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Leave them on the Ice Floe to Die: Post Hospitalization Health Care in the United States

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Thank you all for your expressions of support, kind thoughts, positive waves, and prayers over the past few weeks. My wife Judy is doing well, her wound is no longer draining, the sutures are healing and it looks like her staples will come out Monday. She is pretty much able to take care of herself and it looks like she will have a good number of visitors while I am in Gettysburg.

Now this has been an interesting experience. You see when someone leaves the hospital after major surgery insurance companies, even good ones are loath to pay for any in-home care, so everything falls on the family of the person, in our case since we don’t have 19 kids to saddle with the work, that person is me. In fact for most people the work falls on their spouse or their significant other, or possibly a teenage kid.

Now I am lucky, I am a fairly senior military officer and I work in an academic setting where I do not have to deploy and have a command that is very supportive of whatever time I need to care for Judy. I don’t have to worry about my paycheck getting docked ort losing my job. Sadly, a majority of Americans have to worry about that if their family member is sick, or needs post surgery care. I think that is a terrible situation if you ask me; condemn Europeans as socialists who pay too much in taxes, but at least they get something for what they pay, most European countries have effective health care and social service systems that do not let people fall through the crack.

For a nation that considers itself the pinnacle of humanitarianism and which is supposedly “pro-life” the situation is shameful, and frankly I think we should be ashamed. We are not pro-life at all, even the people that call themselves that tend to be pro-birth and the hell with you after that, unless you are rich.

Interestingly enough the Commonwealth Fund, hardly a liberal institution, ranked the United States 11th of 11 developed western countries in terms of health care, including accessibility and outcomes, of course all of those countries are willing to have universal health care, and sorry even Obamacare is not socialized medicine, it is simply a modified version of the Heritage Foundation’s plan that they touted over a decade ago and similar to Romneycare. It still keeps the insurance companies in control of most healthcare decisions. If you want to see where the United States ranks here is the listing:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Switzerland
  3. Sweden
  4. Australia
  5. Germany & Netherlands (tied)
  6. New Zealand & Norway (tied)
  7. France
  8. Canada
  9. United States

The link to the Forbes Magazine article where you can find the report is here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/06/16/u-s-healthcare-ranked-dead-last-compared-to-10-other-countries/

But anyway, I digress. When a person leaves the hospital the family, with very few exceptions is lead to fend for themselves. Post hospital prescriptions may be covered by insurance, ours are, but nothing else is. If you need surgical pads, gauze, bandages, antiseptic wipes or a host of other potential needs, they come out of your pocket, thankfully mine are deep enough to handle these expenses, but think of the person who lives paycheck to paycheck and because they have to take unpaid leave are not getting a paycheck during their loved one’s illness.

When your loved one is recovering you become all the things that the hospital provides while they are an inpatient. You are nursing services, you get to check, clean and dress their wounds, make sure they get their medicines and monitor them for anything that might be going wrong. Now for me this is not a problem, I have a significant amount of medical background as a Medical Service Corps officer in the Army as well as a hospital chaplain working trauma, critical-care and ICUs. Blood, guts, bodily fluids, I can handle them; spot infection, got it; change dressings, and do other things that gross people out, can do. Again, I am lucky; I have training and experience but sadly when most people leave the hospital their untrained and inexperienced relatives get to do this. The family also is the nursing aid, the dietary service, rehab service, housekeeping and laundry service. It is a full time job, which most families are not, trained to deal with and many do not have the resources to do. Let’s say that because they have to pay rent the caregiver has to leave the recovering patient alone, they are hosed unless perhaps a friend or neighbor volunteers to do this, once again at no cost to the insurance company of the health care system.

For those that do not think that nurses earn their money they are sadly mistaken, nursing is hard, it is physical and emotional. I know why nurses only work 3-4 days before they get a break, it is demanding. Judy often tells me from previous experiences with me as her nurse that I graduated from the Leave Them on the Ice Floe to Die School of Nursing. Now with global warming and the ice flows all melting I had no place to put her so I really had to work hard. Actually, I didn’t mind it, I wanted to make sure that there were no complications and that nothing happened to her I really worked hard to care for her, and I wanted to do it. However, that being said that is what our health care system does to people when it puts them out of hospital, it leaves them and their families out on the ice flow and sadly the ice floes are disappearing. We need to really change how we do health care in this country before they are gone.

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So anyway, I am now on the way to Gettysburg to lead 20 students as well as some faculty and family members on my third staff ride of the year. Tomorrow and Sunday I will be out and about the battlefield teaching. I’ll post something short tomorrow night.

Again thank you and blessings

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Election 2016: The Coming Christian Holy War

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My friends, there is a Holy War that is about to overwhelm us, and it is not an Islamic Jihad. No it is a very American and allegedly Christian version of jihad, without the beheadings, at least for now. Pat Buchanan announced it in 1992 during the Republican National Convention:

“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

For those that do not know me well and just think that I am a run-of-the-mill liberal type, they need to understand that I was at one time a solid Republican who had strong ties to the religious right and though moderate almost always followed the party line on the issues supported by the political preachers of the religious right.

