Living in an “at-will” world.

Let’s face it…we are each and every one of us entirely expendable. For those of us lucky enough, we are born into the world and raised in an environment that teaches us we are special…we are unique in our individuality and all that we bring to the world. Early on, we simply are pure potential.

As we progress through the average lackluster education system, we are stripped of our unique qualities and aspirations, labeled by inept and outdated educators, exams and curriculum, and then made to be one of the mass-produced, under-innovative adults who graduates ready to face the world but is ill-equipped to do much more than stumble their way through early adulthood and sometimes their entire lives.

Then, as if we’re not upside down enough at that point, higher education comes along and spends several years trying to re-build the unique, wonderful and free-thinking qualities we were born with so that we can hopefully utilize more than 1/5th of our amazingly powerful human brain to think, scratch and climb our way out of the box we’ve been placed in all those many years ago. The goal of course is to live a life that hopefully includes a few achievements, some moderate successes, love and personal fulfillment, and (if we are really lucky) leaving the world a better place than how we found it.

We go through all this because we have to – well, most of us have to. But we go through all of this to find ourselves living in an “at-will” world which means that anyone can do anything to anybody else for any reason at all for the most part. “At-will” allows decision to be made devoid of emotion, ethics, rationale, empathy, sensibility (often times) or moral infusion. The notion of “at-will” defies the very fabric of what makes human potential possible: inter-dependency, loyalty, commitment, relationships and unending devotion to the growth and advancement of one another.

And so now we can easily apply the “at-will” philosophy to just about every aspect of our daily lives – from careers and marriage to business agreements, international relations and divorce. Everyone is “at-will” and we are all at the mercy of being dismissed/devalued/deconstructed/demoted for any reason that can fit within the boundaries of two little words that have changed the way the human race values one another. A proud moment in the history of humanity. As if the human race needed an “out” clause to undermine its potential and accountability any further. Score one for the other race…disgrace. Human race…0. Disgrace…1.

Forced Integrity on a World Stage

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and yet what if the picture is out of focus?  Every four years the Olympic stage reminds us how small of a world we live in as athletes from all corners of the globe converge to compete for medals, glory and vindication.  They walk through the gates and their country, race, religion are left behind.  They are athletes.

As sure as there will be upsets and moments of glory, with every passing Olympics the rules and standards that are created and enforced to keep the playing field “even” suggest that we (as in the human race “we”) might still benefit from attending a Human Race 101 class now and then for review purposes.

Doping…I get it. That’s just not o.k. to rely on modern medicine when the 17-year-old you are competing against has logged 10 hours of training a day since she was four to get there.  But the social media sanctions?  Telling athletes what they can and cannot text to their friends and followers?  Are we at that point where we cannot simply handle people who lack common sense by slapping them down and shaming them anymore?  Can’t we fight back on the channels they chose to share their abusive thoughts through and not drag it onto the Olympic stage?

I don’t like racist comments anywhere – whether on twitter, Facebook or in the real world.  They are non-productive and make me mad as hell.  Every individual should be accountable and forced to live with the consequences of their behavior in their life and within their life.  We don’t need the IOC telling us what’s acceptable or not.  By doing so, the IOC is basically saying that, “we don’t trust these athletes to have good judgement and we have to police this because society cannot manage this problem without us.”  In fact the message in a larger sense becomes “the human race needs policing because we forgot how to behave.”

Now we’ve had a couple of bad judgements already from Greece and Switzerland – a mere two individuals out of thousands who decided their hateful thoughts deserved to be shared online.  But I say throw them in the ring let them appear before the court of worldwide human judgement.  Allow them on the field so they can feel the burn of the disapproving eyes of the world on them.  Let them compete against those they ridiculed and insulted.  We’ll see who fares better, who has the support of the world, and who comes out on top (regardless of medal placement).  I would hope that these two athletes feel the error of their ways every waking moment of their lives.  Not because they were expelled from the Olympics, but because people who matter to them remind them every day by example that racism and hatred are not acceptable.

