Dispatches From The Apocalypse (Well, Los Angeles During Coronavirus)…

Of all the places to sit out the Coronavirus Apocalypse, Los Angeles may be one of the better places. The weather should be reliably good by April. We’ll have some June gloom in May but that just means the marine layer takes a little longer to burn off in the morning than the rest of the year.

We’ve always been east siders, my wife and I. The furthest west I’ve ever lived in LA is West Hollywood (when I first arrived back in 1985). Starting in 1987, I began migrating east — to Hollywood… then Echo Park… then Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Glassell Park and now Highland Park.

By far, Highland Park’s the most “urban” LA neighborhood we’ve lived in. We can walk to a cool old movie theater (the Highland Theater), lots of great bars & restaurants (all or most of which, hopefully, will return when this nightmare ends), a large grocery store and lots of great mom & pop shops (hardware, florist, produce, bakery). We can even walk to the Gold Line (part of LA’s Metro). It’s kinda like living in an actual city.

Out walking today, it breaks my heart that so much is closed. A lot of those places might not make it to the other side of this.

I still bump a little on seeing people lined up outside a food store (in this case a little upscale produce store) — six feet apart, heading down the street (because only one or two people are allowed in to shop at a time). A few weeks from now, I bet, that will seem normal.

The corner store had lots of napkins today. They had no idea when they’d be seeing toilet paper or paper towels again.

Why, I’d like to know, when coronavirus suddenly reared its head — threatening a pandemic of respiratory failure, did so many people think first about wiping their asses?

People buying up all the tissue — that I get (though the hoarding is offensive). But ass-wipe? What up with that?

Our two kids are driving down from their colleges north of here. Lots of mixed feelings there — and that’s strange.

I look forward to seeing my kids of course. But I’m a little concerned about them coming here, too. They’re college kids who’ve both just been on large University of California campuses. I have no idea if they’ve followed any safe practices at all. I have no idea if they’re carrying coronavirus (they could be completely asymptomatic but spreading the virus) — and have no way to test them of course.

We now live in times where a kiss can kill. Literally.

Both LA’s mayor (Eric Garcetti) and California’s governor (Gavin Newsom) both put stay in place orders yesterday. There are loads of exceptions (for now). Food stores and pharmacies of course but also hardware stores and (like San Francisco) dispensaries — it doesn’t get more essential than having cannabis when the coronavirus is upon you.

How To Put This Nicely… “Hey, Everyone — Life As We Know It Just Changed COMPLETELY — For Real”

Think of how hard it was to convince the world that Donald Trump was elected POTUS because Russia interceded in our election on his behalf. Think of how hard it was just to get “serious people” to view any Russian involvement in Trump’s election as a possibility. Hell — there are STILL lots of “fair-minded people” who insist it’s impossible to change an election’s outcome EVEN IF TONS OF PROOF shouts that the outcome doesn’t actually reflect how We The People actually voted.

The idea of a treasonous POTUS is monstrous. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around. It’s too far outside our concept of “normal” for us to process it as possible. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

I bet an HOUR before the first plane hit the Twin Towers that most Americans would have said that wasn’t possible. I bet the residents of Pearl Harbor — as they slept soundly in their beds the morning of December 7, 1941 — would have said it was impossible for their Sunday to be ruined by a surprise attack by Japan.

And yet…

World War II changed the course of human events. One way or another, it touched every human life. This will do the same thing.

Countries don’t shut down out of ordinary fear. This isn’t a political conversation, it’s a biological one. As good as we’ve gotten at dealing with pathogens, pathogens still have it over us. Even the pathogens we have wiped out might not stay wiped out because anti-vaxxers connect dots that simply do not connect. Pathogens like polio and measles don’t give a shit why a human DOESN’T protect themselves from them. To a pathogen, we’re meat. They need us to be. Viruses, for instance, lacking DNA, use our cells like cheap-assed sex motels in order to reproduce.

If anti-vaxxers could SEE the pathogens, perhaps they’d feel differently. If all those young people refusing to “buy in” to the seriousness of Covid-19’s threat could themselves experience the virus’s worst effects (or watch a loved one struggle for breath, their lung function compromised by the virus), maybe THEN they’d get it. Live how we used to live and lots of us could not just die but suffer long-term effects that THEMSELVES change our lives going forwards.

