April 2011

Change The Station, Ma. Please.

When I talk with friends around the nation and describe Florida politics they “Tch, tch” right along with me. I tell them that an out & out beady-eyed, bald crook was elected governor and that the Florida legislature is completely controlled by a bunch of southern Republican bubbas who are little more than jackals feeding on the decomposing remains of a state government they are methodically ripping apart (deconstructing).

“Oh,” they say, “that does sound bad,” but then they relate what is happening in their state and we invariably agree what a pox upon America has been the simplistic drivel of conservative values and economics. We lament how we’ve arrived at this juncture and what, realistically, we can do about it. I am reminded of Timothy Leary’s recommendation from the 1960s that we “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.” I’d say an increasing number of Americans will do just that with one modification, Americans will Turn in and Drop out.

I’m encountering more and more folks who say they can’t stand to watch the news and don’t. Don’t or won’t read a paper. It’s bad and getting worse they say. What’s the point? I’ve got my half-acre (metaphorically speaking). What will be, will be. I’ve enough socked away to make it to the end (one’s death). It is hard to argue with despair. To refute the facts.

Yet it is just that – facts – that underscores for me our struggle to stabilize the listing ship of the USS America. We are so dysfunctional as a people, as a nation that we cannot, we will not agree on the facts. Oh, it is argued, facts are subjective. No. Facts are not subjective. A fact is empirically true and is supported by evidence. That is the definition of fact.

Fact: Effective, available birth control reduces the need for abortion.

Fact: To balance the Federal Budget deficit, taxes will need to rise (on the middle class, too).

Fact: Social Security can be successfully stabilized by 1.) increasing the employee contribution 1% over 10 years by 2.) increasing the retirement age to 70 over a 30-year phase in and by 3.) applying the Social Security tax on all wages.

Fact: America does not have the best medical system in the world, not by any number of empirical standards or studies.

Fact: No empire lasts. America is an imperial power and has been for 150 years.

Fact: President’s Washington and Eisenhower, generals both, warned of the undue influence (the anti-democracy) of a military/industrial complex.

But it is not just that we cannot agree on the facts, we cannot agree on what kind of people are we. America is at 310 million people and growing. Arguably 10% of the population is unable or incapable of taking care of itself. The elderly, a sizable percentage of our young, the sick, the severely handicapped, wounded veterans, the mentally unstable, the drug addicted, released prisoners, the unemployed/unskilled/uneducated. 31 million Americans. What then? What happens to the “least” of us?

We’re losing, perhaps it never was, whatever solidarity we had as a people. No longer do we subscribe to the humane idea that everyone is part of Team America and we collectively sink or swim together.

Or, that America is a collapsing empire incapable of righting itself.

Change the station, Ma. Please.

Sextreme Sexaltations!

Sex! That four-letter word. I came of age during the 1960s and, as such, participated in the “sexual” revolution of that time. I am unsure how revolutionary the actual sex was during the 60s but the idea took hold that making babies wasn’t necessary when making love. Reliable, safe birth control was, by my estimation, one of the most significant developments of the 20th century. It transformed the relationship (and power) between men and women and liberated “a” woman from the repetitive slog (and burden) of bearing child after child until one’s teeth fell out. Sexual “liberation” is predicated on refining the maxim that anatomy is destiny, particularly for women.

Fifty years later, human sexuality is as pervasive, is as ubiquitous, as accessible as our social media. Sexuality is depicted discussed, debated, and dissected in all our media. All the time. The idea of sex floats through a man’s mind every 15.4 seconds or 7 seconds or, according to one study 5,000 times a year (14 times daily). Whatever the number, it is just as pervasive a fantasy (objective), today, for females as it is for men.

