Say goodnight, Dick

Okay, okay, I get it.

I’m a little bit nervous; that okay with you?

It’s just surgery. It’s not even considered to be major surgery…matter of fact, they probably consider it to be minor surgery.

Yet, here I am on a Sunday evening, sitting at the computer, typing like some kind of drooling idiot. “It’s no big deal,” I keep telling myself. It’s what I call “dry-cleaner-surgery;” you’re in by nine and out by five…yeah, right, so I have to be ready for a cab at five in the morning to take what would normally be a twenty minute ride to the hospital to get me there before 6:50 a.m. That’s almost two friggin’ hours in a taxicab. “Why so early?” you may ask. Welcome to the realities of traffic patterns in the Greater Boston area. I had to see a doctor at 9:00 last Thursday. It was a similar trip to the one I’ll take tomorrow. I left at seven-friggin’-thirty in the morning and got to the doctor’s office and five minutes to spare…five minutes; can you believe that…and this on a highway that has just been expanded and had another lane added…within the past six months! I feel like I’m caught in some kind of Parkinson’s Law thingie: if work expands to fill the time available, then traffic expands to overfill the lanes created for it.

Everything would be fine except the pre-op nurse was very specific…you get there at six-fifty or before, or they start without you. Well, we all know that’s not quite true…be interesting to see, but I’d just as soon not chance it. Back, however, to the realities of why I’m sitting at this @#$%&* computer on a Sunday evening when I should be watching 60 Minutes or something.

You see, I’ve had over fifteen surgeries in my life where they’ve had to knock me out…they call it general anesthesia; I call it knocking someone out. “Hey doc, how ya do….” that’s it; then you wake up an hour or more later, not remembering one damned thing. I must admit that I do enjoy some of the new anesthetics. You just go and that time in your life is gone forever. You don’t remember a thing.

This is all well and good, and I’m quite certain that I will wake up, and that my eldest will arrive and drive me home in her tank, but…what if? I mean this 81-year old bod has been knocked out by anesthetic for a few years now. Suppose I don’t wake up; suppose this little nap becomes the big sleep. Worrying about it the night before isn’t going to do a whole hell of a lot of good. If anything, worrying could be bad…it would really screw up a night’s sleep, and the night’s sleep is going to be short because I have to get up so early for the damned cab, so…why worry? Wait a minute; why not worry? You don’t wake up; that’s a pretty big deal. Hell, even if I do wake up, it’s a pretty big deal.

So, here’s what I’m going to do…I’m going into the bedroom; put on my Breathe Rite strip (I snore like a freight train and a jet combined if I don’t wear one…ooh, you’re a mouth breather…screw you…and then I’m going to say my prayers as I try to do every night. After that, I’m going to lay my head on the pillow; pull the covers up to my chin, and sleep like a baby…until that friggin’ alarm goes off and tells me it’s time to get up…in the dark…to catch a cab…and I can’t have breakfast…and, and, and…

“Say goodnight, Dick.”

“Goodnight, Dick!”

Smell the cordite

“Christians want to save all refugees.”  Yes, that was the title on an e-mail in my SPAM folder tonight. I didn’t open it, nor do I have any idea of the message. My answer is simply this: “I’m a Christian, and I don’t wish to save all refugees. Some of those refugees are merely ISIS fighters taking advantage of the opportunity to infiltrate another nation until they can create an incident such as happened in Paris. Thank you, but no thank you.

So far, terrorists have attacked office buildings and the nation’s top military installation in the United States. They have brought down a plane holding 224 Russian citizens returning from vacation. They have brought down a U.S. bound plane over Lockerbee, Scotland. They have bombed trains in Spain; busses in London, buildings in Beirut, and I don’t even know what the hell else they’ve been responsible for bombing or how many people in total they have killed. No, no, no, no, it is time that this is stopped…permanently.

