Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Politics”

Defining Insanity – Why Do We Still Do It?

I cannot name the author of the following expression, well, because it is just too confusing.  Rumors attribute to Einstein, Ben Franklin, and others, depending on who you wish to give the credit.  But as argument to who the author is does not change the quote.

“The definition of insanity, is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result.”

For decades, this is exactly what we, as a society have been doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.  School shooting – express shock, pray for victims, forget.  Teen suicide – express shock, deny signs that might have prevented, pray, forget.  A trusted staff member violates children sexually – express shock, deny, forget.  All three of these issues have been in the spotlight recently.  I have written many posts about all of these issues.  Sadly, my posts prove the point about defining insanity.

12 year old Gabriella Green hung herself January 10th of this year.  One fellow teen decided to trash Gabriella on social media with horrific rumors and innuendo.  Devastated, she expressed to another fellow pre-teen, she had tried to kill herself, to which her “friend” told her over a phone call, “just do it.”

Bailey Holt was just 15 years old, before she was killed (along with another 15 year old student) and more than a dozen injured after being shot, in school by a fellow classmate.

I am posting the picture of the judge in the case, as opposed to the 150 victims of a sexual predator, a once trusted staff doctor of several sports programs including Olympic athletes.  During sentencing, which the perpetrator received over 175 years and is not eligible for parole for at least 90 years, the judge expressed, “I just signed your death warrant.”

All three situations, it is the same thing, over and over, and yet we expect different results.  This is insane.  Innocent children are dying, or at the very least, having their lives destroyed, because we cannot come up with anything better than the usual, express shock/pray/move on.

We have to start someone.  Parents need to be in control of their childrens’ social media if they are going to allow their children to be on it.  I am a firm believer in allowing my daughters, who happen to be similar in ages to victims in all three of these situations, to have certain freedoms, but given the atmosphere, and the reluctance of entities we trust with our children to protect our children, I still, as a parent have to be that first line of defense.  I do not believe my daughters to be on social media (actually neither has any interest in it currently), but when they do decide to engage, I want their user name and password.  At least until they are 18 years of age, that is not only my right, but my responsibility.  Gabriella and so many others may have had help to deal with their angst instead of feeling isolated and hopeless.

As for the school shooting, I am tired of the argument from both sides, “need common sense gun control” or denial from our representatives of government or the NRA.  The fact is, neither give a shit that we now have school shootings nearly once every week.  We are supposed to believe that our children will be safe in school.

I graduated in 1983.  Shortly after that, police officers were soon being used in the schools, as well as metal detectors.  As an alumni of one of the first schools outside of a major city to use these options, it was embarrassing.  But seriously, a government that will not do anything, and most school districts more interested in protecting the rights of the bully over the victim, what other options are there?

And how many people knew about this monster, trusted to treat student athletes only to sexually violate them, and did nothing.  Yes, it is a double edge sword.  Yes, the whole “innocent until proven guilty.”  Yes, the whole “turn your back for the good of the program” or “if you want your success, you will stay silent.”  These horrific acts were committed against these children, and those who needed to protect them, turned their backs.  And just who else might have known this was going on and did nothing?

As far as I am concerned, if you know something is a possibility, and you do nothing to voice that concern, you are complicit, allowing the action to commence further.  Just because it has not happened to your child, does not make it okay that you did not speak up.  Again, having two daughters the same age as the victims in all three of these scenarios, this hits real close to home.  I have many friends who have lost children, permanently, witnessed their never ending grief.  And I am sure they would say the same thing, to do nothing is to take their lives, if at the very least, their innocence away.

If you suspect something, address it calmly, rationally, and legally.  At the very least, you put the possible perpetrator on notice.  But to do nothing, someone vile who is actually continuing their abusive acts, will only keep at it.  And that is what would make you complicit.

All three of these situations could have ended differently, but instead, our society keeps doing the same thing, over and over again.  Youth suicides.  School shootings.  Sexual abuse by those in positions we trust – coaches, doctors, clergy, teachers, etc.

It starts with a communication and involvement.  Be involved with your child’s life.  Make sure that your child can come to you and confide in you.  Make sure that your child knows that you will protect them.  And then back that with actions.


“Aetna ‘Screw You'”

I am just going to warn you, right away, I am furious about this post.  I am typing it “raw”, in other words, I am not going to edit the content.  I want to make sure that you get as angry or upset as I am.  Because this should not be happening.

 (photo courtesy of CNN)

This is 15 year old Cara Pressman.  Since the age of 9, she has dealt with seizures (epilepsy).  While I have not personally experienced seizures, I know of a few friends who do, for a long time.  And other than being on medication to control these seizures, that was the only hope my friends had to keep them under control, but not cure.

There is a surgical option, I guess what can be described as a craniotomy, cutting open the skull to expose the brain, to perform the procedures necessary to hopefully provide relief from the seizures.  But a newer option gives even more hope, with less risk, less invasive and faster recovery.  Instead of the craniotomy, just a small hole is drilled into the skull to perform a laser ablation, which destroy the lesions on the brain that cause the seizures.  For those who suffer with these seizures, the process finally offers them quality of life, not the nightmare they face otherwise.

