The Time Being

Watching throngs of handicapped people in wheelchairs and with breathing tubes being forcibly dragged out of Congress’ hallways by police was quite a sight.

America 2017. #forreal

As they waited for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over a new health care bill (aka Trumpcare) that would never materialize, the rest of we Americans were being treated to images straight out of….Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale?….Mad Max Fury Road?…or fill in the latest dystopic film or television series (limited or not) of choice.

No, I’m not exaggerating. And there’s a reason this kind of programming (aka content) is popular right about now.

If our lives at the moment were a dystopic film or television series – and who is to say it isn’t given we have a reality star POTUS – one can only imagine what will follow. Certainly you don’t need to be a writer to consider the various options:

1- Police will begin to drag ALL protesters forcibly away, make protesting illegal, and then punishable by death, and then seize EVERYONE’s assets until a superhero comes to the rescue.

2- A superhero – or mere human movement – will spring up and defeat those drunk with power in a bloody, prolonged third act that will cost the studio too much money but is deemed necessary for commercial appeal.

The cheaper and more effective option #VOTE

3- Law enforcement – aka the status quo – will realize they’ve gone too far and back off in the name of decency and benevolence. (Note: Know that this is the most unpopular choice in any development meeting and always deemed woefully undramatic no matter how you try to sell it to them with clever dialogue and intricate plot twists even they didn’t see coming).

4- Self-preservation and arm-twisting will kick in and some sort of compromise will be reached. No one will be happy but society will continue and no blood will be shed. For now.

If we choose #4 – and certainly American history usually bends in this direction, it’s called the kick the can down the road compromise of choice – you will know we aren’t living a real life version of The Truman Show.

Although this is how I feel watching the news every night

Of course, that will have sidestepped the issue at hand (Note: This week it’s health care – a few months ago it was immigration – another month or two hence it could be…well, anything) – for the time being.

The time being is what intrigues me at the moment. The spaces between the monumental fights and events. It seems to me that is really where most of us live unless we’re thrill seekers like Sebastian Junger, icons like Martin Luther King Jr., or someone who believes a $6000 suit, a bad comb over dye job and all the money and power in the world hide who we really are from the vast majority of the world.

It’s hard to know how to behave for the time being. Just what do you do other than go about your daily life?

– Some of us (ahem) have taken to alternately rant and worry

Just being real

– Some of us donate money, take to the streets and yell (or worse) at anyone who disagrees with us or even gets in our way

– Some of us drink too much and party too much as if we’re the uber bourgeoisie and it’s about to be the uber French Revolution (Note: Which indeed it may be)

– Some of us pay this no mind at all and wonder why the rest of us bother

I have done all of the above except the latter. Correction, I’ve even done the latter for at least a few seconds here and there over the last six months. But no more.

… and well other times

Which means I’m left with A LOT of time being to fill even though it feels like my time – and all of our times – are running out fast.

I read a script this weekend that’s a comedy about a man dying of cancer. Apparently, it’s going to be made with a big star and by a major studio. I say apparently, because, as we know, nothing in the world is definite and this applies to the nth degree when it comes to a greenlit movie.

Anyway, in this screenplay the person with the fatal disease takes on all kinds of behavior usually deemed outrageous in an effort to get the people around him to live a little. He’s not really mean to anyone – well, except to some hypocrite he works with who, strangely enough, happens to be in a wheelchair (Note: Think real advanced affirmative action via non-stereotypical character development, an actor’s field day) – and somehow this becomes the key to….

Danny boy… you sure you want to retire??

Well, I don’t want to spoil it in case it gets made. Let’s just say it doesn’t so much solve his issues but makes everyone else around him think a little bit about their own time beings – though as far as we know it is only for the time being. The rest could or would but probably won’t be answered in a sequel.

In light of what happened this week with the many affirmed demonstrators who took to the halls of Congress in fear that they literally will die given the proposed Medicaid cuts Republicans are asking for – I initially had trouble with the new trope of handicapped hypocrite.

On the other hand, lots of other marginalized people in the story were valued and nothing too terrible happened to him that he didn’t deserve and we didn’t want to happen.

The worst of me wants the worst to happen to those manipulators who are full of themselves and only out for themselves.

Arch enemies #couldnthelpmyself

The best of me wants to protect people who are not as able-bodied or advantaged as myself even when I don’t necessarily agree with all of their actions.

But what happens if both those options are embodied in exactly the same person?

Do you go high? Or do you go low? Though really, it’s more about what I’ll do or you’ll do – that really being the collective we. Meaning it’s really ALL about the collective WE.

… or perhaps just the ROYAL WE #thecrown #alltheemmys

More likely you, I and thus “We” will reach some sort of compromise and kick the can down the road in the name of survival. For the time being at least.

As all of us, you and I rant, rave, drink, tune out and/or make jokes about it all.

