Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Is America Really That Great?


Or have we become arrogant and complacent?

Public Domain Pictures
Earlier this year Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, stated in a speech that America “was never that great” . This comment drew the ire and the condemnation of many American “patriots”, but was he actually right in a way? We have always been taught, growing up that “America is the greatest country in the world”. We never questioned that assertion and we never had a reason to question it. But how was that determination made and by whom? It’s like believing in God, as all religious people do. We are told He exists, but we have no proof. It’s just a matter of faith.

“ America. Love it or leave it”

The same thinking applies to the belief that America is the greatest country in the world. If we don’t believe that America is the greatest country in the world, we’re labeled as unpatriotic, ungrateful, or even treasonous. We often are told “ America. Love it or leave it”. Just this week the President of the United States basically said those very words to 4 freshmen Democratic members of Congress, who were all women of color and harsh critics of him and his policies. If we don’t actually believe that America is the greatest, does that mean we don’t love America? I’m sure the citizens of most countries of the world view their country as the greatest, and love it as much as we love ours.

…always strive to do our best or to do better.

As we were always told that America was the greatest country in the world, we were also being taught about life. In athletics we were told to always strive to do our best or to do better. In school we were always taught that we can do better. We learned the importance of corrective criticism . We were encouraged, and are still being encouraged, that we must not be complacent about anything in our lives. If that is true for the citizens of this country, shouldn’t it be true of our country? Shouldn’t we all strive to correct the shortcomings of America and strive to make her better for all of her people?

…do they just don’t care?

I have traveled quite a great deal and lived in Malaysia for seven years and was always astounded by the ignorance of many Americans I spoke with concerning my foreign travel experiences. Some people actually thought that most of China had no electricity and Malaysia had no air conditioning! They were surprised to hear that Thailand and Malaysia had thriving health tourism industries and that their healthcare systems are not only top rated, but also extremely inexpensive! I have even had people ask me if children in Asia go to school like American children! Many Americans still believe that China and India are economically very far behind that of the United States. I really do not understand how, in this interconnected world, with the Internet and 24/7 cable news and social media, so many Americans can be so ignorant! Is it because they don’t want to be educated about another country of the world or do they just don’t care? I believe that the majority of these people believe that America is the greatest, regardless of what anyone says.

in the United States, students graduate saddled by staggering amounts of student loan debt.

So why is America so great? Let’s look at education. According to US News and World Report “Despite being home to some of the best universities in the world, the US is not considered to have one of the most educated populations. The U.S. ranks №18 in perceptions of an educated population, just above South Korea and behind Italy.” Every country in Europe and most in Asia offer completely free college tuition or substantially reduced tuition for their citizens, whereas in the United States, students graduate saddled by staggering amounts of student loan debt. Also in the US the quality of public education is dependent upon the wealth of a particular school district, with those from predominantly white, more affluent school districts faring much better than poorer non-white school districts. Children of more wealthy parents also have the luxury of sending their children to elite private schools.

This doesn’t make us so great.

Now we turn to healthcare.And we all know where we stand on this! According to Business Insider the United States does not even rank among the top 16 countries with the best healthcare. The Patient Factor has published a chart by The World Health Organization that ranks the United States number 37 out of 190 countries! Of the developed countries, the United States is the only country that does not offer its citizens free healthcare. According to Snopes , 643,000 Americans become bankrupt due to medical costs every year. In developing countries this is zero! Americans also pay much more money for prescription drugs than most other countries in the world. Because of this fact many Americans are “illegally importing drugs from other countries of the world” according to Drug Watch. This doesn’t make us so great.

We cannot be proud of the declining attitudes in this country towards minorities and the treatment of minorities in our judicial system.

Some of the saddest statistics which I see to be inexcusable are those statistics on infant mortality rate. Amazingly the United States scores much higher than comparable countries of the developing world. The Peter Kaiser Health System Tracker breaks down the ranking of the US as compared to other countries, as well as other demographics including minorities. Viewing some of these statistics is very depressing , but they also show that the US is improving slowly in some areas. We all know that the US has a high rate of drug abuse and we also have the highest prison population rates of any country in the world, without referring to statistics. It’s a national embarrassment to lead the world in these two categories! We also have no reason to be proud of the number of school shootings, which have become almost common in this country. We cannot be proud of the declining attitudes in this country towards minorities and the treatment of minorities in our judicial system. We cannot even be proud of our President and Congress!

