Monday, December 31, 2012

Let's Call It

Now that we've survived the nothingburger that was December 21, 2012, it's a good time to take a deep breath and look at what's actually happening. There are terrible, seemingly intractable problems facing the U.S. and every other country. At this moment the outgoing Congress hasn't passed a budget. The "fiscal cliff" may itself be a big old nothingburger. But the fact that Congress has been funding the government on continuing resolutions since 2006 is something--a symptom of the political myopia of too many of our leaders. 


And yet. There are also signs that there is movement afoot . Out of the wreckage of mass shootings, a surprising willingness to address gun violence. A brutal gang rape and murder in Delhi, a sudden acknowledgment of the price of patriarchy and sexism. A young man immolates himself in Tunisia, and Tunisians, Egyptians, Moroccans, and Libyans protest the repressive dictatorships governing their countries, discovering for themselves the responsibilities of leadership. A destructive superstorm hits the most populous area of our country, again bringing the issue of climate change to the fore.

People are awakening. What we might have accepted as unchangeable even a year ago is now shifting. There is new awareness that the old ways of thinking, doing and being are unsustainable. More people believe that climate change is here after Superstorm Sandy
After an unacceptable number of mass shootings and decades of NRA brainwashing, more people see the need for gun control measures.
It's taken a mass shooting of 20 first graders to awaken people to the fact that the easy availability of combat weapons in the hands of private citizens, and mentally unstable and criminal people, is an unacceptable price to pay for the abstract notion of the so-called "right to bear arms."After a young woman is brutally raped and dies, people in India are protesting violence against women. Dictatorships are being exposed for what they are--a way for dynasties to retain as many privileges as they can to the detriment of their countrymen.

It's taken Superstorm Sandy to wake people to the reality of climate change. It's time to stop the kindergarten argument about what or who's to blame and start addressing the problems of overconsumption and overpopulation while there is still time.To do something about it, even if it's not quite the right diagnosis.

Along these lines, when our son Geoff was seven months old, he caught his very first virus, and every subsequent virus that came his way. Bronchiolitis was the standard diagnosis.There were many sleepless nights, many emergency trips to the doctor. When he was just over a year old, our pediatrician ordered a test for cystic fibrosis. My heart froze. In high school and college, two classmates had CF, and one had died at age 24, the other at 37.

"He's not breaking any records on growth, so I just want to rule it out," she said. All the way home my mind raced as Geoff cried in his car seat.

The test results came back negative, but he still wasn't well. Finally Dr. Patno did what docs do to earn their salaries--she made a treatment decision. She consulted with a pediatric pulmonologist at the University of Vermont.  He had seen good results in infants with chronic bronchiolitis treated with nebulized asthma drugs. He recommended Intal four times daily for preventing bronchial spasms, and albuterol for acute spasms only. It was worth a try.

The first time Geoff received a treatment at the hospital, he tried to pull off the mask with his tiny hands. We restrained him as he cried the entire three minutes of the treatment. The first two treatments he received at home were the same. By the third, he pressed the toggle switch on the nebulizing machine himself. At fourteen months, he already had made the connection between the treatments and feeling better. By the time we moved to Colorado less than two years later, he no longer required daily medication. He'll be 21 tomorrow.

Just as Dr. Karyn Patno named Geoff's condition and treated it accordingly, it's long past time to make the call on climate change. Help me celebrate my son's 21st birthday by supporting and living out sustained efforts to reduce our country's carbon footprint.

Let's also call it on gun violence. The pro-gun lobby is the civilian manifestation of Cold War-era thinking. Arm yourselves to the hilt, and you'll be safer. Of course the nuclear arms race did not and has not made us safer or healthier, wealthier or wiser. People in this country are already armed to the hilt. It's time to stop paying into this outmoded thinking.

The brutal civil war in Syria with no clear end in sight weighs heavily. I pray for Assad's cruel tenure to come to a swift end, so the Syrian people may experience peace and seize opportunities to rebuild their country in ways that are more beneficial to them.

My most fervent hope is that humans stop creating the conditions for injustice in the first place and replace them with conditions for justice. Let's stop hurting each other intentionally. We can begin to stop hurting each other even unintentionally by being more sensitive to each other.

Every blessing to you in the New Year. 

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