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~ In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. ~

John F. Kennedy

The president wants four young U.S. congresswomen of color to go back to the countries from which they came. It doesn’t matter if they were born in the U.S. or whether they’re United States citizens. Just shut up. Sit down. Or go. Get out.

The love-it-or-leave-it sentiment is xenophobia at its worst. Such vulgarity originated as far back as the 1600s. Still yet, in 1798, our country allowed for the deportation of noncitizens who were considered dangerous, from hostile nations or dared to criticize the federal government.

Unfortunately, such xenophobia remains alive and well. Trump wants anyone different to shut up and be thankful they’re allowed to stay, even if constituents elected them. He communicated this message by relentlessly and culminated with a despicable attack on Ilhan Omar. In defending Trump, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway claimed that the “Squad” represented a “dark underbelly in this country” and that “We are tired of some of these women palling around with terrorists.”

As of this post, no evidence clarifies what the ‘dark underbelly‘ is or that any congressional member palled around with terrorists. But my guess? Conway conjured it up on the fly (i.e., at the moment).

Esquire writer Jack Holmes notes that Trump’s essential message is that America is the government of white people, by white people, for white people. Everyone else? Be happy you’re here.

REPORTER: Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?

TRUMP: It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.

CBS’ Ed O’Keefe spoke to several Trump supporters on Monday who agree.

  • “I know some people don’t like his tweets and they think he’s crass. I — that’s why I voted for him,” said retired businesswoman Mary Lou Kohlhofer.
  • Nancy Schneider even went so far as to echo the sentiment in President Trump’s tweets, saying, “If you think you have it better in your — where you came from or how they did things there, go back where you came from.”
  • Doug Thomas, said, “It’s unfortunate he had to do it the way he had to do it . . . It’s really the only way he can to get this country back.”

My first response to Mr. Thomas? Get the country back? From what and who took it? What exactly did Trump reclaim? Steel jobs? No. Companies returning to the U.S.? Nada. Foxconn’s building the ‘. . . the 8th wonder of the world?’ Hmm, nope.

Foxconn is just a tall tale – very tall. If actress Clara Peller were alive, even she might say, “Where’s the beef?” In June 2018, Trump joined Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou in announcing Foxconn’s plan to bring 13,000 new jobs. With the stroke of a shovel, Trump declared manufacturing was back, and that Wisconsin’s Foxconn plant would be the “eighth wonder of the world.” In the year since, Gou resigned to pursue, and lose, the candidacy for President of Taiwan. A Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin neighborhood got demolished. And there’s neither a plant nor jobs. Just destruction.

Conservative commentator George Will eloquently summarized Trump’s reign with a candid and stark assessment.

“I believe that what this president has done to our culture, to our civic discourse … you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said, and you cannot change that he has now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream. I think this will do more lasting damage than Richard Nixon’s surreptitious burglaries did.”

” . . . Presidential norms and the idea of “being presidential” is a meaningless construct. And a lot more “lessons” that will be destructive to the way in which people run for president and act once they get elected.”

Regardless of religion, whether Christian, Buddhist, or Atheism, we must respond to suffering from loving-kindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage. We should hear the cries of those who suffer and of our most vulnerable. The lineage of one’s non-whiteness, privilege, or citizenship must not be the sole determiner of human’ worth.’ Instead, we must unite with those who hear cries from the wilderness and become a collective force for transformation and love.

In the film Thirteen Days, the character Kenny O’Donnell quoted, “If the sun comes up tomorrow, it is only because of men of goodwill. That is all there is between the devil and us.” From all evidence presented, unless we change our mindset, the devil will be around for quite some time.

Alignment

The President sparked an uproar this past weekend by tweeting unnamed progressive congresswomen “. . . who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.

Trump did not specify the lawmakers, but the interpretation appears to have been Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). All four are U.S. citizens. Only Omar, who was born in Somalia, came to the U.S. as a refugee.

