Monday, September 28, 2009

Don't Let Your Neighbors Die

I said once and have said often in regards to the benevolence of God, that the most fundamental and basic criterion, the minimum requirement for a father be he heavenly or earthly is that he not let his children suffer or die if it is within his power to prevent it. Allowing preventable suffering to occur is incompatible with moral virtue. This is self-evident and should require no further argument. The greatest good for the greatest number should be the goal of any ethical society that holds the sanctity of human life above all other virtues. What then must we think of our fellow Americans who oppose universal health care? How can we think them anything but evil and reprehensible?

If my only objection to allowing millions of low income mothers to receive prenatal care and reduce infant mortality is that I don't want my taxes to go up then what does that say about my love of humanity? If my only objection to allowing millions of my fellow Americans to receive preventive care that might forestall some debilitating illness is that it does not adhere to my dogmatic capitalist ideology then what does that say about my own benevolence? If I would allow my hatred of a single politician or political party to get in the way of one diabetic receiving insulin, one cancer or Leukemia patient receiving chemo, one AIDS patient receiving integrase inhibitors,then I would be a monster, a villain, a thoroughly reprehensible human being.

So then what are the motivations behind those who protest so vehemently against government sponsored health care or socialized medicine or public health care or whatever they want to call it? We must assume they are not all evil and greedy no matter how much we may wish to paint them as such? So how do they justify their seeming inhumanity.

"I don't want my tax dollars going to fund abortions!"
"I don't want my tax dollars paying for illegal immigrants!"
"I don't want the government deciding whether I or my loved ones are too old or sick to waste money on!"
"I don't want long lines for health care like they have at the DMV and the post office!"
"I don't want government run health care to have an unfair competitive advantage over private health care and put all those companies out of business increasing unemployment and causing another economic crisis!"

Did I get them all? Okay, so let's look at these objections one at a time.

I'm not a Christian so I have no objection to abortion for religious reasons. I do have an objection to hundreds of thousands of unwanted children being born into the already overcrowded ghettoes of America and what that would do to both the crime rate and the economy. Think of the neighborhood crackwhore or meth addict and her stream of endless "Baby Daddies" getting knocked up in between trips to rehab and/or the penitentiary and tell me how society would benefit from forcing them to give birth to children doomed to repeat the cycle? But that's just my opinion and it is not a popular one to be sure. The reality is that the proposed health care overhaul does not provide for abortions anymore than private health care does yet I don't see anyone picketing Blue Cross or Cigna.

The idea that universal health care would cover illegal immigrants is a stupid one. Your tax dollars are already paying for the health care of illegal immigrant but only at twice the rate because they are showing up in emergency rooms. Just like you'd would be covered by Canada's health care system if you got injured on a trip to Toronto. Urgent care costs thousands more than preventive medicine. But they are trying to find a way to exclude illegal immigrants just for you folks.

If you believe that there will be death panels than you and Sarah Palin deserve each other. The idea was to have end of life counseling but don't worry, the right-wing idiots have scared that out of the final bill so you can still waste thousands of dollars of medical care on vegetative corpses with heartbeats and no brain activity and no one will suggest that maybe it's time to pull the plug. Happy?

Those who suggest that government run health care would look like the DMV are forgetting that we aren't talking about government hospitals like in Russian. You would still go to the same hospitals and primary care physicians. It's just your insurance that would be owned by the government. You know, like the current government run health care known as Medicare? See any geriatric cheese lines forming at the doctor's office, pharmacies, or hospitals with seniors waiting months to be seen the way the Republicans are trying to scare you into thinking there will be? No? Now what does that tell you? Come on. Put your thinking caps on.

Now, the idea that a public health care option would have an unfair competitive advantage over private insurance is a good one. My answer is this. So? There needs to be more competition in the insurance market where some states are monopolized by only a handful of providers. Why should I care if these billion dollar companies have to lower their rates and make somewhat smaller profits. Do I think government health care would put them out of business? Of course not. They and the pharmaceutical companies would just have to cut back on a few jets and get smaller corporate bonuses come Christmas time.

Look, the bottom line is this. People are dying and going bankrupt because they don't have health insurance. If you're a decent and moral person you have an obligation to do something about it. There is no excuse. None of the worries I listed above are enough for one infant to die because they didn't get proper prenatal care. Not one of them is enough for one cancer patient to go without chemo. Are we a moral country or does capitalism supercede all morality? That is the only question here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Am I?

It takes seven or eight years for every cell in your body to die and be replaced by another. So, every eight to ten years you have an entirely different body than the one you had previously except for some of those in the cerebral cortex. You share very few cells in common with the person you were eight years ago, hardly any. So who is this new person? Is it still you?