Sounds simple enough.  Patient and her family want the surgery.  The doctors say she is a candidate.  She has health insurance.  There was only one problem.  Her insurance carrier is Aetna, one of the biggest health insurance carriers in the country.  I have written before the statement, “insurance companies are not in business to spend money.”  But with the Epilepsy Foundation approving this method, and the FDA approving this equipment for this surgery, and the ablation surgery itself is cheaper than the older and barbaric method, sure AETNA would approve the ablation.

AETNA denied Cara the procedure.  AETNA declared the ablation procedure experimental.  There were not enough studies done on the procedure.  Forget what the doctors, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the FDA have stated… safer, precise, and cheaper.  AETNA was not convinced this was in the best interest of the patient.

It has been reported that Cara continues to have the seizures, many times a week.

This goes beyond the BIG2 of greediest contributors to unaffordable healthcare, insurance and big Pharm.  An insurance company, who has never seen the patient, overruled what the doctor, who personally knows the patient.  I do not buy for one minute that this was in the best interest of the patient as AETNA claims.  But what does not make sense, is that it does not seem that money – profit – can play a role because the ablation is cheaper.

But this situation brings us right back to the same argument.  Whether you belong to either political party or none, for us to have the best knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the best health care in the world, but to ration it, or make it only affordable to those that can pay for it, or else you suffer or die, situations like this are a travesty.  The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, and what our current government is going to do to health care is far worse.  Healthcare is a right, and should be a right for every US citizen, but it is not.  But if everyone were guaranteed healthcare as we should, situations like Cara’s would not happen.

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 1988, my insurance carrier was not going to cover my treatments if performed in the office.  They needed to be done in the hospital as an outpatient.  There was a hug psychological difference, which I believe would have been crucial for my success.  And it took my employer to improve our insurance coverage.

In 2008, my family doctor, who knows me well enough that I do not complain about ailments and aches and pains, ordered a cardiac test on a then 42 year-old, that should never have been ordered given my age.  But my complaints were serious.  She was not aware that my treatments had caused several late effects, but the most critical was a 90% blockage of the main artery to my heart caused by radiation damage.  But would it not been for her to be allowed to make the decision, regardless if the insurance company felt it was not necessary, I would be dead.

In quality of life, or in saving a life, doctors need to be doctors.  Insurance companies need to butt the Hell out, especially when under normal circumstances decisions are based on greed and profit.  This situation for Cara just makes no sense.

Cara’s response to AETNA’s denial, “SCREW YOU!”  Pretty strong for a 15 year-old.  I would not have been as restrained.  I am hoping that enough people protest the monsters at AETNA for the very ill-informed decision, and they allow Cara to get the better, safer, and less expensive procedure.

Then again, universal health care would give each and every patient access to the best health care that the US has, and without the interference of a greedy insurance company.  Cara is not alone in this position.  There are many others who suffer with these seizures.

***Cara’s story was published on CNN.COM.

When The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

Like many Americans, I was shocked to hear the news about a prominent broadcaster being accused of sexual harassment.  This seems to be a wave that is growing into a tsunami as more and more popular figures are exposed by accusers from actors and producers, to newscasters, and politicians.  This is not the first time we have had to deal with sexual deviants in the national news as it was all to common to hear not so long ago about the local sectors of public servants such as teachers and clergy.

As a child, my “manhood” was not realized until the television show “I Dream Of Jeannie” came along.  I am not saying that I turned into a crazed dog in heat because of the show, but it was during the show that I finally began to realize that there was a physical difference between genders.  But at no time did I ever “feel” differently.  The show to me was nothing more than about an astronaut who finds a Jeannie in a bottle, and the slapstick and mayhem begins.

Growing up in a house of women (grandmother, great aunt, mother, and sister), with no other men in the house, I am a bit more sensitive when it comes to respecting women, because that is what I was taught.  With my parents divorced, I missed the traditional father/son sitdown chats, or “sharing” Playboys that sometimes occurred.  As I began to date, and eventually marry, I always treated my significant other with the respect I was taught.

For the second time in less than a month, I watched members of a popular news show, discuss their feelings as to the revelations, that they were shocked to hear such horrific accusation about someone they felt  as a close friend and fellow colleague.  They struggled with their emotions to somehow find a way to accept the sexual harassment claims to be tied to some sort of physical or mental illness, something, something to say, this was not the man they knew.

In the work force, you spend a lot of time with your co-workers.  Friendships do develop, and sometimes, between consenting adults, other relationships develop.  But one thing is clear, harassment and assault are not acceptable anywhere.  I remember the whole sexual harassment conversation beginning with the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and sexual harassment accuser Anita Hill.  At that time, what it appeared to mean, at least in the work place, no more dirty jokes.  It did not matter if both genders participated in telling raunchy jokes, it needed to stop in the event that someone within ear shot, might possibly be offended.  But a few years later, I found myself in a situation very similar to the cast of the Today Show.

