Category: Right Speech


I had a followup appointment with my physician yesterday. Having worked in the medical industry since 2006, I envisioned the nurse who performed intake returned to the Nurse’s Station saying, “He’s still alive.”

In many hospitals, nurses usually have ongoing office pools for all sorts of weird things: football, baseball, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, the length of Nicholas Cage’s marriages, the number of months between McDreamy’s, and ETOH. In medical terms, ETOH is alcohol. All alcohol has an Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H) molecule (thus the OH at the end of the term “ETOH.”) In other words, I’ve seen medical clinicians bet on the intoxication level of DUI’s dropped at the door.  So, I just presumed they wagered whether I would return, and if so, what condition.

Yet, I survived.

My physician eased through the door. A tall Ukrainian woman with a beautiful personality and general concern for her patients. I envied her – not from the aspect of pure beauty alone, but her ability to ease through doors. She moved effortlessly, glided past chairs and bed posts. Seamlessly pushed her coat aside, she sat in the chair next to me.

“I’m glad to see you.”

“Me too,” I replied with a smile.

“Well, any changes from the visit?” she queried.

“No,” I noted while briefly looking down.

“Meaning, you still feel like shit?” she smiled.

“Oh yeah,” I smiled back.

“Well, I got you an MRI appointment in this century,” she laughed. “Either someone found another MRI facility or (winking silently), they no longer require one. Thus, they slipped your name in for the end of April.”

“You mean, April 2019?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. I feel special.”

“Whatever happened, I think you’ve stabilized. But remember, you’ve been diagnosed as a walking time bomb. So, don’t do anything stupid until we get some better ‘Art Work (imaging photos).’”

“So, no scaling cliffs, paragliding or alligator wrestling.”

“Hmm,” rolling her eyes, “alligator wrestling is ok.” A brief pause. “I will do the best I can for you. We all will.”

A brief tear of honesty dribbled the length of my cheek. “Dang dry eye,” brushing it aside.

“A nursing aid will come in and get you out of here, with a request to draw some blood and get you back in next week.”

“See if you can find my odds for next week. Maybe I’ll buy a square.”

She laughed, “Be nice to her.”

The nursing entered with a cart. I contained my paperwork, one needle and vial.

“Ok.” She started. “Which arm?”

“For what?”

“For your Zoster (shingles) vaccine.”

“What for?”

“Our computer says you need the vaccine.”

“Well, I find it humorous, that I could die at any moment while as computer simultaneously says I need a vaccine.”

“At least you won’t die from Zoster.”

“You’re teasing right?”

“Nope. You’re not leaving until you get this vaccine.”

“Frriiiscncddfkw, ffrrrummmp, frump,” I mumbled.

“Oh,” and the computer says your BMI is too high. You need to get some exercise.”

“I can barely walk 60 yards without pain now. Can I take up jogging?”

Realizing the unforced error, “Sorry, just reading the printout.”

“Frriiiscncddfkw, ffrrrummmp, frump,” I mumbled.

Just prior to walking out, the receptionist yelled.

“Hey. You’re at 93–1.”

Smiling back, “I’ll take a square.”

Does Integrity Matter?

Every person is given either a moment or moments to shine, to show who they are and what they mean to the world and to oneself. The people we meet in life, allies, former lovers, friends and acquaintances, each have their own opportunity to become a sensei. These opportunities show the capability of how one uses their strengths, regardless of who they are to another.

It is in this light I thought of President Trump’s signed an executive order, a week into a government shutdown, that freezes pay for 2.1 million federal civilian workers in 2019. The Office of Personnel Management issued “salary tables” the same day that show “rates frozen at 2018 levels.” This action pours salt upon open wounds of 800,000 furloughed federal workers.

Does character matter? How would you define “good character” and has the meaning evolved in any way over time? One definition of good character, would include a cluster of qualities: integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility, understanding, empathy and a set of values from open-mindedness to concern for human rights.