Why does Trump do this stuff? Well, he knows ‘pretty’ and ‘fun’ doesn’t get headlines like fury and outrage. Trump proclaims that he alone is the conservative protector, and regardless of toxicity, he continually forges an ideological fortress of hatred that disembowels others while remaining unscathed by life’s vicissitudes. Asserting the right to engage in public displays of racism without it being called out for what it is. As Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent noted, “A crucial ingredient here is Trump’s declaration of the ability to flaunt his racism with impunity.”

Trump continually asserts that nonwhites born in America, but has ethnic roots in another country, is in some sense, not a real American. Therefore, they are suspect. What I am ashamed of is how the logic works. It’s not because we are no longer offended by any religious or moral sensibility, but that American’s succumbed to tools birthed in propaganda and a Twitter account. Just like any other rube, we let ourselves be taken in. We chewed on it; bathed in it; and swallowed it whole.

We’ve normalized hatred.

Consider Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill. Graham declined to condemn the President over racist tweets.

We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — Border Patrol agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

On Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures, Graham normalized dehumanization, saying:

I don’t care if they (asylum seekers) have to stay in these facilities for 400 days. We’re not going to let those men go that I saw.”

A broader question is, who will ultimately become more powerful? The current GOP administration? Independents? Progressives? As a country, are we to be ruled by the dogma of the ultra-wealthy privileged few or will we toward systemic reform thinkers?

Those in Trump’s orbit would note I lack neither the ruthless business savvy nor charismatic leadership style to overturn anything but the book on my table. For the most part, I remain anonymous, devoid of collaborators, and free from interference as possible. I command my own time; have a regular job; don’t have a vast retirement plan; live alone, and my credit rating is above average. I’ve abandoned any notion of family, having a family or children. And, I accept the fact I will die sometime within the next several years. Alone. Good. I’m OK with it.

The more substantial threat to the establishment lay in future leaders. Like AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley, these young leaders want to create their own platform and their voice. I don’t believe there’s any internal notion of being movie stars. However, they use the same Social Media platforms that propel hate to drive voices of compassion. As such, these voices will neither accept complacency nor complicity, and the current rule of “ruin everything” will not unify future generations.

I may not necessarily believe entirely in the political theology brought forth by AOC, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley. But I admire their willingness to tackle far deeper problems: the fundamental evasion of heart that permeates much of life. The world needs these leaders. The world needs your leadership too.

A person could easily say that like Christ, Buddha was one of the most influential and prominent leaders in history. He created one of the most significant, most well-known religions in the world today. And unlike many of the leaders throughout the dawn of humanity, he did it without hatred or violence. What AOC and others represent is purpose: purpose of ending suffering. Not just for themselves, but everyone.

Authentic leadership comes from deep confidence and understanding of life that enables us to align our compass to a humanistic direction without departing from our humanity. When we fail to follow our calling and vocation, and instead, focus on the most unimportant and trivial, our conscience warns that something’s not right and corrective measures and proactive actions are required. Therefore, we must initiate a conscious effort to dedicate enough time, focus, and energies on positive, meaningful activities and align ourselves to commandments found in the Beatitudes, located in the compassion of Buddha, and bless us with true peace, joy, and fulfillment. These are the values that help us be “human” in a godly sense.

In a real sense, our life is about love–it’s the compass of compassion God requires us to align.

Associate Editor Grace Gedye wrote The Strange Political Silence On Elder Care.

The Article byline is as follows:

Millions of middle-aged women struggle to care for ailing older relatives, and the crisis is only getting worse. So why is no one talking about it?

It’s a subject I’ve talked about for several years.

It’s mandatory reading.

It had been nearly a month before Ms. J. called. Truthfully, having been ticked off that none of the key people I told of my tumor had reached out to me in more than a month, I became frustrated and purposely hadn’t answered her repeated calls for several days. And I get it. Cancer is a word no one wants to hear, especially when it’s so personal.

For those I’ve told, I’m positive my tumor diagnosis created some ripple effect—including my brother, close friends, and business associates. As a result, each will attempt to come to terms with the diagnosis, determine how they’ll interact. Still, even though a tumor entered my life, I presumed I remained the same person as before. Of course there was ‘me‘ before cancer. And surely, there’s the ‘me‘ post tumor. Yet, I kind of thought both were one and the same.

