Broccoli and the Importance of Staying in School

What are the odds of finding a photo of broccoli WITH cherries?

What are the odds of finding a photo of broccoli WITH cherries?

Back in 1990, my son’s teacher sent him home with a yellow ribbon pinned to his shirt – presumably my 5-year-old son was doing so to proclaim his support of the troops in the Gulf War. Never mind that when I asked him about the ribbon his explanation centered on the fact that the teacher gave it to him and all the kids were wearing them.

I had a melt down.

Now there ain’t nobody on this planet that is more supportive of troops than I am. I believe in a strong military. I just wish we’d quit putting them in situations that endanger them for stupid reasons – morally bankrupt reasons.

So. Small child. Yellow ribbon. School.

I sent him back to school the next day with his ribbon. The ribbon was attached to his shirt with a button emblazoned with “What if Kuwait’s No. 1 Export Was Broccoli?”

The older ones among us will remember George Senior’s statement that he didn’t like broccoli.

That pretty much put an end to my son and the yellow ribbon. [If I’d been a really manipulative parent, I’d have told Chef Boy ‘R Mine that the president didn’t like broccoli. Child of Mine loved “little trees.”]

It goes without saying that I had a rocky relationship with the Cabell County public school system.

Like I said, I support the troops. I do not support the use of small children to make political statements. I don’t like it when protesters, liberal or conservative, drape their kids in witty signs and parade them about the village green. First of all, it’s another case of treating children like property. Instead of putting a bumper sticker on our car, we put them on our kids.

[I maintain that the average school child does not have enough of a knowledge base to understand what the sign on their stroller, backpack, or t-shirt means beyond a superficial level. Therefore, in such situations, we are merely using them as a photo op – cuteness exploited to attract attention. Or, in other words, it’s my kid – I can do what I want. Property.]

Second of all, if I’m not going to slap a slogan on my kid, it’s a given that I’m not going to let some teacher do it.

Yes, indeedy, Cabell County Board of Education and I got off to a rocky start. A teacher once told me that children’s official school files were sometimes labeled with a PP. This code stood for Problem Parent and served to alert teachers that the parent they were about to call might provoke a need for an aspirin, a martini, or early retirement paperwork. I’m pretty sure Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s file had a red PP outlined in glitter. In letters about 6” high.

Some day I’ll tell the story about how a principal with a fraternity paddle was the proverbial straw and how the child of atheist/agnostic/pagan parents ended up Catholic school.

By now, you know where this is going.

Obama is addressing school children with a speech to encourage them to stay in school and study hard. Who could object to that?

As we all know now, plenty of people.

Here’s what I know. If either George had wanted to use school time to talk to my kid, I would have screamed blue bloody murder, slapped a trendy sign on my kid and marched up and down Rt. 60 in protest. At the very least, I would have kept him home. It wouldn’t have mattered if the purpose of said talk was to encourage him to eat cruciferous vegetables or study algebra.

I support the wingnuts’ right to get their panties in a tangle. To do otherwise would be hypocritical. I thought George I and George II were so dangerous and so devious that I wouldn’t put it past them to slip some sort of nonsense into the talk – nonsense that young children do not have the wisdom to identify or parse.

A big bunch of folks feel the same way about Obama. I think my reasons for suspecting the Georges are much more logical and well thought out than the He’s-a-Muslim-Hellbent-On-Killing-Grandma crowd, but that’s neither here nor there.

To do other than support their right to object would make me a hypocrite. I’ve got enough hypocrisy and contradiction in my life as it is. Hopefully, they’ll at least use the opportunity to keep their kids at home and discuss the importance of staying in school. Maybe if they look that contradiction in the eye, they might learn how to spot contradictory statements.

That’s probably hoping for too much.

I leave you with my favorite quote of the week. It comes from Tom Robbins’ masterpiece, Skinny Legs and All, and seems pretty profound at this stage of my life.

Contradiction may be an unavoidable trait in a many-faceted sensibility in an expanding universe, but bitterness is reductive in the most trivializing way, and Ellen Cherry was aware that it was her fate to have to struggle against it. Over and over, she reminded herself how fortunate she was to have landed her life in a situation where strange things could happen to it.

Godwin’s Law

All this Hitler/Nazi stuff about Obama and his attempts to reform our healthcare system is hereby declared null and void.

As many others have pointed out, the oppositions’ statements are often false and so ratcheted up with hyperbole that rational debate is proving impossible.

Moreover, according to Internet protocol based on Godwin’s Law, the mere mention of Hitler and Nazis does two things:

1. The person who drags Hitler and Nazis into the debate has automatically lost the debate.

2. With the debate lost, the conversation must immediately cease.

Since a lot of the healthcare debate is occurring online, I submit that Godwin’s Law is in effect.

