Tag Archive: Social Justice


The New York Times, Commonwealth Fund and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health surveyed those who use the health care system the most. According to their report, while the whole point of health insurance was to protect one from financial ruin in case of catastrophic, costly health problems, the results show it often fails in that basic function. In essence, even those with healthcare insurance face financial ruin.

One key problem, not many really know what their insurance covers. In the case of my parents, one would have thought I requested top secret clearance to national secrets. Thus, I had to threaten to sue the insurance company to receive a complete copy of their medical plan. It was stunning to see and digest the process for used to determine what services were covered and what services were not covered.

One small area I delved into involved dementia and Alzheimer’s. As previously written, the world hasn’t prepared for Alzheimer’s or dementia care. But even today, a major factor affecting the quality of such care is being able to consistently deliver it. In custodial care, Nursing Assistants are relatively disadvantaged economically, have low levels of educational attainment, serve under physically and emotionally demanding work, and are among the lowest paid. Thus, society cleans their conscious by casting loved ones into the hands of these people and later wonder aloud of the things that went wrong.

For those like my father, dementia is an increasing cause of suffering. Insurers however, both private or government, fail to address the tidal wave of custodial long-term care required by an aging population. As a result, as the population of elderly grows,  dementia will replace cancer as the most feared illness. Dementia’s impact not only affects the person with the disease, but family members, friends and those who care for them at home are forced to provide care options to which they are neither prepared nor can financially afford.

Those battling the ethical dilemma generally fall into two groups. Proponents profess that Jesus believed Christians should support a Christian president. Therefore, since the president believes in a public health option, we should therefore assist our fellow man. On the other hand, opponents claim the problem we face is that Jesus never mentioned universal healthcare. There’s neither any Biblical mandate to provide healthcare, nor is there any mandate to implement.

There is a third viewpoint – the one that blames. In the blame-game, current congressional leaders espouse exclusivity. It’s the wanton desire to blame and punish the poor for all societal ills. It is similar to Nazi Germany blaming Jews. Most recently, Senator Mitch McConnell blamed poor people for budget problems his party created. Need another example? Look no further than the September 2011 Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer pushed candidate Ron Paul about a hypothetical man without insurance who goes into a coma. “That’s what’s freedom is all about,” replied Paul. “Are you saying society should just let him die?” asked Blitzer. To which point several members of the Tea Party-heavy audience interrupted with “YEAH!”

In almost every country, the population aged 60 years and over is growing faster than any other age group, resulting in an increase in older people’s care needs. According to WHO, the population aged 60 and over is expected to increase from today’s 600 million to an estimated 2 billion by 2050.

As a Buddhist working in the medical field, good organizational structures, based on a well-coordinated team with good co-workers and a fair and understanding manager, will be critical for maintaining good care. What current congressional leaders miss is that when Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare is cut, it will be difficult to care for the old if ethical foundations for caring is absent.

Citing my personal ethics, we are called, not only as society, but as a humanity, to treat people with loving kindness. This moral compass means moving from simply understanding medical knowledge to acting in spirit-filled love. The following incident as told by a clinician highlights such purpose.

An elderly woman near 90 was acutely admitted. She did not feel well at all, wanted to have her blood pressure checked and said she felt as though shadows were falling over her. We sat and talked for quite some time and I took my time with her. She said that I was the first person she had met that looked into her eyes.

Unless you’re part of the 4%, any proposed healthcare cuts will offer little but suffering. Most will be presented with hard choices, pay a bill, pay for healthcare or pay for a prescription. At the end of the day, society has to do something better than simply saying, “Die.”

Your vote is important, not only for today and tomorrow, but for 2050 as well.

SatanMinnesota state representative Rep. Jim Knoblach (R) ended his re-election bid after learning Minnesota Public Radio News (MPR) wrote of his daughter’s accusations of inappropriately touching for years.

MPR wrote the case file is detailed, including written transcripts of interviews, copies of old diary entries and handwritten notes, but makes no mention of law enforcement reaching out to Jim Knoblach to be interviewed. The case file reveals Laura Knoblach reached out to various people throughout her life to express concerns about her father’s behavior, including her mother, Janet Knoblach, but apparently received little to no help.

I thought of Ms. Knoblach after listening to current Republican leaders summarily dismiss Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, and to a larger extent, how the religious community’s wholesale embrace of Republican norms, including those of Donald J Trump, necessitated the rewriting of personal and moral ethics. But the hypocrisy of legislative staff is not limited to Ford alone.