Finally answering the phone, and after some small talk, Ms. J. came to the point.

“You’re too cynical about this. You’re too pessimistic.”

Ms. J.’s comment stuck with me for the past week.

All of my life, people have cried on my shoulder about ‘this,’ ‘that,’ other ‘another.’ I accepted it all. Listened and labored. Inspite of it all, my body will continue to have bad days, but the ‘me‘ inside, refuses. I keep chugging along. I’ve neither called to cry, vent nor endlessly whine of life’s travails. Instead, like thousands of others diagnosed with critical illnesses, I live, work, and continue to do the things that bring joy.

And herein lay the lesson. I’ve learned that nothing happens overnight. The process I am moving through, powers me into self-appreciation, self-knowledge and self-love, and shifts my self-awareness to empowerment. From a Buddhist persepctive, maybe Ms. J. failed to understand my strength. A quote from the television series Kung Fu explains it this way.

The body’s outer strength is self-evident: it fades with age and succumbs to sickness. Then there is personal ch’i, the inner strength. Everyone possesses it. But it is much more difficult to develop. Inner strength will last through every trial and tribulation; through every season; through old age and beyond.

Elaine Howley wrote that our culture reveres positive thinking. But for patients undergoing cancer treatment, the pressure to always look on the bright side can be isolating. Having worked and lived within the medical community for the past decade, I know positive thoughts have little to do with neither survival nor outcome.

So, screw the bright side. When a person’s life took a hard left turn, maybe…just maybe…they want someone to acknowledge them, while simultaneously acknowledging that their body does indeed have shitty days.

Like many in life, maybe we all need to listen more. Several months ago, I told four of my closest friends some horrifying news about my health. Yeah, it’s crappy. But what else was I saying? Am I blunt and painfully realistic? Am I too cheerful and downplaying the seriousness? Am I avoiding giving details?

If you’re a friend to someone in need, follow your friend’s lead. If that person is optimistic, be optimistic. Should that person be down, console. Do not propose one look solely on the bright side. I will not positively embrace the tumor in my neck. I will, however, embrace life.

And that attitude comes from ch’i—my ch’i.

Treatment began early May. Two months later, I’m amazed at how much my life is tethered to technology.

For many, the smartphone is a magic wand that summons carry-out, pays for gasoline, can connect friends, track flights, make reservations and even order from the great big box store in the sky. With the exception of a few moments in my writings, I’ve focused on just how much this technology can destroy a life. Via some weird purchasing smartphone app, one could buy something from another country, make an ill-advised comment or get trolled, or get a ton of botnet emails on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I’ve retrieved the weather, texted a friend and checked the latest Chicago Cubs score.

Yet, it can be a lifesaver. September 14th, Siri was able to send a personal distress call. At 2:36 AM, I returned to life. My first comment was to apologize for not having this event at 2:36 PM.

In his article, In The Land Where the Internet Ends, New York Times writer Pagan Kennedy details how he drove down a back road in West Virginia and into a parallel reality. After passing Spruce Mountain, his phone lost service and remained comatose for days.

“I came in hopes of finding a certain kind of wildness and solitude. I live in Massachusetts, and I often disappear into the forests and rivers to clear my head. I’ve always loved the moment when the bars on my phone disappear. When I’m out of range entirely, floating along in a kayak, time grows elastic. I stare down into that other kingdom below me, at the minnows darting through the duckweed, and feel deeply free — no one’s watching; no one knows where I am.”

Like Kennedy, I so desperately wish to pull my phone out and hurl the damn things into the air. Yet, I cannot. My life is attached to the technology, intertwined by a host of technology genius, smartwatch, smartphone, and body. The aforementioned technology lives for me. As long as I live, it lives. Dare I pass, someone will wipe its system and become another person’s dread or wonder. Smart technology tracks everything–blood pressure, pulse, calories, exercise, sleep patterns, medications, and weight. I can communicate with my physicians, request medications, receive test results, schedule appointments, track both mood and thoughts. And, at the slightest miscue, it can notify emergency contacts and I might be afforded the opportunity to return.

