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Voter Fraud: The little meteorite that wasn’t

March 22, 2011

I love action movies like “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” where rogue interstellar bodies threaten to destroy the world unless mankind can find a way to protect itself.

They are elevating because the danger is real (or seems to be once you suspend disbelief) and the good guys always win. They figure out how to stop the potential carnage just in time.The Sky Is Falling - Or Is It?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot in the news about another threat looming in the American political skies: Voter Fraud! Yup, that’s right. In nearly 30 states (including my home state of Maine) the alarm has been sounded and heroic politicians are introducing legislation designed to save us from Deep Impact and Armageddon, at least in a metaphoric sense.

The particular details of their proposed defense shields vary slightly, but they have one announced purpose: to save the American way of life. From requiring already properly registered voters to produce photographic government issued ID cards at the polling place or eliminating provisions which permit legitimate voters to register up to (and in some states including) election day, proponents offer a single burning reason for these extreme measures. We must stop the menace of rampant voter fraud. The chant is usually delivered with the fervor of Ben Affleck.

Sorry, I’m not buying that ticket. Life isn’t a movie and before we get involved in huge expenditures of taxpayer dollars or foreclose the unquestioned rights of American citizens to participate in the most vital democratic process there is, shouldn’t we check the telescope?

I bumped into a very smart lady named Tova Wang recently while on line examining the political skies. She’s something of an expert on voting in the United States. Tova put me on to several independent research pieces concerning voter fraud in American elections and a recent article on the subject reported from Ohio. [N.B Go ahead: click and read it if you think I’m making this up]

Every day the earth experiences a hit by a meteorite or two. Most are the size of a grain of sand. Is the risk they pose to our survival enough to justify the expense of a global defense system that may not work? Depends on who you ask, but here’s the difference: a system to defend the earth from destruction is honestly debated. Anti-voter fraud legislation, on the other hand, isn’t and it has a covert motivation: to disenfranchise legitimate voters from casting ballots.

“How?” you ask.

Guess which party is introducing these bills. If you guessed Republicans, you’re right.

Now, guess which groups are most likely to be shut out of the polling places if they pass. Give up? The research is clear. Young voters (especially college students), the elderly and the poor are the ones most likely to be turned away at the polls.

Finally, guess how citizens shut out of those elections are most likely to be politically aligned. Sure enough, Democratic.

As I said, this isn’t a movie. It’s a calculated political deception. The charade might be entertaining as theater, but we’re talking real life, real disenfranchisement and real harm to our political system if we buy a seat for this show.

Check it out yourself. Go to independent sources and see how often voter fraud has actually been proven to have impacted an election in your state or any other. The Republicans are wagering that you won’t.

I Hate What You Say, But …

March 19, 2011

“Why is the American Civil Liberties Union so un-American?”

Now there’s a question I hear a lot these days and to answer it properly takes a bit of time but it’s an answer that is important to listen to.

I’ve carried an A.C.L.U. card since 1969. And while I don’t have it tattooed on my arm, I carry it proudly because understanding the Constitution of the United States is, to me, more important than carrying a copy in my back pocket.

Recently, I’ve seen more websites and bumper stickers waiving flags and proclaiming “We the People” than I care to. The American flag shouldn’t be used to package some of the junk it’s being wrapped around these days. Nor should “We the People” be employed to suggest that some group has a corner on the notion of freedom.

From its inception in the early 20th century, the American Civil Liberties Union (the successor to the National Civil Liberties Bureau) has stood for the proposition that the guarantees of the Constitution apply to all who are within our borders regardless of the popularity of their particular ideology. Except for an embarrassing period when it banned communists from its ranks (yes, even the A.C.L.U. fell victim to the Red Scare), this organization has consistently been at the vanguard of defending both Americans and visitors from the tyranny of governmental intrusion in the exercise of those freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution to all within it jurisdiction.

“We The People” were not citizens of the United States. They were OF the United States which they were founding and the rights they embraced in that Constitution were and are secured to all. Those rights are not the exclusive province of individuals who subscribe to any religious or political persuasion nor are their protections or admonitions limited to the savory or unsavory rhetoric or behavior from time to time displayed. That fact is the beauty of what our Constitution created and sometimes it’s hard to understand its depth.

