Thursday, May 26, 2016

Remembering Garry

A new law was just passed in America, stating that the words 'Black' and 'Oriental' – to describe 'non-whites' have been banned. Henceforth, those of Asian descent are to be called Asian-Americans and those of Congoid descent are now designated African-Americans, regardless of whether their lineage traces back to Africa or elsewhere that biological taxon may originate.

And regardless what people of those races/ethnicities call themselves. And nothing has been said about what people of Hispanic/Latino descent are to be called. I wonder why they were omitted?

While people in China marvel at the social advances in America, I and others shake our head at the seeming senselessness of labeling and classifying people to begin with. Why not just call all American citizens 'Americans'?


Garry Kelley suffered a heart attack while riding a bus in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His brain was deprived of oxygen for over 3 minutes while waiting for the paramedics. Nevertheless, when the ambulance arrived they resuscitated Garry, and then whisked him away to the hospital intensive care unit. He never regained consciousness. His family were all notified. My dear Sister, Donna, took emergency leave from work and rushed to his side.

NOTE: I call Donna my Sister because we've known each other all of our lives, not because we are related by blood. We were related by marriage at one point, as she was my brother's wife. She is no longer my sister-in-law, just the sister of my heart.

When she got to Hot Springs, her brother was hooked up to life sustaining machinery. Because of the oxygen deprivation and the severity of the heart attack, doctors did not expect Garry to live if life support were withdrawn. The family, by now all gathered by the bedside, agreed to take their eldest brother off life support on Friday morning.

The following Tuesday, he was still alive: unconscious, and with an infection in his lungs but breathing on his own (with a bit of oxygen pumped up his nose). Apparently he can feel pain because he is being regularly dosed with morphine. The doctor voted to move him to hospice care, and brother Terry will stay in the room with him. It won't be long till Garry dies, now. When they removed life support, they also took out his feeding tube. He will starve to death. It should only take a week or two.

This is a fairly common practice for terminal cases in America. Most notably, Terri Schiavo, who had been in a coma for 10 years was taken off life support and left to starve to death after a 5-year legal battle between her parents and her husband, during which her feeding tube had been removed and reinserted two times before a final court ruling that it should be removed and not replaced. Terri died on March 31st, 8 days after she had last been fed.

Her case differed from Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan – both who were in the same state Terri. They broke ground in the legal area of Right-To-Die law: the removal of feeding tubes, permitting starvation. Until their cases presented in the Supreme Court, people had been left in a vegetative state  until they died of natural causes, forcing their families to pay for their care until they bankrupted.

Another landmark case, Estelle Browning, had made her wishes very clear, in writing and long before her coma: she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Having been fed through a tube as a matter of procedure until her will was found and read, her feeding tube was removed, and she, too, was permitted to starve to death. In none of these cases was death accelerated by administering drugs. 

In fact, the 'forced to live, no matter what' phenomenon that appears uniquely American even found its way into movie theaters, splendidly showcased in the film Million Dollar Baby:

Maggie struggled her whole life to do the one thing that makes her feel good: boxing. She quickly rose through the ranks, fighting in matches all over the world. During one fight, her opponent landed an illegal hit that left her paralyzed from the neck down. She was kept alive by various machines. Even though she expressed her desire to die, the medical staff went to great lengths to prevent her death, even keeping her sedated so that she couldn't bite off her own tongue and bleed out, as she had tried to do. 

I have ranted about this topic before: the right to die with dignity (See Death Rights, posted August 2014). My friends, Caroline and Earline, dismissed by their doctors, had been sent home to die, even though they were both of sound enough mind to exercise the option of ending their life, had that choice been available to them. One point of that previously posted article was that they did not have that option.

Garry (and Terri Schiavo and the other women) is not awake to make decisions for himself. Dignified termination of life being illegal in all but one state - Oregon, the doctors' and family's only option is to force starvation. Remember: Garry must still feel pain, as he is being fed morphine. Can you imagine what he will be going through?

Makes me wonder: why does the American government waste time and tax dollars trying to decide what to label people when there are much greater decisions to be made, such as the right to die with dignity? I won't go again into the argument made in my previous article: that prisoners on death row and animals have the legal right to die with more dignity than ordinary citizens.


President Obama is in Vietnam, brokering trade agreements and lifting arms embargos. He addressed a crowd of 2300 in the Hanoi Convention Center:

Yet even as he hailed the progress (Vietnam has made), Obama also gently pushed Vietnam to improve its record on human rights and free speech. (Source: The Washington Post)

That would be the president of the United States, urging Vietnam to improve its human rights record. Where does America stand on human rights, letting people who have no hope of recovery and no quality of life starve to death or die in agony (while prisoners and dogs are humanely 'terminated')?