Social distancing isn’t an affect. It’s the one tool in our collective belt to stop coronavirus from spreading. We can’t help ourselves in any meaningful way until we STOP the virus from infecting new people and vectoring off into the unknown. We can’t do that until we’re monitoring ourselves relentlessly just so we know who has it and who doesn’t. Being as that won’t happen any time soon, all that’s left to us is personal isolation.

This may be the hardest thing for Americans to adapt to — thinking of the group — though it’s there in our makeup. We need to put down the ludicrous notion of the “rugged individual”. He doesn’t really exist anyway. In a pandemic? He’s utterly useless. He alone can’t fix anything — and he never could. Chances are it’s HIS selfishness that’s helping spread the virus far and wide.

Unless you KNOW for a fact that you’re virus free, you need to assume that you’re infected and could infect others. We are obligated to each other to do everything possible to NOT infect each other — to NOT be the cause of them getting sick or worse.

Doing the right thing is easy when the choices are easy. Not abusing a puppy because it’s horribly wrong is an easy moral choice to make. Knowing your neighbor and friend is abusing a puppy — and someone needs to intercede — THAT’S when doing the right thing gets hard. And real.

The fact is we don’t know what happens next because no one’s been here before. We don’t know how much this will impact the world’s economy because the circumstances that got us here have never happened before. The Spanish Flu was bad but, in 1918, people still couldn’t travel around the world like they do now — spreading a pathogen far and wide without even knowing it. Kinda like what probably happened last night in Chicago’s O’Hare and Dallas’s Love Field when all those Americans returning from Europe (cos of possible coronavirus exposure) were subjected to hours of waiting in packed lines while waiting (after they’d got their bags) to be “screened” for coronavirus.

Stupid doesn’t get more stupid than that.

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/coronavirus-airport-screening-sunday/index.html

We will — in the coming weeks — look back on certain interactions that we used to take for granted (like shaking hands) with a start. Whoa — touching another person’s hand like that — never again! The longer the coronavirus endures, the longer a safer alternative to hand-shaking will have to set in and become the new norm.

We have no idea how long countries will be down. We don’t know if a summer reprieve will lead to an even more ferocious second wave in the fall (like the Spanish flu did). If our outcome is anything like Italy’s? There’s a huge shock coming our way.

The PTSD alone will cause us troubles.

The quicker we adapt and self-isolate when necessary while socially-distancing ourselves as “ordinary behavior”, the quicker we’ll all get our “ordinary lives back”. The truth is, we may never get our “ordinary lives” back.

The quicker we adapt to that fact, the better.

Looming Lessons From A Pandemic — Money Won’t Save You; Community However Will

It’s definitely premature to say “here’s what we’ve learned from living through a pandemic…”. But a few lessons are already crystal clear. They’ll only get crystal clearer.

For starters: in a real crisis — like a pandemic — the flow of accurate information is essential. Screw with that? You just made the pandemic exponentially worse. People can’t judge how best to protect themselves, their families and their communities when the information coming at them is bogus or worse. It’s like we’re all trapped inside a building that’s on fire. One exit leads to safety. The other doesn’t — and our current leaders keep insisting that 1) there’s no fire but 2) if there is, run to toward that “other” door — the one that leads AWAY from safety.

Government should not be some foreign, faceless nemesis. In essence, it’s US. We are our own government — that’s the whole point of democracy. It has been a deeply cynical right wing talking point that government is to blame for all our ills. No, actually, GREED is to blame for most of our ills. Ignorance, racism, bigotry and (especially) misogyny account for the rest.

As the coronavirus keeps proving to us, pathogens couldn’t care less how famous we are, how rich we are, how special we are. Viruses need human cells in order to reproduce. They use us like a cheap sex hotel — only to take over the whole hotel once they start having sex in it. Throwing money at it won’t stop it.

Ironically — community will stop it. Provided we keep our distance from our community for a while. But the point of the exercise is to keep the community safe — which means we have to acknowledge that our community is automatically more important than any one individual in it. That’s an important distinction to make — especially going forward.