The stated mission of the A.C.L.U. is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” It is not limited to citizens of the United States. It is not limited to law abiding folks. It is not limited to those who speak for popular causes. In fact, the best work the A.C.L.U. has done may well be in championing the rights secured by the Constitution to exactly the individuals who many would strip of those rights.

Therein lies the importance of the organization.

Voltaire is often quoted (though it’s actually a misquote) as having said, “I hate what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.”

If you want to understand why the A.C.L.U. defended the right of Neo-Nazis to march in a Skokie or the obligation of the government to pay for attorneys to defend indigent persons accused of heinous crimes; if you can’t understand why it chose to file legal briefs in support of banning prayer in public schools or overturning immigration laws which foster racial profiling, remember that. Think about it.

It’s easy to get behind the equal protection of rights extended to folks with whom you are like minded, but they’re not the one’s whose rights need protecting.

People’s Poker

March 10, 2011

It’s time to reshuffle the deck and play a different hand.

Dealing From The Bottom of the Deck

“So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

These words were spoken by Franklin Roosevelt, but not about war, as many think. They came during his inaugural address in 1933 and spoke to an economic situation not unlike the one America faces today. He saw a rigged game and called for a New Deal.

The Great Depression had wracked the country for three years. Unemployment soared and savings in the hands of the middle-class had vanished. In the streets, anger raged as homes were foreclosed and businesses closed their doors. Farmers organized protests and blocked roads. Serious questions were asked about calling in the military to restore order while the denizens of the financial industry tried to figure out how things that were going so great for them could have gone so wrong. The collapse of the stock market had triggered an apocalypse, a radical shift of wealth away from the middle class straight to the top.

Yes, fortunes were lost by the many, but that money hadn’t disappeared, it flowed smoothly into the hands of the very people who had manipulated the economy free from oversight or restraint. Their greed had been rewarded on the backs of working Americans.

You see, money never disappears. It’s like mercury, if you push it here, it pops out somewhere else. It changes forms freely from currency into buildings or precious metals or works of art or yachts. When the banks failed it was because the savings people had entrusted them with had been used by the bank owners and their preferred business customers to leverage their own positions and make fortunes for themselves. They succeeded.

It was a grand Ponzi scheme just like that played over the past 20 years by folks like Bernie Madoff, Wall Street investment banks and the largest insurance company in the world, AIG. Yes, I put AIG and major financial institutions right up there with Bernie Madoff because all of them knew what they were encouraging folks to buy was moose scat wrapped in pretty paper and sold with intentional deception.

I know this. I was there in the 80’s and 90’s in Manhattan offices around large teak and granite tables at catered luncheons where banking leaders discussed lobbying efforts to deregulate the financial industry. To allow them the flexibility to be really effective in their core business: making money. I heard the young men with brand new MBA’s explain tranches and credit default swaps. I sat at dinner in 1992 with Angelo Mozilo, the bright rising star of CountryWide Mortgage (later transmuted to IndyMac), as he explained how even the least credit worthy borrower could own a home, realize the American Dream and return huge profits to the company. His vision was simply to relax federal lending requirements and sell lots of questionable stuff that he would repackage into the portfolios of huge union pension funds. They wouldn’t care about risk as long as the investments were secured not just by the mortgages, but by an insurance policy as well. Brilliant!

More than anyone, Angelo, was the father of the sub-prime mortgage. At one point, CountryWide was responsible for 20% of all mortgages closed in the United States. The Wall Street Journal estimated that in the five years between 2001 and 2006 Angelo’s executive compensation totaled nearly $470 Million dollars.

“It’s called, ‘risk analysis,’ he finished smoothly as dinner ended. I was impressed. I had been fooled.

My traditional bank attorney head didn’t quite understand how the collateral (homes from all over the country) for portfolios containing 100,000 mortgages each could be valued accurately, but I bought into the pitch. After all, the largest insurance companies in the world would issue policies to cover that risk. They were the experts of risk analysis. They made fortunes doing it. There was no downside.

Angelo’s facing some serious charges now, but his fortune’s pretty much intact. That money he and CountryWide scammed wasn’t returned after their collapse to the folks who lost it. It vanished (or rather, flowed silently and smoothly) to other places … other pockets.