And 'free speech'? Obama just signed a bill into law, banning words! 

Does anyone else see any irony, here? 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I Am NOT My Mother!!!

Of course, all of our mothers are saints: wise dispensers of comfort and advice, doers of good deeds, veritable fountains of kindness and love, the epitome of beauty. If that's the case, why the saying: 'You're turning into your mother'? It is usually uttered by husbands – we all know the old joke about how sons-in-law and wive's mothers supposedly get along, right? Or, a middle-aged woman might, aghast at her own proclivities, mutter to herself: “I am NOT turning into my mother!”

This remark is generally made – by a spouse or to oneself, when less-favorable traits, such as nagging, nit-picking and/or over-controlling manifest. Somehow, our first teacher, our most adoring fan, our paragon of virtue turns into some malevolent maven as soon as we do something unsuitable. Or, after a collection of unsuitables. After all: wouldn't it be a great thing to turn into one's mother, if indeed that woman were made of nothing but goodness and light?

I have a lot of similarities to my mother, as recently pointed out by my brother. I've chosen to live in a land where I don't speak the language (fluently) - a different country than my children, just like she did. However, I differ from her in that I have a great relationship with my children and visit them and their families every year. In between visits, we have email, text message, video chat and package sending. My mother refused to board a plane to come see us, and eventually even refused any communication with us.

To be perfectly fair to her: there was no email, texting or video chat in her time. 

I'm one of those ladies who assiduously avoided any comparison to her mother. She liked classical music; I favored punk. She went to the theater, I caused theater with my antics. Her ideal Sunday consisted of taking a long bath and reading the day away; my Sundays consisted of resting up for another start to the overnight shift in the factory. Her ideal meal consisted of exotic foods; heavens help me if I eat exotic foods!

See, I'm not my mother at all!


Well, I have a fondness for the Brandenburg Concertos, and anything else by Bach, Brahms, Berlioz, Beethoven, Mozart and the like. In fact, these days, I prefer them to Adam Ant and Ian Dury. And I can't say I've never visited the theater; in fact, I've done some theater acting – and quite liked it.  AHA! The Sunday Bath! I CAN'T take a bath because I have no bathtub; only a shower! I'm NOT my mother! But, I do enjoy reading the day away.

One particular annoyance for my mother was in fact my constant reading. “You always have your nose in a book!” She would either complain, rage or otherwise fume, depending on her mood. Truly: books were my great escape. I had no problem running away from life into a good story. I could be seen eating, cooking, walking or just lounging around with my nose in my book. Sometimes she would just grumble at me. Other times she would get so angry, I knew to put the book away before something terrible happened to it, or me. One time of note, while we were riding a bus, she smacked the book out of my hands. It went flying out the window.

I hope it did not hit some unsuspecting person on the sidewalk.

These days, I look around at all the young people in China, focused on  their phones: in my classes, on buses, crossing the street... it's a blue miracle that no one gets hit. I don't mean by me, smacking people as my mother did me, but by a car, a scooter or the like.

The other day, I was running errands: out all day! In the course of my travels I couldn't help but notice all of those people with their eyes on their phones as they ambled about, not watching where they were going. The phenomenon forced its way into my attention because two or three times, I narrowly averted a collision with a pedestrian with eyes only for their phone, and once, I nearly got hit by a driver who was focused on his phone rather than all of the people in the crosswalk, under the supposed protection of zebra stripes and a green light.

I wanted to smack the phone out of his hand. Out of all their hands! “For pity's sake! Watch where you're going! Stop staring at your phone! There's nothing that important that you can't walk a few steps without consulting it!” I muttered.


It didn't hit me at first – pardon the pun, how much I sounded like my mother. Really: all you have to do is substitute 'phone' for 'book' and voila: Mama, resurrected!

The deep, dark confession: I've been wanting to smack phones out of people's hands for a long time, now. Especially in my classroom. It's never been a concretely formed idea, just a vague desire, and I'd probably only have to do it once, to create a shock effect.

Or to get fired. 

That's it! I need a long, hot shower. While I'm in there, thinking about my wicked need to smack people for reading their phones, I'll have some nice, classical music playing. After that, I'll cook a fancy dinner and enjoy The Original Production of Cats – the musical. I have it on disk.

See? I... AM... NOT!!! MY... MOTHER!!!