In its earliest form, organized sport was used as a venue for judgement.  A place where slaves could win freedom, and the condemned could win life.  Right or wrong, sport provided the ultimate conflict resolution stage.  As civilizations evolved, sport rose above judgement and provided a playing field where athletes were held to the highest standards of performance and accountability – human accountability.  So should we all be.  Let the games begin.

No More Blame.

I recently ended an important relationship. Important in my mind I suppose. We had a good thing for a few years although I know it was not perfect. I wasn’t aiming for perfect – in my defense. I found out he had cheated on me during our time together, both emotionally and physically. I even met the woman he cheated on me with although she and I both think there are plenty of others. Thank God my friends were with me because the moment of enlightenment was truly better than television and I would not have believed it to be true if it were not seen through their eyes as well as mine.

Interestingly enough, it was HE who inadvertently threw us together one night about a month or so ago…something deep down in him probably wanted us to both find out. At the time, I could only feel sadness. Not the anger I had imagined people who were cheated on felt. I hear the country western songs and even know some of the lyrics. I read poetry. I get that I was supposed to feel rage in my heart and all I felt was sadness and regret.

Since the not-so-chance meeting, I found ways to place blame on her, him and even myself (should have traveled less and spent more time with him, etc.). When the goal is to blame, there are always countless options and people to choose from. The problem is, blaming was not helping me move on and it certainly did not make me feel any better about the situation. I needed to be o.k. with the fact that for the first time in my life, I was cheatable (my new word) – deserving or not. I was the scorned woman who would have to learn to trust again, hoping that too many years would not pass me by in the process because there’s just not that much time left to live.

Part of the reason I started this blog was because something has changed in me since my epiphany in June. One night as I gave serious thought to the rest of my life, I decided I was going to try to do everything in my life slightly different. My strategy is change for the sake of change. All of the angst, the uneasy feelings, the unfamiliar, the adrenaline and risk… it was all part of the deal that I made with myself and the universe.

It’s not the other woman’s fault he cheated. In her mind’s eye, I’m the cheater because she had not known he and I were together. Ultimately I placed my faith in him that he would be loyal in the relationship and he decided – for whatever reason – to not be what I had hoped for. I chose to be loyal. So did she.

Blame ruins lives. It takes away possibilities and stunts potential. It creates unfulfilled people who never meet expectations. In the extreme, it germinates conflicts and wars. It fuels genocides and atrocities. It doesn’t solve, fix, repair, create, make whole – in fact, nothing good comes from blame. It is as toxic as hate and ignorance. In my own incredibly insignificant way, I truly understand now.

I’m not a victim and neither is the woman he cheated on me with – I refuse to refer to her as “the other woman” because she’s simply “a woman”. We can live our lives knowing we were both true to who we are and hopefully he can also do the same. I am not interested in placing blame and spending my precious energy and time on finding out the details of the indiscretion. I have far better things to do with my life and the time I have left on this earth. So does she.

Fourth of July Lessons

Unexpectedly spent a seriously hot Fourth of July in St. Peters, Missouri…interesting lessons to be learned every day in every way in life.  Driving around neighborhoods to watch the amazing and often illegal fireworks – literally dozens of groups in a 5-mile area, gathering in their best red, white and blue – hooting and hollering with every blast. Houses with massive flags hanging from them and patriotic draping around windows.  Mid-westerners are serious about the Fourth of July.

On the small street where my brother and his family live, the fireworks show was equal to those displayed on San Diego Bay (well, not this year…), but normally.  No exaggeration.  These were every bit the close proximity pyrotechnics you see at stadium concerts and major professional shows – in the middle of a residential street for Christ’s sake.  Illegal, yes.  Dangerous, probably.  Entertaining, hell YES!

As we took to the car to catch the area displays, we opened the sun roof so the explosions of colors dripped down on us as we sat parked awkwardly in the middle of streets to catch the best views.  Families and friends gathering for the day, enjoying their common sense of country and pride. I felt as if I was wrapped in a soft red, white and blue blanket that made me instantly related to each and every person that I saw.  Country goes as deep as blood I believe.  It’s where you or your parents (or theirs) were born. It’s where your loved ones have died.  It’s where we choose to spend our time, visit or adopt.  Doesn’t matter where we originally came from, or where we are going to be eventually.  We are all here now.