The thing about ISIS or ISL or Daesh, or whatever you may wish to call these people, the only true description of them is that they are world terrorists. Whereas most people don’t really look forward to the prospect of death, these idiots appear to welcome it because they believe it will make them martyrs, and they are wrong. What it will make them is dead. Now, I believe in a merciful and loving God. They believe in Allah which, from what I can determine, is merely another time for a single God. However, my loving God has a bit of a temper. He has a commandment. I’ve seen it listed as high as five on the commandments chart, but it could even be six or seven; it goes, “Thou shalt not kill.” Now, in war…real war, not this bullshit war that’s killing and maiming innocents as well as military, and by people who are as crazy as bedbugs on steroids, God sees a meaning. He wasn’t too keen on the Germans in WWI or WWII, but this he could understand. The current war…mmm…that I believe is pissing him off, particularly at the bedbugs. They may think of themselves as martyrs; I believe God sees them as bedbugs…He doesn’t like bedbugs. ‘Nuf said?

As Christians, most of us have turned the other cheek enough times that we’re really getting a bit tired of it. For us, this is just another infestation that must be exterminated. Problem is that they’re all over the place in the Middle East. They have, however, made a couple of mistakes. The first and most critical of these mistakes is that they have pissed of President Putin of Russia. This former KGB headhunter is not one you should piss off, but they claimed to have brought down the homeward bound vacationers heading for St. Petersburg, and that didn’t sit too well with Prexy Putin. Then, they pissed off the French, and that really didn’t sit all that well with the French. Other than the March, 2011 shooting at Frankfurt Airport and a single individual with a knife – he died – Germany gets an ‘A’ for seeking out and thwarting threats in its own country. Anyway, it would appear that most of the civilized world is really upset with these people who think martyrdom is a good thing. As a consequence, it seems that we’d be doing them a favor by having the air forces of every nation just bomb the daylights out of them 24/7/365. Would some innocents die? Of course they would, but which is worse, death as an innocent and welcomed into heaven or living under a regime for which “cruel” is far too polite a word?

These people are not going to stop until they are stopped completely. The United States is a big country. Its major cities are on high alert for terrorist threats. These terrorists are not stupid; they know this to be true. They also know that the borders of the United States are about as porous as a sieve. It cannot all be guarded, and we will not build walls to shield ourselves; we are an open society. Just as there were multiple attacks in Paris, I envision multiple, simultaneous attacks on small towns as the next step in the terrorist playbook. They may not have the power to kill many people, but these attacks would scare the living daylights out of the general populace. I’m not trying to give terrorists any ideas, but I sure would try to listen to everyone in my community when he, she, or they say something doesn’t seem right, or a stranger has been looking around the town. You see, this particular …what did I call it…oh, yeah, this bullshit war, is not being fought on one front. It’s being fought in every corner of the known universe. It’s being fought wherever terrorists believe they can do just that…create terror. Those who believe, “Oh, it can’t happen here,” have their heads tucked deeply in the sand. That’s too bad because when it does happen “here,” they will become terrified sheep rather than pissed off lions. We live in different times. The days of sitting on our hands, believing that it won’t happen to us are over. It’s time to wake up and smell the cordite.

Paying the price

There is no way to write this piece without sounding like a racist and a hater. Those who really know me, however, will understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Should I use that old cliché that says, “I have a number of black friends,” or some other baloney like that? No, my friends are of almost all colors. I’m not so certain that any of my friends are true Native Americans although my companion maintains that there is some Cherokee blood in her family tree. As a consequence, I won’t apologize to anyone for what I’m about to put down on paper.

For seventeen years I toiled in the vineyards of higher education at Northeastern University in Boston. The school bordered on what was considered at one time to be home to “the blacks.” It was called Roxbury and that’s exactly how a lot of people referred to it. A friend of mine, Reuben Margolin, was attacked one day by four black youths from one of the projects. While Reuby didn’t look like much, the mistake these young men made was in not recognizing that (a) he’d been a Golden Gloves champion, (b) he’d grown up in a rather tough section of New York and was also a street fighter, and (c) that he wouldn’t take shit from anyone, especially four teenage punks who thought they had a chance. He left them all on the ground without suffering any injury to himself…and he was 54 at the time. It was that kind of neighborhood. On another occasion, I watched with a couple of colleagues as a pair of men threw another off the roof of a four-story apartment building. On yet another occasion, I was denied entrance to the “Afro-American Institute” building because of my skin color. I tell you these things because to me, racism is a two-way street.  However, the very second that one cites something that cries black racism, you become labeled as a ‘hater’ or a ‘racist’ or worse; it is just so much bullshit.