Today common folks are on the streets again. The free-market gurus have blundered again, but they’ve rewarded themselves generously for their errors. Angered and desperate to hold families together, many decent people have bought into the spin generated by these brokers of power: Americans were too greedy. Government failed us. The unions brought this on. Lazy freeloaders and entitlements caused this.

It’s called blaming the victim. It works for one reason only: fear. Fear that our neighbors are at fault. Fear that our suffering was caused by our government not in spite of it. And fear that if we don’t cut spending we can’t revive the economy. Illusion is the art of misdirection.

Roosevelt’s New Deal was universally hated by the architects of the Great Depression and loudly condemned by those who still supported Republican Calvin Coolidge’s mantra of smaller government and his belief that the “business of government is business.” Sound familiar? Coolidge was also the fellow who (as Governor of Massachusetts in 1919) had called in 5,000 State Guardsmen to put down the Boston Police Strike which led to the crippling of labor unions and generated the “Red Scare” of the 20’s. Ten years later, under his presidency, America discovered how sound that thinking was.

Watching the news last night, I felt like I was watching a remake of a bad movie my father and grandfather told me about.

I recalled my grandfather telling me that fear is the single most effective tool to control people. The recipe is simply to make the middle class distrust each other by setting up fall guys like unions, the poor and folks of different religions, nationalities and colors.

We see and hear these messages each day now. They are all artfully produced and paid for by dollars that came out of the savings accounts and pension trusts of the working class and small business owners of America. They are proclaimed by outfits with warm fuzzy names like Americas for Prosperity (the Koch Brothers) and Crossroads (Karl Rove). They deliver slogans and images of anger that evoke fear and give us a face to hate.

In 1933, primarily spurred by the vision and actions of F.D.R., this remarkable society turned around the horrors visited upon them by the same cadre of manipulators through a single insight: Government’s job is not to be business friendly, it’s to be people friendly. Big businesses take very good care of themselves. And, by the way, if you own a business that nets less than several million dollars each year, you’re not in the club. You’re just another hard-working sap being told who to fear. It’s precisely that fear that Roosevelt was talking about and his warning is being validated every day.

Isn’t it time to break out a new deck, shuffle the cards and re-deal?

The Conspiracies of Lyme Disease

February 3, 2011

I’m surrounded by conspirasists. It’s reached epidemic proportions and here’s why:

In my youth, my mom or dad would take me to the doctor whenever I was so sick that warm broth

There's a difference between feeling better and being better.

and camphor oil didn’t work. We didn’t expect Dr. Vink would cure it every time, but we trusted that he knew more than we did and getting us better was his insurance for a continued practice. And every time we left his modest office at the rear his home, we got a lollipop.

Today, the paradigm has shifted. True practitioners of medical science are held in disrepute if they say, honestly, “I don’t know what to do” or  “We don’t have a cure for what you have.”

At the same time, pretenders to medical knowledge proudly announce, “When the medical profession failed me, I discovered a real cure. Now, I’ll share it with you.”

I’m really tired of Lyme people beating up on real doctors and advocating the preeminence of outright charlatans. We are suffering with an illness that is poorly understood yet some of us are convinced that legitimate medical professionals, rather than searching for real answers, are engaged in some sort of plot against us.

What’s most peculiar to me is that there are dozens of proponents of unresearched or undocumented “cures” for Lyme Disease who seem to be enjoying saint-like stature (and the accompanying financial rewards)  because thousands of sufferers are happy to demonize medical doctors who don’t have a simple solution at hand.

The world of Lyme Disease is a spinning vortex of misinformation, disinformation and an occasional glimmer of sensible commentary.

From magnetic resonance to healing waters, from esoteric berries to over-dosing on salt, the sermons of the Preachers of Lyme gather their faithful in cyber-chapels as the collection plates fill: ching-ching, ching-ching. In response to requests for explanations they offer mumbo-jumbo quasi-science or mystical revelations about the memory of atoms vibrating in sympathy with our true inner harmony.

It pains me.