The Pandemic of 2020 has brought the human world to a virtual stand-still. Our economies — tied together as they are — are about to experience something unprecedented. We’re about to become cash-starved as our incomes stop while our expenses don’t. To survive this — we’re going to have to look each other in the eye and say “people matter more than money does”.

Because Trump’s crony-capitalism has gutted so much of the government we built to protect us — or, at least, create a structured framework in which we can work — we’ll HAVE TO rely on ourselves to survive this. We won’t be able to do what China did — live in our homes like prison cells until we’re told we can go out again. It’s just not in our nature. But — as China is proving — it’s the only way to stop Kovid-19 from spreading.

And until we stop the coronavirus from spreading, we can’t do anything to stop it. Good thing China’s now offering test kits. We need em.

The other Big Lesson we should already be taking from Pandemic 2020 — a for-profit health “care” system will fail everyone using it. Because not everyone can afford to be in the system, a huge chunk of us are unhealthy. Pathogens fly past expensive walls. A pathogen that takes root in a homeless encampment on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles can take out whole blocks of rich Beverly Hills residents just like “that”.

We don’t, at present, have a health CARE system, we have a health INSURANCE system. Not the same thing. When anyone walks in the door, our system’s first question isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”

There’s a reason no other industrialized country does it our way: it’s stupid. It’s inhumane. And, in the face of a pandemic — it’s actually self-destructive.

Humans will see the Pandemic of 2020 as one of those epic events that took over the planet — like a world war. Ironically, the pandemic will have to share space with the OTHER epic event taking over our planet right now — the successful cyber war Russia has waged and still IS waging against America.

The reason the Pandemic of 2020 will be so extraordinarily terrible for the United States is because Donald Trump is president. And Donald Trump is president because Vladimir Putin MADE him president.

Just like in HG Wells’ “War Of The Worlds” — where a humble pathogen takes out the Martians that none of earth’s armies can put a dent in — a germ (okay — a virus) will take down the monster — in our case, Donald Trump. Covid-19 will do what the Truth could not.

Here’s a prediction — and it’s based on the lessons the Pandemic has already taught us — in the Pandemic’s aftermath, America will head to the left. Health care in America will come socialized — made a fact of life by the pandemic. To pay for that health care, Americans will have to rethink their taxes — how much they pay, yes, but more importantly, how much they GET for their taxes.

Social democracy is coming to America — riding on the back of the coronavirus. The rich won’t like it much — until they realize how, when all boats rise on the tide, theirs rises even higher. The rest of us? Well, our boats will be rising on the tide, right? That tide is our community. The one that’s always been there for us.

The one we’ll need to be there for us now.

Dear American News Media — The Way You Deal With A LIAR Is The Same Way You Deal With A DRUNK — You REFUSE To Argue With Em…

I stopped drinking alcohol about two years ago. I didn’t have to but the mood stabilizer I’m on gives alcohol a terrible aftertaste. It was an unexpected side effect — and, frankly, I’m grateful for it.

When I say I didn’t “have to” stop drinking, what I mean is, I didn’t stop because I perceived I had an alcohol problem. I did — I just didn’t perceive it. Ironically, alcohol (and my denial that I had a problem with it) contributed significantly to the depression that drove me to within literal inches of killing myself. Alcohol’s pretty powerful that way. It gives bullshit crazy power over you.

Not drinking, I’m cut out of a big part of what we think of as a “social life’. I go out with my wife and friends to bars or parties — where nearly everyone but me drinks. Over the course of an evening, conversation goes from crisp and sparkling to… well, a little less crisp. A lot less sparkling. The irony (there’s loads of irony) — when you’re drinking, you’re convinced that the alcohol is making everything crisper and more sparkling.

That’s alcohol lying to you.

Over this past weekend — just before California and Washington State and lots of other places started calling states of emergency because of the coronavirus — alcohol turned a casual conversation about masks into an argument that nearly ended a friendship.

A friend was talking to their college-going son about masks. He was relating how he’d told his son to run to CVS to buy masks.

“Don’t bother,” I said. They’re sold out. Everyone’s sold out. CVS, Target, Amazon… “And anyway,” I said, “The masks in question won’t do anything to stop the virus”.

That wasn’t the point to my friend — who was halfway through his third glass of wine. The point was his kid had anxiety issues and wearing the mask would help them.

