A MINI-BLOG

 

Well, it’s almost four weeks since those five cervical vertebrae were freed from their arthritic prison, and with each passing day the rest of me is getting less confined to bed and house, able to even drive short distances to the grocery store, doctors’ offices, and the bungee cord jumping-off place. So far, however, I’ve chosen to skip the latter.

It was only slightly comforting when last week, as I met with the physician’s assistant and complained about the severe pain, she told me “Well, this is our most painful surgery.” I guess that if I need another, different surgery in the future, it won’t hurt as much.

Anyway, I hired a gal to come to the house one or two times a day, to prepare meals, clean, and assist as much as needed. And within our small community, there’s a program called Community Health Services which, funded by Medicare, provides a wealth of support for persons who are homebound. During the two weeks following my wife’s return to North Carolina, my hired hand and the health program were fantastic. I received scheduled visits from physical and occupational therapists, a certified nursing assistant, and the coordinating supervising nurse. After a week or so, it was evident that I no longer needed that team of professionals, being able to dress and shower myself adequately, so I signed off on those services and retained Melissa, my helper, for a couple of hours or so during the week.

As the pain has lessened I can stay upright for gradually increasing amounts of time, now about 10 minutes, without severe discomfort. There’s usually little or no pain when lying down, so sleeping has not been an issue. I’m told that the pain derives from the significant stress put on the neck and shoulder muscles during the surgery, and they take weeks to return to their former level of comfort.

Aside from the pain, the other issues were side effects from the opiate meds, and the loss of 20 lbs of weight. Inactivity for several weeks had its toll on this former Cathedral of Health; I’ve even considered becoming a vampire so that I can’t see my emaciated figure in the bathroom mirror. It’s almost as if there’s no muscle left anywhere in my chest, arms, and toothpick legs. I’m starting a high protein and complex carb diet to see if I can get that weight back but it may be difficult as I’m not to do any exercising for several more weeks of healing. I’m not supposed to reach out for things with both arms, or bend to pick things up from low levels; that puts stress on the healing muscles. It was recommended that I get one of those “grabbers”, a tool which has proved useful during my confinement.

At least I can now sit fairly comfortably at my desktop computer, and once again share my thoughts with any unsuspecting victims. Which brings me to my next narrative, what one does when virtually bedridden.

Along with learning that I don’t like pain, I found that although I had long suspected that there was nothing on cable TV that would justify my monthly $125 outlay other than news, weather, sports, and an occasional TCM movie, this was verified to also include all the stuff on daytime television. I decided that there is almost nothing that can be considered a “real news” broadcast other than the evening half hour network news at dinner time. All the rest are a parade of opinion pundits, engaging in hours of shallow speculation and prognostication. And even during those sessions, the discussions are usually extremely slanted toward one viewpoint or another. They seem to revel in personalities, as each of the channels have the same people again and again, saying the same things again and again. And I can’t stand some of them; Joe Scarborough, Chris Matthews, and Al Sharpton are among the most obnoxious people on TV; Hannity and O’Reilly are merely mean-spirited rabble-rousers and liars. Thank goodness for Rachel.

One of the good things that has happened recently was reconnecting with a high school chum, one with whom I had lost contact after graduation. It was therefore very surprising to learn that not only has he been successful, but that among his many credits is a Pulitzer Prize recognizing his excellence as a TV and media critic. Howard Rosenberg has written several books and many articles, and even at our ripe old age is still teaching journalistic ethics at UCLA. And among his publications is a book, No Time To Think, which he co-authored with Howard Feldman and which attacks the shallowness of the 24-hour cable news cycle. I quickly Kindled it (a new verb?) and found that it almost exactly aligns with many of the thoughts I’ve had about what Vance Packard referred to as “The Vast Wasteland” back in the 60’s. Not only have things not changed, they’ve become more sophisticated and worse.