For Trump? Nada. Doesn’t exist.

As Jennifer Rubin noted:

President Donald Trump has an uncanny knack for making a mess of simple, traditional functions every other president has managed to carry out with ease.”

I keep wondering, is Trump’s presidency really the presidency American voters envisioned?

In reviewing action, it’s hard not to see that the Trump administration likens most as movable pieces on a chessboard, serviceable only to political agendas. Through circumstance and systemic oppression, constituents voluntarily chose manipulation, as they are continually promised movement on issues of deepest concern without significant action in any measurable way.

As columnist Brandi Miller captured, over the course of several years, Trump:

“… simply cares about maintaining a base. He has put children in cages at the border, disregarded the value of Black lives, desecrated Native land with the Keystone XL pipeline, oppressed trans people in the military and regularly dehumanized people through his petulant Twitter tirades.”

From someone who’s traveled far and wide, Trump exemplified a slow migration from an NBC evening entertainer to irrational tweets positioned as policies. Such antics are nothing more than a prop for self-aggrandizement. Facts subordinated. Reputations be damned. Honesty dismissed. Integrity trashed.

From a Buddhist perspective, honesty and integrity are essential components of a good life. Integrity is essential in understanding ourselves, our relationships, our knowledge of the world, and most importantly, our efforts to help those in need.

This new year, take time to carefully examine your life – the life you are leading, your world-view, and that which you take for granted. Don’t over analyze others, for it’s easy to pick on mistakes and faults of others. Rather, note the world’s faults and your own.

So, does integrity matter? Should we care? Integrity is what you have when you speak and when what you speak comes from a position of love. Ask 800,000+ federal workers if they’re feeling the ‘love.’

However, if you adorn the current rhetoric of America’s leaders, you are witnessing that which is not harnessed in love. Rather, you are witnessing the death of integrity and the increase of power.

In the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, the character Rannulph Junuh, demonstrates personal integrity in a way rarely seen in today.

On the final hole, Rannulph Junuh is in a virtual tie with rival golfers. As Junuh prepares to chip, he reaches down to remove a twig beside his ball and his ball moves slightly. Junuh and his young caddy, Hardy, are the only two witnesses to the ball’s movement.

With tremendous courage, Junuh admits, “The ball moved.”

Hardy immediately begs him not to say anything, as he is sure it would mean defeat. Hardy tells him, “No one saw it move but me and you. I promise I will never tell. No one will ever know.”

Continuing to display uncommon integrity and courage, Junuh responds, “I’ll know and you will know.”

True ‘integrity‘ is missing from today’s world. The lack of integrity displayed during the Kavanaugh hearing by both Republicans and Democrats was pitiful. Accordingly, Senator Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin could be summarized similar to Manchin’s post-procedural vote when Manchin was asked if he thought there was “… still place in the Democratic Party for you after this,” Manchin replied, “I’m just a good old West Virginia boy” and walked away.

Manchin made his decision only after Collins professed her loyalty to Trump, thus removing any political pressure. That’s like claiming you’ve participated in battle by staying in a foxhole. However, truth be told, everyone really knows you’re chicken-shit. In the military, we’d label Manchin a coward.  Or as Trump Jr., truthfully, but mockingly noted, “A real profile in courage.”

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), appeared to be the only profile in courage compared to her colleague from West Virginia. Heitkamp, to whom FiveThirtyEight gives a 31.5 percent chance of winning her Senate race in November, came out strong against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, no matter the political consequences.

Key takeaways.