Medical beeps and buzzes intricately denote bodily vital signs. And in that, I’ve noticed amazing things. For instance, April 25, on the day I learned of my tumor, my ‘Beats Per Minute” was 96. Two months later, after treatment, 66. Yet, this capability and inevitably only deepens the profound mystery of my own identity. I took birth in human form. Therefore, what force gave life? What forces allowed others the ability to create the technology that measures and assists this form (body)? And regardless of the answer, the world’s great spiritual teachings repeat I am not who I thought I was.

But does that mean there is no self or a search for true self? Or, is ‘self’ different? These are hard questions to answer. Technology can measure bleeps and blips, but identity, friendship, love and ultimately, humanity remains elusive to the critical eye. As such, the technology enhances my humanness, and the soul God hath given this vessel (me). I appreciate the fact that the best things humans enjoy (being human) is the same thing that will destroy my time here. Yet, the knowledge that I’m fully alive and awake is wondrous.

In being overly holy and righteous, we discard the wonder of humanity, of being created in the image of something beautiful and miraculous. I don’t believe such deep levels of righteousness is what God intended.

Like Thoreau, I too sometimes awake in the night and think of possibilities. I can catch an echo of the great exchange of love between humanity and eternal life. We have the ability to create an original work of art. This creation (body) does not originate from the bleeps and blips. I was not generated based upon programming. The technology connects my body to the world helps me understand and appreciate my humanity. And if I am strong enough to look beyond my own selfishness, maybe I can understand a small nugget of the divine–how spirit could become flesh. It’s not by luck. Maybe, rather, divine.

“I try to make sense of things. Which is why, I guess, I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.” ~Bicentennial Man~

Mike, a retired Air Force veteran, is a tall, leaner man. As an Air Force colonel, hundreds entrusted him to lead the squadron. In retirement, he entered the private sector and leveraged his military leadership for a second paycheck.

As one manager noted, Mike lived to work, often working 60 hours a week.

He cared little for the everyday emotional needs of those he led. His job was to lead. When a sympathetic word of support was required, he delivered it with a dry statement and a faceless smile. It was as if he read it from a book, similar to a bad actor reading dryly from a script.

Life changes.

Mike called me to his office and shut the door after entering. Considering the fact Mike has spoken maybe 15 minutes in the past 18 months, I expected some sort of downsizing. I know personally that a cancer diagnosis can affect a person’s work life to different degrees. Your decisions about working during and after cancer treatment depend on your financial resources, the type of work you do, and the demands of your treatment and recovery. Many people are able to continue working during cancer treatment. Others leave their jobs and then return after active cancer treatment ends. As a result, I tend to always tend to expect the worst.

“My wife has cancer,” Mike said dejectedly.

“I am so sorry.” After a long pause, “What stage?”

“Four.”

He got up from his chair, walked to the window and looked at the rain streaking across the glass. He quivered.

“I am unsure of what to do. The military benefits are insane. I can’t afford the time it takes to fight for referrals, or wait the three months until there is an opening at the specialist, or wait the six months to get my wife a referral at an outside clinic. They tell me I am required to make a co-payment, which is part of the deductible and that I would have to pay the remaining balance if the charges exceed the amount if the care provider is not part of the program. So much god damned paperwork.”

A small part of me wanted to say, “Dude. Welcome to the working world.” I didn’t. However, Mike isn’t alone.

In the road ahead, Mike will face insurmountable “insurance issues,” clerical errors, and times he will have no clue what to do. There will be urgencies. There will be applications for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act, but no salary. There may be a lost promotion, lost position or reassignment. And there will be pharmacuetical challanges.

A cancer patient I met was prescribed a critical self-injected medication to be taken at home. Prior authorization was received. However, the pharmacy handling the case refused to allow the physician’s practice pharmacy to fill the script. So, they forwarded it to the benefit mandated pharmacy. Unfortunately, the mandated pharmacy could not fill the prescription, and without informing the patient or his doctor, they outsourced the prescription to yet another pharmacy.