Dr. Vink was, if nothing else, honest and caring. He dispensed samples from his desk drawer if he knew a family couldn’t afford medications. He came to my house when my mom was too sick to get to his office. And when he didn’t know how to fix something he simply said, “I’m sorry, we don’t know for sure why this is happening, but we’re going to work on it until we find a real answer. Here’s a lollipop, no charge.”

Sometimes I wonder whether false hope trumps uncertainty and fear. Perhaps it has a benefit, if only in the short term. What enrages me is when the self-proclaimed healers promote the hope but charge an entrance fee at the doors of their sanctuary.

Dr. Vink never portrayed himself as anything more that a physician. He was a medical doctor with medical training. He knew what he knew and was humble enough to acknowledge that there was stuff there were no answers for … yet.  He knew that just speaking with you, coming to your home to see you, could make you feel a bit better – but he never suggested that the lollipop would make you better.

Bulletproof Me

January 15, 2011

Erik left for Iraq this morning. We got up at 3:00 AM and dropped him at Logan in Boston. The sun was still asleep.

Logan at Dawn

Sasha, my daughter, rode in the back because I get car sick in a rear seat and Erik drove. He’s my son-in-law. He drives now.

We made small talk and laughed about silly family stuff from the night before – masking the anxiety and bolstering our courage.

Last night Sasha and Erik joined me at Pine Point along with his mother, his dad, his dad’s current wife and Erik’s sister. We had risotto with a salad, some nice bread and a glass or two of wine. Erik doesn’t drink so he had water.

I had a nice fire going with some music (harp guitar, I think) and after dinner we chatted while he checked through his bags: camera, recorder, shot-gun microphone, tripod, body armor.

What?

Yeah, body armor. If you’ve never held a Type IV Ballistic Vest, I don’t recommend it. In the abstract it’s pretty cool. You know, Kevlar and ceramic plates that can stop a .30-06 Springfield M2 armor piercing bullet cold its tracks?

If the weight isn’t enough to scare you, though, the thought of why someone you love would be wearing it is.

Erik is a soldier of a different order. He’s the self-proclaimed Last Print Journalist. Words are his weapon of choice and reporting … just reporting … is his crusade.

Erik is off to somewhere with an unpronounceable name in Iraq (you, know, the war we won?) to hang out with some folks (kids, actually)  from the New Hampshire National Guard and send back their stories to New Hampshire Public Radio. I’d thought he was going to Afghanistan.

It gets so confusing. If someone showed you a map of the middle east without names on it, could you point out the countries? Go ahead. Try it.

He’s not hunting for clandestine operations or looking to expose corruption with military contractors. He’s just consumed with letting the rest of us know what a few good people are doing on a daily basis in a place we never think about unless a friend or relative happens to be there and might be dead tomorrow.

As we departed and he walked into the terminal, we waived. Sasha blew him a kiss.

He shouted, “Thanks,” and strode off into the darkness of the British Airways departure terminal.

I could see the outline of his Kevlar helmet pushing on the fabric of his bag. He was scared. He’d never show it. That’s just the way he is.

Sasha wept a bit as we rode through Revere back north toward Pine Point, then gathered her great resources and waxed stoic.

“He’ll be fine,” she said.

“You bet he will,” I agreed.

As the sun rose blood orange over Broad Sound, I came to realize that which I’d known for a long time, but had never articulated. Erik is my son-in-law and I love him for that; but more importantly, Erik is someone I admire.

He’s only interested in reporting the simple facts of horrible situations in an honest and straightforward manner that’s devoid of spin. He’s content that the rest of us can come to conclusions if we have the facts. His passion lies not espousing a cause someone else has defined, but in giving us the raw information we require to define our own opinions.

Erik is a reporter. He’s bulletproof.

I Don’t Know What to Call You

January 8, 2011

This afternoon, a beautiful energetic young woman named Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a

Another Victim of Political Hate Mongering

political rally in Tuscon, AZ. She would have been 41 years old this coming June and had narrowly won re-election to the US House of Representatives in November. She was a Democrat, pro-choice, an advocate for health care reform and a critic of what she saw as overzealous immigration laws. She was the first Jewish Congresswoman elected by Arizona and was married to astronaut Mark Kelly.

She was also one of the prominently “cross-haired” politicians on Sarah Palin’s notorious congressional “hit list.” According to reports, four others have died because they were with her.

