Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 - Donald Trump has no sense of shame or honor

Memorial Day is really not about veterans.  By definition, it can't be.  Memorial Day honors the memory of the men and women who died while serving in the US Military.  Those who made the ultimate sacrifice seldom had the chance to become veterans unless they served in more than one war.
I am honestly offended by Trump using "Rolling Thunder" as a political event.  I don't like what he said about illegal immigrants being treated better than our veterans.  Please.
I'm an Air Force veteran.  I went to school on GI Bill and PELL grants.  I only owed $850 when I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from UNH in 1978.  I use the VA Healthcare system and can attest to its excellence for my care and that of my husband.  Because of the VA, I'm an avid supporter of single payer healthcare.  I am very grateful for the services I've received from my country in return for 6 years of my life. 
My husband volunteered to serve as a Marine during Vietnam.  His relationship with the VA has been more problematic if you consider the first years after he came home from Vietnam.  His PTSD made it impossible for him to sit in a classroom; so the GI Bill was of no use to him.  However, since 2000, the VA acknowledged both the effects of PTSD and Agent Orange exposure and he has some peace at last.
I don't want to minimize the problem of serving our younger veterans of IAVA through the VA.  I DO believe that there are administrative problems, but as someone who has worked in healthcare, I can honestly say that the VA has it together better than a lot of private hospitals/insurance companies.  I continued to use the VA for my healthcare even when I had private insurance to reimburse them.
When my husband was hospitalized at the VA in West Roxbury for surgery last year, I was able to spend the 4 days he was there at the Fisher House.  I could be with him every moment he was awake and simply walk across the street to sleep in a lovely room in the guest house. 
Please, Mr. Trump, you have no concept what it means to be a veteran.  Keep your hands off the VA healthcare system.  We know you want to privatize it.  Anyway you and your friends can get a piece of the action, right? 
By the way, there are many immigrants and first generation sons and daughters of immigrants serving in the military.  One of the most valuable experiences I acquired in the service was the opportunity to live and work with people from Upstate Maine to the barrios of LA.  I feel I got to see the real America.
I know many immigrants (legal or otherwise) who are providing front line healthcare for a growing population of our seniors and people with disabilities.  I've done this work; it is exhausting and doesn't often pay well or come with benefits.  Most people have to work two or more jobs to make ends meet.   We would have a crisis in our healthcare system without people from all over the world who are willing to do this work with gratitude and kindness. 
Most of all,  I find it repugnant that the man who mocked Vietnam POW, Senator John McCain, should hijack the spirit of Rolling Thunder.  "Rolling Thunder is a United States advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and missing in action service members of all U.S. wars. The group's first demonstration was in 1988." from Wikipedia  
So, my fellow citizens, I have no complaint about my treatment as a veteran.  Thank you for all you have done for me and my husband.   Thank you to Senator John McCain for all he suffered on our behalf.  And, most of all, thanks to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice...even if it means that a blowhard like Donald Trump can capitalize on it to spew hate against people hanging on by their fingernails.  Despicable!

Friday, May 27, 2016

For Jennifer

It's a sleepy Friday afternoon.  I'm listening to a constant barrage of Trump and Sanders speeches in the background.  Spooky, the cat Jennifer gave me, is snuggled up to me on the couch despite the 80 degree heat. 
Jennifer.  One of her dying wishes was that an agency manager promise she wouldn't vote for Trump.
Jennifer wanted to campaign for Bernie Sanders, but it never worked out because of health issues. 
She did come to a "No Pipeline" rally on Central Square in Keene and proudly displayed both Bernie and No Pipeline signs on her lawn. 
I know her spirit is rejoicing that we stopped the NED pipeline, but that she also would want me and my friends to finish the job by making sure we're on a path to a sustainable and renewable energy future.
I miss her.  I think I need therapy to deal with the loss of my friend, but I'm just trying to "ride it out" and keep her in my heart while I continue fighting for the things we both believed in.   Frankly, I am afraid to stop; not just because of emotions that are overwhelming and paralyzing, but because I think I am needed to continue the fight.
I was listening to a program on NHPR about PTSD the other day as I drove home from a demonstration in West Roxbury, Mass.  There are lots of causes for PTSD, but one common phenomenon is that symptoms improve if there's a feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself. 
So, maybe I'm just rationalizing?  Or maybe I'm applying the only relief there is for big losses?
I am glad that I've had the privilege to live almost seven decades on this earth and still feel able to dance when the moment or the music moves me.  Of course, one of the drawbacks to aging is the loss of people you love.  And the older you get, the more frequently it happens.   It is much worse than seeing your body sag or lines spread across your face.  I think a lot about my own mortality and using the time I have left wisely, joyfully, lovingly. 
I need Jennifer.  I need her example, her optimism, her sense of adventure and appreciation of art, music, dance and beauty of every kind.  I deliberately invoke her memory and imagine her reactions.  I cannot close the book on her.  It is only the end of a chapter because I think her story continues on in the people whose lives she changed.