I started to tell him that — just for clarity’s sake — the mask was only useful if you had the virus and wanted to minimize the chances of infecting others. BUT — this was the crux of my point — there were more PRO-ACTIVE things even someone feeling anxious could do…

I never got there. My drunk friend had grabbed onto “MASKS” with both hands and was not going to let go. For the next ten minutes, we argued about masks and the relative value of thinking you’re protected when, in fact, you are not. I pointed out that not telling his son the stone cold truth about masks could reverberate negatively when his son learned the truth — and also learned that he’d been lied to about the masks’ efficacy. By his dad.

My friend got louder because louder means more right when you’re drunk. That’s alcohol lying to the drinker again.

Alcohol convinces you that the emotion you’re feeling right that second is the most intense, most valid feeling you’ve ever experienced. That’s why people who’ve been drinking argue like obsessives. They can see their one point and literally nothing else. The truth is, they can’t even “see” their one point. They can repeat the point endlessly — their form of “arguing”, but they can’t actually articulate it.

When I caught myself pitching deeper into the rabbit hole, I bailed. I told my friend three times that I was not going to continue arguing with someone who’d had too much to drink. Like a cliched person who had too much to drink, my friend got all insulted about my calling out their drinking. They insisted — slurring their words — that they were not, in fact, slurring their words.

It got heated and then it ended. My friend said he didn’t want to talk about it any more — and maybe he didn’t want to talk about anything with me ever again.

That stung. But I knew one thing — and, the next morning, when my friend called to apologize, I brought it up immediately. The first thing he said as we started talking was “I think I’ve had too much to drink…”.

“I agree with you,” I told my friend. “You had too much to drink”. As far as I was concerned, nothing else happened after that. Nothing that mattered — not to me anyway. My friend needed to look closely at their drinking. That was my takeaway.

By the end of the day, my friend had come around. They were still pissed at me (no one likes to be called out for drinking too much; I know this from experience) but they didn’t drink that evening. The next morning, we talked it through. I wasn’t calling my friend an “alcoholic”. I was simply telling him that when he drank too much, it altered his personality in troubling ways. What he did about that was his deal, not mine.

And then my friend and I “kissed and made up”. It seemed ludicrous to let an argument begun while one of the two arguers was drinking to undo a good, solid friendship. Irony? Within 36 hours, it was common knowledge that wearing a mask would protect you from nothing. My friend’s whole reason for now questioning our friendship was blown up by a news cycle.

In the same way that it’s madness to chase an alcoholic’s argument down a rabbit hole, it’s equally mad to chase a liar’s argument. It’s hard to throw facts at something that has no basis in reality. Watching our news media chase Donald Trump down HIS rabbit holes is especially depressing. They’re so obviously bullshit, concocted on the fly in order to deal with the crisis of the moment. That’s a crisis of Trump’s own making.

To argue with bullshit & bullshitters is to give bullshit & bullshitter credence. “Okay,” you’re saying, “What if bullshit “WERE” true?

Problem is, bullshit is NEVER true. It’s a nonsensical question but — because you asked it — you gave credence to something that did not earn it or deserve it. You engaged with bullshit on its terms — and nothing good can ever come of that.

The time has come (it passed eons ago actually) to stop accepting a liar’s words as true first. No, liars should be told to back up everything they say — or it’s bullshit. The press needs to stop respecting a POTUS who has no respect for them, the office of the president, the rule of law, the Constitution — any of it. They need to refuse to accept anything he says without his providing receipts.

No receipts? YOU DON’T REPEAT IT. Who cares if “the president said it’? The president is a LIAR.

Imagine that first time journalists refused to engage with Trump’s lies. What if instead of repeating it verbatim they shook their heads and said “No. Not going to report that. It’s bullshit”? What if the White House Press Corps demanded truth from the White House — and if they don’t get it? THEY DON’T REPORT WHAT POTUS SAYS.

Trust me, CNN & MSNBC, Donald Trump needs YOU waaaaaaaaaay more than you need him. You just need to trust that fact — it’s true.

It’s time for all of sane Washington to hold an intervention for Trump & the whole GOP. Drinking and lying aren’t that far apart as vices go.

