A Recollection: The Gettysburg Address

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (Photo credit: casually cruel)

This has been an unusual month for me.  For the first time in a long time I’ve reflected on the Gettysburg Address.  You know, there used to be a time where you were basically inundated with stories, reflections, memoirs, about significant dates and times in the media, school, church and other institutions about significant moments in history.  Unlike today, to use a word, our holidays and historical events were institutionalized and were generally celebrated the same way, all of the time.  I didn’t know it as a kid, in a way, we were taught to perpetuate a system…of so-called traditional holidays and events that sustained a social order.

Now, I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this, but I was watching Channel 56, Detroit’s PBS station, airing of a documentary about the Declaration of Independence.  Watching the show, I discovered a lot of things about the purpose of the speech, its importance, the expectations and the actual reaction that I didn’t know.  It was all pretty dramatic in the PBS way and extremely captivating.  It illuminated the varied back stories of many of the players of that time.  One key part of history that I previously didn’t know was the importance of the relationship President Lincoln had with his butler, a black man.  Even though he was thought to be a free man, he was still subjected to the prejudice and racism of those times.  His proximity to the president did not make it any easier for him and there were times when Lincoln had to fight to have him at hand.  And this is where I started “reflecting” I went back to a time when I was still in elementary school and my older brother, Isaac came in from his school with the homework assignment to memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address.

Now we were the type of kids that shared homework with each other.  We would all sit around the dining room table, most of the time with our heads down closely to our papers, pencils scratching on paper…you know the drill…nowadays it would be called “nerdville”, but back then it was called being A-students.  Very Eisenhowerish!  Anyway, Isaac came home with his assignment and as I recall we all stopped working to listen to Isaac work on the piece.  Isaac was a pretty good orator and for the longest time, he was the only one in the family that aggressively pursued the limelight.  “Four score and seven years ago…” we heard the starts and stops as he was learning it.

He was doing all right too, improving every step of the way, that is, until our father woke up!  My father was a very intelligent man, but sometimes when he would try to help, he could set you back for days, if not months or years.  So when daddy awakened, we all scattered and basically Isaac was left by his lonesome to deal with him.  I can’t remember everything, but for some reason I remember laughing a lot!  My father, who was a smart man when he was sober, always thought he was smarter when he was drunk.  And as long as you were not the object of his attention, you were allowed to laugh…secretly.  You couldn’t get too carried away with your glee because tomorrow it could be your turn with the beast.

Because of this little recollection, I gave Isaac a call and we discussed this event and the speech.  Not surprisingly, he remembers the rehearsals, the speech and the importance of the address.  Why don’t we acknowledge the speech in the same universal way today?  I have another question for Isaac also.  Since Nolan at the time was a pre-dominantly white school, why does he think he was picked to recite the speech?

IsaacIsaac’s Response

Arthur, yes I do remember having to recite the speech, and the drama that went into doing it.  I do not remember any discussion about how or why I was chosen.  On reflection it seems appropriate given the changes going on in our society.  When I enrolled at Nolan Jr. High, the school was about 3% African-American so to demonstrate the significance of the Address perhaps I was the default choice.  I remember struggling to remember the words.  The 267 words of the address seemed like thousands, and all of you were so supportive, listening time and time again, as I recited over and over, the words President Lincoln spoke.  And yes there was Daddy “offering” his help.  He did offer me some advice that worked, though.  He showed me how I could remember the address by singing it instead of reciting it, and yes, it really did help.

The biggest problem wasn’t just reciting the address, it was understanding “it’s” meaning.  To understand the address I had to try and understand the meaning of the Civil War.  Was this a war about freedom?  The right to establish individual and societal freedoms.

Was this a war about equality?  The acknowledgement that African-Americans were whole people, not the 3/5th of a person, that they had been designated.

Was this a war about slavery?  The right of all people to live free from subjugation by other peoples.  There was very little said, or discussed, when it came to the subject of slavery.  It was as though, with all the talk of American exceptualism, no one wanted to talk of, or teach about, America’s shame.  (I wonder if that would have been considered playing the race-card?)