…the rise of “religious liberty” laws that are nothing but blatant attempts to legalize discrimination…

During the last three years we have seen the progress made in this country in regards to civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and other minority rights slowly being diminished. People of color have learned to fear for their lives in dealing with the police in situations as benign as a traffic stop. We see incidents where a suspect of color was shot and killed reaching for a cell phone, while a violent white criminal was apprehended alive, without a shot being fired. We have seen some police forces being infiltrated by the KKK or other white supremacist groups. We have seen transgendered people being demonized along with the rise of “religious liberty” laws that are nothing but blatant attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Does this make America great?
Perhaps the saddest and most disgusting trend in this country since Trump took office is the treatment of immigrants, both legal and illegal. Children are being ripped from the arms of their parents and put in cages in detention centers, where they are denied basic medical care, as well as the fundamentals of daily proper hygiene. What’s even worse is that these conditions are not only accepted by GOP politicians, but are encouraged by them at the heed of the President and his administration. While the majority of us condemn these situations, loyal Trump supporters and even some in the ranks of the Homeland Security mock and defile the children and their families. Does this make America great?

…America , for the time being, is the richest country in the world…

So why might we say that America is the greatest country of the world? America has the strongest and best equipped military in the world. America , for the time being, is the richest country in the world with the world’s largest economy. China is very close behind. America has some of the best universities in the world, including MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and many others. Students from all over the world come here to attend these and numerous other fine institutions of higher learning. The same can be said for our world class hospitals, such as Massachusetts General Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and many more fine healthcare facilities, which count among their patients people from the world over, including numerous world leaders.

The United States possesses an abundance of invaluable natural resources second to none.

The United States leads the world in the number of entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, who have positively impacted world technology and society in general. Silicon Valley is the envy of the technology world, but is only one area of our country leading the world in technological innovation. The United States possesses an abundance of invaluable natural resources second to none in the world as well as having some of the world’s most scenic wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. Unbeknownst to most Americans the United States leads the world in production of oil, even though we also are the world’s biggest oil importer.
America is more than a country . It is a feeling.

How America is great cannot be easily described with statistics or with words. America is great for what she stands for. America is great because she offers opportunities and hope for those who don’t have either. In America you can become who you want to be, regardless of economic status, religion or race and even disability. America is so diverse that no matter how different you may be you can find your niche here. America is one part of the world where you can experience the food and culture of every country in the world without leaving the country. You can hear every language of the world and have the opportunity to learn that language and culture from the sons and daughters of immigrants from those countries. You can live a lifestyle in America for which you would be jailed or even executed in some countries of the world. I believe it’s called freedom. Our Constitution makes America great because of all of the rights and freedoms it grants to all people in this country.  America is more than a country . It is a feeling. A feeling of pride and a desire to help others, who are less fortunate, regardless of who or what they are. America is a willingness to give someone a chance that they thought they would never have. America is the Statue of Liberty and all she stands for. America is what we her citizens want her to be.

We should never lose sight of the future.

All of those shortcomings discussed above can be fixed, if we try. But first we have to admit they exist. We should never be complacent in feeling or saying that America is the greatest country in the world. We all must not accept mediocrity for ourselves and our country. We must not accept the failings of our country as normal or irreparable. We can’t just say “America, right or wrong”. We have to help America be right and just. We must strive every day to make ourselves, our town, our country better. We must resist those in this country who wish to denigrate our system of government, our Constitution and our citizens. We must denounce extreme nationalism and white supremacy, while embracing diversity. To paraphrase the US Army, “America should be all she can be”. We should never lose sight of the future.


Originally published in Medium.com

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

My Bucket List Challenge, So close yet so far!

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay




I love to watch travel and nature programs, especially those about animals and people living in far away places. I was recently thinking of the places I have been and those I would still like to visit. I guess it could be called my bucket list. Thanks to Ryan Justin and his challenge to share our dreams or our own bucket lists I am now able to put my experiences and dreams of the future into words.

Now I reminisce about my travels and experiences.

When I was younger I often thought of the many far away places I would like to visit and the many things I would love to do. I never compiled a list and I never heard of a bucket list until I was much older. Now I reminisce about my travels and experiences, both good and bad, and feel happy that I had the chance to do them. I also think about the things I didn’t do or haven’t done yet. I admire Ryan for formulating a list of lively and enthusiastic adventures and implore him to do his best to make them all happen.