Just Like In HG Wells’ War Of The Worlds, A Pathogen Will Save OUR World — In Our Case, From TRUMP

If you don’t know HG Wells’ “War Of The Worlds”, here’s the thumbnail — Martians launch from their planet and aggressively take over Earth, easily throwing aside all the puny earthlings. What saves humanity’s bacon? Pathogens. The Martians’ bodies can’t handle the same pathogens our immune systems handle regularly.

Big bad monsters are brought down by teeny-tiny creatures.

Welcome to the Trump version.

Yesterday, Trump — to no one’s surprise — contradicted science and logic and truth because all those things predict that coronavirus will ripple across the world’s economy in unpredictable (but probably negative) ways and Trump needs a strong economy (that he pretends he created) to stand a chance at reelection.

The ONLY thing the pundit class can point to as a positive talking point is the “strong economy” (never mind who it’s strong for and who it’s NOT strong for) as proof that Trump is a normal candidate selling normal POTUS candidate things. What will Trump do when the halt to China’s supply chains brings everything it touches to a halt, too? That will happen. Magical thinking & bullshit pronouncements can’t stop it from NOT happening.

Maybe Trump thinks he can pass the blame to Mike Pence — because he gave Pence the title of “Fix The Coronavirus Guy” . It wouldn’t be above Trump to think he can spare himself the responsibility that’s rightfully his as he runs for re-election (the first IMPEACHED POTUS to ever do so). Of course, considering Mike Pence doesn’t believe smoking tobacco causes cancer and his refusal to deal with science caused an upsurge in AIDS in Indiana while Mike was governor there, giving him the job of “Fix The Disease” guy is like handing over disaster response leadership to the disaster itself.

Yeah, yeah — Trump’s said & tweeted stupid shit before and, yeah, Trump never paid a price for it (other than mockery on Twitter). But, aside from our military and asylum-seeking immigrants desperately in need of help, Trump’s tweets haven’t gotten anyone killed. When Americans start watching Trump spew bullshit and lies about coronavirus from their sick beds — those tweets WILL start to matter to Americans. Trump’s lies have impacted them personally. Physically. Memorably.

Every moment of Covid-19 induced misery will be like the biggest political ad imaginable. And not a one will be a pro-Trump ad.

Donald Trump — with the aid of his sycophants, surrogates & co-conspirators — has blown through our Democracy. He’s nearly blown it apart. The apprehension we all felt election night 2016 mirrors exactly the trepidation many of the earthling characters in Wells’ classic experience as they gaze on the mysterious pods that just landed from outer space.

Unlike in Wells’ story though, OUR news media has been slow to respond as the monsters emerged from their pods — revealing their true selves and purposes — and attacked us. In a sense, our press is the equivalent of the story’s military: our last line of defense. Just like in the book though, our defense was defenseless.

Good thing we have coronavirus to save us.

What Being Deeply Depressed Taught Me About Life — And Being Happy

Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of harming myself, perhaps fatally. It was pure impulse — a flash of self-directed anger that I’d been building toward for a decade. Oh, the irony… even as I plotted to off myself, I didn’t know (or admit to myself) WHY I felt this terrible compulsion.

In my case, I’d been keeping a secret from myself: I was sexually molested — twice — when I was 14 by the religious director at the northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged while I was growing up. For 45 years, I kept that bit of personal history boxed up deep in my psyche. I always knew this “thing” was there. I simply refused to acknowledge it.

More irony — it wasn’t until after I tried to kill myself — and sought treatment — that I had the emotional strength to face the fact of what happened to me. The night I came clean with myself — to myself — was the longest, loneliest night of my life. I understood myself in a way I never had before. I understood my inability to bond with other people the way everyone else seemed to bond with each other.

I understood why I felt so much emotional distance from the world. Why I felt like I lived, by myself, on an island from which I could never escape: if you didn’t know this terrible secret about me, you couldn’t possibly “know” me. Only two people knew the secret: me and Yehuda Dickstein, the man who molested me. Perversely, I kept our secret — kinda like Yehuda knew I would. He molested me twice — so, he knew for a fact that I never told anyone about the first time.

That’s the hook on which I hung myself for 45 years — the fact that I never told anyone — and then it happened again.