So with not having an understanding of the war, and not having heard President Lincoln’s original address, I had to establish my own points of emphasis in delivering the speech.  I chose the opening line, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and this from the close, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I thought that summarized the speech very well, and for an 11 year old, I was quite proud, but on reflection I see I may have missed the point, perhaps altogether.  Yes the beginning and the ending are important, but I believe, the real significance is here, “…but, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here…”

And though the address was given in commemoration of the fallen Union soldiers, it must be noted that the casualties were almost equally divided between two camps.  So many people, White people, Black People, Native Americans and others sacrificed so much.  At Gettysburg alone more than 7,800 people lost their lives, almost 40,000 were wounded, captured or missing.

Compare those numbers with this, from the start of the war in Afghanistan in October, 2001 until August of 2008 the “wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost 4,683 American lives and resulted in 30,490 wounded.  That’s over a period of nearly 8 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted just 3 days, July 1 to the 3rd, 1863.

But more than a remembrance of what had occurred there, President Lincoln used his address to remind America of what we were fighting for:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

11 year old Isaac didn’t really have a grasp of the significance of what he was reciting then, but I have a better understanding of the Address now.  I look around and see the same battles, for the same reasons, being fought today and it saddens me.  But the fact that we are still fighting, that we haven’t given up or given in, lifts my spirits and gives me hope.  Hope, “—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Here is the complete Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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MLK Day – Let Freedom Ring!

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75 degrees, in the shade, on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 and I was doing what I had been doing mostly everyday of the summer…sitting outside, complaining that there was nothing to and trying to stay out of sight of my parents so that they wouldn’t find something for me to do.  We really didn’t have to worry too much about them because for the past few days their eyes were focused on the television set and the daily newspapers.  The march on Washington was going on and the emotions were high, voices were loud and hearts were full of pride as my parents, grandmother, the occasional relative and family friend engaged in somewhat spirited conversation about what was transpiring.

I will be honest with you, I DIDN’T RELATE!  Not to what was happening in our nation’s capital.  You see I lived in this “never-neverland” where bad things like racism never happened.  You may not believe me but it’s true.  Yes, a child growing up in the 1950’s…in Detroit…virtually an all-white police force…75% white population…that never had to deal with racial hostility or discrimination.  I can’t explain why it happened that way but it did.

But we weren’t the only ones!  Our neighborhood was a melting pot of whites, Italians, Polish, Jews, Blacks and inter-racial families.  We went to school together, played together and even fought each other but we never focused on each other’s ethnicity.  I can remember the first time I used the “N” word, I used it very indiscriminately and called a white kid it too.  I was promptly told by him not to call him that, to my amazement…I didn’t know it was to be used exclusively.  I did find out that it wasn’t to be used at all.  A neighbor told my mom about my indiscretion when she came home and she made an example of me for the others, just in case they needed it.

So, like I said for the most part everybody lived together and “publicly” happily got a long.  What I didn’t know as a child was what my parents had to go through as they grew up and how their parents lived before them.  I didn’t know anything about the fight…the struggle…all I knew was what was in our schoolbooks.  American history wasn’t black history, nor was it Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Mexican to be fair.  I knew nothing about what was really going on in the world.  My world was “Leave It To Beaver, My Three Sons, Zorro, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Donna Reed Show, The Rifleman and Father Knows Best.”  It was the Eisenhower Years and I guess I didn’t realize how bland my world was.  My parents did a good job of shielding us from the hostility that existed in the world, maybe a little too well.  Where many of our friends grew up in homes who’s parents had just recently escaped the hardship of living in the south, we never heard about it or was it ever discussed in front of us.  That was about to change!!!

Oh, on this day it was all out there…on display, my comfy “middle-class” environ was time shifted to somewhere into the oppressed and depressed south and everybody’s voices were ringing out along with every word, every song, and every speech that was made.