The Wrap’s John Levine noted Pro-Trump CNN political commentator Jason Miller announced he’s “decided to step away” from the network after a recent accusation in a legal filing that he slipped abortion pills to a former lover without her knowledge.

Lastly, the York Daily Record recorded,

“Found within the depths of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on priest sex abuse is a letter written by a former Diocese of Scranton bishop.

A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion, according to the grand jury report. And then-Bishop James C. Timlin wrote a letter expressing his feelings: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.””

I remember an op-ed by Jennifer Weiner from October 2017. Weiner wrote of Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who resigned his House seat two days after voting for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically dubious grounds that, at that age, a fetus can experience pain.

I was proud both to sponsor and vote for this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn,” Murphy wrote.

Then The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published texts revealing that when Mr. Murphy’s mistress thought she was pregnant, Murphy urged her to consider an abortion.

Sarcastically, Weiner wrote:

“There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.

For real life American, it’s become ok to dance with Satan, as long as you’re doing it for God.

You know all those websites claiming Trump has lied 3,000 or so times? No biggie. He’s also pro-life. He’s doing God’s work.

Remember Leviticus 19:33-34? You know the line saying “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” Fuck that. God now allows us to ‘discern’ which aliens to love. That means Norwegians are in, Mexicans out. After all, white lives matter more than others. Right? Right.

Trump’s closest evangelic adviser, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas told reporters in 2011 that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for Romney for president would “give credibility to a cult.” I am sure any one of the Pennsylvanian Archdiocese victims will be comforted by Jeffress. After all, he’s a man of God.

Then there’s Moore … As in former Judge Roy Moore. Moore lent his unsolicited endorsement to the similarly troubled Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Moore came to the nominee’s defense by sharing a supporter’s quip with his 80,000 Facebook followers: “They are Trying to ‘Judge Moore’ Him with Unproven Sex Assault Claim.” Moore, if you recall, is the same Moore who likes to date underage teenagers while simultaneously returning God’s ten commandments to America’s judicial system.

Supporting Kavanaugh is critical. Kavanaugh represents the man from God who can potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade. As such, Kavanaugh supporters dismiss his youthful behavior in a whole range of ways – but not assault. And if true, Kavanaugh’s actions constitute little more than normal adolescent male behavior. Remember, the the columnist from God’s network, (i.e., Fox News) Stephen Miller tweeted, “it was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.”

Daniel J. Boorstin, in his piece “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)” notes.

“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

Congratulations America. You’re pretty sick.

KingEddie Glaude Jr. made a stunningly insightful comment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. James Baldwin wrote, “... we had to invent the word “nigger” to justify the crime.”

In other words, if we wish to conceal ignorance and the openness of our own prejudice, create a word to cover it. Need to conceal your racism of Hispanics, call them ‘rapists.’ Need to dodge your hate of Muslims, classify them as ‘terrorists.’ Dislike a reporter or news service, call them ‘liars,’ ‘dishonest‘ and ‘fake news.’ Blame a company (Amazon) for congressional leadership inability to lead (US Post Office). Need to demean your predecessor(s), call them ‘cheatin‘ [sic].

Factual support of any claim is secondary or tertiary. No need. Simply represent yourself as the ‘truth, the light, or the way’ just as a famous politician proposed in July 2016 when he asked Americans not to place their trust in God, but him. “I am your voice. I alone can fix this.” And like those on the Exodus, we crafted our golden calf, placed it unto our personal alter and believed that he … alone … could solve our problems.

Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Martin Luther King shared many ideologies. But they both probably share that our current desire for the golden calf is born from hatred not from wisdom. Hatred. Jealousy. Bitterness. A person who suffered much fear, anger and violence comes from such darkness.

As such, this level of darkness lives not in the possible, but from scarcity, “there’s only so much pie to go around, and if you get some there will be less for me“.  This mindset could be viewed as a “scarcity mentality” and is part of the Lose-Win paradigm.

Stephen R. Covey explained in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“: The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.

“People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production.  They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people – even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates.  It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or windfall gain or has remarkable success or achievement.

