Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life And Death And Politics

Since the death of my aunt, the last of that generation in my family, I've had a hard time finding motivation to write here. It's been a long time since I've felt as involved in something really meaningful as being there when she died. Few moments are as intimate, and that my cousin was willing to share it with Judy and me has left me grateful, still deep in thought.

By comparison, the usual political bullshit, threatening though it is to our future, seems well beneath the merely annoying. As depressing as are the rise of Rick Perry and the enthusiasm of so many (any at all, really) for Michele Bachmann, two people who represent the lowest common denominator and the worst of our human inclinations toward scapegoating, paranoia, divisiveness, and resorting to magical thinking, I find it hard to get as excited as I've been. Or, maybe, it's that I just don't want to. Life is about life. Today's politics avoids it, is nothing more than rude noise. Destructive, dangerous noise. Scary noise. But suddenly, reading the latest outrage from the RWS™ or their congressional tools, instead of wanting to vent my anger by pounding the keyboard I find myself taking a breath and turning the page. Or I start to write, and quit halfway through. (The latest was Michele Bachmann's claim of being linked into god's message service regarding Irene, her claim she was kidding, and her explanation that makes it clear she wasn't. What kind of god kills a couple score of innocents, I wondered; sends a message to D.C. by wreaking destruction everywhere but there, scourging the city by leaving it with nothing but a couple of cracked phallic symbols. What, he could't just pick up the phone? And then I hit the delete button.)

On the evening of my aunt's death, after taking my cousin out for a nice dinner and talking about the events of the past days and weeks, Judy and I shared a feeling of having participated in something transcendent (at least w/r/t our pathetic politics). For Judy, it was the first time she'd attended death. For me, it was among many I'd seen as a surgeon, but this was emotionally very different. I was there when my dad died, too. Then, I'd had to participate in the decision to withdraw support, help my mom to understand through the fog of her dementia, be the medical liaison between his caregivers and my siblings. Freighted it was, and still is. If there are no second thoughts, there remain many unpleasant ones. When Maria died, sad as it was, the end of an inspiring life lived to the fullest, her way, it seemed undeniably a part of life, a necessary part, about which, notwithstanding understandable grief, there were needed no regrets.

Against this, the kabuki of broken and cynical politics seems an afterthought, a nearly laughable (were it not so horrible and depressing) example of people deliberately missing the point, missing it by a mile. Because it's what their supporters demand.

So who knows? With any luck, I'll maintain this sense of the value of life and of the emptiness of our current brand of politics, and stop caring so much. At dinner with my cousin, the three of us were talking about all sorts of things. Mentioning the approach of our fortieth anniversary, I came up with a little witticism: the secret of a long marriage, I said, is learning how to stop giving a shit. It got a good laugh. The little stuff, the unimportant things, idiosyncrasies, the ones that used to drive me crazy: in the end, who cares? What do they matter?

The prospect of a Perry or Bachmann or Romney presidency -- choose among the proudly illiterate or the unabashedly unprincipled -- is hardly unimportant idiosyncrasy, given the inevitable damage to our country that would follow. Even so, against having spent those most precious moments, I think I just might not give a shit any more. If the US elects any of those as its next president, well, it deserves every bit of the devastation that will follow. Of course the destruction will fall upon us all, even those who saw it coming and called out warnings. But WTF. It is what it is.

And since it'll be too late to change once the havoc is wreaked, not caring will be the only option left, short of killing our neighbors and eating them.


Anonymous said...