So as a tribute to that day and because we are inaugurating a black president for his second term, I thought that I would re-publish in its entirety Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” Speech, but then I had a thought that MLK wasn’t the only person that had a dream.  Therefore, I took a look at a list of several people that throughout the history of the world that had a dream, a thought as to what freedom was and decided to share a few with you…

“A free race cannot be born of slave mothers”  – Margaret Sanger

 

“A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you” – Ramsay Clark

 

“If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money it value more, it will lose that too.” – Somerset Maughman

 

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it!  Almighty God!  I know not what course other may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

 

“Is it possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America” – Molly Ivins

 

“No one should negotiate their dreams.  Dreams must be free to flee and fly high.  No government, no legislature, has a right to limit your dreams.  You should never agree to surrender your dreams” – Jesse Jackson

 

“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of emancipation itself” – Virginia Woolf

 

“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

“I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.  This is the faith with which I return to the South.  With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.  And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.  So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.  Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.  Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!  Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.  From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! ”– Martin Luther King

 

So to all of the above and to everybody that sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we share today, I want to say thank you, thank you ever so much.  What I didn’t know then, I know now!  Those things that I took for granted, I appreciate even more today!  What I believed in then, I believe in even more today. However it is defined, freedom is essential to survival…yours and mine!

 

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

 

What A Great Breakdown on How Taxes Are Divided and Distributed!

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My brother Isaac took the time to respond to the questions at the end of my blog, “The Only Things Certain In Life Are DEATH and TAXES! Due to the length of his response it will be published in two parts.

What a great breakdown on how are taxes are divided and distributed. Good job. What I find truly fascinating is what a small percentage of our taxes go for the things that significantly impact the middle class.

At the federal level less than 15% of our tax dollars go to areas like: Science and Technology (1%), Education, Training, Employment and Social Services (3%), Agriculture (1%), Veterans Benefits (3%), Transportation (2%). Areas like Energy, Community and Regional Development, get less than 1% of our Federal Income Tax dollars. To be fair some of these areas do receive tax subsidies and grants.

The true irony is that, though these departments account for such a small part of the budget, they are the ones most vulnerable to cuts. Across the board cuts, of virtually any amount, would effectively eliminate the capability of some departments to do their jobs.

As for your questions…

How would I save Social Security? First, I would make sure the money owed to Social Security, by the government, is shown prominently in the budget as a debt owed. There is more than 2.5 trillion dollars currently “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Fund and those monies should be visible and accounted for. As that money can only be borrowed by the government, and is subject to interest, we should be sure that when money is borrowed its use is for projects that will provide a return on investment. Never again should that money be used to fund things like wars. Could you imagine if just half of that 2.5 trillion dollars had been dedicated to transportation and infrastructure, education, energy or perhaps Veterans Benefits what could have been done? I would also raise the interest on money borrowed from the fund as an added incentive to choose, wisely, [the use] of any borrowed money.

I would look into possibly raising the cap on the amount of income subject to tax. The current cap is $90,000. I would consider raising it, perhaps 50%. This could allow higher payouts, keeping them in line with the true cost of living, not just the cost of being alive. It may be argued that this is nothing more than a tax increase, but I would argue that it is more than a tax increase. It’s also an increase in benefits, and an increase in the security that you may require later in life.

And lastly, I would consider some sort of “means testing.” You know, when you purchase other forms of insurance it is accepted that you are paying for something just in case you need it. Hoping, for the most part, that, you won’t need it. But happy to have it, if you do. Social Security should be something like that. As much as we complain about insurance premiums, we’re happy not to need to use it, and if we get some of it back in rebate, well, so be it.

If I were at a place in life financially, where I could live comfortably, I would gladly fore go my Social Security, especially if [say] I would pay no taxes on money drawn from retirement accounts. Capital gains and money made on investments are already taxed at a minimum rate.

More to follow in Part Two!

