Musings from George


Amalgam
April 2, 2007, 8:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Amalgam is one of those weird words that I mispronounced most of my life because so much of my vocabulary comes from reading, rather than conversation.  One of the great innovations on the Merriam-Webster site is the “speak this” feature, which you can try here:

http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/amalgam

So, I decided to share a collection of random thoughts rather than a cohesive story tonight. It’s late, this is all free, and you don’t have to read it :^)

 1. I cried at the gym this week. Not because I’m overweight (okay, maybe) or lazy (okay, maybe) — but because I was reading the “special edition” of Newsweek comprised of letters from soldiers who have died in Iraq. My nephew made it home whole from three rotations there, but as I coaxed my young son to sleep I had that unnerving moment — what would I do if he wanted to be a Marine? if we had a draft? I’m quite sure I would have served if asked, but I don’t know if today I would feel the same way. Bush has squandered the country’s faith in our global role, and waged a unilateral war for the first time in history (quibble about the Spanish-American war if you want to, but Korea and the Vietnam war had support from Western governments. Grenada doesn’t count, nor Panama — gotta last more than four hours). I don’t think this is just being a parent, because I wouldn’t go to fight in Iraq now and would have been seriously disillusioned if I enlisted after 9/11 and then learned about the paper-thin mockery of a justification we created to invade Iraq. Oh well…

2. A friend chided me about charitable donations. I give a lot of money to charity, and it’s frustrating when people (or organizations) make it difficult to give. This friend is doing a charity walk, yet the main website for the organization has no search capabilities and no way to find your friend to sponsor. Second link was as useless as the first…so there is learning to be done by our nonprofits.

3. Health care! Aaaargh. My mother puts up with Kaiser because she can’t afford better. She accepts a miserable personal physician because “the next one might be worse”. She accepts monthlong delays for treatment, and accepts treatment from a woman who has NO understanding of her underlying ills (geriatric, manic depressive, diabetic, overweight, arthritic… her doctor is young, thin, fit, Asian  and out of touch). Why is it that the largest economy in the world (5% of the population enjoying 25% of the fruits of the world’s labor) puts up with such substandard care?

4. Pets. People spend more on pet food in the US than we give to foreign countries by a wide margin. As a nation, we spend as much on veterinarian care as we spend caring for our elderly. When did we decide that a 15-year-old poodle who needs a blood transfusion is more important than feeding a village in Darfur? How have we gotten so out of touch with the world, and so focused on our own pets?

5. Job. I’m frustrated right now in my job. What’s the best way to fix it or find a better one?

6. Charity.  Discussing religion and soul with a friend, he mentioned that his litmus test for a person’s goodness was how they treat the homeless (and in particular, whether they look the homeless person in they eye). I have to say that I have fed more homeless people than 99% of the country, and I always look people in the eye — but I also don’t think it makes me a better person than 99% of my fellow Americans. It’s a strength I have, and a confidence (I’m tall & somewhat fit, and haven’t been in a real fight since fifth grade) that allows me to walk in dangerous places without really worrying. But my friends who devote their lives to teaching or who spend their spare time working to improve lives in third-world countries make my gifts look paltry, and your friends may do the same for you. What’s a good measurement and target for individuals to set for “worthiness”? I have embraced the concept of karma, that we are what we do — do more good, and good things happen to you. It’s an embodiment of the Golden Rule with a sense of keeping score, which appeals to me.

George

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