Things became quiet around 9:30 or so, and we started up the car to drive home.  Passing one small court that was entirely dark, the world was illuminated by a group of five or six small children wearing red, white and blue t-shirts with a few adults.  The children were small, maybe six or eight years of age.  Smiling, giggling and jumping for joy. In their hands, sparklers that lit up their faces and showed their sun-kissed cheeks.  It was a scene out of Life Magazine, but live.  Brought me back to my childhood and lighting sparklers in the backyard with Mom and Dad.  Dad always had a hose ready, and we thought the pin wheel firework was the biggest thing we’d ever see in life.  Funny how everything is a big deal when you are a child.

The fireworks are gone. The feelings are not.

Better Than Television…

Obamacare survives.  Sandusky’s crimes = state pension.  Holder in contempt.  My hometown going broke.

Do you remember Chicken Little screaming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” as he ran around the barnyard?  Today is one of those days when running indiscriminately around the barnyard screaming may explain things better than words.

Did I expect Obamacare to survive?  Honestly, no – not in its entirety.  Should Sandusky or his wife (who spent years living in the house where young boys screamed in the basement during Jerry’s “tickle monster” rampages, but knew and heard nothing) receive one pension penny from PA?  No.  In fact, I think they should have to reimburse the state for any salary paid since the moment he began his (documented) rampage on young boys.

Should Eric Holder be held in contempt?  I don’t care if you are black, white, red or purple.  Republican, democrat, libertarian or green.  Ruler of the world or peasant.  If you lie or withhold evidence in the course of an investigation – and it is an investigation that is warranted as defined by the law and to the benefit of the people – you should be slapped with contempt.  As a people, we have looked the other way too long and let our laws grow more loosely defined by those who are in a position to use the law to their advantage.  At the end of the day, all that will remain is our humanity and our dignity – and the law, when used to represent the greater good and establish boundaries that ensure both, is something we can generally rely on when all else fails.

Would I ever have predicted that Stockton, CA, could become the largest city in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy?  Sadly, yes.  Many years ago a brilliant futurist and author Ken Dychtwald (read Age Wave and his other amazing books) predicted the demographic trends that are playing economic havoc on countries, nations and cities like Stockton around the world.  In simplistic terms, we are living too damn long because we have become a race of greedy, unreasonable humans who want to live to see 100, do so in the best of health, and afford a wonderful lifestyle until the day we drop dead.

There’s not enough of us paying into a system that is trying to support a disproportionate aging population. There aren’t even enough jobs for the folks who could pay into the system – still would not be enough to support the surging cost of caring for a geriatric global community who require massive amounts of health care and resources, not to mention pensions and social security benefits.  Factor into this the folks who take from the system yet do not contribute in the form of taxes, and you have a formula that can only lead to disaster.  Today it starts with Stockton, CA.  Tomorrow the world.

I sort of wish it was only the sky that was falling.

I am a big fan …

Aside

I am a big fan of the insurance industry. Ask anyone I know. I place dealing with insurance companies right up there with having a root canal sans Novocaine or gas on my “favorite things to do” list.

To put my affection in perspective, I like to refer to interesting facts.  For instance, according to “Dying for Coverage,” the latest report by Families USA, 72 Americans die each day, 500 Americans die every week and approximately 2,175 Americans die each month, due to lack of health insurance. You guessed it, that means that 26,000+ people are dying in the U.S. each year due primarily to no access to medical care.  Something tells me that this number is probably a conservative estimate.

As the nation and White House await the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health care law, I wonder what the few folks making this mighty decision are thinking. Are they secretly pleased that they don’t have to worry about their insurance since they receive the most generous plan on the planet (for life, by the way)?  Or are they overcome by a strong sense of obligation to make the right decision, empathetic to the plight of the average American and the daunting cost of health coverage?  Do they step outside themselves to consider what it must feel like to watch a child die from a flu simply because their middle-class parents could not afford to insure the family?

I suspect they do know, and to some degree they care…in a sort of “I read about it” and “saw the pictures in Time Magazine” sort of way.  Busily applying the letter of the law to each clause and addendum, I am sure their ruling will be well within the lines to avoid any sort of challenge down the road.  The impact of that ruling is massive and will touch every level of business and person in the U.S. in terms of costs, quality of life, longevity, productivity and dignity.