Then there will be the lies. When hitting the fork in the road, both doctor and loved ones will be forced to make a decision worthy of the Greek heroine Antigone.

Should the patient’s best interest be paramount or the requirements of the system?

Ethical issues are rarely cut and dry because you’ve got competing interests. No cargiver gets up in the morning and says, ‘I’m going to lie to people today.’ It’s more about saying, ‘How do I balance my obligation to be truthful with the desire to be compassionate.'”

Lastly, the hours. Like me, Mike will find endless hours of sitting still while emotions rage. Just as his wife’s body will clamor for relief, the mind will torture in a myriad of ways. Just like Richard Brown character from The Hours:

But I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after… and the hours after that…

And just like millions before us, Mike will have to learn to be there for it all — to attend to the sensations, recognizing at that moment, as painful or imperfect or frustrating as it was, that this is the actual texture and content of life.

Life’s always changing.

To experience change — to noticed that nothing ever stayed the same — to know these thoughts, emotions, and sensations as the incessant flow of phenomena.

It is the nature of all things that take form to dissolve again.” — the Buddha

CancerTuesday night, while addressing the crowd at President Trump’s 2020 campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, Fla., the president’s eldest son called out Biden for his decades in Washington as a lawmaker and vice president, questioning why he had not pushed to find a cure before.

“What was the good one last week? Remember? Joe Biden comes out, ‘Well, if you elect me president, I’m going to cure cancer,'” Trump Jr. said. “Wow, why the hell didn’t you do that over the last 50 years, Joe?”

Hours later, President Trump kicked off his reelection campaign by promising to cure cancer, land on Mars, etc.

We will push onward with new medical frontiers. We will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases—including cancer and others and we’re getting closer all the time,” President Trump said. “We will eradicate AIDS in America once and for all and we’re very close. We will lay the foundation for landing American astronauts on the surface of Mars.”

Guess how many forms of cancer there are? Over 100.

My thoughts? In case you’re in a rush, Walgreens doesn’t have it. Curing cancer will be exremely difficult since there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. This makes it very difficult to say that an approach for one form of cancer will be adaptable to all. Whether or not a cure for all cancer types is feasible is a matter of strong debate; although promising studies are continually published and covered by the media almost every day.

Then again, Trump:

  • “[is a] Very intelligent person;”
  • “I do get good ratings.”
  • “One of the great memories of all time.”
  • “I’m a very stable genius.”
  • “I went to an Ivy League school. I know words. I have the best words.”

As a Buddhist, Trump’s statements are directly opposed to the concept of ‘Ahimsa.’ Ahimsa is an important spiritual doctrine shared in many faiths. It means ‘non-injury’ and or ‘non-killing’. Trump’s statements are nothing more than false hope.

Therefore, don’t line up at the Walgreens any time soon.

A Kansas mother posted videos about giving chlorine dioxide (basically industrial bleach), to her sons. Laurel Austin documented her son Jeremy’s first dosing of chlorine dioxide on YouTube. Austin a mother of six, four of whom are adults with autism has tried almost every fad online “cure” for autism — a developmental disorder that has no known cure — including treatments for heavy metal poisoning, hormone therapies used in chemical castration and “natural” remedies such as cilantro and algae.

Nothing worked. Including the bleach.

The solution Austin uses was first promoted decades ago by former Scientologist, Jim Humble. Humble touted the mixture as a cure for AIDS, cancer and almost every other disease known to humanity. in October 2016, after years of investigation by the United States and other countries, and just days after ABC News tracked him down in Mexico to ask about the dangerous game prosecutors say his church is playing with desperate people, Humble wrote:

“There are certainly times I have said some things that I probably should have said differently. For lack of a better way to express things at the time — or because others put words in my mouth, in the past I have stated that MMS (Mineral Miracle Solution) cures most of all diseases. Today, I say that MMS cures nothing!”