I’m still in shock. I vividly recall the admonitions from political commentators on the left when the SARAHPAC map came out. I also recall the dismissive commentary from the right about how the progressives had no sense of humor and why they were stretching when they raised objections to rhetoric like “take ’em out” and “they’re in our sights.”

I believe that the progressive democratic agenda is better for the country than conservative republican alternatives. I hold these beliefs strongly, but I do not berate or dehumanize those who feel differently. Yet every time I try to engage those who disagree with me in a conversation about the merits of alternative issues I’m met with ad hominem slurs and invitations to move to Russia if I don’t like it here.

What do I call you then, you speakers of hate and purveyors of fear? To give you a label is to engage in your own dismissive behavior. To answer you with reason and calm discourse is to invite your further abuse.

Today I am distraught. It was not a single assassin who strode into that rally on a peaceful Saturday afternoon in Tuscon and fired a gun at a beautiful and articulate young woman because of her beliefs. It was a deliberately generated wave of emotion that has swept over the political landscape and has now colored our streets with blood.

Your metaphor has become the reality and its name is murder.

Shadow Boxing

January 5, 2011

I’m better now, I guess. But it seems my battle has only begun. How do you explain an ailment that doesn’t exist?

When I contracted Lyme Disease the world had been dumped on its head by an economic cataclysm. I didn’t even know a tick had bitten me. I was too busy trying to figure out how to keep myself going as the financial services world I’d made my living from collapsed in ruin and ground my psyche to pulp. I felt bad: physically bad. Fatigue and heart palpitations were daily companions. After a brief stint with a therapist to try to deal with what I thought were psychological issues, I finally got clobbered by a raging infection from a bunch of bacteria who had been lurking inside and decided to have a party on one of my cranial nerves. The match was on.

The story of my medical treatment is passionate but lacks universality in the Lyme world. Besides, I’ve told it before. The next part is less revealing about me, but more important to us (my LymeBuddies, that is). I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

The world doesn’t manage well with things that are not readily visible or currently explainable. Chronic Lyme Disease fits neatly in that niche. I have no idea what it is but I know that it is. I’m sure that there will
be an explanation one day, but right now I am free from the spirochetes that infected me yet burdened by the damage they’ve wrought. The burden isn’t obvious to those who don’t know me well, but it’s heavy inside. I deal quietly with it and I’m glad to be back to a place where I can function with relative ease and
vitality.

Yet I meet people daily who are less fortunate. They are labeled lazy, malingerers, psychotics or worse. The victims of Lyme come in many hues. Certainly it’s easy to imagine poor souls who find refuge in feigned illness, but the real Lyme folks I’ve met in the past two years demonstrate to me that such a conclusion is both unkind and unwarranted.

A woman, a loving wife who is raising two robust boys and working two jobs, collapses in the middle of a road race. She’s barely able to get up in the morning and put her socks on. She’s unable to shave her underarms because she can’t raise her hands above her hips. She sees a doctor and she’s told she has psychological problems. Perhaps a “woman’s thing.” But she’s stubborn and begins to make the medical rounds until, finally, yetanother test confirms a diagnosis: Lyme Disease. She get’s her treatment and goes back to her life. She runs a damn marathon. She’s fine, right? Not really. I know her. I see her when she’d rather not be seen … on the days she needs a nap in the morning and her bones ache.

An owner of a construction supply company (a self-made man) becomes ill. Probably a flu. Yet it lingers and he can’t get enough sleep to keep from dozing off at his desk. He’s told it’s stress. He needs to relax more and eat better. Then one day, he’s rushed to the hospital … heart attack! “Sorry, no, your heart’s fine,” he’s told, “but we ran your blood tests again. You’ve got Lyme Disease.” He’s treated with massive intravenous antibiotics and his symptoms subside. He goes back to his normal life. Well, kind of. Three years later he still has confusion sometimes, bouts of fatigue drain him and the left side of his face
is still numb but it doesn’t show. The joint pain is a killer when the weather takes a turn but he never complains. His employees whisper behind his back. They think he’s become lazy in his success.