Not only is it the all-encompassing, enveloping idea, it has become “a” measure of our wellbeing. Mind-boggling sex is something, understandably, we now believe is every human being’s natural right to pursue and possess. Life, liberty and the perfect orgasm! Short of that—sexual fireworks all the time (or on demand)—we feel life is passing us by or, worse, the sex is better, yes, unimaginably better and hotter for even our chubby, chatty, catty neighbors across the cul-de-sac. Sigh.

In order to meet the insatiable demand for “things” sexual (sexpectations), I offer a new range of descriptive words that sexcellently captures our hyper-sexualized times. I recently discovered that if you only add the letter “s” to any number of words that begin with “ex” that a whole new vocabulary is available for describing our sexual life. I offer a few sexamples for your consideration.

Sexpert – An expert in/on sex, college degree optional.
Sexpire – That delicious post-coital moment.
Sexamination – Playing Doctor, say “Ahhhhh.” Ohhhhhhhh!
Sexclusive – Sex with only one partner.
Sexpedition – Wilderness camping with a naked friend.
Sexplode – Mindboggling release.
Sexplain – Why someone else’s panties were in the dryer.
Sextraordinary – Way out of the ordinary sex.
Sexaltation – Praising a new partner’s prowess in bed.
Sexcuse – Not tonight Dear, I’ve a headache.
Sexhibition – A provocative art show or a bad bar scene.
Sexistentialism – Our 21st century condition but, no doubt, you come out on top.
Sexclamation point – The point in a relationship that is purrrrfect.
Sexcitable – YOU ARE SO READY!
Sexemplary – Arguably the best sex you’ve ever had.
Sextrovert – Makes even YOU, blush!
Sexercise – Not yet available at the YMCA. Not yet.
Sextricate – Exiting a “physically” demanding relationship.
Sexit – Immediate sextrication.
Sexile – A modern “condition.”
Sexchange – Saturday’s date is different from Friday’s.

Here is a list of additional sexualized words that take on special meaning when sexplicitly deployed: Sexploitation, Sexacerbate, Sexample, Sexceed, Sexcel, Sexcessive, Sexcitable, Sexcite, Sexclamation, Sexcoriate, Sexcrement, Sexculpate, Sexcursion, Sexecute, Sexemption, Sexert, Sexhaustion, Sexhibitionist, Sexhilaration, Sexigency, Sexpedient, Sexpedite, Sexpletive, Sexpertise, Sexponent, Sexport, Sexposition, Sexpunge, Sexquisite, Sextramural, Sextreme, Sextricate, Sexult, and Sextend (see Viagra).

Our sexistence is one sextraordinary sexperience. Sexcess may be so sexhausting. Some sexaggerate. Some sexperiment. Some even sexhort. I sexpress and sextrapolate. Some sexplanation!

Wil on Will.

An aspect of life is about sorrow. There really is no getting around it. We should all be born with a hankie in one hand because they’ll be tears soon enough. A buddy of mine died last week. Longtime Winter Park resident, Wil Wistler died of congestive heart failure at the hospital he once administered and so deeply cared for, Winter Park Memorial Hospital. It was a sorrowful passing.

What is amazing is that Wil and I became buddies. In 1986 I sent Wil my resume. It was a blind cattle call of a letter. I was new to Orlando and was looking for work. I sent a personalized letter to every hospital president in Orlando. Wil walked my letter down the hospital hall to Louis Hughes, Vice President of Development. Hughes hired me and the rest, as they say, is history. Several years later I left the hospital and I thought that was that. What’s the expression, well, there was “water under the bridge.” Let it go. I did. I did not anticipate ever hearing from Wil Wisler again.

Years pass. Nearly 18 years to be exact. And one day I get a call from Wil suggesting lunch sometime? Well, pick me off the floor. And lunch it was. I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that Wil was my kind of guy, an unapologetic liberal. And, I, evidently his kind of guy at some level. Wil thought war was for fools, and that life in a “good” society was about balancing individual freedom with the greater public good. He’d been reading the Observer for some time and thought it time to reconnect.

