Friday, October 26, 2018

If His Lips Are Moving

A brief columnar interlude. Couldn't stand being silent.
My recent leave-taking resumes after today. There’s only so much…  
Nevertheless, the latest torrent of atrocities by the person squatting atop our government ought not pass uncommented. Nor should the continued obeisance of his adoring mob. Though Trump’s lies and insults to decency have been unrelenting for years, what pricketh me just now is his insane claim, at a recent “I’ll-speak-of-my-greatness-while-you-shout-your-affirmation” rally, that the just-passed opioid bill received “hardly any votes from Democrats.” The actual vote was 98 -1 in the Senate, with the only no vote coming from a Republican. In the House, it was 393 – 8. That’s sickness.  
And, of course, there’s the calculus – to which some well-known preachers unashamedly have subscribed – that murdering a reporter, cutting him into pieces while still alive, lying about it, providing a series of increasingly bizarre explanations, must be overlooked so we can sell $110 billions worth of weapons to the perpetrators. 
Which is also a lie. $110 billion is fantasy, consisting of promises extending for decades, deals done by the previous administration, and about $4 billion actually in the pipeline. Plus, every time Trump mentions it, he up-puffs the numbers of potential jobs created. Four-hundred thousand, then five, then six. Most recently, a million. Says the Pentagon: maybe forty-thousand. 
Claiming unspecified Russian cheating, Trump would end Reagan’s nuclear treaty, to build short-range nukes. Coincidentally, wanting to deploy them around his borders, Putin proposed the same, ten years ago. Puppetry?  
Trump said his people were working “around the clock” on a middle-class tax cut before the election. White House staff hadn’t heard of it, so they’re scrambling to pretend it’s real. 
What do such ridiculous lies tell us, about the “president” and about those who excuse them? Is there an explanation that doesn’t foretell the end of our Republic? We’re in a dystopian world, arguing whether a “president” of the formerly exceptional United States isn’t really lying because he’s too stupid or uniformed to know truth; or whether he lies deliberately, dismissing his supporters as too dumb or Foxified to awaken to it; or whether he’s a diagnosable pathological liar. Which explanation is the least disturbing? Which suggests there’s room for moral awakening among his enablers?  
Oh, but Democrats want mob rule! If Lindsey “ignore-what-I-used-to-say” Graham buys it, so should you. Democrats want open borders, oppose the rule of law, would end Medicare by improving it, turning the US into Venezuela; are paying caravans of criminals to come to America to vote in November. The more preposterous, the more evidence-free, the more it’s repeated by Trump and rightwing TV propagandists and air-jockeys. And swallowed whole by Trumpists. 
Whose rallies are actual mobs spewing hate at reporters, demanding locking up former opponents, ignoring the law? For that matter, who benefits from refugees heading this way? George Soros, or those fear-mongering and demonizing them right before the election? A “national emergency,” says Trump. They’re walking. A thousand miles.  
Across the country, Republicans are purging voter rolls, refusing legitimate voters (assisted by Brett Kavanaugh’s first SCOTUS decision), distributing falsehoods about polling places and closing them in Democratic districts. When you can’t win the battle of ideas, you block the doors to the arena. It’s what the “party of Lincoln” has become. 
I know intelligent, thoughtful conservatives who claim to dislike Trump but who’ll vote for his party anyway, who pretend it’ll miraculously cleanse itself, requiring no action on their part. Who, one concludes, dislike Trump’s transgressions much less than they profess.  
Beyond his ludicrous lying, we’ve just learned Trump is considering going after transgender people, because… well, because he can. Because the same national “Christian” leaders who place money above morality – it’s their own business model, after all -- will praise his “defense of Christianity.” It would harm more than a million Americans, helping none. Other than Trump, that is, who’s made a career of hurting others to his own benefit.  
Trumpists don’t like being told they love him because he hates who they hate, nor having it pointed out that their acquiescence to Trump’s malignant mendacity can be explained only as preference for lies. By now, though, it’s undeniable. If his lips are moving…  
And this, just in: Trump doesn’t encourage violence or praise people who body-slam journalists. So those bombs sent to everyone he targets at his rallies? False flag 
November approaches, America. It’s now or never.
   [Image source]