The present Presidential “campaigns” are particularly troubling, for numerous reasons. One such reason is that when one wants to see news, we get unending video clips of either of the two candidates or their surrogates spouting off about their opponent, or we get daily reviews of the “most recent polls” as if they have any real meaning.

I would much rather see each of the political parties establish platforms of what they are going to represent if they achieve the Presidency and congressional successes, and let us vote according to which platform makes the most sense to us. Then, let the party select the person whom they feel is best suited to implement that platform, and get away from this clash of personalities. Issues would become the basis for the elections, not this disgusting circus we’re confronted with almost daily, for months.

To me, the most significant things which have occurred lately began with Colin Kaepernick’s  protest during the National Anthem. I understand that many of our fellow citizens seem to think that The Flag is some sort of Holy Grail, and therefore we should automatically “have pride in it and everything it stands for”. But I think that is a misguided perception, although one which I also had until spending time in the Peace Corps in the early 60’s in West Africa. My opinions changed, and I realized that opinions are only an individual’s interpretation of the meaning of facts as they are filtered through a person’s background of experience and knowledge, they are not the facts themselves.

This was brought home to me when I , along with one of my Peace Corps colleagues, had a private meeting with Harry Truman at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. In our conversation, he asked me, “Well, what did you learn over there in Africa?” I responded, “I got a different viewpoint of America, and saw some things which are wrong here”. His reply was characteristic of Harry, “You’re in a helluva shape if you think there’s anything wrong with this country!” I couldn’t let that pass, and said, “I don’t want to argue with you, Mr. President, it’s not the country but it’s some of the people in it.” Again, it’s our difference in backgrounds. I had been challenged by many young Africans to explain how people like Bull Connor could attack African-Americans with police dogs, during peaceful protest demonstrations; how widespread bigotry was rampant in a country allegedly established on a principle of human equality, and other uncomfortable questions. That’s when I began to question that “automatic pride” concept, and I arrived at something quite a bit different—–rather than say “I’m proud to be an American” I began to think, “I’m lucky to be an American, and proud that my country is the only one that has within its folds the mechanisms available to bring about change in order to meet the standards set forth by the Founding Fathers”. I’m certainly not proud of bigotry, major poverty in supposedly the richest country on the planet, and many other ills which we have yet to resolve.

And later, when I was working alongside some of the Black Panthers in the Gary, Indiana inner city, I began to understand that there is a very short journey from despair to desperation as I saw how “trapped” in the poverty cycle were many of the children in my Model Cities School Project. Occasional visits from persons who had “escaped” did little more than raise hopes without offering solutions; NBA players and The Jackson Five were only rare instances of successfully breaking those chains. We had one student shot accidently having brought a small handgun with him to school, and it fired when in a minibus on a local field trip; two of my staff and I were confronted by two drunken teens with guns, outside the school building one afternoon. I’ll never forget the fear when one of them shoved a sawed-off shotgun in my stomach. One of my Panther board members, with whom I had become a friend, told me how he was “arming for the revolution”.  One of our seventh grade boys had a wide selection of watches and jewelry pinned inside his long overcoat, offering them for sale along with pimping for his two sisters.       Despair.

So you see, this is where I’m at (I know, never end your sentence with a preposition). But I’m looking toward some better future, not only in my current health situation but toward the health of our country. I hope that the controversies initiated by a football player become something “writ large” and lead us into productive discussions and decisions to create that “more perfect union”. Remembering of course that most decisions are based on opinions, and at this point there is not sufficient unanimity of opinions for us to achieve that union.

The missing ingredient is Empathy, simply and most meaningfully expressed in the ancient caution, “Judge not thy brother until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins”.

And then I will be proud.

Always Be Happy           To Our Youth

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One Response to “A MINI-BLOG”

  1. Alan Sheinker Says:

    Bob,

    You are a great writer. In fact, you should publish your musing in a book. It should be shared with the world.

    Glad you are on the mend.

    Alan

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