  1. Save your calendars. They might save your career. Worked for Kavanaugh. Might work for you. If you need a blank calendar from 1982, you can purchase them on eBay for approximately $7.00. Strange how no one asked Kavanaugh for his 1983 and 1984 calendars, just to see if he really kept them. Somewhere, I envision a former NBC morning host sitting on his couch thinking, “Shit. Wish I thought of that.”
  2. Current dialogue and discourse reinforces the idea that if sexual assault isn’t reported right away, it obviously didn’t happen. Or, as Orrin Hatch would say, you’re “mixed up.” Or as others have alluded, “We believe you were assaulted, but we believe you’ve got the wrong accuser.” Logic alone says this type of attitude has serious implications for survivors and supporters alike.
  3. A woman holding a thirty-year old calendar, claiming wild Clinton conspiracy theories and openly weeping on a national stage never gets elected, holds any office, or gets confirmed to the Supreme Court. Only privileged white men can do that.
  4. The average age of members of the U.S. House at the beginning of the 114 Congress was 57.0 years, with Senators being 61.0 years. And for young adults aged 25 or less, a very white 85-year-old Chuck Grassley, a very white white 84-year-old Orrin Hatch, and a very white 63-year-old Lindsay Graham decided how you get to live for the next 30 – 40 years. Congratulations!
  5. Like Obama said, elections have consequences – Trump won. Still, as a political force, millennial’s rival boomers. But will millennial’s vote? They didn’t in 2016. Will they in 2018? How about 2020?

While The Legend of Bagger Vance ended better that what most will experience, the message is clear. Our level of integrity should be the same, regardless of the outcome. In life, in work, in school, at home, or in society, opportunities to cut corners, cheat or get ahead will often go unnoticed. If we don’t practice our integrity when alone, we’re less likely to do the right thing when someone watches. And people like Trump, Grassley, Hatch, Collins and Manchin hope no one watches.

At the end of the day, maybe’s there’s some modicum of hope. Minutes after Sen. Susan Collins announced her support for Brett Kavanaugh, the site to fund her opponent was so overwhelmed it crashed.

Never Become the Story

NYTBy all accounts, The New York Times (NYT) is a wonderful newspaper – excellent journalists and usually staunch supporters of verifying truth over perception and innuendo. I’ve loved reading the NY Times and I’ve been a subscriber for years – until yesterday.

By my perception, the NYT has had a lousy month. September 5th, NYT editorial staff published an anonymous editorial, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration. That publication had both critics and supporters. For supporters, the NYT displayed a sense of courage often undertaken in articulating one person’s perception of day-to-day events. Politico.com argued that by not forcing the author to identify her, or himself, the NYT has made that process (being anonymous) more difficult. For me, I saw nothing in the writer’s op-ed extraordinary enough that justifies access to the NYTs’ powerful platform.

In a story destined to alter history, NYT reporters Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt delivered a powerful headline September 22nd: “Rosenstein Suggested He Secretly Record Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment.” The story focuses on Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, the man responsible for overseeing the investigation into potential Russian collusion. For that reason, he is of tremendous interest to Trump. Getting rid of Rosenstein would be supremely helpful to Trump as he could nominate Rosenstein’s replacement and shut down the Russia investigation.

It’s difficult, at this stage, to assess the story and what really happened. The primary source for the NYT appears to be a series of memos written by McCabe. Additionally, the NYT’s sources were sources who briefed on Rosenstein’s comments and seen memos prepared by someone else. In other words, the NYT are all second-hand – individuals not present during actual events.

In fact, the only direct human quotes are from Rosenstein’s denials.

New York Times reporters are convinced Rosenstein was serious about using wire taps and vetting the 25th amendment. How do they know? According to CNN’s interview, Rosenstein discussed it twice. As in 2 times.

Seriously?

So, Rosenstein stated the ‘25th Amendment‘ twice? Any action to initiate the thought? “No.” Any evidence of secret meetings with cabinet officials that propelled invoking the 25th Amendment? “No.” Any secret memo’s, confirmations or planning by anyone, an FBI agent, the postmaster, Facebook post, Twitter post saying “Meet me at the secret galley,” or even a mic’d up squirrel? “No.” The entire article’s basis is founded upon someone’s inference of another person’s interpretation of Rosenstein’s comments.