When I left Northeastern, things had improved to some degree. Today, the ‘black community’ or what is left of it in Roxbury…gentrification, you know…works closely with faculty and administrators at Northeastern to make community relations as pleasant as possible. There are still pockets of trouble but the real trouble has moved further away and is now more concentrated in another area of Boston known as Mattapan.

My career following Northeastern was spent in what I called a “Lilly-white community with a bunch of white bread kids and colleagues.” That too is a nasty thing to say but the truth of the matter is that there sure weren’t many black students when I arrived. The college later hired a minority student coordinator and Eddie did a wonderful job with the young men and women who sought her guidance. Funny story about that is that I was with her one day when several freshmen came in asking where they could get a good haircut. Stupid me says, “Oh, there’s a great barber right in town.” Eddie or Edwina as most people knew her, gave me a dirty look and told the kids where they should go in Boston. After they left, I expressed further ignorance by asking, “Why not the barber in town?” She then told me that the hair of black people and the hair of white people required different treatment, a fact I have retained to this day…it was humbling to say the least.

“Where is this all going?” you might ask. Welllll, it’s going straight to the University of Missouri and a bunch of stupid white folk, stupid black folk, and stupid folk in general. Let us take it from the very top: It would appear that President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, along with the director of Greek life on campus were walking around with their eyes shut and their ears plugged long before black and white students on campus called for the resignations of all three. Racial epithets and incidents and those relating to anyone of certain religious beliefs don’t occur overnight and turn the institution into a disgruntled campus. One event is too many, but when that single event occurs, it demands that a course of action be instituted and incorporate the education of the entire institution, e.g., the University of Missouri System; not just a main or adjunct campus but the entire system. Whether a residence hall director or monitor, someone in the dean of students office or wherever decided it wasn’t important enough to bring to the attention of the university leadership or whether that leadership pretended it wasn’t all that important is immaterial, I neither know nor care. At some point, somewhere on that campus, something happened and nothing was done to nip it in the bud. As a consequence, a wound, real or imagined, began to fester, ultimately exploding at a homecoming parade, with that particular event being handled clumsily by the president of the university.

If part of the blame for the explosion of problems at the University of Missouri lies with the administration, there is also an element of stupidity among some of the black students. Saying that “…the University remained silent after Mike Brown was killed,” is about as dumb as dumb can be. What the hell did Michael Brown have to do with the University of Missouri in the first place? The fact that this thug was killed in the same state as the University makes no sense. Why should the University administration have had anything to say about the death of Mike Brown? UM is not an all-black school like a Harris-Stowe or Lincoln University or any number of other all-black institutions. Black students make up seven percent of the student population at the University of Missouri, yet they are the ones who screamed the loudest for the ouster of the president and the chancellor. Terribly sorry, chaps, but you get no sympathy from me on that one.

The other stupid people in this situation are the Jewish students who complained that they had also been singled out for insults from others. Don’t they have a Hillel chapter? Where do they worship? Who is their rabbi? Did they complain to him and ask that he speak to either the president or chancellor? Or did they, like the members of the black community allow some insults to fester, turn gangrenous, and blow up when the other situation arose? We will never know.

Is the University of Missouri an unusual situation? No, not at all. I don’t believe there is a college or university campus in the country where there isn’t some form of racial or ethnic injustice being perpetrated or has been perpetrated. It’s what happens when it occurs that is important because what is done at the outset can set the tone for the institution for decades to come. Diversity is not just a word to which we should pay lip service; diversity means understanding that there are people out there who are different from you…different in the food they eat, the clothes they wear; the manner in which they worship, and a ton of other differences. However, they are Americans. You and I may not always agree with them and that’s fine; let’s have a discussion. But this is the 21st Century and everyone, all of us, should be above calling blacks the ‘n’ word or worse. We should be above posting swastikas anywhere; it’s a symbol of absolute terror to many members of the Jewish community, and if we can’t understand that, it’s our problem and our responsibility to learn why.

The University of Missouri turned a deaf ear and is now paying the price. They will continue to pay that price for years to come; in applications; in donations; in faculty disgruntlement, and in a number of other areas. How many other colleges and universities are in similar situations but have not yet faced that one back-breaking incident that will find them paying the same price as Missouri? It’s time to look inward, you collegiate geniuses, before all hell breaks loose and you suffer the consequences.

