Thursday, August 26, 2010

Obama: His Influential Mother

My e.mail is cluttered with hatred for our President, claiming he is a Socialist, that he wants to make everyone dependant on government, and that his aim is to become a dictator with complete power over our nation.

Anyone who spreads this nonsense is a bigot, a liar, and a fascist. And anyone who believes any of this is a fool.

Some even believe Obama is not a true American, that he was born in Kenya and that he is a Muslim. His father was born in Kenya and was a Muslim. Our President was born in Hawaii and, abandoned at age two by his father, grew up under the influence of his white, Christian mother.

Ann Dunham was born in Wichita, Kansas. After her father returned from World War II, the family moved frequently. They even lived for a while in Texas. Ann went to high school in the Seattle area. She won a scholarship to the University of Washington, but shortly after her high school graduation, her parents decided to move to Hawaii. They insisted she go with them.

Ann was a friendless newcomer when she entered the University of Hawaii as a freshman. She was seduced by this handsome, intelligent, charismatic African. They married, and she named the baby after his father, Barack Hussein Obama. She was only 18 years old.

When the little boy was two, his father received a scholarship to Harvard. He left and only came back once. The month in Hawaii when Barack was nine years old was not a happy visit. When Barack Sr. left that time, the boy never saw or heard from his father again.

The big influence on his life was his mother, Ann Dunham. She was a remarkable woman. Only 20 years old when she became a single mother with a child to raise, she did not become a “welfare mother” content to let the government support her. She obtained a college degree in anthropology. While doing research for her Ph.D. in Indonesia, she worked with villagers, helping them to develop crafts to market and sustain their native culture.

Later she worked for the Ford Foundation on economic development projects throughout Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and India – and other countries I can’t remember. If you want to check the facts, please read “The Bridge”, David Remnick’s biography of Obama.

Remnick quotes Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, “I don’t know what she (Ann Dunham) wanted, beyond what any of us wants – some measure of satisfaction that we have contributed positively to the lives of others and enriched our own understanding of the world around us and taken full measure of our own place in this life and world.”

That’s what Ann Dunham instilled in her son, Barack Obama. In his speeches Obama always stresses “self-reliance” as accompanying any government program. In his policies he strives to “contribute positively to the lives of others.”

Not what the internet attacks on him would have you believe.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The South Shall Rise Again

My grandmother was an unreconstructed Southerner. At the beginning of the Civil War, her father and two of his brothers rode their horses to Dallas and enlisted. Bill Wade said, “The only lie I ever told was when I lied about my age to join the Confederate cavalry. I lived to regret it.”

My grandmother was proud to be the daughter of a Confederate veteran. On Sunday afternoons she took me to the Court House. In Texas in the 1930's a big room in the basement was devoted to Confederate memorabilia. I remember a horrific picture of ladies in hooped skirts fleeing a mansion being burned by Damn Yankees. Among the large group of old people were three actual Confederate veterans, white-haired old men with beards. As we all stood up to sing “Dixie”, the old men threw their caps up in the air. Afterwords we ate ice cream, and I liked that.

Like all children, I accepted my parents’ prejudices. All my family used the “N” word, frequently and unselfconsciously. We thought we knew Negroes. They lived in my grandmother’s backyard in a little room attached to the garage.

A photo shows me and my brother Lyle as toddlers in the hands of big, black Will. Later, when I was a teenager and my grandmother was alone in the big house, she felt safe with the little room occupied by Robert Fisher, an elderly black man, a preacher with an incomprehensible stutter. (He must have had one of those congregations where they speak in tongues.) The final tenant was a fat old woman who looked like a movie Mammy. She ironed my dresses for a pittance. She called me, “Miss Ilene”, and I called her “Stella”.

When I went to the door of the “servant’s quarters”, the place smelled of sweat. We thought all Negroes smelled that way. The room had a toilet but no shower or tub for bathing. Our servants lived there for 50 years.

In 1952, I became engaged. A little woman came up to me after church and said sorrowfully, “Ilene, I heard you were marrying a Yankee.”

In Chicago I was shocked by my mother-in-law’s hatred of Negroes. She feared them as rapists and murderers. She did not know any black people. I loved Will and Robert and Stella. I knew Negroes, or thought I did.

People everywhere want the same things: a good life for themselves and their children. But we are all victims of our heritage. We inherit our prejudices, and it is difficult, almost impossible, to look at things from the point of view of another person or group.

My family moved from Detroit to Dallas in 1966. My nine-year-old daughter enrolled in Brandenburg Elementary School in Irving. When I went to parents’ night, I met Ronnie in the hallway. Ronnie, a friend from church and Girl Scouts and wife of the head of anesthesiology at Southwestern Medical School, said, “I choose Mrs. Kerwin as Susie’s teacher. She’s the best teacher in this school.”

I went into the classroom. My daughter’s new teacher was black.

The next night I looked across the supper table and asked my daughter, “Martha, why didn’t you tell me that Mrs. Kerwin was black?”

The nine-year-old looked up from eating tuna casserole and said, “Why? Is that important?”