You can follow Isaac at his blog at www.declarativeusa.com

The Only Things Certain In Life Are DEATH AND TAXES!

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Tax

Tax (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

The only things that are certain in life are DEATH and TAXES!  We know about death but how much do we really know about taxes…where do they go…what do they do and who benefits the most from tax cuts and breaks.

I was sitting in my doctor’s office the other day reflecting on the fact that with the vision and guidance of a lot of people, including the President of the entire U.S. of A., I would soon be able to afford and have quality healthcare.  Being a diabetic and also being someone who is moving up in years, I am duly aware of my personal war with health.  Like many, there are good days and there are bad days and today was one of those bad days or I wouldn’t have been sitting here.  As usual, I read into a stack of old magazines and came across an old issue of Reader’s Digest (printed for seniors with large print…is that a hint?).  It had a very fascinating article about the taxes that we pay and where the money goes…to what program…to what service.  Personally, I was surprised as to how so little goes so far.  I have subsequently asked several people do they know where their tax dollars goes and they like me, before I read the article, didn’t have a clue.  So with that in mind, I hope to shed some light on YOUR tax dollars, the tax program and how it benefits you, your family, your neighbors and your community.

Let’s start with a worker (single w/o dependents) with an annual income of $55,000.  This person makes roughly $1,000 per week, right?  On a yearly basis, nearly two-thirds of your taxes went to the federal government and the rest goes to your state, county, or city government.

Using the standard deduction for an annual salary of $55,0000, your taxable income would be $49,300.  Your effective tax rate would be 23.1%.  That would make your total federal taxes approximately $12,720.

Here is a simplified table that shows where your $1,000 goes (Federal Taxes only).

  Program/Service  TaxRevenue  %Category %Total$1000
Income Security $220.00   22.0
·        Social Security $115.00 .52 .115
·        Welfare   $46.00 .209 .046
·        Disability   $35.00 .159 .035
·        Unemployment     $7.00 .031 .007
       
Health Care $203.00   20.3
·        Medicaid      
·        Medicare      
       
Nation Security $200.00   20.0
·        Defense $132.00 .66 .132
·        Public Order/Safety   $65.00 .325 .065
                Police   $27.00 .135 .027
                Prisons   $18.00 .09 .018
                Courts   $12.00 .06 .012
                Fire Protection     $8.00 .04 .008
       
Education $158.00   15.8
·        Elementary/Secondary $117.00 74.0 .117
·        College   $28.00 17.7 .028
·        Library(s)     $2.00 .013 .002
       
Government $143.00   14.3
·        National Debt   $90.00 63.0 .09
·        Executive/Legislature   $21.00 14.7 .021
·        Tax Collection   $11.00 .077 .011
       
Highway/Transportation    $79.00   .079
·        Highways    $25.00 31.6 .025
·        Agriculture      $8.00 10.1 .008
·        Air Transport      $4.00 .051 .004
·        Air & Water Quality      $7.00 .088 .007
·        Space Program      $3.00 .04 .003
       