Few four-letter words in disease management are more frustrating than the word “cure.” I believe I got ‘sick’ during my military rotation on Guam. In four decades of being sick, I’ve been repeatedly told about cures. I just took this one supplement or went on that one diet, all of my troubles would end. I’ve been told to drink more water. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Random cures popped up everywhere. First, there was shark cartilage supplements. Then there was Bee venom. Let’s not forget acupuncture. Now turmeric is now in vogue. You know, that magic root used in Indian cooking that turns food and fingers a burnt yellow. Yeah. I only presume that some nameless researcher, at an Indian restaurant, picked up a piece of turmeric and said, “Gee. I bet this will cure cancer, arthritis, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and gout.

As a Buddhist, living with a terminal disease is about learning how to accept and how to adjust. It’s about recognizing progress; being grateful for what I can and can’t do while still remaining optimistic. The tumor in my neck doesn’t define me, rather I define myself. I strengthen in the moonlight of night and live to tarry another day. When all is said and done,my greatest strengths are drawn from tender and heartfelt moments shared with others. There within that body of love, is a door unto another world, that keeps on hoping.

I close with the following story.

A preaching professor at Harvard University tells the story of the year his 5-year-old son was working on an art project in his kindergarten class. It was made of plaster, resembled nothing in particular, but with some paint, sparkle and time in a kiln, it was ready to be wrapped as a gift. He wrapped it himself, and was beside himself with excitement. It would be a gift for his father, one three months in the making.

Early in December, when the child could hardly contain the secret, the last day of school finally came. All the parents arrived for the big Christmas play, and when the students left for home, they were finally allowed to take their ceramic presents home. The professor’s son secured his gift, ran toward his parents, tripped, and fell to the floor. The gift went airborne, and when it landed on the cafeteria floor, the shattering sound stopped all conversations. It was perfectly quiet for a moment, as all involved considered the magnitude of the loss. For a 5-year-old, there had never been a more expensive gift. He crumpled down on the floor next to his broken gift and just started crying.

Both parents rushed to their son, but the father was uncomfortable with the moment. People were watching. His son was crying. He patted the boy on the head and said, “Son, it’s OK – it doesn’t matter.” His wife glared at the great professor. “Oh yes, it matters,” she said to both of her men, “Oh yes, it does matter.” She cradled her son in her arms, rocked him back and forth, and cried with him.

In a few minutes, the crying ceased. “Now,” said the mother, “let’s go home and see what can be made with what’s left.” And so with mother’s magic and a glue gun, they put together from the broken pieces a multi-colored butterfly. Amazingly, the artwork after the tragedy was actually much more beautiful than what it had been in a pre-broken state.

Rather than looking for the magic cure, see what can be made with what’s left.

Three weeks ago, Ms. Kalabash, my 63-year-old neighbor, stopped me before my travel to Sacramento. She noted how the cool early morn temperature floated through her shoulder-length hair, of the crisp morning air, and of the birds jotting from tree to tree.

“Beautiful morning. Just beautiful,” Kalabash exclaimed. Noting my luggage, “Where are you off to this week?”

“Ah. To the desert –Sacramento.”

“Why? What the hell’s there?”

“Ah, someone decided it was a great place to build a company headquarters.”

She raised an eyebrow while simultaneously wrinkling her nose. “Well,” she paused. “Have a great trip.”

It was the last time I saw Kalabash.

Three days ago, a realtor notice posted a for sale sign the community bulletin board. Deep in debt from recurring years of arthritic pain, and no hope blooming over the horizon, she went to bed on June 10th and never awoke. Some speculated she passed from lack of proper medical care. Others claimed she downed a series of pills in sequence and committed suicide.

Meeting her daughter yesterday afternoon, her daughter indicated Kalabash was over $60,000 in medical debt, even with insurance. “My mother couldn’t keep up,” wiping away an errant tear. Kalabash racked up more than several thousand dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses—doctors, x-rays, surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and pharmaceuticals, you name it. She had health insurance. However, the policy had a $6,000 deductible.

Herein lay just one debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act—just because a person is insured, doesn’t mean healthcare is affordable. Years and years of deductibles add up. For those with lifetime illnesses, physicians, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and other medical costs are killers.