Oh, how things change

The human body is really quite remarkable, you know. It appears to go through some type of metamorphosis as we age. In the male of the species, that with which I am intimately knowledgeable, and rather, genetically speaking, prepared to discuss…and will do so ad nauseum.

The world seems to have done a 180 degree turn in terms of the weight of all children, male and female. Whereas today’s problem appears to be one of obesity among the young (and others), at the time I was in my prepubescent state, the situation appeared to be exactly the opposite, i.e., “How the hell do we put some meat on those goddamned bones. I found him/her hiding behind a sapling for Christ’s sake!” or words to that effect. Oh sure, there were a few of us – not me – who experienced being called “Fatso” or some other derogatory term. I would add that those so christened did not immediately disappear into their sanctum sanctorum only to emerge with bandoliers of ammunition, an AK-47 in one hand and twin .45s on his hips and take out half the school. If he or she in some cases was really pissed, they might deck the skinny kid with the run-off mouth or perhaps throw him to the ground and sit on him to test his breathing skills, but retaliation was rarely violent and never as drastic as the shit that’s going down today.

Through puberty, high school, and even perhaps college, many of us continued to appear much as we had in our formative years. Others stayed as they were by joining the armed forces or immediately entering the work force but, by and large, we remained as we were. For many of us male-types, college meant finding “her.” We’d probably had our hearts shattered, figuratively speaking, many times along the road of life, but “she” was the one we had all been seeking. In my own case, it was somewhat serendipitous, in that it was the accident of college that led me to “her.” While I was not preparing to become a teacher, it was my second minor concentration and I had the opportunity to teach at my old high school. I was struck by cupid’s arrow the minute I saw her sitting in the teacher’s room, cigarette in hand. By the following summer we were marching down the aisle, all six feet, three inches, 145 pounds of me standing next to the woman of my dreams.

I don’t really know if it’s marriage or parenthood or whatever, but suddenly and in a subtle manner, my physiognomy began to change. My waistline, once in the teens, immediately expanded to late twenties, early thirties. My hairline began to create runways on either side of center. Small aches and pains began to become more prevalent and with an increase in intensity…hmm, is this what adulthood is all about?

A daughter and a son and now we’re done became something of an error when four years after we thought our family was complete, another daughter came into our lives. I really don’t believe our lives were complete, and I must give thanks to the Lord above for blessing us with this crazy bundle of joy. Raising kids is, I swear, an additional cause for the waistline to swell; the hair to further recede, and the heart to pound its way into myocardial infarction. Having lived through three of these episodes and with five stents now assisting blood flow, I do speak with authority on this subject.

Let no one throw at you that old saw that goes, “With age comes wisdom;” I am a great believer that with age comes oldness…wisdom may come along for the ride but trust me, old is old. I am now two inches shorter than when I was married. I am also better than 100 pound heavier; my head is shaved, and getting into bed at night and out in the morning is an effort 365 days a year…oh, except in a leap year when it’s 366 days. Both knees have been surgically repaired; rotator cuffs in each shoulder have been ‘fixed;’ three back operations have resulted in five self-fused lumbar vertebrae, and I have had surgery to hands, feet, and just about everything else in my body.

Today, however, I am facing the trial of my life. I must, once more, at the age of 81, subject myself to the surgeon’s scalpel. It is permissible to quote, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it here,” but that would be rather tacky. You see, although circumcision took place at an early age, it would appear that the foreskin of the penis has grown over the poor little fella making it both difficult and painful to discard sugar, et al, though the process of urination. I know; I know, we’re getting a bit personal here, but there is a certain humor in this entire chapter of my life. Whereas doctors have terms for damn near every surgical procedure under the sun, nothing has been put forth for this particular operation. My surgeon has informed me that it’s not uncommon at all for this to happen in older people – good luck to all you kids in your 60s and 70s; something else you may have to look forward to – and it’s a rather simple procedure. Not wanting to go into this thing blind, I have been pondering appropriate nomenclature for this particular ‘snip.’ To date, I have come up with “circum,” since it isn’t another complete circumcision; penisectomy, which sounds much too technical and is not in keeping with the manner in which I’m viewing this ‘cut.’ I have decided that it has come down to a choice between “dickectomy” which is appealing because it incorporates my name with what others have been calling me for years, or “peckerectomy,” which I must admit has a certain degree of flair.  Should you feel that I have yet to hit on the correct term for my upcoming (hmmm) in by 9; out  by 5 event, please feel free to comment.