The writers should have cited a source for every claim but don’t. Thus, readers have no way of knowing whether the facts are accurate. All of this was irresponsibly shaped and void of important framework.

Key takeaways. First, I have no clue if Mueller’s investigation will bring any meaningful charges against Trump’s inner circle. But it should be allowed to finish. Second, if you’re going to call out the deputy attorney general for instigating a potential coup d’é·tat, better have something more than second-hand sources. Third, if I published something like this, my employer would fire me.

All the NYT did was become the story.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Bill Clinton “more than paid the price” for his affair with Monica Lewinsky while he was in office, basing it in part upon the fact he was impeached. Vice President Joe Biden echoed similar themes.

The same can’t be said for Lewinsky.

As the Huffington Post noted in 2012, Lewinsky floundered. She’s designed handbags and received an advanced degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics, but nothing seems to have stuck.  No one will hire her. In the past few years, Lewinsky has reemerged into the public spotlight as an anti-bullying activist. As such, if she lived near me, I would be proud to call her my neighbor.

For the accuser, life outcomes tend to be different. The harassment sequence is familiar to anyone who has followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Power and imbalance. Professional invitations really disguised for assault. One person trading upon connections, plum jobs, pressuring the younger person for sex, followed by the “public outing,” and indignation of being falsely accused.

As Vox wrote earlier this year, Weinstein’s community rejected him. Yet Trump and Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore continue to receive support. Why? Well, they’re needed. The Republican party needs both Trump and Moore. They certainly don’t need Al Franken.

People may think sexual assault is unacceptable, but when push comes to shove, there are circumstances under which they’ll tolerate it because there are other things that matter more to them.

Should you be the accuser, the window of light is very small, then you’re discarded.  While I understand that as humans lying may seem to be a common practice, the public automatically assumes “victims” would lie and “the accused” be believed because they have a public presence.

Repeated presentations from law enforcement, FBI, therapists, and state providers provide hard evidence that “false allegations are very minimal.” The overwhelming majority of victims drop their charges because the implications and pressure to convict the accused are too costly. They shared how difficult it is just to try and convict those guilty of sexual assault, pedophilia, and neglect. It was difficult to not only hear but to swallow.

Throughout the years, I’ve taken an extensive personal inventory of the man I had become. For quite some time, it was not a pretty picture. Many years later, I now take responsibility for speaking out, for listening to those who claim to be victims, and holding men accountable for their language and actions.

As a Buddhist, I understand people don’t always tell the truth, but we should not immediately assume that those who are dishonest. As leaders, in both community and household, we required to act, to fight for victims.

Biblically speaking, I suggest the following:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For the rights of all who are oppressed speak up, judge fairly, defend the rights of the vulnerable and needy.” (Prov. 31:8-9)

The Monica Lewinsky’s of the world need us.

“Even though The Tonight Show isn’t a political show, it is my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being.”

“What happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, was just disgusting. I was watching the news like everyone else, and you’re seeing Nazi flags and torches and white supremacists, and I was sick to my stomach,” Fallon continued, tears welling in his eyes. “My daughters are in the next room playing and I’m thinking, ‘How can I explain to them that there’s so much hatred in this world?’ They’re two years old and four years old. They don’t know what hate is. They go to the playground and they have friends of all races and backgrounds, and they just play, and they laugh, and they have fun.”

“But as kids grow up, they need people to look up to—to show them what’s right, and good. They need parents and teachers, and they need leaders who appeal to the best in us. The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful. And I think he finally spoke out because people everywhere stood up and said something. It’s important for everyone—especially white people—in this country to speak out against this. Ignoring it is just as bad as supporting it.” 

“And remember: there are people who have given their lives to make sure this kind of hate doesn’t spread. They’ve fought and died on the right side of history. One brave woman in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, died standing up for what’s right at the age of 32. I can’t look at my beautiful, growing, curious daughters and say nothing when this kind of thing is happening. We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists, and stand up for all that is right, and civil, and kind. And to show the next generation that we haven’t forgot how hard people have fought for human rights. We cannot do this. We can’t go back. We can’t go back.”