A feisty doctor (a highly regarded M.D. here in Maine) comes down with Lyme Disease and fights valiantly against it. Ravaged for over a decade, she struggles on, founds the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society and, finally, dies this August at 57. “Oh,” say many who never met her, “but she didn’t die from Lyme Disease.” “Well,” I reply, “people don’t die from A.I.D.S. either.”

A world-class rock musician is diagnosed with everything from Lupus to MS until, finally, Lyme presents
itself. For three years he fights but the symptoms persist. He lives alone. Crippled by pain, fatigue and confusion he’s unable to leave his home. He can’t play. Finally he ends the suffering. By choice. It’s reported as a suicide. I suppose the report is correct, but that’s not the story.

These are all people I’ve seen. I’ve looked into their eyes. We don’t make this stuff up. And yet, I find myself sparring with a phantom who seems invisible to the rest of the world. I no longer engage in discussions about medical treatments, divine intervention or holistic cures. I focus on spreading the word that there are bobs and weaves, feints, clenches and subtle footwork that can keep the match going until someone figures out a knock down punch or at least an effective combination of jabs and uppercuts. The first step, of course, is getting the audience to acknowledge that there’s actually someone else in the ring.

Please join the fight. Others can deal with cures and remedies. I just need your help dispelling the myth. Chronic Lyme Disease isn’t a figment of deranged minds.

It’s as real as your shadow.

A Lesson in Open Tunings

December 31, 2010

Stringed instruments have always held a soft spot in my heart. I fumble at proficiency and, over time, they have revealed many secrets that give me great pleasure. This Christmas I discovered another and I’ll share it with you.

Just tune up and play your best ... That's all that really matters.

I’m still trying to recover, financially and medically, from the havoc that Lyme Disease and the collapse of the financial markets wreaked on my life. With help from friends, good doctors and (most importantly, my dear sister) I’m almost back in the game of life. But this year, my resources were not what they’d been in years gone by. I spent some meager funds on presents hand-made by a lady with Lyme Disease for my two daughters, re-gifted a treasured jazz CD to my son-in-law and made luscious cookies for everyone else. It felt like Christmas was out of tune.

Arriving at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, I was surrounded by the arms and sweet squeals of a dozen or more nieces, nephews and even grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

“It’s Uncle Cris! And he brought his guitar!” they chimed. Music to charm the anxious beasts.

A beautifully adorned pine stood proudly in my sister’s living room, surrounded by a sea of presents wrapped in gilded paper and fanciful ribbons. A table for 15 or 20 (depending on who showed up) was set in Victorian splendor overflowing with Yuletide fare.

My contribution to the festivities was a plate of cookies.

“A bit of a sour note,” I thought to myself.

Following the meal, the assembled family gathered round the tree. My sister looked dead at me and said, “You’ll need to sit down for this.”

“Oh, dear,” I whispered to her. “Please, no, I have nothing to give you …” But she stopped me with a finger to her lips.

I opened the rather large package with a mixture of tears and dread. Inside was a banjo. It was old, in disarray and virtually unplayable – yet it was a banjo. Something I’d always wanted but never acquired for myself. A banjo she’d bought years ago for her husband and which he’d never gotten around to learning. A banjo which had been secreted away in her cellar for 15 years and was now upon my lap, held with great care and abounding love.

With a sheepish grin, I got out my guitar. I played carols for them, orchestrated harmonies among my nieces and nephews and smiled at my sister throughout. When we’d finished the children smiled at me. Something important had happened, but I couldn’t get my arms around it.

That night I returned home as blizzard hit Maine and blew for the next two days. I spent that time before the fireplace disassembling, adjusting and then reassembling my banjo. A re-tensioning of the head, a slight neck adjustment, a new strings and a resetting of the bridged worked wonders. I tuned it to an open G.

I played. It sang.

And in that fleeting instant I knew what had happened at my sister’s house. I was the drummer boy. I had no gifts to bring and yet I’d brought the only gift that really mattered to them. As the Fox told the Little Prince, “That which is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I’m getting back in tune.

I wish for each of you a very Happy New Year, pa rum pum pum pum.

New Day

December 30, 2010

I’ve been away from WordPress for too long. I started this a few months ago and just got back to it. The message hasn’t changed though. As we approach the New Year, I thought it would be good to reflect.