“It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.” Fella said that some years ago. Can’t recall who he was or even where I first heard it, but it seems like reasonably good advice, should anyone care to ask me. You take care of the very young because you never know which one, if any of them, might grow up to find the ultimate cure for disease or discover another earth-like planet that can be colonized, or perhaps even find a method for eliminating those horrible traffic jams that many, many, too many people face every day they head off to work. As far as the elderly are concerned, it’s something like “they’ve served their time in hell,” and rather than just discarding them, we should reward them, not only for surviving, but for the contributions they may have made and for the ability to tell us what mistakes we made in the past…so we won’t repeat them…which we will anyway.

Awful lot of people out there who don’t agree with any of what I say, and there are too damned many of them who don’t believe we – society, that is – have any responsibility for caring for either group. “Screw ‘em,” they say. “It’s your own damned fault for bringing a kid into this world, and if you can’t raise that kid and take care of it, tough tomatoes; that’s your problem.” As far as the elderly are concerned, there is that group that would just as soon put them on an ice floe and let it drift until it melts. I think you might be a bit surprised at just how uncompassionate – or dispassionate; take your choice – some of our fellow citizens can actually be when any part of their own normalcy is threatened. It’s not unlike those folks they used to show on television; they called them “doomsday preppers” or something like that. They were prepared to take care of their own and would shoot to kill anyone who asked for help…nice folks.

Don’t get me wrong; if someone behaves like Red Skelton’s old hobo, Freddy the Freeloader, and is unwilling to make any contribution to society, I don’t believe society has any responsibility to take care of them. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like Rodney King and his, “Why can’t we all just get along,” but in truth, that’s not such a bad idea. In a Utopian society we could do that, but the earth is not populated by Utopians. It’s populated by so much fragmentation, so much anger, so much hate, and yes, so much love that I begin to wonder if the inmates have finally taken over the asylum.

I read a piece recently that said people in the Scandinavian countries are a great deal happier and satisfied than people in the United States. Of course they have fewer people, higher taxes, higher cost of living, and a few more troubles than we have so I don’t really believe that they are a hell of a lot happier. Someone living in San Diego reads that and they’d probably laugh out loud…”How the hell can they be happier with the winters they have to suffer through?” It’s just further proof that surveys don’t mean crap or the while figures don’t lie, liars sure’n hell can figure.

Anyway, back to our situation with young and old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “In 2014, 15.5 million or approximately 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.” That’s an awful lot of children and a lot of poverty for a country that claims to be as rich as ours. In addition, “According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Are there federal programs to feed these children under 18? Sure there are…if they’re in school. A lot of these kids aren’t in school because they don’t have shoes to wear or clothing that would be appropriate. In other words, the federal and state programs, while they work for some, aren’t working for all. We do not, as a nation, do a good enough job of identifying and jump-starting the poor in our country. Most of the folks I know don’t wish to be poor; they’re willing to work. All most of them want is what all of us ever want, and that’s a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. If our infrastructure is so fragile, maybe the poor can help to change that; let’s put them to work. I’m not talking about welfare here; there are too many slackers on the welfare rolls already…no work; no welfare. Who is going to pay for it? Damned good question. If we could make some sense of the federal and state budgets, perhaps we could cut some pork and create an infrastructure fund that would damn near cover all costs. Hell, we might even have a bond issue that would help to underwrite a program to help the poor.

So now we have cured all of the ills of the very young and the very poor. What about the elderly? “The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.  Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54 percent compared with 125 percent for older minorities.” This could certainly be called a growing market.  People are living longer because of healthier lifestyles, advances in medicine, and just in general. Do we owe these people something or should we just abandon them? I hope that I hear a resounding, “No” to the last part of that question.