However, the debate must continue because:

1. I haven’t had the stomach to wade through the guns/Hitler signs/death panels/socialism lies to fully understand any of the plans under consideration.

2. I am convinced by the fact that my employer pays an amount equivalent to 30% of my salary to provide me with a “good” healthcare plan (high deductible and significant out-of-pocket expenses) is proof that the system is corrupt.

3. I’m waiting for someone, other than me, to shout The Emperor Has No Clothes with respect to the “group rate” nonsense.

As for No. 3, I’m either missing something key or the rest of the country is. Here’s what I think: if I still worked at the university, the premium for my healthcare would be significantly less. Same body, same mind, same prescriptions, same doctors, and same insurance company and yet the small nonprofit I work for is charged far more because we’re a small group. Huh what?

A co-worker, who is following the debate closely and committed to the idea of reform, tried to explain this the other day. I was feeling uncharacteristically polite and didn’t tell him that he’d clearly drunk the Kool-Aid.

His explanation centered on the idea that because Marshall has a far larger number of people, the risk taken by Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield is smaller. When I spluttered and said “But, but. . .” he then used the car insurance industry as an analogy as if those crooks were paragons of virtue and right-thinking.

And furthermore, sitting on my kitchen table is a bill from my doctor. The charge was $295. The insurance company said, “Oh no you don’t” and decreed that the charge should only be $65. With the deductible and out-of-pocket provisions of my policy, I am responsible for that $65. If I had no insurance at all, I would have to pay the $295. I have no right to say, “Oh no you don’t.” Okay. I might have the right, but it’s not going to get me anywhere. If I was still working at the university (who would be paying far lower premiums for my healthcare), I would have long ago met my deductible and my share of the $55 would have been less than a third.  (If I were disabled or elderly, Medicare/Medicaid costs would be less yet.  And, yes, I’ve heard the argument that those two programs pay less than the actual cost of treatment, but I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid either.)

Same body, same mind, same doctor, same illness and same insurance company. 

What part of this makes sense to you?

Ignoring the nonsense of state lines having something to do with all this, why isn’t West Virginia as a whole one large group? If that were the case, theoretically, we’d all have far lower premiums because the group is larger. Right? RIGHT?

Same insurance company, same bodies, same doctors, same illnesses, same drugs . . .

Completely whacked, I tell you. (And I haven’t even got into the balderdash about hospitals losing money over the uninsured and underinsured. Anybody besides me noticed the endless construction going on at St. Mary’s and Cabell-Huntington?  Nor have I gotten into Big Pharma and the rate of new drugtores being built.)

“The Troubles of Reality”

Murder and Mayhem
Murder and Mayhem

I have been so busy with Other Things that I have neglected reading/watching the news. Now and again, I initiate a Media Fast. It’s an idea I stole from a former friend. I’m not sure what his rationale was, but after a steady diet of news, I get jaded, cranky, pessimistic, and overwhelmed.

During the presidential campaign, I overdosed. I watched the mainstream news, I read the blogs, I devoured the debates, and I engaged in endless conversations. It was impossible to avoid the tales of murders, fraud, abused children, arson, robberies, and other travesties of a stressed society while tracking Obama’s poll numbers and Palin’s latest stupidity.

About midway through Obama’s first 100 days, I decided to undergo a Media Fast. I was on overload. Unfortunately, the Horrific Winter of 2009 required (yes, required) vigils of the weather news where, once again, I couldn’t escape the tales of a stressed society.

Azrienoch, a fine story teller, tells a tale of a jaded princess and the more news I watch, the more like the princess I become.

Once Again, I vowed a lengthy media fast.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia Supreme Court Judge Brent Benjamin’s failure to recuse himself  from Massey Coal related litigation was a no-no. Since Don Blankenship of Massey Coal is a thoroughly despiscable human and dick of the highest order and hellbent on destroying the mountains I love, I had to check out the details.

This morning I was assaulted with stories about a woman who cut the fetus out of a woman’s body, murdered pre-teens, animal abuse, and brawling drunks – all within the first minute.

After a couple months of a Media Fast, all this murder and mayhem was Too Much. I’m fair twitching.

I cancelled the satellite service more than a year ago. Both the Charleston and Huntington papers refuse to deliver to me. Consequently, I get my news from the internet. It’s easy enough to avoid. I’m in active avoiding mode again.  Once again

In just a few minutes of news cruising this morning, I began to feel powerless. Such a feeling, I think, leads to a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. While I consider myself a queen-in-exile, I don’t want to become like Azrienoch’s princess. I may even make it a permanent media fast.

Places of Great and Good Interest

Tiaras should be standard issue.

Wednesday evening I was standing in line at the gas station when a little girl, about 5, tapped me on my butt. I turned around and she asked me where I was going as if putting gas in the car was a sign I was going to some place of great and good interest. I told her I wasn’t going anywhere exciting right then, but that Thursday night I was going to a pajama party.