Jimmy Fallon got it right.

My New Normal

During a late stifling heat soaked summer day, a therapist friend suggested we get out of the house and drive around, take in a few sights and stop for ice cream at a local creamery hotspot upon our return.  Over the course of several hours, our drive included hills and valleys, wineries and riverbeds.  We blazed into and out of the summer sun, through lean tall trees of a not to distant national forest and rows upon rows of summer corn.

Fifteen minutes from home, she started a conversation that quickly nose-dived the afternoon.

“I have a client in her mid-sixties.” she said. “She loves to play with her granddaughter, but her knees started aching. Fearful she would drop and injure her granddaughter, she stopped playing. She went to a physical therapist who found nothing wrong, finding it all imaginary. The grandmother was scared to play, so she created a way not to play.  In other words, it was in her head. What do you think?”

“Why do I need to think about this? I really have no thoughts on the subject.” I replied.

“Well, I was thinking maybe the pain and issues you’re having are really because your scared, that if you change your thinking, you’ll change your fate.”

“Well…” I paused. “Transposing your client’s situation onto me is remarkably rude.”

Over the years, I’ve learned people don’t like unsolved mysteries. It’s true that my body’s battle, including Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Stenosis and Cardiopulmonary Disease remains unseen to those around me. It’s not that they don’t affect me, I simply choose not to bitch about them while many are completely worse off.

However, my personal choice does not allow one to assume my symptoms are caused by angry spirits, a punishing god, nor like Job who gave up looking for explanations or to be accepted as part of God’s loving plan. Yet without symptoms, without evidence, people tender their thoughts to some undefined psychological problem that is ‘in one’s head‘.

I do believe people can benefit tremendously from psychological counseling and or mental health treatment. I believe people can find tremendous assisting in coping with day-to-day issues, as I have. But patients too often live by too loosely defined subjective and arbitrary judgments of others. It’s an insulting way of saying, “You look healthy, so you must be fine.”

So to all those who arbitrarily decide I am fine, I have a few questions.

What level of proof is adequate to prove my level of pain? How can I make you feel the arbitrariness of life? What will allow you to understand my level of exhaustion? And why should I not feel so sympathetic to others who experience similarly as I?

Contrary to your opinion, many, like me, do not surrender gracefully. We valiantly battle our symptoms and yearn for the days of yesteryear when we lived joyful lives and walking stairs did not seem like an ascent up the Grand Canyon. Some simply long for a good night’s sleep.

To my friend, people like me experience something called a “new normal.” First, it’s not all in our heads. And secondly, my new normal no longer includes assholes.

IcarusI’ll admit it. Washington’s “Trump-Russia” connection can make engrossing television. Recent disclosures of meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russian backed attorneys reveal the complex world which we live. Media outlets could have focused on the administration’s G20 meetings, healthcare, or any number of items. But the ongoing coverage seems to return to Russian collusion.

I will not overtly condemn Trump Jr. My thoughts are broader and something covered previously. More to the point, in today’s world, there most certainly an electronic copy of our life. And deciding whether to take a suspicious meeting, one must understand who is watching and when will same said information become public.

In 2008, British newspaper The Telegraph noted Britons are recorded approximately 3,000 times a week. In the U.S., license plate readers, public space cameras, store and loyalty cards, phones, television, computer, emails and businesses entered are recorded. Information is complied, stored in some database and retained for years, if not definitely.

Whether the Trump-Russia collusion connection pans out or not. Donald Trump Jr. is not unlike many Americans. Either naivety or the willingness to win at all costs overwhelms the “gut check” common sense demands. I tend to believe the Trump views any all opposition as a perversion that must be pulverized.

And the willingness to pulverize is not unlike the Greek Myth Icarus who flew too close to the sun. It’s the fascination with fire that lead many astray.