Frank Schaefer, the son of the late Dr. Francis Schaefer was one of the leaders of that movement. Eventually, he left it and has become a stalwart critic of the rabidly political nature of conservative Christianity in the United States, Evangelical and Roman Catholic alike. Schaefer has written and talked about how he and other leaders of the religious right in the 1970s and 1980s worked to build an alliance with the then, relatively secular Republican party. Though conservative, may Republicans, including men like Barry Goldwater, a conservative icon were suspicious of and opposed the goals of religious conservatives. In 1994, Goldwater who was the leader of the conservative takeover of the GOP told John Dean something that made Christian conservatives profoundly different from secular conservatives:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

The problem is unlike 1994 when the preachers were on the outside attempting to force the GOP into their ideological mold, they now are the leadership of the GOP. There is not one of the leading potential candidates that the GOP will field for the 2016 Presidential campaign who are not either wholly or in part either a leader, an ally or completely controlled by the religious faction of the GOP. Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and probably Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin as well. Some like Huckabee rate not only political leaders, but former pastors and religious leaders as well.

If Barry Goldwater was alive today he would oppose them all. He understood, even as an unabashed conservative that they were a dangerous crowd.

He contrasted them with old line conservatives:

“Well, I’ve spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the ‘Old Conservatism.’  And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics.  The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.” 

I came to realize that in 2008 when I returned from Iraq after having believed the lies for decades. When I finally began to speak out about what I saw I was kicked out of the very conservative and evangelical Anglo-catholic denomination that I had served as a priest for 14 years. Why? Because I openly stated that I believed that Gays could be Christians, that women should be allowed to be priests and that not all Moslems were bad. Since that time I have been castigated by many in my former denomination, including people who I thought were friends, not to mention of host of other Christian fanatics.

The fact is that to them, anyone who they think deviates from their interoperation of God’s law is the enemy. In fact if the religious conservatives now running the GOP every took all their reigns of government, after quashing all secular or religious dissent that they opposed would turn on each other. The alliance would split along ancient and unresolved theological lines, Catholics against Evangelicals in a struggle to establish the true government of God.

Most Democrats, progressives, secular conservatives or Libertarians cannot understand how such people think and what motivates them, simply because they are much more pragmatic and less motivated by religious ideology. President Obama is a good example. He like many others are willing to defy his liberal base to compromise, even if he does not get all that they want. This was a fatal flaw of what is now know as Obamacare. Instead of simply expanding Medicare for all, Obama used the plan of the Heritage Foundation which Mitt Romney used in Massachusetts. Obamacare is not socialized medicine. Far from it, it is a hand out to insurance companies who now feed at the government tax money feed stalls that they never had access to before.

But you have to understand the mindset, the theology, the history and the sense of destiny motivated by faith that these people bring to the table, even the most cynical and openly hypocritical of them.

Religious conservatives cannot do this, because for them it is not merely about temporal politics, it is about establishing “God’s law ” (as they interpret it) as the norm and are willing to use every means, constitutional or not, fair or unfair, kind or evil to accomplish their goals. Why can’t they compromise? Simply put, because to do so would be to deny God.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who oversaw the prosecution of the major war criminals at Nuremberg noted:

“[I]n our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds — that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous.” 

Goldwater stated on the Senate floor in 1981 about the danger of the religious conservatives, of which I was an early convert thanks to the Dominionist theology promoted by the Presbyterian Church that attended in college: Goldwater said:

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism….

Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution.  We conservatives believe sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution.  We treasure the freedoms that document protects. . .  “By maintaining the separation of church and state,” he explained, “the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars . . .  Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers?  Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?’ ”

Well my friends, those religious leaders now own the Republican Party. Those religious leaders are one in the same as the politicians they are influencing, and dare any stray from the reservation, as did Eric Cantor, they will be cast aside and replaced with a Christian religious extremist.Such is only possible where people adopt the theocratic presuppositions of the Christian Dominisionists, as so many have. Gary North, one of the prominent leaders of this movement whose reach goes to the heart of the “Conservative Christian” political movement and who has served as an advisor to both Ron and Rand Paul wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

My God, in what country could a disgraced, pathological liar, who had been court-martialed and cashiered by the Navy be elected to any office? But Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, was elected to the Colorado State Senate by a sizable margin and still keeps his extreme radio program. How can that be unless Goldwater was right?

Such people, even supposed faithful Roman Catholics  even condemn Pope Francis when he disagrees with their political ideology. Their hatred and need for control knows no bounds.