She thought about for awhile and after putting her hands on her hips, she said to me, “Well, don’t forget your tiara.” Bless her heart. How did she know I have a tiara?

I love that some little girls think tiaras are standard issue. I love that this little girl isn’t afraid to ask questions. And I was knocked out by her glittery tennis shoes and Dora Explorer backpack with the Girl’s Rule bumper sticker obscuring Dora’s feet. That child is going to go to places of great interest, I hope.

I did go to a pajama party Thursday night. The Obama Pajama Party was held at the Java Joint in Huntington and hosted by the enthusiastic Democrats I hang out with. The plans were to watch Obama accept the nomination on a large screen with like-minded people wearing pajamas. When I agreed to attend, my mind wasn’t included in “like-minded.”

I am a registered Independent and always have been. I’ve never been able to articulate it with any skill, but there’s something about the party system that pushes all my buttons. I can riff for hours, with little provocation, as to why I think political parties are one of the great evils. In more practical terms, I don’t agree in entirety with either of the two major parties’ platforms. I’ve already got so many labels slapped on me that I don’t need another one that allows people to jump to conclusions about my values, my actions, my thoughts, my experiences. Because of my lack of party affiliation, I have not been able to vote in the Democratic primary in West Virginia. The Republicans welcomed me, but not the Democrats – until this year. Apparently, whatever was rattling around in my mind became of interest.

The Republicans disqualified themselves from my consideration for their violations of trust and decency along with their constitutional outrages.  I did watch their debates just in case.  I didn’t hear anything to change my mind.

I’ve been threatening to sell my unused wide-eyed-political-candidate-enthusiasm on E-Bay. I have never voted for a candidate; I have always voted for the lesser of two evils. The first election I could vote in came after the Nixon scandal, after the Iran hostage crisis, after the horrors in Central America, and after the Big Daddy of them all, the Vietnam War. These things can make a person jaded about politics in America and skeptical of anyone who wants to be a part of it. I’ve often said that I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who wants the job of president.

As it turns out, I had a brand new pair of pajamas recently acquired while on vacation in the Boston area. (Yeah, we hillbillies get around and find the taking-off-the-shoes-thing at the airport right accommodating.) My pajamas, marvels of sartorial art, make for a lovely ensemble with their vibrant redness emblazoned with Drama Queen in white. I had planned to wear them with my nearly knee-high fuzzy, rainbow boot-slippers, but I had never given the tiara a thought. 

A friend of mine, upon learning I had no tiara, sent me one. And it’s a beauty. I can’t remember exactly what it was that she said, but she was incredulous I didn’t own one. Tiaras should be standard issue.

Drama Queens for Obama

I found myself in a coffee shop wearing Drama Queen pajamas, fuzzy slippers, and a tiara. I had feared I would be the only person in pajamas, but I was assured this would not be true. I was, however, the only person in something that really looked like pajamas not to mention the only person in a tiara. I’m really glad I decided against the boa. Magnet. Every camera, digital and video, ended up pointed at me at some point in the evening. Trying to watch a big screen television while wearing a tiara and bifocals in public while also trying to read DNC bloggers on the laptop with television camera lights and camera flashes in one’s eyes is a misery I would only wish upon a few.

And it got worse. In preparation for this pajama party, I had watched some of the convention. I had read and read and read about the issues, the schisms, the rumors and the PUMAs. Since I had not ever really thought Obama was a serious contender, I hadn’t spent much time learning about him. I didn’t think he was not a contender because we, the collective we, are racist, but because we, the collective we, can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to Muslims. The truth be damned, there are still far too many people in this country convinced that man is a Muslim, which for so many of them equates to terrorist.

I enjoyed every segment of the convention I had time to watch, but this last event just rocked. I was pretty much glued to the screen, especially after Obama began speaking, because my inner-cynic demanded I pick apart every word; find the flaws in his reasoning and the gaping holes in his plans. The cynic was quieted and I was spellbound.

Those “like-minded” people were chanting, fussing at me to put my tiara on, putting my campaign sign in my hand so I could wave it for the cameras, hollering at me to go sit here, go sit there, stand up, and on and on. I’m trying to listen to this guy. I’m trying to watch the celebratory finale. Eventually, I wrapped the campaign sign in the tiara and put the tiara on my head in hopes they’d let me listen. While I’ll never be wide-eyed and without criticism, I can vote FOR this man. I am pleased to vote for this man. I might campaign for him.

I will not change my party affiliation, though. Anybody can join me in my newly-formed Drama Queens for Obama even if you don’t have a tiara, aren’t a Drama Queen, and have wide-eyed, non-critical enthusiasm.

And if anyone knows that little girl, you tell her I’m doing my part to make sure she always goes to places of great and good interest.