Housing/Community     $10.00 12.65 .01
Recreation/Culture       $7.00 .088 .007

So by the chart, how do your tax dollars work for you?  Let’s see…

  • You pay $7.00 into unemployment for 52 weeks for a total of $364.00.  If you have ever been unemployed, how long did it take you to get that investment back?  And since they make such a big deal over the unemployment numbers, do you know the actual break out.  Use this link 2011 Unemployment Figures to see what’s that all about.  You will see what groups are really unemployed and how they affect the numbers.  Did you know that Teens (16-19) make up 22.9 percent of the unemployment numbers?  Shouldn’t they be in school anyway?  Or, not surprisingly Blacks in 2011 represented 15.5 percent of the total where only 7.9 percent of the White population 16 years and older were unemployed?  And only 5.3 percent of white males were unemployed in 2011.  What are really the working years?  I know that many of us start young out of necessity, but should that really be counted, without explanation, in the reported totals?
  • Welfare looks like a really big chunk.  At $46 per week (annual total $2,392) that is a serious deduction from your pay that you hope that you never need.  But just like car, house or life insurance you are better off having made that investment than you are without.  A single man or woman without children, regardless of previous income, gets a minimum payment of $200.00 a month (based on the state of Michigan payouts).  I’m guessing that your previous income and the length of time you were employed may have something to do with the payouts.   I can see why this can have a negative effect on the entire financial system.  Because, if you have kids you do get more.  It’s a major problem today and it will be tomorrow if it is allowed to persist.  The answer, though, is not to kill the program when you can make smart adjustments to the current program and find ways to deal effectively with the external issues that create toxic environments that hamper and negatively impact what is still a good and very necessary  program.  There are a lot of cheats and ne’er-do-wells and they make it very, very hard for everybody in the program.
  • Social Security is a tricky for me.  The way I see it, I have X-amount taken from me on a paycheck-by-paycheck basis.  Using the chart again, I see that $115 is taken out of my paycheck every week for a monthly total of $460 and an annual total of $5,520.  How is this money managed really?  Does the government hold onto it until I need it?  What’s the percent of the “rebate” I get at retirement age?  What does the government do with the difference?  What has the government done with the difference?  You see, I am afraid because I don’t really know what happened to the financial security we had during President Bill Clinton’s last term in office.  Sept. 11 happened that’s what I do know.  And we entered in a war with Saddam Hussein and his boys in March 2003, preceded by the tremendously expensive search for Osama bin Laden.  And before we finished the job in Iraq completely we were in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.  Why?  Because it was believed that there were forces within the country that were harboring bin Laden.  Our president had declared that any country that harbored terrorists was not a friend of ours.  I stood with him on that, as I know everybody did.  But they found him in Pakistan where he had been hiding for so long.  Almost as long as the Afghan War.  So is this where the budget surplus of the Clinton years disappeared under the Bush years?
  • The amazing thing is how small the contributions to things like schools, libraries, housing, recreation and culture, public radio and television, public order and safety are and they are always among the first tier of programs/services that get cut.  What makes it even more amazing is that these are what I call “quality-of-life” services that should be covered under our government.  With our tax dollars we are being asked to fight wars overseas while we are losing the war on our streets.  Is this not our priority…therefore, their priority?
  • We are taxed on a regular basis to support our highway and transportation system, yet our roads and bridges are in such a state of disrepair.  Now that I see how things are taxed and for what purpose, I am beginning to wonder if our elected representatives really understand that they represent us…the people.  Where does it say that they can spend our money any way that they decide?  Our roads are worn…our bridges are breaking down…schools are closing…welfare is struggling…social security is nearly bankrupt…why…Why…WHY?
  • Since part of our taxes are used to pay our representatives, why aren’t their salaries affected like everything else we pay for when “times are hard”?  They borrow from one area after another to account for what they want to do, but it never hits them in the wallet like it does the common man or woman.  How many essential programs have been modified or shutdown to pay for the wars they wanted to fight?  As I write this, special interest groups, national and international, have bought a lot of our congressional representation.  Who benefits?  Not me!  Do you?  Have your family/friends?  If not me, or you, then who?
  • Defense spending, which accounted for 27 cents of each tax dollar during the Vietnam War in 1970, fell to 11.1 percent of government spending by 2000.  The cost of the Iraq war, beginning in 2006, pushed defense spending back up to 13.2 percent of all federal, state and local government spending.  How can we afford that?  I was taught that “wars” were good for the economy.  And maybe from a historical perspective the saying is true.  But we have recently learned that all wars are not good…not for the economy or for anything else.  Surely somebody had an idea as to how this was going to work.  What was the plan and why didn’t it work?