I came to realize too late the dangers of these people. I scoffed at Goldwater in the 1980s, and hesitated to believe him in the 1990s. Sadly it took me a tour in Iraq, visits to the Balkans, a lot more study, and getting thrown out of a church that I had faithfully served, to realize that I had been deceived. Sadly, I don’t think that most of my Christian brothers, smothered in the hateful dualistic “us versus them” ideology of the religious right will understand this.

Martin Niemoller, a German War hero of the First World War who became a pastor and hated the secular Weimer Republic. Out of that hate, Niemoller initially supported Hitler realized too late the evil that he had helped put into power. He ended up being jailed and put in a concentration camp for the duration of the war. He wrote:

“I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”

Niemoller’s fate will be the fate of the people who elect any of these religious extremists to the Presidency. My advice to any is neither to fall for their promises nor disbelieve their most hateful and incendiary proposals. Those lay at the heart of the movement, and millions of otherwise faithful Christians have already been decided by them. In fact, look around around you. You probably know a few.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Shutdown Dead Ahead

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“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.” Eric Hoffer “The True Believer 

It looks like tomorrow I will go to work and get to hear how the Republican and Tea Party Shutdown of the government will impact my senior military schooling. I do know that at least some classmates will be sent home to their parent commands approximately 3 1/2 weeks into a 10 week course required by law for them to serve in either their current or projected assignments. Likewise much of our civilian faculty and staff will be sent home leaving those of us working to complete the course without their knowledge and experience as well as what we will lose when our fellow students are sent home. I will remain because unlike most I am being assigned as faculty to the school that I am attending.

It seems strange for me, a man who spent almost his whole life in the military as well as a member of the Republican Party until my return from Iraq in 2008 to watch this debacle occur and to understand that those in the GOP leadership pushing hardest for the shutdown really don’t care.

Listen, I get the fact that a lot of people on the political right do not like the Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare.) However it was passed in both houses of Congress, signed into law and been ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court. However throwing a tantrum and shutting down the government is not how our founders envisioned the repeal of laws. Their remedy was to win elections, repeal unpopular laws, even Constitutional amendments  through the legislative process even if it took a while. In fact there are numerous examples of this including my favorite the repeal of Prohibition.

However it appears now that the members of the radical minority of the Tea Party and GOP House of Representatives caucus and freshman Senator Ted “Green Eggs and Ham” Cruz want to make the entire government shut down to try to win their point. Unfortunately for everyone their irresponsible actions will cost the country billions of taxpayer dollars, not to mention the economic impact in the private sector, something that Wall Street and the American Chamber of Commerce are warning are dangerous to our economy. But then let us not forget that we are supposedly, if you believe in American Exceptionalism “a city set on a hill” then you have to realize that what is happening tonight is resonating with people around the world.

Those who looked to American democracy as a model or example are looking elsewhere and who would blame them? The Chinese Communists are completely amoral but their system seems to be working. Now I don’t think it to be superior and they too have problems but that is not what the world sees. Likewise nearly every advanced nation on the planet, almost all of which are Western democracies have some form of Government funded health care. I have many friends around the world and most, even military men wonder what the hell is going on with our politicians.

Why is this happening? The real fact of the matter is that this has nothing to do with the budget. It has nothing even to do with the Constitutionality of the AHCA. It is a power play to try to humiliate a sitting President who won not one, but two elections by convincing margins. Some of the grand standing by those in the GOP has been more than crass. One House Representative compared their action to the brave passengers of Flight 93 on 9-11 quoting Todd Beamer “Let’s roll.” When I heard that I was both saddened and angered, having been on active duty before and after 9-11 and having served multiple tours in the Arabian Gulf or Iraq I found the entire display offensive and almost Talibanesque.

The fact of the matter is that this isn’t about economic policy or even health care. It is about power and it is about the unremitting hatred of a minority of people who loathe the fact that an African American President passed a health care law that was originally drafted by the Conservative Heritage Foundation. A law that if a Republican had passed it would be hailed as a law that made everyone pay for their health insurance. But such is the zero sum politics of this faction.

This shutdown going to hurt a lot of people. It will hurt our economy. It will also hurt national security. However those forcing the issue do not care, because the ultimate goal has nothing to do with the AHCA or the budget, but rather a minority, many (but certainly not all) motivated by racism (yes I said it) attempting to put the Black man in the White House in his proper place. If you don’t believe me just go out and read their columns, internet posts and social media entries. If you have any sense you will see this.

There is a way to change laws and there is a way to make corrections in our system, but this is not the venue for it. Too much is at stake. However it seems that much of the leadership of my former part seem hell bent on devastating the country and destroying their party. Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater must be spinning in their graves. Neither of those conservative icons would have tolerated this behavior. But then, even if you didn’t agree with them all the time you had to admit that they could work with others and understood both the Constitution and our legislative system. John Boehner, Ted Cruz and the other leaders of this insanity seem neither to understand or care.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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