. People are fed up, and even doctors are fed up, with the health insurance companies’ control over the situation, and it needs reform now.