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that outline a few of the problems facing society with regard to the elderly:

  • In 2014, 3.0 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity. 1.2 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.
  • In 2013, 5.4 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 9 percent of all seniors.
  • Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income:
    • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
    • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
    • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
    • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

Yes, there are, currently, a number of federal and state services that provide meals and general care for the elderly. It is imperative that we continue to see these programs both expanded and funded to meet what is a growing societal crisis in elder care in this country. It’s predicted that the last of the Baby Boomer generation will reach retirement age by 2025…ten years hence. I cannot help but wonder if it won’t be until that year is upon us that we will decide to take action.

Yes, “It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.”

“America is on the right path.”

“America is headed in the wrong direction.”

“America needs to turn things around.”

“America is stronger than ever before.”

Can someone, anyone, please tell me what all of this gobbledygook means? What path are we on that is so right? If we’re headed in the wrong direction, what is the right direction and how do we get wherever the hell it is we’re supposed to get to. Obviously, if we’re headed in the wrong direction, we, as a nation, need to turn things around, but what things and what direction? If America is on the right path and stronger than ever before, does that mean we’re going in the right direction and don’t have to turn things around?

And people wonder why I dislike politicians or, as is the case with the current slate of Republican nominee hopefuls, those who do not consider themselves politicians but sure as hell sound like them. It seems to me that if you ask a conservative how the country is doing, they’ll tell you that things are terrible and must be changed. Pose the same question to one of those “leftie, commie, pinko liberal Democrats, and they’ll say that we’re doing great. Funny thing is, they both have valid points to make. They are both right and they are both wrong.

Let me give you a few examples of where the country is in trouble and where it’s not doing all that badly. I freely admit that these are either of my own making or have been gleaned from some newspaper and Internet articles. Because of these, you must remember both my prejudices and those of the sources that I may be quoting. To begin, we have an aging population, and we’re not doing all that well in taking care of them. Social Security is in a state of flux, with some people wanting to cut it and others wanting to see it replaced by something else. I don’t really know – nor do I care – about how the elderly are cared for, only that they are cared for in some way, shape, or form. This crop of ‘Baby Boomers’ saw this country through the end of WWII, through Korea and Vietnam, and this nation owes them a debt. First, it’s a debt that can never be fully repaid, and second, the boomers are not looking for a handout but more of a hand in ensuring that they won’t be on the street the minute they retire. So, we have elder care as a problem that the government has not thought through thoroughly, and this is not a good direction. The problem is only going to get worse for a while because we have a workforce that is largely aged and who will do the jobs they are currently doing? Are those jobs still applicable in the 21st Century or can they be replaced or integrated with something else? There certainly are many questions regarding the elderly, and, it would appear, very few people interested in proposing intelligent methods of answering them.

Health care is a huge question mark in the United States. The incumbent President managed to get a health care package through Congress, but Congress, the incumbent President, and probably anyone else who has been able to read the tome agree that the plan is flawed. Without question, some type of health care plan is required for the lower income groups in the United States. While the current program appears to be working, it isn’t going to continue to work until and unless action is taken to strengthen it. The current Congress has tried 40 times to repeal it and has not succeeded. Perhaps what Congress should be doing is looking for ways to rewrite the parts that are offensive and come up with a plan that will satisfy a consensus. Heaven only knows, when it comes to health care, the legislative branch of government will never succeed in creating the perfect plan…plus 40 tries is more than enough to make someone with common sense say, “Well, that isn’t going to work; let us try a different approach.” In addition, any universal health care plan must be sufficiently flexible to account for advances in medicine. For example, it wasn’t that many decades ago that any type of surgery requiring general anesthesia meant a hospital stay of one to ‘x’ number of days. Today, “In by 9; out by 5” does not refer to dry cleaning but, instead, to any number of what-used-to-be-consider-complicated surgeries. Who can say what the future will hold for coverage of surgical procedures? Another concern will be how the pharmaceutical industry will change as life expectancy and other factors change. This is an area in which we appear to be heading in the right direction; it’s merely a matter of smoothing out a few bumps in the health care road.