I was proud of her. And proud of myself. I had not passed on my prejudices to my children.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Texas, Our Texas

Breakfasts at our retirement home are leisurely. Four of us usually sit at the same table near the door. I sit in “the gun-fighter’s seat” with my back to the wall, where I can say “Good morning” to the other old folks who pass on their way to and from other tables in the dining room.

Our group drifts in about eight o’clock, and after our poached eggs or oatmeal, we sit drinking tea or coffee for the next hour. At times conversation lags – the weather is consistently hot and we’re bored with hearing about each other’s arthritis. I’m always glad when John joins us. He always says something to liven things up.

One morning – I don’t know what prompted it – as John pulled up a chair and sat down, leaning on his cane, I said, “After growing up in Texas, it was quite a shock to move to Chicago.”

John retorted, “After growing up in Chicago, it was quite a shock to move to Texas.”

That’s when the young man sitting opposite, a visitor who is spending a few days with his mother, said, “I’m a Texan. I’ve never lived any place but Texas. For me, any place outside the borders of Texas is a foreign country, and I don’t want to go there.”

I am his opposite. I am glad I lived in five different states, spent time in most of the others, and traveled, made friends, and even lived – if briefly – in foreign countries. Everywhere I’ve met people who have grown up in one place, never lived any place else, and think it is the best place in the World.

Chicago is a fascinating city with spectacular museums and a beautiful lakefront. Friends asked me, “Why would you want to live any place else?” I rode the dirty old “el” train and looked in windows of tenements, where poor whites and blacks live in slums. I’ve climbed down from the “el” into a foot of snow and slipped on ice as I made my way “home” to an apartment where our living room window was five feet from the window in the adjoining building. No, I don’t want to live there. Never again.

Belief that the place you grew up is the very best in the World enables Alaskans to live in the Arctic and Brazilians to live in the Amazon. But failure to understand other people and cultures can lead to tragic misunderstandings. People become stuck in their beliefs, and misinformation passes from generation to generation.

Ignorance of science and history has resulted in the perversion of education in Texas schools. Evolution is a “theory” and God created the World in 6000 B.C. In the new history textbook, Abraham Lincoln’s picture is paired with that of Jefferson Davis. When Congress passed laws that our governor didn’t like, Perry suggested Texas should secede from the United States -- as if that had not been settled by the Civil War.

Television opened everyone to the entire World, but the internet has no restraints. Anyone can publish any lie on the web, and people read and believe. No libel law can punish them. Texans will continue to maintain that God created the World in seven days. And just because a man’s father (whom he never knew) was a Muslim, then the man must be a Muslim, too.

Crazy World!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seeing Is Believing?

People believe what they want to believe.

In TIME magazine for August 23, James Poniewozik wrote a column headlined, “The Myth of Fact. Despite all the evidence, many still believe Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.”

Poniewozik wrote, “. . . according to a CNN-Opinion Research poll, 27% of Americans say Obama was probably or definitely not born in this country. There’s a political divide – 41% of Republicans believe it – but a not insignificant 15% of Democrats do as well. And they believe it despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the rumor has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked by the press (and dismissed by Hawaii’s Republican governor).”

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, at Kapi’olani Medical Center, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

My brother showed me an official-looking birth certificate distributed all over the internet, claiming that Obama was born in Kenya. This is a fraud. It correctly names his parents. His father was Barack Obama Sr., who was born in Kenya. His mother was Ann Dunham, who was born in Wichita, Kansas, shortly after her father went overseas with the U.S. Army to fight with Patton during World War II.

I plowed through 591 pages of David Remnick’s “The Bridge”, subtitled “The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.” Friends tell me they don’t have time to read the entire book, so I will cherry pick a few passages for them.

Obama Sr. abandoned his wife and child when Barack Jr. was two years old. According to Remnick, “But as a child, Obama experienced his family as a small unit dominated not so much by the absence of his African father as by the presence of his mother, Ann Dunham.”

Ann Dunham never spent a day of her life in Kenya. And Barack Jr. knew nothing about Kenya until he was a freshman at Occidental College in California, where he met a fellow student who lived there as an American volunteer, and who told Barack — for the first time – about his father’s African tribe.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Cost of Medicare

I’m one of the old people who makes the cost of Medicare skyrocket. I’m on dialysis. If I don’t get my blood cleaned three times a week, I will die. It costs $3,000 a month.

For the past year and a half I’ve received dialysis through a graft under the skin in my left forearm. Each time I went to dialysis, the technician stuck two needles into the graft, one to pull blood out and run it through the machine, the other to send clean blood back into my body.

In March the doctor noticed some difficulty in pumping the clean blood into the vein. He sent me to the vascular clinic in Dallas, where Dr. Frank Rivera inserted a balloon into the graft to open the blockage. He sent a bill for $8,221.25. Medicare approved payment of $2,263.69, which seemed reasonable to me. Medicare paid $1,810.95; my insurance paid the other $452.74. The doctor agreed to accept the Medicare approved amount. I paid nothing.