Although they may verbally express happiness for others’ success, inwardly they are eating their hearts out.  Their sense of worth comes from being compared, and someone else’s success, to some degree, means their failure.  Only so many people can be “A” students; only one person can be “number one”.  To “win” simply means to “beat.”

It’s difficult for people with a scarcity mentality to be members of a complimentary team.  They look on differences as signs of insubordination and disloyalty.

Luke 6:38 states “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I am sure the question Dr. Martin Luther King would ask you to ponder is, which gift will you choose – anger or love? Unfortunately, it appears that 50 years after Dr. King’s death, we’re still embracing the golden calf.

Each of the years spent in the military, I was asked, “Are you ready to die for your country?” Without delay, I would respond “Yes Sir (or Ma’am).”  After each proclamation, I would be provided the tools and training to stay as safe as possible. And maybe I lived in relative naivety, for I never really expected to die or that I would really have to sacrifice my life for another. Yet, there were a few missions that upon return, I changed my underwear and gulped a quick drink.

I look back to these times some thirty-years ago. A half decade of service seemed dramatically different than today. Today, “war zones” are closer and reside in uncommon area rarely seen. Hospitals, work spaces, local ballparks, post offices and schools. By rejecting any gun control efforts, state legislatures are in essence asking the enemies of the past, i.e., out educators, to not only train and educate, but to pay the ultimate sacrifice, as required.

America, we are hypocrites, for we’ve considered teachers as our enemies? You read that right. And I provide one example.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker all but declared war on Wisconsin teachers. In the wake of legislative changes, thousands of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public-sector workers camped out at the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting Walker’s efforts to reduce their take-home pay — by increasing their contribution to their pension plans and health care benefits — and restrict their collective bargaining rights. Walker in essence said, you are the reason we’re (Wisconsin) is broke.

There’s an interesting, strange line at the end of the new film The Big Short, which chronicles the Wall Street doings that caused the economy to crash. In a voiceover near the end of the film, Ryan Gosling tells us that while bigwigs got off without consequences for what they did leading up to the Great Recession, people blame “immigrants, the poor and for the first time, teachers.”

Less than a week after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Florida State House officially said “fuck you” (2/20/2018) by rejecting a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. However, lawmakers opened the session with a prayer for the 17 killed. Seventeen people received only a prayer. That’s the legislative equivalent of ‘sucks to be you.’

And the final twist … the US Army is awarding medals for heroism to three students killed in last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Alaina Petty, Peter Wang and Martin Duque, all students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, were also cadets in the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and will receive the Medal of Heroism for their actions in last Wednesday’s shooting. Of course, all the honorees are dead.

Real heroism exists neither in Washington nor in the Florida State House. In today’s world, we ask former enemies to sacrifice their lives for students. In turn, we provide these heroes with nothing but a few days of training. We exhibit a profound lack of leadership to their needs, pay them like shit, and blame them for our lot in life. And yet … and yet … when bullets fly, they willing place themselves between students and assassin.

If you want to honor the ‘agape love‘ Christ and Buddha professed, go to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim funerals and honor them, their families and their lives.

Unfortunately, Americans prefer guns over teachers. Thus, our real enemy is ignorance and indifference.

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After watching the “Alt-Right,” “This Right,” “That Right,” or “Whatever Right” protests, one could argue Southern Confederate statues are abhorrent relics of a bygone era that adds only painful memories of America history. Many concur with such feelings, as I do.

Looking past all that for a moment, I watched the (what I term) “Make American White Again” protests. I have to tell you, I’m amazed. As marchers carried weapons, shouted profanities, screamed anti-Jewish bigotry, I ask only one question: “Now what?

After all the protests, arrests, injuries and at least one death, “Now What?” That’s the fundamental, unasked, unanswered question: “Now what?” The question basically asks, “What are you going to do after the battle? What will you do post-protests?

Need some thought starters? Read-on.

What economic development will a statue’s symbolism bring America that will employ the unemployed? What will you do to bring jobs to a decimated coal industry? How will the movement bring health care to the uninsured? How will the movement feed the hungry, home the homeless, create quality education, rid the world of nuclear weapons?

How will you resolve the North Korean conflict? How will you resolve undue Russian influence?  Will sacrifice the Island of Guam to destroy North Korea? Will you pull out of NAFTA?