The chart from above clearly shows how a shift of a few percentage points of your tax money can create serious…significant problems for programs that serve the largest number of people of our society.  Unfortunately, we have elected lumberjacks not tree surgeons when it comes to handling our financial interests.  And besides being lumberjacks, they are some kind of  “whore” that sells our interests for their gain. Sadly, they have been able to do this with the assistance of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Appointed for their lifetime, the SCOTUS justices have rendered a lot of decisions that seemingly have followed the party line of the party that put them on the bench.  The Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare) was the rare decision that went against the political balance of the court.

Speaking of the AHA (Obamacare), why all the fuss?  Why can’t they use the savings accrued from the ending of the two wars to fund the program or part of it?  How does a program with the lofty goal of saving lives while saving money produce such vitriol and anger?  How can the “greatest country on the planet” show so little value and support for the citizens, young and old who make this country so great?

Even though I am a lifetime Democrat, I have tried not to let that influence my thoughts on this.  I watched both conventions just so I could hear what both sides had to say about the problems/issues that we face today and the solutions they were going to use to solve them.  I think I am a like a lot of people who say, “they don’t care where a good idea comes from” as long as it works.  So to my Republican and Democrat friends, I want to ask the following questions…

  1. How would you save Social Security?
  1. How would you save Medicare?
  1. How would you deal with Healthcare?
  1. How would you fix the Economy?
  1. Why do you think your party (or any party) has the best idea/method to address these issues?

I can’t wait to hear your answers.  I believe a healthy debate among us the taxpayers would be real beneficial.  I will post all responses as long as they are not filled with insults and swearing.  If you can’t talk intelligently and emotionally without being offensive, your problems run deeper than the problems we need to solve.

9/11…A Remembrance

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English: wtc

English: wtc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Sept. 11, 2012 and it is the 11th anniversary of the day that changed life in the United States of America forever.  For many of us it was the first and hopefully the only time that we experience violence on our shores directed from an international enemy.  An enemy that many of us didn’t know that had existed until those two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Quite often since that day the question that is most often asked is, “What were you doing on the day and time the planes hit?”

For me the answer is quite simple and significant for another reason.  You see, on that day, I first acknowledged that I had diabetes.  I say acknowledge because, of course, diabetes just doesn’t pop-up…like the planes on that day, this had been in the works for some time.  There were signs that I had ignored…signals my body was giving me and I chose not to recognize what was going on with me.  I can’t say that was what was going on with the government offices that were set up to protect us from such an attack, but like with myself the questions had to be asked… “What did I know?  When did I know?  Why now?  Why didn’t I do something about it sooner?”

Comparing my acknowledgement of contracting diabetes to the 9/11 attacks is a tricky thing to do.  So, just to let you know, that’s not what I am really trying to do.  It’s just that it is such a weird circumstance that the manifestation of my health issue coincided with the tragedy that took place that day.  Like many of the people that have contracted diabetes, I did not recognize the signals that should have alerted me as to what was going on inside of my body.  Were there any warnings that the U.S. was going to be attacked?  Subsequent information on the planning of the attacks indicates that there was.  And for me, there were plenty and somehow it never registered on me that I was under siege.  Even though there was strong evidence that something was wrong, somehow I tricked my mind into thinking either nothing was wrong or I was going through some sort of phase.  The first mind trick was that I went on a water diet, hoping to lose a lot of weight.  I had put on what I wanted to call “stress-related weight” because my family life and professional life was in conflict.  My mother had been in the hospital that year since April.  Most of the time she had been near death…we were urged to pull the plug three times and most of what I was doing, between eating and boozing, wasn’t healthy at all.  Then there was my job; my boss never known to be the most sympathetic person on the planet, was all over me to increase revenue for the agency.  He had let go most of the agency’s sales department and was coming down on me pretty hard to make up the lost revenue.  There was a lot more pressure than the norm to perform and this combined with my mom’s situation I can easily admit that I wasn’t handling any of this well.  Anyway, for me, I thought the water diet was a good idea.  After all, I always would drink a lot of water, so why not take advantage of it.  My water intake went up sharply.  I went from an average of 6 glasses of water a day to 10 – 12.  This was probably the first obvious clue, though the weight gain should have made me stop and think too.