That was in March. Then, when I went for dialysis on June 19, the vein was completely blocked, and I could not receive dialysis.

On June 21 I again went to the Dallas clinic, where Dr. Rivera operated on my arm without giving me any pain medication as he inserted another balloon. It only took an hour, but it was torture. And it didn’t work. When I went to dialysis the next day, the vein was still completely blocked.

The nurse sent me to the vascular clinic in Plano, another Dallas suburb, where Dr. Jeffrey Siegel operated on my arm without anything to deaden the horrific pain. Again, it didn’t work.

The next day I saw my surgeon. Dr. Cook said, “Why didn’t they send you to me in the first place?”

This week I received the Explanation of Benefits, statements from my insurance company for payments to the vascular clinics. This time Dr. Rivera billed $12,420.75. Medicare approved the full amount. Medicare paid him $11,716.22, and my insurance paid $704.53.

Dr. Siegel sent in a bill for $12,474. Medicare paid $12,427.30, my insurance $46.70.

For the two surgeries, which caused me trauma I am still struggling to overcome, and which did not correct the problem in my vein, Medicare paid a total of $24,143.52.

Is anyone shocked by these charges? Each procedure took less than an hour.

So far Dr. Cook has operated twice, once to insert a catheter in my chest where I will receive dialysis until my arm heals and a second time when, unable to relieve in blockage in my lower arm, he inserted a new graft in my upper arm. Both operations were done under complete anesthesia in the hospital. I have not received copies of the bills, but I know they will be horrendous.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Hard Blow

Like everyone during the game of life, events happen which are like a foul ball flying in and hitting me in the face. Hard!

Until six weeks ago I enjoyed my routine life. During dialysis on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, I read TIME and the New Yorker; the afternoons passed without much discomfort. I came home afterwards and collapsed. I watched television. Then I woke up the next morning feeling good. Four days a week I wrote my blog and did whatever else I wanted to do. A routine.

Then one Saturday I went to dialysis. The tech stuck a needle into my arm. The artery side of the graft pumped blood out. Then she pierced my arm three times trying to find the vein. The nurse came and probed and twisted the needle The dialysis machine started. After ten minutes the vein clotted. The tech pulled out the needle and with it came a blood clot six inches long. That was the end of dialysis for that day, and, as it turned out, for the next week.

Monday morning the vascular clinic in Dallas called and asked me to come as quickly as I could. I woke my brother Don in his home in North Garland, and he said he would get dressed and come take me to Dallas. I called the vascular center and was told, “As long as you can be here by 11:00.”

We arrived at 10:30. At noon I was put on a gurney and left in a cubicle with a big clock to watch until 4:00, when I was taken to surgery. For the next hour the surgeon tortured me by digging in my arm without any pain killer. My chart said I was allergic to opiates. I screamed. I didn’t care what the chart said. I pleaded, “Give me something!” The doctor ignored me as he inserted a balloon in my vein. I got home at 6:30. I had nothing to eat or drink since breakfast.

On Tuesday I went to dialysis. The vein still clotted. Don took me to a vascular center in Plano, Texas, where I was taken promptly into surgery, and where, again, I was tortured without any pain medication. Late that afternoon I was sent back to the dialysis center in Garland, where the vein was still blocked. The nurse asked me to go back to Plano the next day. I refused.

Wednesday I went to see my surgeon. Dr. Cook took one look at my arm, black with bruising from wrist to elbow, and said, “Jesus! Why didn’t they send you to me in the first place?”

Early Thursday morning Don took me to Baylor Garland Hospital. Under the blessing of anesthesia, the surgeon put a catheter in my chest, two little tubes that hang down where my right breast used to be. Now for dialysis the nurse unscrews the ends and connects to the dialysis machine. No needles for now. But: I was told not to get the catheter wet. That’s a problem for a gal who wants to shower every morning.

My brother Don was my savior that week, spending four days coming to my apartment to get me, taking me all over Dallas County, and waiting patiently while the doctors worked on my arm. I don’t know what I would have done if these complications happened when I was alone in Albuquerque. When I need help, Don always comes cheerfully. What a good brother!

Don took me back to the hospital on Monday where Dr. Cook tried to unblock the graft in my left arm. It didn’t work. He put in a new graft in my upper arm. I now have an ugly red wound about four inches long in my left elbow.

I will continue to receive dialysis through the catheter in my chest until the new graft is completely healed. That may take six weeks. I never thought I’d say, “I will be glad when the tech can stick needles in me again.” Meanwhile, an aid comes to my apartment three times a week to wrap me in Saran so I can shower.

I have decided to live. Monday night I was not sure I wanted to. I hurt. I feel miserable. I don’t write blogs. I sit in my recliner with Charlie on my lap, my left arm propped up on a pillow, and feel sorry for myself.

Then I remember all the other old ladies who live in this retirement community. Each has health problems; many are worse off than I am. I don’t have diabetes. I don’t have high blood pressure. My heart is strong, no arteries clogged.

If you come to my apartment in the next six weeks, you will find me and Charlie in the recliner watching Turner Classic Movies. Last night it was Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight."