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.

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When Mute is not an Option

Screen shot 2014-03-16 at 2.15.09 PM

My father seldom scolded me as a child but I do remember there was one instance when he threw up his hands, thoroughly exasperated, when I constantly answered him back on a subject I felt strongly about.

Dad:  You always have to get the last word, don’t you?

Me (in protesting voice):  No, I don’t!

Needless to say, this character flaw has continued into adulthood – as everyone who reads notesfromachair is aware of.

On the other hand, is it really a flaw?

There are many schools of thought on the art of having opinions and knowing when to voice them.  Admittedly, I have learned to zip it through the years if only to conserve the much-needed energy I know I’ll require in order to face the larger fight.  Yes, you find as time goes by that you can’t possibly engage every battle and, even if you could, your overall number of losses would inevitably increase even if the total stats in your win-loss column remains impressive to everyone else.  That alone can drive you crazy, as any fighter of any kind will tell you, myself included.

And when in doubt.. practice makes perfect!

And when in doubt.. practice makes perfect!

Still, what I have not learned nor have any interest in acquiring knowledge of is the ability to remain silent when that little voice in your head tells you it is imperative that you speak.  This is not the same voice that demands that you curse someone out, punch them in the nose or insult their parents, spouse or child when something or someone annoys you.   It is the wiser, more measured voice that implores you to fight back because you know this is a battle that must be fought or a voice that even in small measure has to be heard in order to counterbalance the misinformed, moronic or simply wrong-headed views of another person, group or even nation.

Such circumstances came across my computer screen any number of times this week (as they often do) and I spoke out – loudly, softly, directly, calmly and angrily, depending on the situation.  See, what I’ve also learned is that you can modulate your tone depending on who your audience is and how effective you plan to be in persuading the opposition to your point of view in the argument.  Contrary to what I used to think, that’s not called compromise or selling out your passion or values – it’s simply referred to as– GOOD STRATEGY.  (Or is it “stategery” – GW Bush).

Let’s look at some my examples in a category I like to call:

Nut Bag Fringe & The Religious Crazies (not a band) or The Extreme Right Wing

A common misconception

A common misconception

As a gay person, each day presents numerous challenges in the art of energy conservation and reigning yourself in.  Of course, this is the case for any member of any minority groups fighting for its rights as well as for the friends who love and support them.  But with the recent US Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality and the country’s now majority view that members of the same sex have the right to tie the knot, opposing factions have intensified their anger and attacks.  It’s akin to the barely coded and/or totally racist attacks against President Obama and African-Americans at large (Note: Any more comments on inner city laziness, Congressman Paul Ryan?) have had to endure since we elected the first Black man to lead the United States (or in this case – a man who is half-Black) in our more than two and half centuries of existence.  (Note #2: It might be worth recalling that during our first century African Americans couldn’t even vote and were considered “slave property” in many of these United States.  Those in the industry doubting this need merely to pop in their DVD of this year’s best picture Oscar winner, 12 Years A Slave).

Okay, no metaphor is perfect and perhaps I am overstating the comparison here.  I mean, we gays were never enslaved – only discriminated against, arrested, periodically beaten and just every so often killed by our oppressors.   But that in itself is a nice segue into the first of two public statements this past week that needed my answering.

#1: In a nationally-aired radio interview, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (D-MN) tried to defend the just vetoed Arizona bill (SB1062) that would have allowed any business to refuse service to any individuals said business choose not to serve on the basis of religious grounds. Said Rep. Bachman:

There’s nothing about gays in there (the law).  But the gay community decided to make this their measure. 

The thing that I think is getting a little tiresome is the gay community – they’ve so bullied the American people and they’ve so intimidated politicians that politicians fear them – so that they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere.

boo!

boo!

Now, you can think Rep. Bachmann makes a whole lot of sense or is a whole lotta crazy but the fact remains she is a five-term Congresswoman and has a key position as a member of the House Intelligence Committee (Note: Uh no, not joking) overseeing the CIA and the rest of the United States’ intelligence activities.  She also won the Iowa straw poll in 2012 in her bid to run for the US presidency as a nominee of the Republican Party and speaks for a significant group of religious conservative power brokers within it.  Therefore, any member of any outside group ignores her at their own peril.