Then there was the candy consumption…the urge for sweets.  I thought that as a kid I had eaten enough candy and junk to last a lifetime and so, as an adult, I rarely indulged in sweets.  I was very disciplined, limiting myself to eating cake only once a year on my birthday and setting tight restrictions on what type of sweet I would eat if I were inclined to indulge.  Well, about two days before 9/11 I found myself craving…dying for candy.  At first it would be a single candy bar.  Doing it my old way, I would open it and eat just half, saving the rest of it until later.  That was the plan!  But what really happened is that I would eat the first half and then 5 minutes after eating that I would come back and finish the rest of it.  Life was terrible those two days, as I would have strong cravings for something sweet well into the night.  Thankfully, I made it through those nights but it was the first thing on my mind when I got up the next morning.  There I was drinking tons of water in an attempt to abate my appetite and “jonesing” for something sweet like a heroin addict needs his dope.

Then it hit me.  On the morning of 9/11 at approximately 8:46 a.m. (I was on vacation that week) I was watching the “Today Show” when they showed a plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center and as the announcers were speculating as to what was actually happening a second plane came on the screen and I along with the rest of the country watched (like it was in slow-motion) as the second plane crashed into the other tower.  Quickly there was word of other planes in the air and their subsequent crashes (one into the Pentagon and the second, supposedly heading toward the White House, in a field in Pennsylvania).  At that moment, I really wanted a candy bar.  Thinking it was nerves and nothing else, I got dressed to go to the store.  I was feeling a little lightheaded so I decided to walk instead of drive, which was probably a good thing for when I stepped out the door I was really disoriented.  My vision was blurred and I walked on very unsteady legs.  I made it to the store, which was about 100 yards away from my house, and I bought two candy bars instead of my usual one.  When I got home, I ate the first one as I watched the news reports and quickly ate the second one…I wanted more.  Just as I was walking out the door to go buy some more, I saw a commercial that asked if I or if I knew somebody that was experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Sudden weight gain and/or loss
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water
  • Appetite loss
  • Craving sweets
  • Blurred vision

I don’t know how many times I had seen this commercial but on 9/11 that was the first time I really saw the commercial and I got scared…really, really scared.  I had all of the symptoms and on that day as hysteria was raging across the country; I was going crazy thinking about the fact that I may have diabetes.  As much as I wanted to sit and watch what was going on, I had to go out and get myself some more candy and this time some soda pop.  I had stop drinking the “sugar” sodas a long time ago, but I wanted…no needed the sweetness of a Faygo Red Pop, straight up.  I barely got out of the store before I had to open it and guzzle it down.  I ate an entire candy bar and finished off the pop before I made it to my front door.  I was out of control and embarrassed about it for three reasons.  The first being that my self-proclaimed discipline was sorely lacking; the fact that I was the first in the family to contract diabetes in spite of my efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle; and third I should have been more into the catastrophic events of the day…my county…my people had been attacked.  I had to settle down and fortunately I did.

I abstained from consuming more sweets and my vision came back to almost normal.  I called my doctor and set up an appointment.  I got in touch with family and friends and made sure that they were all right.  I thought about my mom, lying in her hospital bed, so I called her too, in case she needed some comforting.  I then tried to make sense of what had happened to the people in New York, our country and to me.  For all the right reasons, I was still scared.  Similar questions ran through my mind.  If I was thinking about the attacks, I would ask, “Why Us?”  If I was thinking about having diabetes, I would ask, “Why Me?”  Thinking about the attacks, I would ask, “Why wasn’t the government prepared”?  Thinking about diabetes, I would ask, “Why wasn’t I prepared”?  About both, I would ask, “Wasn’t this preventable”?  And lastly, what are we/I going to do now?  You see, that’s how the two events, though separate, become comparable…they are linked by coincidence and by the fact that they, as I said so earlier, were life changing…life change for our country, the world and for me on that day forever!

That’s my story…what’s yours?