What set of environmental policies will the movement bring forth to reduce global warming? How will the movement resolve Flint’s drinking water crisis? How will you ensure clean drinking water that the current administration wants to end? How will the movement help a single mother become the best possible person? How will we resolve illegal immigration? How will the movement ensure second generation immigrants become the best possible person? And how will you define success … of anything?

How will the movement heal diversity? How will the movement heal race-based beatings Black, Asians, Muslims and others have experienced? How will the movement heal the LGBTQ pain?

If we purge all those considered non-white, what’s the litmus test? Should the litmus test appearance alone? Will a DNA equivalent of 10% non-white or less pass the muster? Maybe 35%? Maybe 10% non-white, but only those races from Scandinavia?

One last point, how will you return the life of a white woman killed by a racist protester?

Tell me this, then we’ll discuss your movement. Until then, get out of the way, you’re preventing progress.

Yesterday’s GOP vote to move their iteration of the healthcare required some last minute dramatics, with arrival of John McCain and a tie-breaking vote by Vice Preside Pence. Senator McCain arrived with thunderous applause and received a presidential tweet calling McCain a hero.

“So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave – American hero! Thank you John.” (President Trump, July 25, 2017).

That tweet counters what Trump stated as a candidate. During a July 2015 event, Trump said McCain “… is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” But yesterday, McCain was a hero once more. And with that vote, McCain saved the GOP healthcare bill via a partisan vote.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough claimed McCain was only moving the bill to debate, that the GOP Healthcare bill faces many steep obstacles. So, in essence, neither the GOP nor Democrats gained from the maneuver. That logic vacates the recent electoral cycle. For instance, no one thought Trump had a chance to win the Republican Primary. Of course, no thought President Trump would actually win the Election. Of course, few thought Betsy DeVose would win confirmation. Of course few thought President Trump would name his daughter and son-in-law as special advisors. And few thought Trump would fire Comey. Etc. Etc. Etc!

As a former veteran, I honor and respect Senator John McCain. I truly believe McCain has been, and always will be, a war hero. However, with surgical scars and all, McCain flew into Washington on wings of an eagle, yet made vociferous speech that ultimately landed a decision like a peck of a hen. Chicken.

McCain will did not vote for “a health care bill.” Rather he favored opening the amendment process. In doing so, he helped enabled the GOP achieve that any sort of measure is passed, tossing reform details to Senate-House conference, that will receive little input from anyone outside G.O.P. leadership.

In all transparency, Nate Silver (FiveThirtyEight) tracked and recorded the voting records of all GOP “Mavericks.” McCain has voted along party lines 94% of the time. Turns out McCain is no Maverick. And by casting his vote, McCain moved 20 million American Citizens closer to perilous health care.

In the October – December 2008 Dharma World Magazine, Pinit Ratanakul wrote:

“The Buddhist worldview is holistic and is primarily based on a belief in the interdependence of all phenomena and a correlation between mutually conditioning causes and effects. This belief is formulated by the principle of dependent origination, also referred to as the law of conditionality, the causal nexus that operates in all phenomena–physical, psychological, and moral. Accordingly, whether in the universe, the natural world, or human society, or within oneself, nothing exists as a separate unit but only as an interdependent part of the whole.”

What the GOP and Trump miss is that Americans are interconnected. And dumping 20 million or more into a world of inadequate care means America itself will probably not like the end result. However, maybe Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway is correct, those losing able-bodied citizens losing Medicaid coverage under any proposed GOP health care plan should find a job that provides health insurance.

Fortunately for McCain, he will return to Arizona for treatment – at the Mayo Clinic (Phoenix), a healthcare facility most could never afford. More than likely, McCain’s health care will likely cost him nothing. That fact was not lost on tweeter Alex Morash.

“Thankfully John McCain had access to the best health care in the world so he could get back to DC to vote to rip care away from millions.”

In a July 10, 2017 Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor, a reader commented:

Regarding Holman Jenkins’s “Seattle Aims at McDonald’s, Hits Workers” (Business World, July 1): At last, someone finally said it. It’s the people who work at McDonald’s today, not the “greedy corporation” nor our “unfair society,” who limit pay because they aren’t worth $15 in many cases. To earn $15 you must create a good bit more than $15 worth of value for your employer to cover the cost of Social Security, workers’ comp, your training, business and property taxes, capital investment, rent, and any other benefits such as paid vacation. This isn’t greed, it’s a fact of survival for any business.