What needed answering – as I did on web comments and am doing right here – is Rep. Bachmann’s classic fact distortion about the Arizona bill. Yes, the bill is worded in such a way that it does not specifically name gays and thus allows merchants to refuse service to any people they choose on religious grounds. (Note: As if that makes it any better).  But what she leaves out is the reason for the bill to begin with and the primary cases cited by numerous lobbying groups in support of it.  And that would be Elane Photography vs. Willock – a case in which a Christian wedding photographer was sued for refusing to serve a same sex wedding.  Similar cases involving bakers and florists who chose to refuse gays and lesbians as customers have also been cited.

Don't forget we're also dealing with this logic

Don’t forget we’re also dealing with this logic

This is classic political manipulation akin to pending laws trying to limit early voting, decrease voting hours on Election Day and enforce stringent voter ID laws in states where no overwhelming voter fraud exists or time cutbacks are needed (e.g. Florida, Wisconsin, Florida).  But what is certainly well-known in these states is that the African American and other poor or minority community members – people who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats –  vote early, have limited time on Election Day and frequently don’t have driver’s licenses to easily identify themselves.

Now, as Aretha Franklin once sang, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

#2:  Here is a story very prominently quoted nationally this week and displayed on a website sponsored by Norman Lear’s watchdog group, People for the American Way:

Oliver North: GOP Must Oppose Marriage Equality Like It Fought Slavery

In an appearance at CPAC today, Oliver North denounced President Obama for treating military service members like “laboratory rats in some radical social experiment” and “apologizing” for America. North insisted that the US “has nothing ever to apologize for, not once” in its entire history.

Later, North said that the GOP must remain firm in working to ban marriage equality and abortion rights just as abolitionists fought to end slavery, warning that “if we as conservatives cease to be a place where people of faith and those who believe in strong moral values can come, we will cease to be a political force in America.”

For those under 30, Oliver North was a key member of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council in the 1980s before resigning in the arms for hostages scandal of Iran-Contra and is now a best-selling NY Times author, popular conservative commentator and host of his own television show on the Fox News Channel, War Stories with Oliver North.

Remember me?

Remember me?

When my longtime companion posted the North piece on Facebook this week with an angry comment, one of his Facebook friends, who incidentally is a gay man, commented that “political discourse would probably be less apoplectic if the left didn’t spend so much time publicizing extremist statements by right-wing loonies and if the right didn’t spend so much time doing the same by left-loonies, neither of whom were in positions in power.”

Oh, I so beg and begged in print to this guy, to differ.

OK.. maybe not this aggresively

OK.. maybe not this aggresively

When fringe talk gets national attention and begins gaining national power it is the very definition of political discourse to engage with it – much like a military man like Col. North would do and is doing.  It is imperative.  It is a requirement.  Yes, it’s tiring, but if you are so moved in opposition it is your obligation to answer back and not leave such exaggerated, misinformed statements unchecked.

Rather than dissect each of former Col. North’s arguments point by point, let’s limit it to his comparison of religious conservatives fighting against the right of gays to marry as something akin to the abolitionists who were trying to end slavery.  So the logic goes that allowing gays to marry will somehow enslave religious conservatives?  And those fighting in support of the religious conservative, anti-gay marriage views are akin to those people who wanted to abolish slavery and free the slaves?  How will gay marriage enslave religious people in the same way that African Americans were enslaved?  (Note: Doubters from any industry can rent or download 12 Years a Slave from Netflix and find the correct answer.  Which is:  They will not).

I think the jist is... see this movie!

I think the jist is… see this movie!

See, this didn’t take much time at all.  And it only took me mere moments to answer this guy online with it.  Maybe it changed his mind, maybe it didn’t, or maybe it gave someone else who was on the fence something to think about.

Well, as they say, both Rome and marriage equality weren’t built in a day.  Nor is any cause that gets your goat, or any point the voice inside tells you is worth fighting for or against.  In any arena, playing field, social event or family gathering and on any subject – personal or otherwise – that you know needs your support.  I can’t believe I’m going to end with a sports metaphor but when in doubt think of what hockey great Wayne Gretsky once said:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

…And I don’t even like hockey.