Don’t ask me why, but I did it.

I have experienced living on a tropical island in Malaysia for 7 years, a dream many people have shared. It was an unforgettable experience, for the food, the weather, the people and culture, but most importantly, that’s where I met my husband. I have held a tiger cub in my arms and fed a baby panda bear an apple while holding him in my lap. I sat on the ground and played with a baby elephant, one of my most cherished accomplishments. I’ve had scorpions crawl all over my shirt while in Thailand. Don’t ask me why, but I did it. I’ve chased a huge monitor lizard and almost caught it while in the countryside of Thailand. I have hiked in the rain forests of Malaysia and loved it, even though I had trouble breathing in the thick humidity.

I spent a good deal of time eating my favorite type of food, in the country of its origin, Thailand.

I’ve traveled throughout Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy while experiencing my dream of getting to know Europe and drinking beer in the Alps. I toured China and sampled the hot spicy food of Sichuan province while visiting the panda reserve there. I spent a good deal of time eating my favorite type of food, in the country of its origin, Thailand. I taught cytology in a rural jungle hospital in Vietnam, using a microscope powered by a mirror and the sun.

These are money, time and health.

So I guess I’ve done a lot, but there is still much more that I would love to do. In my opinion, in order for anyone to accomplish the items on their bucket list you need 3 very important things. These are money, time and health. For most young people time and health are usually on their side, but money isn’t. When I was younger I did what I could on my income and as my income grew my ability to travel and do more also grew. I am retired now and I have both the time and money to cross off the remaining items on my list, but the one thing I can’t buy is starting to fail me, my health.

I don’t feel sad about it and I don’t have any regrets

I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu in Peru, but I don’t think I’ll make it. Other adventures I have waiting include climbing the Great Wall of China, living in the Alps of Switzerland and trekking through the Amazon rain forest. Unfortunately I have asthma, COPD and arthritis, which precludes my participation in any activities involving high altitudes and extreme humidity. I don’t feel sad about it and I don’t have any regrets about missing out in not experiencing those adventures. I can still partake in the adventures on National Geographic.

If I could do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

I feel extremely lucky that I have done what I have done, especially when I find out that people I grew up with or went to school with never left the community where the were born and grew up. I am happy to have had the opportunities to expand my horizons as much as I have. If I could do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

You won’t regret it.

My advice to Ryan and the younger people reading this is to start checking off the items on your bucket list now, while you’re young and healthy. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to travel and experience life, before life and old age robs you of your health and motivation. You won’t regret it.

Originally published in Medium.com

Friday, June 21, 2019

I Came Out of the Closet,( But didn’t get very far)


Image by Paul Sprengers from Pixabay

When I was growing up I felt different and I knew I was different. I played baseball and football with my friends and had the same interests as they did, but I knew something was not the same. The term gay wasn’t used back then, the term was homosexual and it was a word that caused both laughter and revulsion.

I even made believe I was interested in girls!

There weren’t many people who admitted to being homosexual, because doing so was akin to a death sentence, if not for your life, for your job, your career and your reputation. The most famous person whom most thought was gay, was Liberace. He was extremely talented and extremely flamboyant, but he never admitted he was gay. Most celebrities back then had to hide their sexuality in order to maintain their careers. They had sham marriages and sham girlfriends to fend off the gossip mongers and tabloids. But many noncelebrities did the same. I even made believe I was interested in girls!

…I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.

The only openly gay person I knew was a person who lived in my neighborhood, Norman. He was a hairdresser, who was also very flamboyant, as he was commonly seen sporting makeup pastel-colored wigs and carrying his dyed pink miniature poodle. He was constantly the subject of laughter, ridicule and harassment. I can still remember my uncle, a city cop, relating stories where he and his fellow police officers raided parties where Norman and his friends were just having fun, only to harass them. I knew I was different, but I wasn’t like Norman and I didn’t want to be. If Norman was what it was like to be a homosexual, a gay, I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.

It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay.