The crux of Mr. Jenkins article is that as labor costs rise, industries would likely replace workers with automation, but it would still create jobs at $15 an hour for people whose productivity can justify $15 an hour. “The people who work at McDonald’s today, typically, would already be earning $15 an hour somewhere else if their productivity could justify $15 an hour.” I believe the essence of the reader’s argument was that most fast-food workers could not justify their value worthy of a $15 per hour salary.

So a question for the reader. In commenting that one has to create a good bit more worth of value for your employer, let’s review Yahoo’s former CEO Marissa Mayer. Did Yahoo receive more value from Marissa Mayer than earned through salary?

When a withered Yahoo was vacuumed up by Verizon Communications, the transaction completed a five-year tenure for Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer. During those five years, Mayer gobbled up almost a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation while simultaneously presiding over Yahoo’s demise. Through her leadership, Yahoo ended up so weakened it was forced to sell.

Letter to the Editor supporters could justifiably note Yahoo’s stock was $15.65 the day Mayer started and ended at $50.60. As such, this would be a no-brainer victory for those claiming Mayer had indeed brought tremendous value. But Yahoo benefactors were mostly stockholders, not the average bread-and-butter workers and contractor eliminated in post-merger alignment. Thousands of jobs cut. Eh. Just a byline to broader stockholder value. For these workers, Mayer empowered nothing but shit, including months of pain, anguish and mental stress.

So was Mayer’s leadership worth a quarter billion? An article in Variety offers a different perspective.

“… as Yahoo’s finances have continued to deteriorate, it has become apparent that Mayer has wasted time and money with a lack of cohesive vision and a mercurial micromanagement style that paralyzed growth opportunities, according to former employees and industry execs.

As one shareholder wonders: “What the f— has Marissa Mayer been doing for the last three-plus years?””

Mayer also gifted additional value to 1.5 billion breached Yahoo users. Call it a “value-base security awareness” reminder to reset passwords and check credit reports. Surely, the “Letter to the Editor” writer would note this was damn good value. And let’s not forget the secretly built custom software program Yahoo used to search user emails for specific information provided by US intelligence officials. Proponents should surely claim the additional safety value for Americans nationwide.

Seriously? “Value?” By whose standards?

According to the Economic Policy Institute, U.S. CEOs earn an average of 300 times more than their workers. Fifty years ago, the ratio was closer to 20-to-1. Yet, management continues to bemoan employees who want such luxuries as a living wage, to send their children to a decent school, a decent place to live and some form of health benefits. In truth, many CEOs empower themselves while simultaneously devaluing regular every day workers. And sometimes, CEOs’ get help.

Many times, state legislatures will openly assist in “de-valuement” (yes I know this is not technically a word). Take Missouri. Rather than just bemoan St. Louis’ $10 per hour minimum wage, Missouri state legislators forced St. Louis businesses to reduce any hourly salaries above the state minimum wage of $7.70 back to $7.70. For all you boys and girls following along at home, that’s a net decrease of 23%.

Here’s the back story. In 2015, St. Louis city council passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $10 while raising it to $11 in January 2018. This led to a legal battle that wound up in the Missouri Supreme Court. The city won. However, Missouri’s Republican governor said the St. Louis ordinance would “… kill jobs, and despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people’s pockets.”

Damn those fricking liberals. They provide no value.

So Missouri state legislators cut a deal to appease business special interests and supporters and rolled back hourly wages to state minimum wage of $7.70. Strange … Missouri’s Republican governor did not sign a law limiting executive pay packages for those like Mayer.

In reality, there are no easy answers to the CEO/employee pay disparity and the value of a worker. Is Mayer wrong? Was Yahoo wrong for paying such an outrageous sum? Not sure either way. What I do understand is that there will always be money in any complex society. Yet, we need to have some kind of system for measuring how we consume, produce, and share. And any human who wants to pay the rent has to learn the rules of budgeting. I get all of that.

What’s not thought of is how money itself interconnects the world. The Buddhist in me thinks about how money connects you to other people. From a Buddhist standpoint, you should think about how to use money to not only empower yourself, but others as well. We can be awakened, but unless you’re like Ms. Mayer, everyone has to make a living. The real question is could have Mayer empowered her employees to become better? How could McDonalds? Lastly, how can you empower the babysitter, the gardener, the hairstylist, your children?

Life is not about “my power,” it’s about “empower.”