Like lots of victims, I blamed myself. I couldn’t rationalize the first time. That made absolutely no sense to me. It was too surreal. But the second time — I helped manufacture it by not saying anything — convincing myself even that it couldn’t possibly have happened. Then I walked in the door to the place where Yehuda awaited me — and I instantly knew: yes, it HAD happened and it was about to happen again.

We all have varying degrees of darkness inside of us. Comes with being a sentient being with intrinsic knowledge of our vulnerabilities. When healthy, we see the world with a high degree of perspective. We understand when we’re at fault and when we’re not. But depression allows our darkness to take the wheel. The more control our darkness has, the more perspective we lose until, finally, we see everything though a vary narrow, very dark lens.

Though I had lived a very good, successful life, something inside was holding me back. My inability to bond — like a time bomb — ticked away steadily. Worse, my secret was the silent foundation for feelings of incredibly low self esteem. I believed my work was good — but I had no belief in myself whatsoever. And when things started to turn — because life has its ups and downs — I took those reversals of fortune as my due.

My secret had convinced me that I absolutely deserved everything bad that happened to me. In fact, I deserved worse. My darkness’s naked cynicism became a kind of mantra.

I knew I was in trouble. I was in therapy — and that was working up to a point.

But there was great white shark swimming just below the surface. I was afraid of medication, having read and heard more horror stories than success stories. Having grown up in the medical culture (my dad was a surgeon), I understood that the most my GP probably knew about the mood stabilizers I was asking about was whatever the last pharmaceutical rep told her as he slipped a package of samples from her briefcase.

And even if the mood stabilizer might work for me, it would be six to eight weeks before we’d have an inkling of whether it would or not — and there was the distinct possibility that this mood stabilizer would make my depression worse. Add to the mix — I wanted the medication to deal with the darkness while leaving my hypomania alone (I’m bi-polar, you see). My creativity resides in my hypomania — and the thought of losing my mojo — that sounded like a shortcut right back to suicide.

I had done research and identified a drug — lamotrigine (lamictil) that could work for me. After my near run-in with mortality, I drove straight to my doctor’s office and told them what happened. Great life hack? If you want really quick medical service, tell your health care professionals you just tried to hurt yourself.

I got not only my GP (a terrific doctor) but one of the two HEAD doctors. They got from the look in my eyes that I was deadly serious. They asked me three times if perhaps to consider hospitalization. In said no — I was there to try and help myself; but, first, they needed to write me this prescription. My two GP’s whipped out their smart phones and looked up the drug. They agreed to write the script.

Then I got really lucky — even luckier than I realized in fact.

Whereas one normally has to wait six to eight weeks to see if a mood stabilizer works or not, I leveled within 36 hours. I felt the lamotrigine’s impact: I triggered.

I can’t remember why anymore but something caused the rage that had been living rent free in my gut to ignite. I felt it rising like a lava plume rushing upward toward my head and my mouth — and just as it got there — just as I would normally speed up, lose my cool and become utterly irrational — the rage vanished — poof! — like a soap bubble popping. I knew I had felt all that rage and yet… now I felt nothing. The rage was gone before it could take flight and overwhelm me.

I’ve never taken more than the 25 milligram minimum dose since. And my depression has been kept completely at arm’s length. Here’s where the extra bit of luck kicked in. My research? It wasn’t complete. Yes, there was anecdotal data that lamotrigine wouldn’t impact my hypomania. There’s way more anecdotal data (no one’s ever tested lamotrigine as a mood stabilizer; it’s used mostly as an anti-seizure medication) that says it absolutely would impact my hypomania — at higher doses.

That bit of luck aside, the first lesson my depression taught me was that until you finally stand up to your darkness, it will own you. And it knows it.

Look — standing up to your darkness is hard. There are no easy answers here. Terrible things put you where you are emotionally. The thing about standing up to your darkness though is it requires help. To beat your darkness you must reach outside yourself. Seeking therapy is essential of course. But it’s important that you actively engage with your therapy — that you see therapy (the act of seeking help) as you being pro-active. It’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing. But the real work of getting healthy remains ahead of you.

There’s no certainty in this. We’re not talking about concrete, we’re talking about the human mind — and we don’t really understand how we even “have” thoughts. And everyone’s darkness is a little bit different — because we are all a little bit different.