The tragic irony of our situation is that even the lucky Americans who receive health insurance under an employer plan will be forced to pay an average of $20,000 for a family of four (U.S. average) in 2012.  If the median household income (2006-2010) in the U.S. is $51,914 – as the U.S. Census Bureau reports – then Americans are in fact in serious trouble when it comes to the cost of health coverage and access to care in this country.  If you want to eat on a regular basis AND see a doctor, you will need to make a choice.

So here is what I am hoping and praying that the Supreme Court ruling states (of course their language will be exceedingly legal compared to mine):

1. We like the elimination of “pre-existing conditions” clause and we are going to keep that because it evens the playing field for all Americans and will immediately end discrimination against those who really need coverage and those who really, really need coverage. By the way, let’s kick this into effect on January 1, 2013.

2. Interstate laws governing insurance competition are out. In fact, anything that blocks a consumer or company from obtaining affordable health insurance from wherever they want to buy it from is out the window. Again, we want to open up competition and place everyone on an even playing field.  Start date: January 1, 2013.  Let the games begin.

3. The rest of this law is confusing and doesn’t make much sense so we are going to give it back to a designated panel of physicians and patients who have endured the worse of the system (i.e. survivors of cancer and other life-threatening diseases, returning military injured in the act of duty, Veterans, poor seniors, America’s working poor, etc.) to make sense of it and come back to us with their recommendations, complaints and solutions. Once they do, we will give insurance companies 6 months to make this happen while charging an affordable amount (based on household income stats, economic growth and performance, and other data).  From now on, when times are tough insurance companies will make less, not more.  This is what I like to call my Economic Sliding Scale model.

4. Finally, we are kind of tired of companies that hike up their rates well beyond the national average cost-of-living increase or the amount of growth in the economy. So, from now on they won’t and can’t.  We asked the insurance folks to behave and they have shown they cannot, so now we will dictate that they are limited to a designated increase per person or per company annually. No excuses.  Find a way to be efficient and work within this structure in a truly competitive environment.

5. You cannot force everyone to have insurance or be insured by the government. Are you kidding? You guys can’t even deliver my mail. But we can create a low-cost, low-level insurance product that would be required for children and people with histories of health challenges so that they have access to basic care and services. I’m talking 20,000,000 to 40,000,000 Americans paying $20 monthly per child.  Do the math.  That’s a lot of flu shots, birth control, blood pressure readings, mammograms, shots and stitches.

This is what I would call ‘a good start.’  Take out the confusing, costly, daunting crap that’s sending the system into a tail spin and leave in the good stuff that creates an open market scenario for consumers and businesses alike. Give the power back to the consumer and let us decide where, when and how we want to be cared for – and by whom.

There is no easy answer to this mess.  I certainly don’t envy those chosen nine people about to make a decision that will impact a nation.  But I do hope that they discard their nine robes for a moment to reflect on what this decision means for all of us. I hope they remember what it’s like to be an average American with average problems and average resources.  That would really be something.

 

 

 

 

I am reading th…

Aside

I am reading the latest and greatest on two major news stories.  One being the Sandusky trial, and the other is the premature death of Rodney King. Polar opposite lives, situations and outcomes. On the one hand, you have a man who rose through the ranks to relative affluence to become an influential person in the lives of many young people.  Apparently, he abused that influence, regardless of how the information was collected and witnesses were questioned.  Net effect: lives ruined, reputations ruined, tragedy.  On the other hand, you have Rodney King who simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time more than 20 years ago. A victim of the abuse of power and influence.by those who we as a nation entrust to protect and serve.  He wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but in the eye of the storm during those riots he rose above the hate to ask all of us, “Can we all get along?”  I hope Rodney found some peace in his life and learned that there are plenty of people who can get along, just simply not enough of them at any given moment.  Net effect: anger expelled, soul saved, people saved, hope from the ruins.  I hope for justice of the victims of Sandusky – whatever that means and if it can ever make a difference for them in their lives now.  I hope for peace at long last for Mr. King, and for all of us.