My post last week, “Plumbing the Issues,” has raised what I think is a very welcome discussion because it is an important one.

Two readers commented. The first discussed my remarks about people who I refer to as uninformed voters: those from low-income, white, rural areas who vote for conservative moral issues over political issues. I myself am from a rural area (central Kansas) and know people who fit into this uninformed category. I do not believe that voting for moral issues alone will do anything to help this country. One sentence from his comment read, “It might be more important to ‘safeguard the morals of the country’ by prohibiting gay marriage than to have health care that will pay for orthodontics.” Though it is the reader’s right to vote this way, I think it’s unbelievable that people would rather prohibit someone else from having rights rather than cast a vote that could help themselves and their families live better lives.

Furthermore, you cannot weigh these issues—gay marriage and health care—against each other, which is exactly my point. In a time when economics, health care, the educational system, and foreign affairs have reached a low point, people are voting for a person, in this case John McCain, just because he is against gay rights. If they listened more closely to McCain, they’d find out he is going to raise their taxes and endanger their jobs instead of helping their children to get better medical care, funding public education, and giving Americans some much-needed tax relief. Incidentally, the uninformed population does not include every single person that lives in a low-income, predominately white rural area; being uninformed just happens to be a growing statistic in these parts of the country.

Secondly, the comments about Joe the Plumber need clarification. According to a scan of the greater Toledo area phone book, no plumbing company exists in Holland, Ohio, that employs a Samuel (“Joe the Plumber”) Wurzelbacher as a plumber or is currently for sale for $250,000–$280,000. I did, however, call a Kansas friend who is indeed a plumber. He said if that’s how much the Ohio company is worth, then “it’s probably just one master plumber and an apprentice, and that’s still a pretty good take for whoever the master is.” According to Associated Press writer John Seewer, good ol’ Joe isn’t even a licensed plumber—and, in fact, he owes back taxes—so I doubt he’ll even be able to buy a plumbing company, no matter who gets elected. Of course, if Wurzelbacher stands to collect fees for all the talk shows he’s getting ready to appear on, he might be able to buy every plumbing company in the Toledo area. If that was his plan all along, he is a genius. There’s nothing like manipulating the media to get what you want.

Lastly, I need to retract the statement I said about the editors of our journal being intellectuals. The term doesn’t mean the same thing for all of us and I did not mean to wrongfully label anyone. I do not speak for all of us and I shouldn’t have last week. I am sorry.

Healthy discussion of the issues is a right not everyone in this world has. That we are able to post our views on the Internet and have them read by any number of people is indeed a privilege. Not all of my articles will be geared toward political issues; we just happen to be approaching a monumental election now that demands that people discuss these very important topics. I invite the discussion, and I’m hopeful everyone around the country will sit down with their kids, their parents or their co-workers and talk about what needs to happen. Be smart on November 4.



Friday, October 17, 2008

After my doctor’s appointment, I got on the train. (I had a biopsy done on my neck and now I must wait three days for the results.) I don’t want to get the call…find out I’ll have to get cut open.

Being open and exposed is a very difficult thing to handle.

“I can’t understand people who don’t help people. There is a moment when indifference turns into sheer psychosis,” says the woman, begging for change on the 6 train.

No one gave her anything.
I didn’t give her anything?
What did I not want to see?

I get off in Union Square.
The open market.
Bright sunflowers. Salvia in deep shades of velvet purple.
Organic tomatoes. Pumpkins and spotted gourds, like mini Pollock paintings.
The sun is soft, but still it’s a little cold. The weather is changing.

I think of my Brooklyn apartment. The Super has to control the monstrous heater in the basement. The heater that pumps out the heat, equally to all of us.

In Los Angeles I didn’t have to depend on someone else to turn on the heat.

No one wants to feel vulnerable.

I stop at a cider stand.
I wait. The line is long. Everyone wants a swallow of Fall.
A feeling of gold and red leaves. Apples and pumpkins in their bellies.
Do I want apple or pear?
I decide on apple.

Why didn’t I give the woman some money?
I don’t have a lot of money.
But I had something to give. Something to show I wasn’t sleeping.
A granola bar in my purse, at least.

A lady in a black lace dress plays the harp. Her arms are bare, exposed to the fragments of sunlight. The music is yellow and round. It captures and demands our attention.

People sip their cider while listening to the harp. I fish for a dollar in my purse, drop it in her velvet box. “Thank you,” she says.

I put my fingers on my neck,
feel the place where the needle went in.

No one wants to feel vulnerable.

The woman spit out her list:
Husband lost his job three months ago.
A horrible death in the family.
Dangerous nights in a shelter.

When was the last time she had cider?

What is reality?
What is Psychosis?

Obama and McCain debate macro issues,
while mothers with strollers lull their children, with the music of the harp.

No one wants to feel vulnerable.
Indifference leads to the denial of one’s own vulnerability.

I keep walking.
I see a Chasidic Jew with the lulav and etrog.
Four plant species you bundle together and shake in five directions for the holiday, Sukkot. A piece of palm. A piece of willow. A piece of myrtle. The etrog like an oblong lemon. They shake it to remind themselves that God is everywhere.

I walk up to the man.
I need to remember that life is everywhere.
I repeat the prayers. Hold the lulav and etrog.

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.

I like that I’m not afraid of doing this.
That I am not embarrassed in a crowd of difference.

As I continue walking, a man dressed in white hands me a Bhagavad-Gita. I smile and say, “Thank you.”

Back on the Subway, I let the orange seats fly by, close my eyes and breathe.

What If I had needed the biopsy when I first moved to New York?
When I had no health insurance.
What if the woman on the 6 train needs a biopsy?
Was the deceased family member that she spoke of insured?

Neglect increases vulnerability.
Indifference is the denial of one’s own vulnerability.

“The number of uninsured Americans reached 47 million in 2006, and it continues to rise. For many of the uninsured, the lack of health insurance has dire consequences. The uninsured face medical debt, often go without necessary care, and even die prematurely.” (Reports from Families USA, March – April 2008)

When people are absent they are not there.
When people are absent they are not there.
When people are absent they are not there.
When people are absent they are not there.
When people are absent they are not there.

Being open and exposed is a very difficult thing to handle.