In her article The Reality of a Pre-Existing Condition, Susan Chira wrote:

I would not wish what my family has endured on anyone, even the legislators who voted to take away the protection that gave us such relief. I don’t really care about theory, about which is the more efficient way to rein in costs, or to give families the most choices. To me, preserving the principle that people should not be punished for a fate they could not control seems fundamental.

At the end of the day, this is not about ideology. It’s about humanity.

At a “pep rally” meeting prior to the vote, members heard the “Rocky” theme song as they arrived, and an image of George S. Patton placed on the screen as inspirational quotes from the general were read. Members also heard “Taking Care of Business.” Then a prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

A prayer? I remind fellow legislators that in the thousands of deaths yet to come, the silent pain of death will scream unto the divinity.

As a human being, I too have joined the ranks of those with a preexisting condition. As disks in my neck crush with vice-like tenacity; as the heart disease slowly forces my heart to beat slowly toward an end, yesterday’s house bill was a shameful display of heartlessness. If Sara Palin was looking for an American death panel, she need look no further. Yesterday’s White House beer party was a coup de grâce.

I have never seen legislators celebrate kicking 20 million or more people out of the healthcare system. In Trump’s victory, the President tweeted “… Republicans will be having a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House immediately after vote!” as buses awaited House Republican members for the Rose Garden.

Opinion writer Stephen Henderson wrote “This now appears to be about not much more than striking back at President Barack Obama for having championed the law in the first place, and turning the nation’s back on the most vulnerable — people who were helped by the ACA’s progressive accomplishments.” Henderson further notes, we’ve reset the clock to the days when the poorest will choose between health care and shelter or food, to the times when people without coverage faced bankruptcy or other financial ruin if they or their family members get sick.

For me and others like me, access to quality care is literally life and death. An essential core belief behind the Republican plan is that we should pay only for health care services required. Logically speaking, sick people like me require more coverage. Therefore, sick people must pay for it. Younger and healthier constituents require less coverage. Accordingly, they should pay less. Yesterday’s American Health Care Act salutes 20 million or more with the middle finger saying, “Sucks to be you.”

However, maybe Republican Representative Raul Labrador said is correct. In a recent town hall, Labrador stated “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” Hopefully I remind God of that statement after breathing my last breath.

I close with a brief story and quote. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by forces of Imperial Japan, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was reported to have said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Historians claim to be unsure if Yamamoto ever said those words. However, the film’s producer, claimed to have found the quote written in Yamamoto’s diary.

The historical lesson is important. Even though Yamamoto crafted the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was reported he secluded himself the day after as his staff celebrated, for he felt the unprovoked attack would enrage Americans; thereby awakening a sleeping giant.

Let’s hope American legislators find an awakened giant.

As GOP leaders continue marching the American Health Care Act through the legislative process, we are left with bickering pros and cons of affordability and coverage. As one who’s earned a livelihood from the healthcare industry, I view legislative gladiators from the cheap seats and ponder, “If you can’t afford health care, should the state let you die?

The current House plan relies on government tax credits, regulation of the insurance industry, and continued government funding to keep the low-income population insured. Yet in-between weeds, down in the fine print no one ever reads, one can find insurance reforms are positioned so carriers can offer a wider array of policies that pick up less of the tab for getting care. Additionally, Insurance companies can charge the oldest enrollees as much as they want, roll back the Medicaid expansion thereby eliminating approximately 11 million of the nation’s poorest from health care and eliminating healthcare services of poorer via planned parenthood.

In February 2017, Cardinal Burke noted, “Catholic health care, by its constant and careful attention to the perennial moral teaching of the Church, safeguards and promotes the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ...”

Sounds wonderful, but there are little safeguards that promote the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our faith-based nation spends a hell of a lot time upending/defending Roe vs. Wade, but the notion we protect all human life from conception to natural death is bullshit. The back hallways of healthcare facilities are littered with the strewn, discarded and neglected. These hallways are filled with the “let them die” arrogance. We simply do not care about the respect of human life.

Both Bernie Sanders and the Pope have stated similar positions, “…access to health care regardless of income” is a right. Technically speaking, even one without health care can get health care coverage via a hospital emergency room. And in truth, both the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s American Health Care Act provides opportunities for health care access. Now whether one can afford that access is an entirely different matter.