Friday, October 5, 2018

Surgery: The Flip Side (And Trump)

This is gonna be my last newspaper column for a while, but I'll still post stuff on my blog. Sorta tired of pissing into the wind.
Implicit in the ability of a surgeon to do good is the potential for harm. If dwelling on it can be paralyzing, ignoring it is dangerous...  
Imagine being parents of a perfect newborn. The joys and worries of pregnancy have resulted in a beautiful boy. He coos, wraps his hand around your finger as you feed him. You’ve never felt such love.

Then, at six weeks old, your baby begins vomiting, keeping almost nothing down, not gaining weight. Hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, the surgeon calls it, speaking Greek, or Martian, telling you an operation is needed. Like a raw doughnut tossed into a fryer, the circular muscle at the bottom of the stomach has grown, too fast, preventing the stomach from proper emptying. Pyloromyotomy is the curative operation. 
Think of a tight ring over a gloved finger. The aim is to cut and open the ring, but not the glove; to see the glove fabric bulge up through the ring, indicating it's free. But if the fabric itself is pierced, it’s a bad thing. The glove is the inner lining of the stomach, so a hole in it causes leaking stomach contents. 
It’s necessary to divide the entire muscle or the operation won't be effective; too deep, there’s the hole. The local anatomy is tricky, increasing the chance of damage, and everything is tiny. If recognized, a hole is sewn up. The danger is not noticing. That can be deadly. And it’s up to me. 
In a fog of fear, the parents listen. I tell them about the possible problem and what’s done to avoid it. I caution that their child might still vomit for a few hours, but in all likelihood, he'll be home in a day or two, doing fine. They agree, of course. 
There's something outlandishly disproportionate about a little baby on a big table in a huge OR. I could cover the entire person with my two hands. All the machinery, the tools, the drapes, the surrounding team seem grotesquely outsized. It's like a joke, except it's real and the stakes are high. Ignore the reality and focus on the job at hand. Tiny incision, toy-like instruments, fine little sutures at the end. It goes perfectly. 
"S#!t," I say, as the phone jars me awake at two a.m. It’s my usual response, whatever the call. Now a nurse informs me the baby has a fever of 103ยบ and his abdomen is rigid, an ominous sign. "I'll be right there," I tell her, forcing words through my suddenly constricted throat. 
It's easy to describe how I felt, because it happens again whenever I think about it. Had my wife awakened, I’m certain she'd have seen me appear ghost-white. My stomach was acid; my hands were ice. I could barely tie my shoes, those cold hands shaking, not following commands. An algid force gripped my neck; I could hardly swallow. 
After splashing water on my face, I ran to my car. As I drove, hands so tightly on the wheel that they were getting numb, I told myself I'd do whatever was in my power to save the child, whatever it takes. Stay by his side till it was over. And then never, never, ever, ever do a pyloromyotomy again. And if he did poorly, I'd never operate again. This was a baby. Someone's precious baby. 
Not waiting for the elevator, I took stairs two at a time to the pediatric floor, saw the nurses standing by, felt as if a million eyes were on me, accusing and angry. (They weren't. But that's how it seemed.) And there he was. Fussy face flushed with fever, but moving around actively, looking otherwise okay. His belly was soft as, well, a baby's belly. An X-ray appeared normal. Whatever that fever was, it was gone by morning. 
Nearly limp, still shaking, I drove home barely able to control the car, wrung out like a wet sock. Exhausted, I crumpled onto the bed, relieved, but absolutely spent. An hour or so later, I dragged myself to work. And next time a pediatrician called me about a kid with pyloric stenosis, I took a deep breath, recalling that night, and said... "I'll be right there."  
And now, for a sad return to current events, read this eulogy for America. Vote for decency and against Trumpic cruelty in November, or it’s lost. There’s nothing more to say. 

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