Raising The Colors Again

An October dawn is moments away and the lobster boats are sliding slowly through the mouth of the Nonesuch River past Prouts Neck and into the Gulf of Maine. The last remnants of a hurricane, the steady winds from the Southwest, rip at the flag, bending the aluminum pole slightly to the left, then snapping it at its base. The beach is littered with broken lobster pots and fouled lines. The sky has cleared but dark clouds stand on the horizon as reminders of the peril so narrowly averted. It’s a visual metaphor that speaks to me about the nation and our new life after a different sort of storm.

We’ve come a long way since the pre-election fervor of 2008. That storm raged for months and was filled with passion ending with a stunning combination of joy and tragedy. A new president was elected in a remarkable victory for democrats, people of color and the voices of progressive change. In the very same instant, America was blasted by the winds of an economic typhoon that seemed to arise out of nowhere and sent wave after wave crashing against our financial, industrial and psychological shores. These were not separate events. They are intimately bound. The forces that spawned each arose from the same place: the failure of a society to understand that it’s continued success depends upon its citizens’ concern for others as much as their concern for themselves.

For over a decade the politics of America has been shaped by the notion that government is bad and the bigger it is the worse off we’ll be. Institutions and regulations put into place to temper the allure of personal gain at the expense of the public good were dismantled. Publicly funded education, health and social services were systematically berated and broken down on the theory that private enterprise could better serve the public good unfettered by government interference. The inarticulated premise was that private business, unencumbered by the constraints of government meddling was better suited to serving the public good than government itself. That was the flaw, for the only purpose of private business is to make money. The duty of a company is to make profits for it’s shareholders. Period.

Without control, that duty morphs into a greed driven short-sighted lust that has no concern for the good of society. Worse, it blinds the individuals at the helm to the perils in the company’s path. Harvesting every lobster you can makes for a great catch today, but is ultimately self-destructive and, more importantly, destructive of the entire industry.

We’ll have to get another flag pole and raise our colors once more. We’ll have to set our pots along the new shoals we’ve chosen to explore. We’ll have to recognize the dangers of business models that are too good to be true and unmask those who promote wretched excess as a way of life cloaked in a disingenuous banner of stars and stripes.

It’s harder than it sounds. Economies are much like ecologies and flagpoles: Appearing strong and invincible, they are actually fragile and can snap in a strong gale. The success of all systems requires deep understanding, constant maintenance and thoughtful oversight by those concerned more about sustainability than present rewards. Lobstermen understand that.

Gettin’ Back

July 29, 2010

Rediscover your spirit. Be LymeSexy!

A musician friend of mine named Marc Black wrote, “When you get back, you never get back to where you been, you always get back to where you’re going.”

Anyone can piss and moan about their problems, but rising above them is the only way to move on. With a chronic illness like Lyme Disease, it isn’t about being the same as you were before. You’ve been changed and whether that’s for better or worse is a function of your will.

That reality is hard to process. It requires folks to reach deep inside and find a spark of that joyful place that’s been crushed. To grab it and nurture it with an act of sheer will until it begins to glow again. The physical and medical battles are, of course, critical to recovery; but I believe, with no reservations at all, that the single most important piece is to understand that there is no recovery until you can rise above the fight and set your eyes on where you’re going and believe that you’ll get there.

I’m putting together a website dedicated to that single purpose. Providing the Lyme community with a forum for positive feelings in the depth of despair. A place where we can create emotional and financial support for others who are fighting their way back. A place where stories about compassion and strength in the face of adversity can inspire and where reliable direction to quality information can be resourced. It will be called (naturally enough) “LymeSexy.”

To that end, this message is intended to solicit your stories, blurbs, anecdotes, pictures and ideas for inclusion (anonymously or with full credit – your choice) in the site. The anticipated launch will be this Fall.

If you’re interested, send me an email. Address it to: LymeSexy@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you immediately. Please note: I don’t want financial contributions, just honest input (no, that’s too weak). I want your heart and soul.

By the way, you can listen to “When You Get Back” for free. Just give that title a “click.” It’s track #3 on Marc’s album, “Stroke of Genius,”  the sound track for an independent film about a truly inspirational recovery. Check it out: you’ll be surprised at who else is playing with him.

Thanks,

-Cris