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The Fourth of July 2007

category_bug_politics.gif 231 years ago today, members of the Second Continental Congress signed a document declaring the 13 colonies to be independent from the oppressive government of King George III of Great Britain. And then they fought a war to establish The United States of America.

Speaking at Gettysburg 144 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln declared the importance of this founding document when he said,

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

This week, with the president's commutation of the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, we the people of the United States have been shown - not for this first time during the administration of this modern-day George - that today all men are NOT created equal in the United States. Libby, convicted of the felony crimes of perjury, lying to federal investigators and obstruction of justice, will serve less time than Paris Hilton.

It is appropriate, therefore, while we enjoy the parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks displays that celebrate the ideals on which this country was founded, that we remind ourselves of those principles and note the remarkable resemblance between the indictment in the words of the men of the Second Continental Congress and how our government operates today.

Declaration of Independence
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz explains how her five-year-old ruined a man's day in Chris and the Encyclopedia Salesman.]

Medical Indignities

category_bug_journal2.gif Thank you for your concern yesterday about my colonoscopy and most of all for the compelling conversation on the topic. The procedure itself was a lot easier than the preparation, as Millie Garfield of My Mom’s Blog noted in comments yesterday. It took a mighty effort not to vomit that disgusting stuff and I’m relieved that the doctor says I won’t need to do this again for five years.

Judy left a comment I could have written word-for-word:

“When I made the appointment for the test the clerk told me it was required that someone accompany me to the clinic and be available to drive me home. I protested that I had no one to do that (that was true as I have no family in the area at all and I would not ask a friend to take off work). My plan had been to take a taxi to the clinic and back home. The lady said they could not allow that as the taxi driver might "take advantage" of me and the clinic would be liable. I thought that was ridiculous!”

In my case, the clinic clerk had informed me that a taxi is not allowed because my “safety is their primary concern.” Of course, both reasons are nonsense. The clinic has no liability for taxi drivers’ behavior nor can they guarantee (in practice or in law) that a friend will necessarily ensure one’s safety.

We had quite a go-round about my return home until I capitulated by asking my young, downstairs neighbor to act as my driver. He’s a nice kid, a young, up-and-coming musician, and we have become friends. But I didn’t relish the inevitable question of “I hope it’s nothing serious” and having to explain.

It turned out all right, but the issue that bothers me is the insistence by the clinic that the driver be a friend or relative.

Let’s be clear: there is no liability to the clinic if anyone – taxi driver or otherwise - crashes the car or if the patient falls while entering his or her home. And in my case, a clinic employee insisted on walking me to my friend’s car so if I fell on their property, she was there to help. Therefore, the refusal to perform a colonoscopy without my signed assurance of a friend driver places an unwarranted obstacle in the path of one’s healthcare.

It took 15 years for a doctor to talk me into a colonoscopy and I had been willing to forgo it over the driver issue until it occurred to me to ask my neighbor who happened to be free yesterday morning. Fortunately, the clinic is only 15 minutes from our condominium. Had it been twice that long or more, I doubt I would have asked.

There is also the indignity of it. Because I am independent to a fault, I am undoubtedly making too much of this, but I felt infantilized. I’ve been taking care of myself since I was 17 years old. I may be stupid about healthcare in general (see Monday’s post), but I’m not an idiot; I know when to ask for help. Yesterday, it was not needed.

Like Millie, I was also told to take it easy for the rest of the day, not to drive and to avoid stairs even though I was previously advised that there is no hangover from the anesthesia after 20 minutes. Also like Millie, I was fine. Directly from the clinic, I took my neighbor out for a spicy, Indian lunch. (I was a mite hungry after 28 hours without food.) Later, I trudged up and down the 14 stairs to my apartment three times taking garbage out for the trash collectors and later drove to the store.

Now I'm wondering if the propensity of doctors and clinicians to treat patients as children, particularly when common sense contradicts their directives, is a cause of my reluctance to spend much time with them. I respect their superior knowledge of medicine itself and rely on it when it is needed, but I'd like a little respect for my intelligence. It would be better to be treated more like a grownup.

Otherwise, all went well. The doctor, nurses and helpers were kind, efficient and answered all my nitpicky questions - although the clinic, which specializes in gastroenterology, did feel like an assembly line of naked bums.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Virginia DeBolt returns with a funny story titled Laughing in Loving that also reminds us of the golden pleasures of old friends.]

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

category_bug_journal2.gif “Have they grown?” he asked for the thousandth time? That was my former husband speaking (about 40 years ago) in reference to several small, soft protrusions on his lower back.

That they had been diagnosed as harmless sebaceous cysts that, depending on whether they got in his way could be removed or not, made no difference in his hypochondria which included uncounted numbers of other imaginary health worries he plagued me with during six years of marriage. Hardly a day went by without several such questions.

I deal differently with bodily occurrences that might be health alerts; I ignore them. Or, rather, I note them and wait to see if they get worse. The few that do, in my case, almost always involve teeth which - I have learned the hard way - share a property with water leaks: they never improve on their own.

Aside from dental problems, I have lived 66 remarkably healthy years for which I am grateful. I hardly ever see a doctor which, when I think about it at all, I attribute to my impatience with physicians’ poking and prodding, medical tests of all varieties and my belief that bodies ought to just chug along supporting our psyches and selves until it is time to die.

You and I both know this is stupid. In my lifetime there have been astounding medical advances many of which involve sophisticated tests that can detect health problems early when they can be successfully treated.

Nevertheless, when a physician suggests these tests, I resist those that involve anything more complicated than blood letting or peeing in a cup. So I am surprised that somehow my new doctor here in Portland, Maine, convinced me to have my first-ever colonoscopy which I am undergoing today as some of you read this.

In the weeks since this exam - so invasive that it requires anesthesia - was scheduled, I have thought more about my health than during any comparable period in my life. I have

  1. examined my stupidity (without vowing to change)
  2. made several mental tours of my body to see if I detect anything out of the ordinary (no)
  3. wondered how my life will change if the results of this colonoscopy are anything other than positive (I don’t want to know)

That third item, I have decided, is what accounts for the first.

In past discussions of late life fears on this blog, an overwhelming majority don’t want to become burdens to their children or other loved ones. I share that and we do what we can in advance to avoid it.

But statistics show that 80 percent of elders live independently until they die, and the larger fear for me is becoming a professional patient, of remaining independent and capable of caring for myself while having to manage one or more diseases or conditions that involve continuing tests, treatment, multiple medications and all that poking and prodding doctors do that I dislike so much.

This is not a crippling fear and it rarely surfaces until, like today, I subject myself to something that could increase the amount of time I spend in a physician’s office, hospital or laboratory. I prefer to stick my head in the sand and avoid both doctors and tests as much as I can reasonably do without being more than about 75 percent stupid.

In my consideration, these past weeks, of this stupidity, I have decided that it is just a more subtle form of hypochondria than my former husband’s. Its saving grace is that, today’s post notwithstanding, I don’t inflict it on other people.

When I was a little girl, my father took me out one evening for Chinese dinner. He parked the car across from the restaurant and as he took my hand to cross the street in the middle of the block, he warned, “Don’t do this yourself. Do as I say, not as I do.”

In regard to healthy living, I suggest the same for you.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior relates a personal Alfred Hitchcock moment in a true tale titled The Birds.]