So THAT's why your so Morose lately..
I figured it was the Mariner's imminent regulation to the Mexican league...
But hey, NBA seasons right around the corner...Oh yeah, sorry.
and I'm not one to give advice, but what the Hey.
Be like Mike, I mean Frank..
I limit my political media to the 15-20 minutes/day of Howard Stern I can pick up on my pirated Serious radio and Jerry Springer's final thought of the day...
Haven't read a newspaper since whenever it was they took "Calvin & Hobbes" off the comics page.
Only reason I know my Congressman is I called his office by mistake ordering a Pizza.
No Alzheimers, its that damn Presbyopia, and his monthly newsletters look just like the Dominos coupons...
But if I lived in a State known for its Skull splitting Weed, I'd be down at the Medical Marriage-Juan-a clinic before you could say "Cheech & Chong".
Got the Lumbago and Fibromyalgia, and my stew-pid Georgia doctor wants me to stop smoking, lose weight, walk 3 miles a day.
I called him up 2 weeks later.
"Doc! I'm 42 miles from my House!"
but hey, it's gonna get worse before it gets better.
At least thats what Jerry Springer said.


tom said...

You are indeed sad if you can post Frank's "comment" as being relevant to your message

Sid Schwab said...

Relevance has long since ceased to be a factor in posting Frank's comments. It's more reflexive than anything else. But, yeah, the message gets muddled pretty fast, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

OK Tom, let me hold your hand like a small child and explain..
1:"Mariners imminent regulation..." referring to Seattles horrible baseball team, that in the European system, would be demoted to a lower league

2:"NBA seasons around the corner..." referring to Seattles former NBA team, that saw the light, and moved to Oklahoma.

3:"Havent read a newspaper..." I only read the paper for Calvin & Hobbes, which ended in 1995

4: OK I didn't actually call my Congressman's office, but I did mistake his newsletter for a pizza coupon

5: "Cheech & Chong" comedians known for there marriage-juan-a themed humour

6:"I'm 42 miles from my Home!" Old Rodney Dangerfield joke from the 60's, thought Sid would enjoy something from his era


Anonymous said...

When we see death - real death - the death of one close and personal - it is much different than the headline death of thousands by war or disaster.

We can connect with the suffering and loss of strangers, but we are not struck in a way that reaches our deepest selves. It is not real to us.

Real death puts things in their proper perspective

Carl Sandburg touches on this in his poem "If You Hate A Man."

If you hate a man let him live.
You may live to see him suffer.
He may live to see you suffer.
Or in the slow sliding away of days
You might both forget each other.
If you hate a man and you kill him
He will forget you and haunt you
Unless you are poor at remembering.
If you hate a man and he kills you
At the same time you kill him
Then the score is nothing to nothing.

When death comes
One little room can hold
The big dome of the sky
And the ocean looks easy to wade in.

The final lines say it best, that's how and when it really hits us.

But we must keep moving forward Sid; it's all we can, and should do, until it's our time.


Sid Schwab said...

Thanks, Eugene. It's not really that I'm in mourning; maybe I didn't say it well. It's just that by comparison to such an event, the other stuff takes on a lot less significance. Or something.

Anonymous said...


Sorry for your loss; respectful of what lessons you've taken from it.

I always appreciate reading those thought of yours you've chosen to publish. I'm comfortable with the perspective and grateful for its articulation.

My wife pointed out to me last night that our individual "hourglass of time" is wrapped such that we can see how much has passed but not how much more there is to come. With that in mind, when the last of the preceding generation passes it is--if nothing else--a fine time to do a course check on ourselves.

A course check on the bigger picture is a different thing entirely.

None of this means much but I come here often enough--and recently you've been stewing in more than the unhappiness of our present reality--that I wanted to say something...

Maybe I'll just return to the "sorry for you loss" thing because I truly am.


Jeff Mead

Anonymous said...

Sid: On the death of your Aunt, I empathize having lost, last month, my husband's father.For over 30 years I loved him for his humor,optimism and even-tempered nature. I cannot believe he is gone...I hope you got to say goodbye to her (your Aunt) at some point.
I am new to reading blogs and being a RN (soon to be CRNP) I gravitate to medical/surgical topics. Not that what I have discovered (in the 'blogosphere' (sic)"is consistently related to surgery/medicine.And-- for all of his often offensive blather, I must say that Frank's comments on this and other sites, has made me smile more than once. Which I guess,is a good thing? Not sure what it says about my sensibilities.
I am: Debra from Pittsburgh, PA

Sid Schwab said...

Thanks, everyone.

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