I turned 39 this year. One year away from the big 40. The year before I said goodbye to my fighting career. First triumphantly in front of family and friends, racking up my 18th victory and then unfortunately, in front of strangers, humbled by a right hand I didn't see, racking up my sixth lost. I am not a fighter anymore. Too old. Too slow. I am now permanently retired. I miss it. I miss having a fighter's physique. I miss the fame, the prestige, and the competition, the thrill of victory. That's all gone now. I am not that guy anymore.

The other day I found myself staring at a woman at the grocery store. She was pretty but not remarkably so. She was the type of woman who I could have charmed with a smile just six years ago. The type whom, in my arrogance, I would have considered not to be in my league. I realized, as I caught myself staring, that she was not staring back. She did not even notice me. Now, I was not in her league. I was beneath her notice. I was just some creepy old man ogling a younger woman. I realized how long it had been since a woman followed me around a store trying to get up the nerve to talk to me. It used to be a common occurrence. Now, I can't remember the last time it happened. I am married now. I shouldn't need the ego boost, but I do. We all do. It's good to get that validation from a stranger. It's good to know you've still got it. I have to learn to live without that now. I am not the guy that women chase anymore.

I look in the mirror now and I can't believe the image that stares back at me. The six pack is long gone, smothered beneath a layer of fat I can't seem to rid myself of. The muscles in my chest and arms don't look the same. Still large but not quite as shapely. No cuts or striations. The gray hairs in my beard are multiplying. I barely recognize myself.

My son left for boarding school this year. He's going to Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the oldest and most prestigious college preparatory schools in the country. Lincoln's son graduated from Exeter. Sultan was one of only 70 boys accepted into the school out of 800 applicants from around the world. I'm proud of him. But now what? Getting him to this point has been my mission for the last fourteen years, doing flash cards with him when he was only a year old, teaching him to read when he was three, teaching him to add, subtract, multiply, and divide at five and six. Teaching him how to write short stories. Giving him his first Stephen King book followed by his first Brian Keene book. Now, his education is in the hands of others. I still set the expectations. He knows that I expect him to go to an Ivy League College, but I am no longer the one responsible for getting him there. Now, it is largely up to him and his teachers. My role as father has diminished and will diminish more and more the older he gets.

After nearly thirteen years I will be leaving Las Vegas soon. I am moving my wife and daughters to Austin, Texas. I will be leaving behind countless friends and acquaintances and possibly even the job and the company I have been a part of for the past decade unless my transfer goes through. I am not sure if this is a negative or a positive. It remains to be seen.

One positive is that my writing career has finally begun it's slow upwards ascent. After ten years of trying, I have made the transition from fighter to writer with some small modicum of success. With that comes a fear of falling, a fear of stagnation. When people ask me what I do it still feels awkward to say I am a novelist instead of a kickboxer. Now, winning the hearts of fans is not as simple as landing a head kick or a left hook. Now, it takes months of writing and many more months waiting for the publisher to do his part and get the book onto the shelves. The immediate gratification of a knockout, a raised hand over a fallen foe, is gone. Now I wait for fans, editors, and critics to judge my work, hoping I was successful, hoping they will understand and approve of my art. It has occurred to me how much easier this process was when I was still a fighter and the writing was just a hobby. The criticisms stung less when I kicked ass for a living.

So much has changed now. There are so many more changes on the horizon. I have always embraced change rather well. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune never held any fear for me. I am a survivor. Come what may. But upheavals of the sort I have undergone this year have not been common. My life alone has not just changed this year. I have changed, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My son is nearly a man. The body that has been my pride and joy for the last twenty five years has succumbed to age and a slowing metabolism. The career by which I defined myself has ended. The sex appeal by which I defined myself has waned. My economic future is uncertain. So what am I now?

I am a different man. A new man. I am a different man from the guy who once turned women's heads just walking through a grocery store. I am a different man from the one who made men's legs weaken and their hearts pound with fear when they stared across a ring at me. I am a different man then the one who ran marathons and could curl nearly 200lbs. I am a different man from the one raised his little boy into a young man. I share hardly any cells in common with that man. So who am I now?

I am still a father. I have two beautiful young daughters who need me every bit as much as Sultan did when he was growing up. I am a husband. I have a beautiful wife who drives me crazy. I am a writer, a novelist. I have a fan or two who actually enjoy the crazy shit I write. It seems I am now the co-chairman of a major Las Vegas convention. I still have a wealth of fighting knowledge that I pass on to up and coming fighters. I still have a a hell of a straight right even if it is considerably slower. I may never have a six pack again but my upper body ain't bad for a guy who's almost forty. For a writer, I'm in excellent shape. I have a great resume even if my future employment is uncertain. I may never be a Las Vegas resident again but I will be a citizen of Austin, Texas.

So what am I now? I have no fucking idea. I don't know if the future will be heaven or hell. I don't know whether to look forward to it with enthusiasm or trepidation. But one thing I have always been and will always be is a survivor. Come heaven or hell I will remain unbowed. Come what may I will remain Wrath James White in whatever form I may take.