Monday, August 31, 2009

A sick debate

Call me naive. Call me a meek and mild Quaker boy, but I went to a town hall meeting last week here in Claremont on healthcare insurance reform, and I was frightened. I’m sure the organizers, a pretty progressive bunch with good, if not preaching-to-the-choir, intentions, got a bit of a shock, to say the least. It was a flat-out ugly scene.
It was just like those awful scenes we’ve been seeing on the news. There were people yelling and booing and screaming. At one point, a young man, an anti-abortion activist shouting that he was being assaulted, was dragged out of the room, and the police were called, and it appeared that the doors were being locked. It was bad enough that I sat behind an older man who wore a shirt featuring a waving U.S flag and images of Mt. Rushmore and who kept giving the thumbs down and shouting things like "lies" and "bullshit."
I wondered why these people were there, since there were no elected officials or lawmakers present. Were they there just to make trouble? (Meanwhile, I read an article on Sunday about how ammunition vendors are having difficulty keeping up with the demand...)
It also didn’t help that the panel of speakers was stacked with progressive types advocating a single payer system. One all but endorsed socialism, bringing on a particularly violent reaction. Nor did it help when the speakers, who I agreed with, said stupid, egging-on things like, "I like being called an Obama person!"
Here are the reasons I heard why people don’t like the proposed reforms:
*The government will drive private insurers out of business and will take over.
*The government will dictate everything, and I’ll have no choice. *Everything the government does ends up costing even more than first said.
*The tax-payers will pay for abortions.
*Illegal aliens will get free healthcare.
*I work hard for my money and choose to pay for my healthcare in cash, thank you very much, and don’t want to pay for others who don’t work hard.
*I don’t want to lose what I have now.
*This is all coming too fast.
I also heard resistance to certain facts, like America not having the world’s best healthcare.
I heard people sticking to their ideas and ideology, based on and driven by fear (I.e: Rush Limbaugh, etc.), and that scared me - more than the shouting. I went home shaken and sickened and all but feeling hopeless.
"All but," because I was reminded that I need to keep getting out there and doing what I do. I once again saw that there are people who will never, ever see things the way I do, and that I can’t worry about them and changing their mind. If I do this, I will fail and die. All I can do is to keep on doing my thing. Maybe some of these people will see me and won’t change their minds; maybe some, a few, will. God knows it’s better than fighting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tuned out

A few days ago, I went to Best Buy and Target to see how much a new television would cost. The digital converter box on mine - yes, I did get it hooked up - is driving me crazy. It is difficult for me to turn it on and change the channels with the remote control, and it severely restricts my taping capabilities. For example, if I’m out for the evening, I can’t tape programs on more than one channel. And too bad if I’m out for longer than the box can stay on.
So I’d like a new digital T.V - no box. But, as I discovered, all televisions are now flatscreen. A new, free-standing T.V can’t be bought. Not only that, but the flatscreens, as terrific as they look, are terrifically expensive, with most over $500 and many, at least at Best Buy, over $1,000.
Meaning that a new T.V is now a luxury.
This leaves me - not to mention others on low or fixed incomes - out of the picture. I might have to get by with the clunky converter box and barely being able to use my V.C.R.
Oh well, I guess if it’s good ‘nuf fer gubbermint, it’s good enough for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A testing spirit

Two weeks ago, I returned home from a trip to yearly meeting to find out that my hard drive had crashed and that I had lost everything, including my writings. (I am now getting help in retrieving some, if not all, of the data.)
Then, my e-mail server changed its policy, and I had to get a new e-mail address after having the same one for at least 15 years.
Then, the batteries in my watch died.
Then, a friendship bracelet which I got at a men’s gathering a couple years ago came off my arm. It was too frayed to tie back on.
Am I forgetting something else?
Mmmm. Perhaps it’s time for a change.
But haven’t I made enough changes already this year? I’ve gotten on Facebook and MySpace. With much nudging and assistance, I put up a website and began writing this blog. I’ve been posting serious ads on craigslist for men. Can’t a guy have some slack?
Apparently not.
A friend has a theory that when things are hard, it is usually a sign of Spirit moving in your life, giving you an opportunity to grow. Another friend says this is probably true but that it doesn’t make it any easier.
Or, perhaps, to put it another way, as I said one morning in worship at yearly meeting (before I found out about my hard drive), the hardest thing about following God (or Spirit) is that, a lot of the time, you don’t know that you are following God until after you have followed God.
In the meantime, it sure feels like Hell.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The ministry of the overalls (and high-tops and hair)

Several years ago, I went to a workshop at the Quaker meetinghouse in Pasadena. A friend of mine was facilitating, and when she saw me, she immediately commented on the overalls I was wearing. "You always wear such interesting overalls!" she proclaimed.
Indeed, I was! Those who know me know that I always wear overalls and that many of them are "interesting." The ones I was wearing that day were a gorgeous light-weight pair, found at a thrift store, featuring a variety of patterns, including small flowers, in tan, black and red. (Unfortunately, they have since ripped quite a bit and are no longer wearable.)
I thanked my friend for her acknowledgment of my overalls and realized very soon afterwards that I should have said that they are my ministry.
Overalls as a ministry. What did I mean? How can the overalls that I wear everyday, along with, I later realized, the mis-matched Converse All Star high-tops that I wear from April through October (I wear Docs during the rest of the year) with rainbow laces, be, as I understand we Quakers define "ministry," a testimony or a mission? It has taken me years to figure that out.
For years, whenever I went home with a new outfit or a new hairstyle (long hair, braids, shaved head, etc.), my dad would always ask me if I was making a statement. Making a statement? No, no, I kept protesting, as if making a statement was the bad thing implied in my father’s query, I’m just wearing and doing what I like.
Who was I kidding? Why do I like wearing pretty overalls? There are many reasons, but my friend’s reaction that day - "You always wear such interesting overalls!" - basically summed them up. I liked it that she saw them.
I have said that I want people to notice my overalls, my shoes, my hair rather than my being in a wheelchair. I want to be "the guy in the cool bibs" rather than "the guy in the wheelchair" or at least "the guy in the overalls in the wheelchair." I also want it clear that I decide what I wear and how I have my hair and that some nurse or orderly isn’t just throwing some clothes on me.
More than that, I like being "interesting." If people are going to stare at me, why not make it interesting, even art-ful. Sure, I like it when people are amused, pleased and delighted by my colorful looks. I like brightening up their day. But I also like to wake people up, provoke them, get them to think. Like about what kind of a statement I might be making.