Posts Tagged essay

Don’t Panic*


At 4:30 am last night, I began praying for the light of reason to switch on inside the heads of our congressional leaders. To be fair, my prayers applied specifically to a small, right wing segment of the Republican Party. I’m sure these individuals are acting out of what they consider their “social conscience.” I choose to call it something else: selfishness and irresponsibility.

EMERGENCY STOPJust in case you’ve been glued to re-runs of “Grey’s Anatomy” for the past month instead of the national news, the issue that has caused our congressional leaders to tear each other into little pieces and culminate in an unthinkable government shutdown is the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.”

I do not “have it in” for Republicans because I happen to be one myself. In addition, I am not an advocate of “Obamacare.” In my situation, the only “benefits” I stand to reap from the law are higher insurance premiums and a longer wait to see my doctor. But there are a couple of things I realize and accept that the “Tea Party” Republicans choose to conveniently ignore. Obamacare is now the law of the land. It was passed by both houses of Congress and ratified by the Supreme Court. I’m not sure if the majority of citizens in this country favor the law, but certainly our elected leaders favor it. The last time I checked, the majority rules in a Democracy, and we are bound to follow the laws of the land.

In time, I hope amendments to the law will be passed that will allow everyone in this country to live with the Affordable Care Act in peace. Perhaps a future administration will dismantle the law if we find it does more harm than good. Whatever the case, we have no reason to panic. Life will go on. Affordable Care will live or die on its own merit or lack thereof.

Instead, we have a few people holding the government hostage and causing untold suffering to hundreds of thousands of people in addition to disrupting financial markets and an economy finally showing signs of life.

In 1995, a political party impasse caused a government shutdown. It cost taxpayers 1.4 billion dollars to stop and restart the engine. Here are a few examples of people affected by the shutdown, paraphrased from an article by Fred Grimm in the October 1, 2013 edition of the Miami Herald.

Somewhere between 800,000 and a million government employees cannot go to work. Nine million mothers-in-need will be denied supplemental food and nutritional education for their infants and children. The shutdown disrupts research by the National Institutes of Health and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Environmental Protection Agency will go dark. 1.1 million Head Start kids are affected adversely—and on and on.

The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party will no doubt view the plight of people directly affected by the government shutdown as collateral damage in their holy war against the “Affordable Care Act.” For these compassionate souls, I pray the law of Karma will kick in to apply swift and sure payback.

* Although “Don’t Panic” is a public domain phrase, I’d like to give the brilliant writer Douglas Adams credit for his use of the phrase as advice for space travelers in his novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

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Miss Crisson


The name Miss Crisson fit her. Words come to mind, like “crisp,” “sharp,” “cross,” and “criticism.” I remember a six-foot tall, middle-aged woman with regular, Germanic features and wide, hazel eyes peering from behind big-rimmed glasses supported by a clunky plastic frame.

She wore an expression of perennial disappointment punctuated by frequent, angry outbursts. I thought then her mood was the direct result of our consistently delinquent behavior — the student body of Miss Crisson’s fifth grade class. Now I think there may have been other factors involved.

Miss Crisson did not carry her statuesque figure gracefully. Instead, she stood in an ungainly posture in front of the class, arms crossed, daring anyone to misbehave. She never seemed to feel comfortable inside her own skin, or perhaps the small print, cotton dresses she wore like uniforms were all a half size too small.

Looking back, I imagine men might have considered her sexy if she had dressed in a more colorful, modern style. Regular trips to the beauty parlor would have helped too. But she had no use for fashionable clothes or fixing herself up. Her thinning hair drooped in unenthusiastic curls. The humidity in the spring and early summer made the hair from the buns she wore march in a column down her neck like AWOL soldiers.

I recall her first name with great difficulty: It was, or is Doris. Is she still alive as we speak? She took great pains to keep us at a distance, in our place. Miss Crisson the teacher, the person in charge, we the students, there to obey.

It was not so much the things she did that I remember. It was rather the things she didn’t do. She never, for instance, sat on a chair in front of the class with her legs crossed, or in a more casual moment, on the side of her desk. She always stood, implacably, a permanent fixture in front of the class. She sat at her desk only during study periods, often holding her head while reading from her lesson plan or papers that looked to be terribly important. We spent six hours a day, Monday through Friday, with Miss Crisson, surely enough time to get to know someone well, at least enough time for her guard to fall occasionally. Yet, I can’t recall any informal moments with Miss Crisson, never the spontaneous joke or appreciative laugh from the student audience.

She never spoke of children or relatives. I never learned a thing about her personal life after spending a year in her classroom. Did she spend her childhood years in a middle class tract home at the mercy of bible-toting, God-fearing parents? Did her classmates taunt her for being too tall? As a teenager, did she have many boyfriends? Did she ever have a boyfriend? Did she eat dinner at home alone every night in a terry cloth bathrobe and slippers, her hair liberated from the customary bun, hanging in loopy strands? Did she sometimes wake up to an alarm buzzing from the bedroom, slumped on a sofa in front of the television?

She came to class every day, in the full bloom of womanhood, apparently without suitors or romantic prospects of any kind, already resigned to premature spinsterhood. Perhaps Miss Crisson was a lesbian, stuck in the unenlightened nineteen fifties, a prisoner of her strict upbringing, afraid to explore her sexuality, without compassion for herself or anyone else. Her sharp rebukes for the slightest infringement of class decorum were, I realize now, a sign of frustration, the invisible weights Miss Crisson carried on her broad shoulders. We didn’t see those weights because children see only with their hearts. They respond to kindness, humor, patience and love. They don’t understand why an adult would possibly want to act any other way.
 

 

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