And like many others before, Kalabash became invisible. She disappeared into the night.

Kalabash became invisible – to everyone.

Invisible. Strange word.

Like Kalabash, I don’t look sick yet. Like Kalabash, I’ve told nothing of my health to but only a limited few. Clothes hide weight loss; drugs help me walk; smiles and laughter disarm the curious. As a result, I can find myself not wanting to go out, even if I if can, because the importance of willing to be accepted is more critical than the months remaining. How I look doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel.

Invisibility can bring tragic consequences. Kalabash feared misunderstanding over what it meant to be disabled. Too sick to work and be active also meant she couldn’t go out to a restaurant or experience a night out. She feared her long-term disability payments would be revoked if someone saw them being active in some way, perhaps going to the store.

Kalabash felt the burden was on her to be invisible to others. It turns out; she died that way.

For those living an invisible life, Author Toni Bernhard wrote:

… I remembered something a [Buddhist] teacher had said: ‘If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it is incomplete.’

Bernhard’s comments will come as a challenge to many, but looking at myself,  maybe I need to stop blaming myself for getting sick. It might help if the world does the same.

Accountability

This past week, former school resource office Scot Peterson was arrested. We the citizens, we the country, former officers, legislators and parents of the victims willing vilify Peterson. For taking cover rather than confronting the killer, Peterson has been branded a coward, nationally heckled and vilified.

We vilify Peterson for failing to confront the Parkland school shooter, his retirement, his pension, and his life. As such, Broward County prosecutors charged Peterson with seven counts of child neglect with great bodily harm, three counts of culpable negligence, exposure to harm, and one count of perjury.

Damn it. Peterson’s responsible.

“He should rot, that’s how I feel,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was on the third floor when she died. “My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t.”

“If Scot Peterson had done his job my son would be alive today,” said Linda Schulman, Beigel’s mother. “One hundred percent had he done something, the active shooter would not have made it to the third floor, had he done his job, instead of standing outside like a coward.”

How many are so positive their child would be alive today if Peterson acted remains unclear. But they’re positive.

“My heart is just beating because we’re over a year here and this is just now happening,” said Gena Hoyer, mother of 14-year-old Luke, who died in the shooting. “This is long overdue.”

“He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, 14, also died that day. “It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat, and he froze and he did nothing.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 18, was killed, also on the third floor. “Accountability is all I wanted, and now it looks like it’s happening.”

Accountability?

I am not a supporter of Peterson. If he failed, he failed. If he perjured himself, he should face the consequences. However, after we’re done staking this man to a cross, we need to take that same passion and convict ourselves – each and every one of us. We are just as responsible for every dead person, from Columbine to current. We can’t stake decades of pain upon one man.

If we convict him, we have to convict ourselves. Allow me to explain.

Since the Parkland shooting in February 2018, over forty school shootings have occurred. In the minutes and hours after Parkland, Florida shooting, politicians began what has become something of a grim ritual: offered “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and deflect.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that during the 2016 election, the NRA and affiliates spent a record $54 million to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress, including $30.3 million to help elect Donald Trump.

The NRA funneled more than $1 million to re-elect Senator Marco Rubio. John McCain garnered $7,000,000. Burr received $6.9 million. Blunt hauled in $4.6 million. Garner got $3.8 million. And so on, and so on and so on.

However, Americans elected Rubio, McCain, Burr, Blunt, Garner and so on, and so on and so. We accepted prayers from the masses, said it sucks and moved on.

NBC estimates Americans own an estimated 15 million AR-15s. Of the 340 mass shootings between 1966 and 2016, at least one handgun was used in 76 percent of events, compared to less than 30 percent of events that involved any rifle, not just those categorized as assault-style. Assault-style rifles in particular were present in 67 of the 340 shootings (20%).

In fact, since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s, according to a New York Times analysis. The grim list includes crimes in Newtown, Conn.; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, Calif.; and now Parkland, Fla.

When we’re done vilifying Peterson, I hope God holds a mirror to our faces and publicly states:

“How about it? How many would be alive had YOU acted?”

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