Many years ago, I was contacted by a recruiter from a rival nationwide consulting firm. After cursory conversation, the recruiter proposed a well-intentioned employment offer, substantial raise and benefits. Nearing the end of the offer, the recruiter then requested a list of every customer from my current firm and projects being proposed. Stunned for only a minute, I calmly rose, shook the recruiter’s hand and said, “I believe our time has concluded.” Leaving, I was appalled by the recruiter’s audacity and honored by my principles not to engage.

Personally, I chose not to fly that close to the sun. Maybe Trump Jr. accepted the risk. Saint Bernard Clairvaux is attributed to the saying L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” (hell is full of good wishes or desires). An earlier saying occurs in Virgil’s Aeneid, “facilis descensus averno (the descent to hell is easy).” The commonly used version is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Many fail to understand the concept of “do no harm.” One ancient text states that “non-harming is the distinguishing characteristic of Buddhism.” Let’s modify this to non-harming is a distinguishing characteristic of good men. For unenlightened Buddhists, the commitment of non-harming is carried in the ethical precepts where non-harming becomes integral to their nature and “delight in harmlessness.”

While the principle of non-harming is a noble one, its application in daily life raises many questions about when such a principle is relevant and in which circumstances it might be discarded.  Is harmlessness an absolute precept for Buddhists?  Does it prohibit any use of violence for the purposes of self-defense or when it can prevent a greater harm? Does harm mean only physical violence?

Even if violence is prohibited, the principle of acting out of hatred, anger or envy is. And looking at the current state of politics, the very nature of acting in hatred (regardless of party) is very transparent. Accordingly, acting out of hatred, anger or envy is common in daily events.

Christ stated that one sins simply by thinking. Meaning if one thinks of adultery, then adultery has been committed. As a Buddhist, we are instructed to become better by abstention of evil actions, speech, and intentions. If we don’t, I am sure emails, video and other information will humble even the most arrogant. Maybe that’s the humbling lesson Trump Jr. is learning.

If I had simply abstained through my walk, I would have been a much better person, in both life and love. But I wasn’t. And like Icarus, I died a thousand deaths in the Sea of Humility.

Hopefully, you will not.

As I write, I remember the insightful words provided to my niece and nephew. “In the world of Twitter and blogs, almost everything you do can be tracked. In fact, you are tracked.” Yeah, of course there are methods that help anominity. Incognito web browsers, hidden VPN services, fake email addresses, hidden websites, etc., etc. Still at the end of the day, given the right amount of resources, some blind luck and time, writers, bloggers and others can be identified.

This past week, a CNN reporter used details of user’s Reddit account to crack his real-life identity. After CNN contacted the user using the blog name “HanAssholeSolo,” he became remorseful and published an apology on same site.

Two things of note. First, the apology,

“I am in no way this kind of person. I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction. I love and accept people of all walks of life. I would never support any kind of violence.”

Second, CNN stated they reserved the right to expose the blogger should the blogger begin reposting vile and hatred.

To the first, we really don’t know if this user actually accepts people from all walks of life. One can always present an outward appearance of love and harmony, yet it is in the shadows of life, where one is unseen, that demonstrates whether life is lived through principles of a higher calling. Are we to believe a principled man would write such vile? At the moment, it appears unverified.

To the second. CNN’s response drew swift condemnation as outright blackmail, in that withholding the user’s identity was a form of blackmail and thus led to further condemnation by various bloggers. Blogger “Weev” wrote that unless CNN staff personnel and reporters resign and denounce the network’s acts of blackmail, both CNN employees and family members are fair game. (Ironically, “Weev” fails to note his own use of blackmail.)

Moving forward, both CNN and the blogger missed an essential lesson. The “Butterfly Effect.” Had the first act (that of the blogger) not occurred, neither would have the second. Yet, just as referees misses flagging an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, the retaliatory offender almost always gets punished while the initiator remains relatively unchallenged. Accordingly, had CNN not responded sophomorically, the third act, CNN’s alleged complicity in potential blackmail and twitter condemnation would not have occurred.

