Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Hiatus

Hey - I am taking a month off from this. As usual I approach things backward. I am taking a course on learning how to write and spel and won't have time for this blog until the end of June.

Happy Trails

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grumpy Gets Better

I am my father's son.

During the last ten years or so of my father's life, either my sister or me would take him to get tested at his oncologist and then subsequently visit his family doctor. He had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his prostrate when he was about 85 and his prostate was checked yearly for growth. During every visit, his doctor would say, "Well Mr. Mullen, the growth of the tumor is so small, it poses no threat to your life. You will surely be dead from another life threatening condition before the tumor becomes a danger".
"Well Doctor, that's just wonderful news! What a great report!"

I would then take him for coffee and donuts during which he had his customary cigarettes - a life-long smoker. He lived to 96 and the doctor was correct; he died of natural causes and met death the same way he met his days of life - with good cheer and comity.

I went to see my surgeon for a 6 month checkup. If I was a Boeing 777, it would not be considered a "D Check", but enough time had gone by to give some standard outlook on my artificial ankle. I was anxious to know if I was in the "fairway" or the "rough", medically speaking. Was the stiffness and occasional pain normal? Will the discomfort stop? And when? He said I was on the fairway, but that the ankle had "shifted". It may stabilize or I may have to have a rod in my left leg in a year (just what I need - more metal). We'll see.

The doctor and I walked half-way up the hill of artificial ankles, looked over the rise....and saw more mist. That's OK. I felt very relieved and quite good about the visit. I just wanted to know. I think the relief comes from the knowing, both for me and my father.

Actor and writer, Robert Benchley, had it wrong when he said, "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't". I think the world is divided into those who want to know and those who don't want to know. I am definitely the former. I guess it must be some strange combination of control issues and curiosity, but I have always been that way. I secretly admire people who "don't want to know".

I recently read an article done by an Emergency Physician called "Avoiding Black Swans". I expected health tips (don't eat anything that tastes good and stay away from anything that gives you pleasure), but the article, apparently based on ER experiences, was filled with, "drive the biggest car you can afford", "don't clean gutters on a ladder", etc.

The article drove home the point that we are all on a clock and some of us want to know when the battery dies. We need time to assimilate, plan and maybe manipulate. I also don't always know how I am going to react to things. This week our computer crashed and I lost 15 years worth of financial information. Not happy about it, but not all that upset either. Life surprises.

With all that in mind I can picture the following at my death;

"Who are you?"
"I'm an Angel. Who are you?"
"I'm Grumpy".
"Well...let's see...good news Grumpy, you're going to Hell! wait...that's the other, you're going to Purgatory!"
"Great...what's that?"
"You go into a room for 500 years and watch a soccer game".
"No! Not soccer! Look I played soccer in High School and it is a fun game, but boring to watch. I'd rather watch my fingernail grow for 500 years".
"Look, when I died I had 25,000 frequent flyer miles. I want to upgrade to another channel - any channel".
"You can't redeem miles in Purgatory!"
"Why not - don't they call Him the Great Redeemer?"

Well, you get the idea.
I need to plan.
I need to get more miles.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You're Scaring Me

When we observe something and don't understand it and immediately know we never will, it can be jolting. That ignorance can cause fear and right now I've got ignorance and fear in spades. This I hope will be the only, even remotely, political entry I make.

My two cents.

I've been watching on TV and reading about the illegal immigration mess current in the news. The scariness comes from the strong emotions and feelings this issue generates in a lot of us - and I mean very specifically - people I see during my day. Watching an issue on TV gives a certain distance that allows us analysis and further thought. Listening to people in conversation, people you know, is more immediate and sometimes jarring. I do not understand the emotional purchase this issue (both for and against) takes up in people's minds.

Back in college in the 60's, I did a paper on the country's immigration trends. Over the previous 100 years, the entry "spigot" was uneven; some decades a lot of people entered, other decades, not so many. The motivation always seemed to be the needs of the country. I'm sure some motivations were political, but for the most part America became a country of immigrants and immigrate we did.

And believe me.

You could not find a better pathfinder in the country of complaint and the land of feeling put upon than a college student in the 60's, i.e., me. If there was a hint of unfairness, I could and would have blamed the previous generations with great delight; Like Martin Luther, I would have tacked list of grievances to the door of the political science department that would make Luther's list look like a "post it" note. I had no such list - the river of immigration meandered in some places and flooded in others, but it always seemed to flow.

Why can't we see that flow now? Some would say the reaction is born of racist tendencies. If you want to look through that glass darkly, help yourself. Our history has given some cause. All ethnic groups could pull up a chair at Oprah's table with justification. But I don't believe people's lives are consumed with racism. I don't base that on extensive study and thought. I base it on the fact that in my entire life I've only known two people I would call racist. They deserve pity and prayer, but no consideration in American thought. They are vastly outnumbered.

Others see the the question in moral terms and it is not without a moral tinge. A father in Renosa Mexico that has to feed his family and has no prospects in Mexico may not give another country's immigration laws all that much weight. I know which side of the fence I would be on if I were that man and I think you do too.

But the problem is not morality, but mathematics. If you want to use this issue to delve in liberation theology - don't. If you want to encase the issue with every slight and injustice you've suffered - don't.

The federal government needs to solve this problem. Politics is the art of compromise. We are not going to arrest and deport the estimated 12 million people and we should not give them a pat on the back for being illegal. Set up a worker certification program and a explore a path of eventual citizenship for many. Perhaps not for all, but for many. Like Canada and Australia, we may find reducing general worker visas and increasing highly skilled workers is the way to go. This may cause problems and a rise in illegal migration again, but at least we can work inside a rational framework. One-half of the "Google" founders is a Russian immigrant, Sergy Brin, and he has done a fair job at creating wealth and jobs in America. Long term, the country, the economy and even immigrants benefit. We'll be fine if we remember that this country has been and should continue to be a shining torch of liberty and individual freedom to the world.

That torch is fueled by immigrants.