And that is exactly what we did. Wil, Louis Hughes and I began having regular lunches. It is civilizing to lunch with friends, to discuss the issues of the world over food. And laugh. Over the foibles of man. Or woman. And at ourselves.

Wil seemed much more at ease with life than when I first knew him as hospital president. Predictably so. He didn’t have to wear the suit, be the face of a prominent institution. He was more willing to let his hair down. He was a different man. He had changed.

And then one day I was informed that Wil fell off his home roof and suffered an incredible head injury. I went to the hospital and left convinced he wouldn’t make it another day, so damaging was the trauma to the brain. But unbelievably, recover he did. Due in large part to the love and commitment of his wife, Carol. If hosannas are sung in heaven for heroic stints of duty, Carol will be at the head of the line.

And, in time, Wil recovered and it was back to lunching. And over a December 17, 2009 meeting I asked Wil to what he attributed his will to live? I had asked earlier that when he appeared unconscious (for so long), where he thought he was? Wil said he thought he was “here” and regarding his will to live, well, he said, “I had a hell of a lot of life left to live.” HE WANTED IT! LIFE. Regardless the hiccup in his giddy-up.

Wil coming back into my life was a gift. He will be missed.

The Rats Drown, Too.

I was out Monday morning helping the garbage men load the truck with my yard waste. Whenever my “debris” passes what I consider an unreasonable threshold, I don the gloves and willingly lift the cans and toss the bags. They appreciate it. Ah, those lazy, shiftless, overpaid, greedy government employees. What? They have the temerity to expect a living wage and a retirement? Who do they think they are? Public school teachers!

Interesting that both type of government employee deals with garbage. The first from our streets, the latter from the Florida legislature and governor. You be the judge as to which is more offensive.

Context is everything. I’ve been trying to understand why Republicans (nationally and at the state level) seem hellbent on driving down wages and benefits in America. They won’t come out and specifically announce that is formal party policy but that is the net result of their bombastic rhetoric and actual initiatives. The cost of labor in America is too high according to Republicans and for the nation to be competitive in world markets, labor costs have to come down.

This is what I do not understand, if the middle class is essentially going to be sacrificed in America, be driven to accept a lower standard of living, work longer for less so that American corporations can continually give shareholders higher stock prices, please explain how that is healthy for the nation as a whole long term. Yes, those with stocks are enriched yet the nation is being impoverished.

A week ago, 60 Minutes did a segment on how American corporations are moving their offices (and jobs!) overseas to avoid the nation’s onerous taxes. Oh, the tears came out, I felt so sorry that corporations are being taxed at a 35% rate but if you set-up a “bogus” front office, oh, say, in Switzerland, you pay 10%. What’s a responsible corporate CEO to do? Shareholders demand better returns. Loyalty to America? Help pay for the quality of life we all enjoy? Underwrite our freedom, democracy and nation? Hell no. Not when we have private stockholders to enrich.

And then, lo and behold, General Electric is outed for paying no taxes at all on $14 billion in profit. What tax rate of 35%? The tax rate is actually zero if you have the “right” accountants, lobbyists and legislators in your pocket.

Bust the unions, eliminate government oversight of business, lower/remove corporate taxes, loosen banking and investment regulations, reduce environmental safeguards, consider corporations the same as the private citizen when it comes to elections (free speech), cut/abolish the minimum wage, do away with public retirement programs, shift Social Security to the private sector; simply lower the cost of labor, of doing business in America. So as to enrich the few at the expense of the many. That is the Republican plan.

Folks, economic class has always been a factor in American society. To claim otherwise is disingenuous. But war has been declared on a large segment of the American people. The richest 2% of “us” don’t really give a damn concerning what becomes of America. They cannot and embrace the policies of the Republican Party. It’s not about competiveness. It is about enriching, further, the few.

Ironically when the ship (of state) sinks, the rats drown, too.

Unless, of course, you’ve a villa in Switzerland. Or, a townhouse in France. With a passport out.