Immigration reform is a subject about which I am damn near totally ignorant. Yes, I’m aware that we have close to 13 million people living in this country who are considered “illegal” because they don’t pay taxes and yet take advantage of all of the rights and privileges accorded to tax paying citizens. I’m also aware that there are 2,000 miles of our southern border which is impossible to protect against illegal infiltration, either by people seeking employment in the United States or by drug dealers who are attempting to get their product into this country to destroy a large part of our population. This is, perhaps, one of the most perplexing problems facing this nation and one for which there is no simple answer. Can we prevent the importation of drugs? Yes, if we wish to go to an all-out war south of the border. That, in return, brings its own share of problems, not the least of which is that America does not wish to start a war with a country with which we are allied. While it might be objectionable, one solution might be to create a dead zone of 3 – 5 miles along our southern border, killing border towns and moving people elsewhere…that’s one of those crazy, impractical suggestions that only a northerner would propose. Good luck to the U.S. government in solving that one.

To me, education is one of the most serious issues facing this country as we move along in the 21st Century. Children are exposed to far more knowledge from far more mediums than ever before. They learn from different sources and in different ways. If some don’t keep up, we stratify them, causing social stigmas that will follow them throughout their lives. Is it any wonder that we have disciplinary problems in our schools? Teachers are, for the most part, being paid an annual salary that borders on the poverty level and how can any single teacher possibly present all of the information that is required to live in today’s society? Classroom buildings are outmoded and becoming more so every day; yet, where is the money going to come from to create new facilities. Perhaps children going to school is passé, and computer learning from home will become the education of the future. Then, we wind up with a problem of socialization of our population. What a bitch; how will Texas survive without Friday night football? Don’t laugh. It may be football in some states, but the opportunity to come together and learn to get along with others is a major part of the educational experience.

I was interested to read that a major problem in the future may very well be the divorce rate. This is particularly true for those with only a high-school education or less. This is the group that already ranks as the “working poor” in this country. Young kids, poorly educated and unqualified for good-paying jobs, get married, have a couple of children of their own, and then get divorced because they fight over money and low income. It’s a truly vicious cycle and one that shows no sign of slowing down. Let me quote from one source, and to be truthful, I don’t even remember which it was:

“There are three points I will make today about this retreat from marriage in the United States:

  1. “First, in recent years, the retreat from marriage is concentrated among Americans who do not have college degrees. This means fewer lower-income Americans are living in stable, married homes.
  2. “This retreat from marriage makes poverty more common and income inequality more extreme than they would otherwise be, and it limits economic opportunity. Men, women, and children from lower-income communities are most affected by the social and economic consequences of this retreat.
  3. “The retreat from marriage is rooted in economic, policy, and cultural changes. Thus, public and private efforts to renew marriage and family life should be broadly gauged, seeking to strengthen the economic, policy, and cultural foundations of family life for the twenty-first century. Such efforts should focus on the families most affected by the retreat from marriage, namely, lower-income families.”

If that doesn’t scare the crap out of our political and social leaders, I’m not certain anything will. When I talk about the direction in which the country is headed, this one makes us appear to be on a merry-go-round!

Finally, the number one problem facing the United States and every other country in the world today is the economy. Supposedly, we have come out of the recession and are well on the way to economic recovery. The economy, however, is a fickle lady, and the slightest misstep by our banks, by our government, by manufacturing, or by agribusiness could send us right back up said creek without said paddle. In addition, many working families in this country will tell you that while the government may tout the recession as being over, they’re having a hard time putting food on the table or buying another pair of jeans in which to send the kids to school. We have more working poor in this country than at any other time in our history. We don’t expect that the government will come along and bail those people out; in fact, most of those people would get pretty pissed if the government offered to do such a thing. You see, Americans are a proud people. I’ve already said it, but most Americans don’t favor handouts. We like to sweat for what we get; always have and always will.

So, are we on the right path or not? Are we going in the right direction? Seems to me that it’s a question that’s impossible to answer, but let me add this…quibbling over who is right and who is wrong gets absolutely nothing productive done for America. Maybe it’s time that everyone begins to pull in a direction that will move us forward rather than having a tug of war that will only result in additional chaos.