The goal always is happiness. The absence of suffering and emotional pain. The goal is to be the master of your darkness and not the other way around.

I’m a “devout atheist” to my core but I know exactly what born again Christians are talking about. Being able to see my darkness in its proper perspective — understanding WHY there was that darkness to begin with and WHY it had held so much power over me — liberated me. It can’t make the memory of that event go away. It can’t undo the broken relationships and poor choices. It can’t bring back all the time I lost to being depressed and having zero faith in myself.

But I can see that period of my life for what it was. And I can see my present for what it is and, more importantly, my future for what it could be — if only I pursue it. That’s the nature of hope — of believing in a future where happiness can blossom in its fullness.

That’s the biggest lesson my depression taught me. Happiness is absolutely possible.

You CANNOT Have Profit Incentive At The Core Of A Health CARE System

Some ideas are so stupid, you have to marvel how they don’t die at their inception. Example — having profit incentive inside a health care system.

Of course we want people to “make money” doing their jobs in a health care system. That’s not the same thing however as having corporations step in as gatekeepers between Americans and their health CARE. Our system is screwed up foundationally. We’ve let the inmates run the asylum — literally.

The reason America’s system is so different than everyone else’s goes back to World War Two. Once America entered the war, every available dollar in the economy was directed toward sustaining America’s war effort. Large companies weren’t allowed to offer employees raises. If a competitor could offer skilled workers more money (because they paid more to start with), the competitor was going to get all the talent.

To counter this freeze on wages, American companies offered to pay for employees’ health care. More precisely, they offered to pay for their health insurance (not the same thing). Most major American companies did this. And then the war ended. But this practice did not.

In the abstract perhaps keeping this idea going wasn’t a terrible idea. But it was a terrible idea. Example — a big, big company like Boeing pays for the health insurance (not care) of a huge number of people (Boeing employed about 161,000 people in 2015). Airbus Group — Boeing’s largest (and main) competitor (though it employs around 136,600 (as in 2014) — by comparison paid ZERO for their employees’ health insurance.

That’s because all the countries that help build Airbus products have socialized medicine systems where tax dollars pay for everyone’s health CARE. Everyone can walk in the door at a universal single payer system. We know already who’s paying for it — we are. As we should.

In a universal single payer system? No one loses their house or goes broke (for a generation or so) because you or someone in your family got sick. Where Airbus is concerned, unlike Boeing, they DON’T have to add the cost of all that health insurance to the bottom line cost of each and every Boeing aircraft.

Consequently Boeing enters every competition with one hand tied behind its back. Our insurance driven system makes that a fact of life. It makes America less competitive. It hurts us — and then makes it hard to get healthy again.

Oh, the irony…

Insurance companies — being publicly traded — have a fiduciary responsibility not to any “patients” (those are cogs in a much larger wheel from an insurance company’s perspective) but to their shareholders. And not to the common class of stock shareholders either (yes, there’s a theoretical fiduciary responsibility) but to the PREFERRED CLASS of shareholder.

Ya know how Facebook users mistakenly think they’re Mark Zuckerberg’s customers? They’re not (of course), they’re the thing Zuckerberg’s SELLING — to the people who advertise on Facebook (aka ACTUAL customers). Same deal. Americans have it in their heads that they’d be screwed without their private insurance.

No, your insurance company is just a gatekeeper actually. Different insurance companies try to carve off different doctors as part of their “network”. Go outside their “network” & pay lots more. The people in the network have agreed to whatever fees the insurance company has decided to pay. The insurance company, if you notice, is ALWAYS in the driver’s seat.

Keep in mind — from the insurance company’s point of view (and fiduciary responsibility), they are OBLIGATED to deny and refuse as much coverage as the can get away with because that makes the company more profitable and being more profitable makes their shareholders happy and the company more financially healthy. Money — not health CARE — runs everything.

It’s not just money, remember — it’s PROFITABLE money. It’s profit INCENTIVE.

It’s completely antithetical to what a health care system is supposed to do — if anyone inside it has ever taken a Hippocratic Oath.

You can’t “But first do no harm” by asking “How’re ya gonna pay for this, Sparky?” These two things are mutually exclusive propositions.