Once I went to college and away from my hometown I began to allow myself to at least explore my sexual feelings. It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay. When I started to think I might be gay, my mind always forced the image of Norman into my consciousness. In my thirties and having lived away from home for a number of years, I was ready to admit to those closest to me, and myself, that I was gay. I came out to my family after my father had passed away from a long bout with cancer. My siblings and my nephews took the news okay, but my mother didn’t. She constantly accused me of being a pedophile, a drug addict, an alcoholic and referred to me as a faggot with faggot friends. She was more concerned with what her friends would think about her, than she was about my welfare and happiness. She was never without her St. Jude prayer card, praying for a miracle.

I was ready to step out of the closet.

When I moved to Boston to work in a well-known hospital I found freedom, freedom to be gay. I think almost half of my department was gay and the entire hospital was generously staffed with gays in every department. I was not alone. I was ready to step out of the closet. I did not hide the fact I was gay from my staff, my coworkers and my neighbors. Did you notice that I didn’t say friends? That’s because outside of my coworkers and my neighbors I didn’t have any friends! No gay friends outside of work.

I laughed it off, even though it really hurt.

I went to gay bars and to gay functions, but I couldn’t make friends. I was in my thirties and overweight, a combination that did not sit too well with most gays I came into contact with. Even when I attended events for gays, sponsored by the medical community, where one received his education and the position you held, was more important than what kind of person you were. I could lose weight, but I couldn’t change my age or where I went to college. I was who I was. I laughed it off, even though it really hurt. I still had no real gay friends and I eventually gave up trying to find any.

“I wasn’t gay enough”.

All of my friends were straight and were either neighbors or people I worked with. They knew I didn’t have any gay friends, as I didn’t hide the fact. One of my gay coworkers told me that the reason I didn’t make friends in the gay community was because “I wasn’t gay enough”. Apparently, he had received this feedback from some of his friends he had introduced me to. According to him, “I didn’t dress gay or even talk gay” and I “always hang around with straight people at straight places”. I had always thought being gay was a matter of sexual attraction. I didn’t know there was a particular way to talk or dress, or that I could only patronize gay gyms or restaurants.

I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!

I have always been told, by straight friends, that I was too sloppy to be gay, as my office and desk were in constant disarray and I dressed in a way that made me feel comfortable and not in a way to impress anyone or dress the way a gay person is supposed to dress. I did try to dress in clothes from Banana Republic or A&F, like good gays are supposed to dress and I did join a gay gym. I hated every minute of being that person. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to change just to fit into someone else’s criteria for being gay. I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!

Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude,…

I gave up trying to fit in and accepted the fact that I probably would spend the rest of my life alone, without any gay friends. My decision eliminated a lot of stress in my life and I felt comfortable with it. At the same time my mother finally accepted the fact that I was gay and even encouraged me to find “someone”. Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude, but anyway I was relieved. Not long after I gave up trying to fit in I met Kevin, my now husband. I didn’t meet him here, but in Malaysia, where he was forced to live in the closet, as I once did. Before moving here to live together, he too came out to his family and friends, and has never looked back.

No more closets and no more pretending…

I am happy now and I don’t regret “coming out of the closet”, even though I didn’t get very far. I see that I didn’t have to get very far, because I only had to be myself and by doing that I was able to meet Kevin. I still have only straight friends, mainly because we are new to this small town,and there is no gay community here or gay-oriented groups, and no one really cares about sexual orientation, as was the case when I was growing up. No more closets and no more pretending for the both of us. If only all LGBTQ people could enjoy what we have. We are truly lucky and truly blessed.

Originally Posted in Medium.com

Friday, June 14, 2019

Do Prayers Really Work?


      