I can think of no better way to usher in a new unenlightened age.

For the time… Well, you get the point. Though it’s anyone’s guess if WE do. Or ever will.

For the Time Being – Edie Brickell & the Gaddabouts

Fried Egg Insurance

Bette Midler has a classic monologue about the humongous lady she once saw walking down 42nd Street in NYC who, she noticed, when she looked more closely, was sporting a fried egg on the center of her almost bald head.

In this routine, Bette goes on to laugh about the vagaries of life in the city and of this lady in particular, joking that she hopes to God that she herself doesn’t one day wind up with a fried egg on her head on a hot NYC street in the middle of July just because she couldn’t help herself.

And then it all turns deadly serious:

…Because the truth about friend eggs, she continues. …You can call it a fried egg. You can call it anything you like…But everybody gets one. Some people, they wear ‘em, on the outside. And some people, they wear ‘em, on the inside.”

If you want to know why we need to expand and fix the Affordable Care Act, nee ObamaCare, and why we should really be headed towards single payer, universal health care for EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN, this is the reason.

We will all, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US, be getting sick. We will break down. We will sputter. And we will one day – as the doctor informed the youngster me in the hospital hallway back in the seventies about my beloved aunt who had just suffered a fatal heart attack – EXPIRE.

So.. do I not have to grade papers? #legitquestion

The question is, how will it begin to happen for our loved ones and us? Can we live in dignity a little bit or a lot longer with the proper care? Or will we find ourselves unchecked, and the modern day equivalent of dying in the streets, because it makes more economic sense for the top power brokers in society for us to do so?

In other words, if health care costs too much the average American will not go to the doctor. Or wait until it’s too late to go. Or be dragged unwillingly to a hospital emergency room they can’t afford or are too scared to enter.

New strategies to avoid that situation

But if you are fortunate enough to be independently wealthy, or have gold star private insurance through your place of business (that, is, if you’re working) or have bought because money is no object, or long ago faced your inevitable expiration (which of us has?) and saved every penny you earned (again, which of us has?) for this inevitable day — NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.

There is another simple question we all have to ask ourselves as this national debate rages on:

What is ultimately more important – money or taking care of each other?

Can I have a few more minutes to think it over?

Now, I am more than aware that many in the country currently believe that taking care of each other means taking care of our loved ones and not people we’ve never met. And that since money is a rare commodity these days, they feel no obligation sharing with people they don’t know – certainly not others they deem inferior, or superior, or whose religious views, or outlook on a particular social issue, they find abhorrent.

Still, when you’re standing in the critical care unit of the hospital as I once did when I was a teenager…

…or in the center of an AIDS ward of a different hospital as I did in the eighties and nineties, bearing witness to various friends dying at way too young of an age…

I will never forget #youcancountonit

…or in the carpeted section of the upscale cancer floor of one of the best hospitals in the country as I did at the turn of this past century as my mother died from breast cancer…

…or in the heart and lung section a few years ago of that same upscale hospital as I saw my second mother go from lung cancer…

NONE of these arguments much matter. You don’t see dollar signs. You don’t see religion. Or race. Or the political affiliations. Of anyone.

Your only thought is that your loved one and the loved ones of every single person on that floor and within your sight line gets better. At any cost.

I am not an expert on health insurance and I certainly don’t play one on television.   But what I also would never play at ever in front of a TV camera is a partier in the White House Rose Garden toasting the repeal of a law that will TAKE AWAY health care from more than 20 million people in favor of a vague intangible plan that I haven’t fully read and whose cost is, thus far, unknown.

If they only had a…

I mean, I’m only gonna buy something from Amazon when I KNOW I can get it cheaper – not because Jeff Bezos promises me that if and when they get it in stock or create their own new version, it’s gonna to be cheaper and better than the something that I have now. Sure, Jeff seems nice and all – and is friends with Oprah – and is in the billionaire boys/sometimes women’s club and must know something, right? But when it comes to my own somethings, certainly I do have to be a little more careful. Right???

I am certainly old enough to remember a world in my twenties when I had to pay full price at the dermatologist and allergist because acne and asthma were deemed pre-existing conditions. But any one of us can remember the insurance market PRE-OBAMACARE. It was a time when insurance companies and states would pick and choose who to cover – locking or pricing people out. Many ran wildly expensive high-risk pools for those who were refused coverage that priced them out of the market or left them unable to afford necessary drugs.   Yes, everyone had ACCESS to health care but what is that when you can’t afford to have it – or to have a decent policy where you can get properly taken care of?

Remember that, assholes?

White, middle-aged guys – and certainly I am all of that and more – have gone from being our nation’s founding fathers of freedom to a bunch of selfish, snake oil selling, unfeeling assholes. There’s no other way to say it. And I’m embarrassed to be a part of that particular demographic in more ways than I can say.