I had been serving on a Church Council with eleven others.  It was a Sunday night when I received a telephone call insisting that I attend an emergency council meeting that evening.  All members were required to attend.  No details were given.

As we all arrived, also seated at the table were both ministers, but also a regional bishop, very unusual for a church council meeting.  There was no easy way to hit us with the news we were told.  One of the ministers present, had been accused of having sex with a 16 year old girl while he resided in Germany.  The minister explained as much as he could, including a possible reason why this had come up, years after it had occurred.  He had been planning a trip back to Germany, with our youth choir, and the girl, now woman, found out, and decided to contact our church.

All of us sat around the table stunned.  The minister was quite popular, and in fact had rejuvenated an energy level in the church, not seen in quite some time.  Personally, he was a good friend to me as I struggled with my faith, having previously been diagnosed with cancer.  The other minister had no time for me, this minister did.  I knew his wife and had both of his children in the youth group that I led.  As the meeting continued, I found myself not so much concerned about what had happened in the past, but confused about what made no sense about a man I thought I knew.    But also, what about his future.  The bishop was in attendance because he was urging the council to take action to terminate the employment of the minister.  Always outspoken, I immediately challenged the bishop, expressing that the minister had admitted his wrongdoing, dealt with his family, and seemed genuine in his remorse.  The bishop was firm.  I went further as to why “rehabilitation” was not being considered as would be in the case of a minister with a gambling or alcohol problem, and the bishop made the mistake of saying “victims of sexual abuse are not as severe as those of alcohol.”  I was watching my friend, and his life, being destroyed.  And then, just as is still often done today, I tried to argue justification, or as it is called today, “victim shaming.”  I argued that the culture in Germany (and Europe) was not as uptight as here in the US, and that needed to be considered.  I was standing by my friend as he had stood by me in my time of need, as I believed he had turned his life around.

I am not really sure what happened, eventually we would part ways.  I was pivotal in getting him employment elsewhere, but then about a year later, he became distant, and our friendship appeared to have ended.

Why did I just tell this story?  Because as I watched both CBS, and NBC broadcasters struggle publicly with their feelings about someone close to them, being accused of sexual harassment or abuse, I remembered what happened so many years ago with that church council meeting.

But my feeling are much different now.  And I am ashamed that it took this reason for me to feel differently.  As the news interviews so many witnesses or opinion generators about the accused, especially men seem in unison, echoing that had it been their daughters being the victims, there would be hell to pay.  And it hit me.  I do have two daughters now, which I did not back at that council meeting.  I now have to have conversations with my daughters how to prevent being placed in a compromising position that would put them at risk.  And because they are children, I have assured them, that they are never to believe if someone tells them that either of their parents “will get hurt” if they tell anyone if someone tries to make them do something.  I have told them it is never okay for anyone to touch them inappropriately.  I have taught them, if it feels wrong, it is wrong.

I was raised to respect women.  And at one time,  I was blinded by a friendship as to accepting the horrible acts against a young girl by a person with power.

In recent weeks, several entertainers have faced accusations, as have producers, and politicians.  For me, I see the same problem still exists that existed years ago.  Deny.  Blame and shame the victim.  Hope it goes away.  Very rarely do we hear about members of the clergy in sex scandals, but it still happens.  The same with some teachers and students.  But now the spotlight is on the popular.  But just as those who are lower in popularity, all we hear is denials.  Those lower in popularity however, normally face legal consequences.  Not so much for the famous.  Especially not for the political world.

I can respect someone who has admitted what they have done wrong.  And even respect those seeking help.  But there is no respect for someone who denies what they have done, knowing full well there would be no legal consequences due to statutes of limitation.  From Bill Cosby to Louis CK, to Kevin Spacey, I no longer watch or listen to their works.  And the same goes for producers and directors.  At least Louis CK admitted his accusations.  Our government has many of the predators, and nearly all of them deny, deny, deny.  Again, only one has really come out and admitted anything, Al Franken.  Again, I respected and admired all the good that he had been doing in our government.  But not at the price of those who were victims of abuse of power.

And that is what it is.  An abuse of power.  The stories coming from NBC, which by the way, previously dealt with a prominent sportscaster and his perversions years ago and NBC obviously did not learn anything, are horrific.

For whatever reason, the political world has no ramifications, even with overwhelming and credible witnesses, even actual video and audio evidence.  Everyone who commits these acts, needs to be held accountable, and that includes those that represent us, including the president.  Even his own words have had no consequence.  No one has the right to treat anyone in this horrific manner.

I once worked for a major company, and we had annual “sensitivity” training.  But that is all it was, an annual seat at a computer station.  We gave the answers that the company needed to hear.

Peoples lives are and have been destroyed by sexual harassment.  Of course there is the family of the predator, but the victims who felt all they could do to survive would be to remain silent.  And those who did not remain silent, lost everything along with their job.

We need to take this seriously.  Yes, I feel differently.  And admittedly, it is because I have two daughters and I do not want them to have to deal with this in their adulthood.  I just wish I had felt this strongly back when I had to deal with it.


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