Public Domain Pictures   
All my life I’ve been told to pray. I was educated in Catholic schools and there we prayed several times during the day. As students we were usually told what to pray for and I admit most, if not all of us, paid no attention to how or why we were praying. We were simply repeating words that we had memorized. Through this upbringing I learned that we had to pray to God, mainly for forgiveness for all the dastardly sins we evil children committed! I learned that there was a patron saint for just about everything and was told to pray to that saint for favors pertaining to his/her expertise. There was St. Anthony for lost items, St. Francis for animals, St. Jude for travelers and the list goes on and on. Even our sports teams prayed together before a game for God’s help in winning. I often was puzzled as how this works as the opposing teams also prayed! I don’t believe I ever got an answer.
As I grew older I fell away from the Catholic Church, as I became disenchanted with it’s teachings and the hypocrisy of not only Catholicism, but all religions. I still prayed though even though I wasn’t convinced it worked. Throughout my long life I have prayed for many things, although I believe very few of my prayers have been answered. Those few that have been answered I am not sure if they were really answered or if it was just coincidence that what I prayed for came to fruition. Yet still I pray.
We have overwhelming evidence that people pray and they pray often and for everything. Just about everybody prays,especially when they buy a lottery ticket. They pray that they will win the jackpot. People pray at casinos to win big. People pray for their favorite sports teams to win and also their favorite politicians.People tend to pray for their own self interests probably most often. On Facebook we can see people asking for prayers for sick relatives and quite often for children they don’t even know. Whenever someone asks for prayers for relatives we can see all of their friends sending prayers and prayer emojis. Personally I feel these are meaningless and don’t believe all of the friends and followers are actually praying. Times when we see many people praying are those all too often incidences where there have been mass school shootings. Instead of actually offering concrete actions to stop these mass murders, all we see is “offering thoughts and prayers” from politicians and citizens alike. Why aren’t all of these prayers being answered? Why do the shootings continue? I have never heard a sensible answer from clergymen and clergywomen as to why these prayers fall on deaf ears. Yet still I pray.
I believe that millions of people all over the world have been praying for world peace, as I have been doing my whole life, but we still don’t have world peace. I have been praying daily to end violence, killings and terrorism all over the world and I’m sure millions of others are joining me in my pleas. It still continues though. I pray every day to end the suffering of the sick, the poor, and the starving children of the world, yet it continues. I’ve actually asked members of the clergy about this and have been told “it’s part of God’s plan”. What kind of God has a plan that allows such disastrous hardships. Hitler had a “plan” and he’s considered one of the most evil and hated men who has ever lived! Yet still I pray.
I often think about why some prayers are supposedly answered and some are not, and think that maybe some of the petitions are just too complicated, even for God. After all God gave us all free will and if we chose to do evil, God will allow it, even thought it will hurt innocent people. I figured maybe God answered those prayers that were simple and would not change the course of human history. This idea was shattered recently when the beloved pet dog of my neighbor’s three young children (seven year old triplets)became seriously ill and was taken to the vet. The vet kept him overnight for a 24 hour observation to see if medication could improve his situation. If not he would have to be put to sleep. I knew the kids would be devastated if they lost their precious Griffin and he would be sorely missed by all of the neighbors. I prayed hard that night thinking that this would be a simple request for a benevolent God. After all keeping one dog alive would have no ill effect in the scheme of nature and it would save three children from losing their best friend and faithful companion. I was wrong. Griffin was put to sleep the next day! Yet still I pray!     
Wikepedia


One phenomenon of modern society that I find to be disgusting and unbelievable is what I call “mass demonstration of prayer”. I am referring to demonstrations of prayer emanating from the golden halls of today’s “megachurches” which are broadcasting to their gullible followers over our airways. These gigantic spiritual edifices are filled to capacity every Sunday preaching their own version of Christianity heavily laden with, not the love of Christ, but the love of money. I think it would be safe for me to say that the majority of the followers of the popular megachurches are lower middle class, the poor and the lonely and poor elderly. As we all have witnessed, the flamboyant and charismatic leaders of these megachurches, more often than not, live in multi million dollar bejeweled mansions with a fleet of expensive foreign luxury cars and even jet plans waiting at their beck and call. Who’s paying for these extravagances? Their followers! Inevitably the religious services conducted at these megachurches end up with the congregation being asked for prayers and money to assure that their prayers will be answered. Like lemmings, the members of the congregation loudly pray in unison for their souls, while opening their wallets and pocketbooks to ensure their salvation. In moving spiritual performances, which would be the envy of any Oscar nominee, preachers tearfully beg for money to be able to continue their ministry “the way Jesus would want” them to. And of course the congregation succumbs to their pleadings. Anybody want to bet that even if these preachers pray , it is to keep their followers gullible and generous? I firmly believe that prayer can be valuable for some people, but ministers and churches such as those mentioned above make a mockery of prayer and those who profess to pray.
I’m still debating with myself whether or not prayers are ever answered. Are some prayers answered, while some are not. Do the prayers of some get answered, while prayers of others are ignored. Of those prayers that some people say were answered, was it just coincidence that what was prayed for became reality? Would the events have happened anyway? I don’t know. I guess I’ll never find out. But, just in case, I’ll keep praying to be on the safe side!


This article was originally published in Publishous on Medium.com

                                                                                       

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