Pet Peeves

It is just about that time again. “What time,” you ask. Well, I will tell you, because that’s the kind of guy I am. It’s time to talk about, once more I will add, the things that irritate the living daylights out of me…so here are some of my pet peeves:

  • Children who graduate from high school and ‘must’ go on to college. They have, for the most part, no idea of what they will study or why they choose a particular institution of higher learning, but they are willing to piss away their hard-earned savings or those of their parents because college is supposed to be the thing to do. It’s a sin, and those whose plans are vague or who are going for an asinine reason such as “That’s where Mary’s going and she’s my best friend,” should be sent to work for a couple of years to learn the real value of money.
  • People who don’t understand the value of community colleges. No, most of them are not Grade 13 as some would have us believe. Community colleges provide a great bridge for students who are not truly ready to bear the challenges that can often be faced in a four year institution. In addition, the two years of a community college enables students to more clearly focus their future goals…plus they are far less expensive than dropping fifty or sixty grand on a freshman year that is often wasted.
  • Unless a student is going to his/her state school, college is expensive; no kidding, right? Yet, when I was working in higher education, even as the cost of a university education was rising, I would watch students spend more time partying and wasting time in other ways as though money was just something one could pick off a tree. Even in state schools today, the fees are damn near as high as the tuition. It’s a crying shame that too many of these kids, for that’s the level of their maturity, don’t understand the value of the almighty buck.
  • Let’s switch gears for a moment. I have a handicapped placard for my car. I have COPD and emphysema (my fault for smoking for 51 years) and a back with all of the lumbar vertebrae fused – the result of athletics and several other elements for which I will not take credit. I use a walker on those occasions when I have to go into stores. When I see people take up handicapped spaces who do not have a placard or a plate allowing them to use handicapped parking, I am infuriated. When I see young people put up a placard and bounce out of the driver’s seat to run into a store, I really get pissed; obviously, they’ve borrowed the card from someone.
  • People who don’t believe that rules of the road apply to them make me livid. There is a middle school in our neighborhood. We pass it going to and from our house. This summer, a great deal of work was done to improve the walkways to the school, including the refurbishment of the intersection where a stop sign is prominently displayed on a pole and on the street. Today, as we were returning from shopping, I dutifully stopped at the sign and looked to my left. Before I could get my head back from turning, there was a horn blown behind me. I pointed to the stop sign but the person just threw up her hands. As I went on my merry way, she came right in behind me. I was tempted to follow her when she zoomed into the school parking area but Juli insisted on going home. Why do we have stop signs or any signs at all if people like that one don’t feel the need to obey them? I find the same thing happening more and more with directional signals. Evidently, we’re supposed to be able to read the mind of the driver ahead of us and know when and where they will make their turns. Rules of the road are meant for everyone, at all times, and not for the dipsticks who chose to ignore them as they so desire. That also includes people who seem to have their telephones glued to their ear. How many hands are supposed to be on the wheel? What are the positions of those hands supposed to be? What happens when, not if, but when you have to suddenly swerve to avoid an accident or, worse yet, a child in the road? Studies have shown that your mind cannot be in two places simultaneously. If you use a hands-on device when you’re driving, you are inviting disaster…not today, nor tomorrow, but one of these days. Then…it’s too late for the OMGs.
  • I was under the impression that if I signed up, telemarketers would not call me. Several have not gotten the message. When they reach me, they will often ask if this is Richard Bishop; when I acknowledge that it is, they begin, “Richard…” That’s generally as far as they get before I do one of several things: 1. I interrupt and ask, “Have we met? Do we know one another? How were we introduced? These questions are asked somewhat rapid fire. (This happens when I’m bored and want a little fun). If they haven’t caught on and ended the conversation, I will continue with a series of questions about their age, the name of “our” motel; how often we had been there, and whether or not she or he (I can play anyone during this gig) wished to continue our arrangement. This last generally gets them to hand up. If not, I just keep on rolling. My script isn’t as formal as theirs, and I can ad lib ‘til hell freezes over. 2. I put the phone down and do what I was doing, coming back about 30 seconds later. If the phone is silent, I know they’re gone; if they’re still talking, I might say something like, “Oh, good, you’re still there; I’m having some problems with my bowels and I had to run to the bathroom. You just can’t believe how good I’m feeling now…did I miss anything important? That’s generally a game changer and they can hardly wait to get away. 3. I don’t say anything when they ask if this is…I just hang up. If they don’t know to whom they’re speaking, why the hell should I help them?

I have many more pet peeves and perhaps there will be a ‘volume II,’ but for now, think about your own irritants. If you wish to send them along, I guarantee you will receive credit…first names only, but last initials might be included. Enjoy.


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