Health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice. Conservatives continue to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Several years ago, a 17-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School wrote:

“… it must be noted that the key word in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.”

Health care coverage is extremely complex. By nature, medical clinicians, Buddhists, Christians and many others of faith are concerned in their own way in the alleviation, control and ultimately the removal of human suffering. The American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began his bestselling book The Road Less Travelled with the statement “Life is difficult.” He added, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”

Borrowing from Peck, the current health care debate is difficult. The disparity between health care and American values is crudely displayed as political views, politicians, managers, and administrators impact who receives what level of proportioned health care. While hospitals are forced to meet sometimes arbitrary measurements of performance, financial incentives are dolled-out on the backside. Lost in all this is what matters. For instance, what may matter more to a patient is the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of care experience. On what measurable performance scale can it be recorded that a dying patient is helped through denial, anger, and resentment to peace and serenity?

Of course, we can mimic Rep. Roger Marshall’s (R-KS) holy view to wash our hands. Marshall used Jesus to justify his opposition to Obamacare by explaining that poor people will reject health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are.”

Can we afford to be spiritually ignorant as some politicians? Should society claim that if one can’t afford health care, they die? No. At this point, both societal value and the American Health Care Act are morally unaffordable.

Mizzou ProtestIt is our duty to fight for our freedom!” was the chant from hundreds of students on MU’s campus after the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was made. “It is our duty to win!

For months, black student groups had complained Wolfe was unresponsive to racism. A week ago, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. The complaints came to a head several days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president was gone and Butler ate.

But few protesters and organizers, if any, ever review the consequences. Both action and inaction have consequences.

  • University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the flagship campus, R. Bowen Loftin, announced on Monday that they were resigning their posts in the face of growing protests by African-American students, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a strike by football players who said the administrators had done too little to combat racism on campus.
  • Janna Basler, an official with the school’s Greek Life department, pushes a reporter and snaps, “Don’t push me.” At one point, Basler blocks the reporter from taking a picture, and after making contact with him, claims she didn’t touch him in any way. Janna Basler has been placed on leave Wednesday as Mizzou investigates her actions.
  • Melissa Click, professor of assistant communications recruited “muscle” to get rid of a reporter, pushing his camera and yelling at him repeatedly to “get out.” Ironically, it was Click who posted on social media that there should be more press covering the unrest at Missouri earlier in the week. Click later apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment. Currently, Click’s not out of a job. She is still an assistant professor.
  • Jonathan Butler, the student whose hunger strike kicked off a chain of events leading to Wolfe’s resignation, comes not from poverty and oppression, but from great wealth. The Concerned Student 1950 group, which led the recent protests at the University of Missouri, had demanded that University President Timothy Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The comparisons between Butler and Wolfe has a sense of irony.
  • Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head tweeted, “Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in the residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard.” There were no KKK, National Guard or state troopers. Mr. Head’s actions raise larger issues. Could some of this drama have been inflated? While several news outlets posted actual evidence of the police report of the feces painted swastika, many questions remain. Who exactly were the pick-up truck offenders? Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students.
  • Dale Brigham, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, submitted his resignation as outrage among some students grew in the wake of his email message. “If you give in to bullies, they win,” Brigham wrote. “The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Under intense pressure, Dr. Brigham has cancelled the exam and resigned from the university. There is no definitive indication that Mizzou has accepted the resignation.

The casualty list continues to climb.

At the end, the victorious idealists became the very essence of that which they hated, oblivious to anyone’s point of view but their own. Thus, both Mizzou and student leadership cannot attest to their leadership. Stupidity, maybe. Leadership, No.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are genuine life lessons.

  • What failed both protesters and administrators alike is not being open to negotiate. When we negotiate, we come to a new situation without any preconceived notion of how we’re going to take care of it. All of us must come completely open.
  • When stuff happens, you’ll find better success facing suffering together, when everyone is actively engaged in dialogue.
  • How we lead is significantly important for all we lead.
  • Not everyone is out to get us … that statement is true on both sides of the negotiation table. No one person is accountable for every slight life offers.

It’s a shame that any victory for the common good was trampled by ego and self-promotion. Instead, “viral” social media sensations became more important than substance. What will these protesters will do when a future boss doesn’t compliment them? And zero-tolerance racism may be a great goal … is it possible?

With the lack leadership exhibited by all parties in the Mizzou fight, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism will finally be banished.

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