So let’s propose an alternate view. In Buddhism, “ethics” or “morals” generally refer to three components of the eightfold path: “right speech,” “right action” (in which taking life is discouraged), and “right livelihood.” In essence, our actions and non-actions have consequences.

If the blogger had proposed his opposition to the news media in both right speech and right action, CNN would never be accused of blackmail. I agree that all Americans have the right to free speech, even assholes. Accordingly, the blogger has a right to free speech, but in American, does free speech require hidden identities, fake names, and insistence that one’s opinion is not reflective of overall character?

Criticism of both the news media and the government is an American right. However, that criticism should be performed in right speech and action. Political commentators fail to remember that both the government and news is neither completely wrong nor right. Both have positives and negatives.

Accordingly, the free speech we use should propel all people to a new level of honesty and integrity. And that my friends is what CNN and the blogger may have missed.

sanders-cruz-485x261Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe over healthcare last night. In the CNN face-off, Canada made a surprise appearance when Cruz claimed Canadians leave their country in droves to seek out health care in the United States.

When I lived in Toronto, CA for a year-and-a-half, I worked on Canada’s Healthcare system. However, when I meet with focus group participants, critics of universal health care in both Canada and the United States claimed Canadians left Canada in groves to receive healthcare, especially elective healthcare in the United States.

However, the best-available research shows it’s simply not true. Canadians are not fleeing en-masse to US medical facilities. The most comprehensive look was a 2002 Health Affairs article, entitled “Phantoms in the Snow.” Researchers gathered data on Canadians’ use of US healthcare. In a nutshell, almost zippo. They found this happened rarely.

Personal experience of living and working in Canada found one true fact – even if Canadians wanted to escape, most could not afford US medical care.

The other cringe-worthy moment was Senator Ted Cruz congratulating a woman for dealing with MS.

“Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on dealing with MS,” Cruz said. “It’s a terrible disease and congratulations on your struggles dealing with it.”

If there’s a moment when someone can point to the GOP on being out-of-touch with regular Americans on healthcare, that was pretty damn close. In response, one blogger, penned:

Congratulations Ted Cruz on your struggle with being a human being.”

CNBC Jake Novak actually authored a noteworthy response.

But the best way to tackle a problem is to pinpoint what the problem is exactly. And Tuesday night’s debate helped anyone paying attention to zero in on the key problem in American health care, health insurance, and health legislation: The expense. Time and again, questions were fielded from audience members who are dealing with costly personal medical problems and challenges. They each served as crucial human examples that better showed what the colder statistics have told us for years. The hard truth is that people like those audience members, those 10 percent of Americans who are the sickest, are responsible for 64 percent of all health care costs in the country, according to research by the Department of Health and Human Services. That includes Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other forms of coverage and payment in America.

Some argue the Buddhist approach to health and healing emphasizes spiritual practice. Buddhism asserts that spiritual practice makes it possible for an individual not only to see opportunity for practice in the face of adversity, including sickness and injury, but use the opportunity for personal transformation and transcendence.

As a Buddhist having worked in the medical industry for quite some time, I see a deep awareness of cause and consequence, and insight into the nature of conditioned interdependence. Whether Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist or whatever, choice, practice and cost are factors many simply do not have control over. If you’re in pain, Buddhism, Christianity or transcendence means squat. Eventually, everyone will suffer equally. Almost everyone will become part of the 10% group absorbing 64 percent of all health care costs. So by my definition, there is a 90% chance each of us will become a class member.

In ancient days, Buddhists were healers. They cared for one another. Due to budget battles, lack of income, family resources and political partisanship, all us face or will face similar struggles as the woman Ted Cruz congratulated. I personally believe it’s up to the average joe citizen to care for one another. Why? Because our political leaders are too incompetent to help.

%d bloggers like this: