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Communique August 4th, 2020

By Philip Drucker

I must admit being back in the “cancer loop” did not exactly bring back a flood of good memories. Oh, there were thoughts/good feelings I associated with the familiar doctors and nurses, binge reading the works of Carl Hiaasen while waiting for the chemo bag to empty, and the “I made it through the end of treatment” ceremonial ringing of the bell. I would say there might have even been a twinge of nostalgia in there somewhere, but honestly, anyone who equates their chemotherapy with a good-times from the past blast has got to be either in some sort of serious denial or a complete idiot.

Believe me when I say you do not want to do this a first time, much less a second, repeat performance for I tell you truly, every time I get hooked up to my chemo colada I am cognizant this may be my final show on my farewell tour. Cancer treatment is at best an uncertain and ugly affair and I do not wish it on my worst enemy.

Did it change my life? The answer is yes, most certainly it did. Is it still changing my life? Again, yes, it is. Yet here is where the “hitch” comes into play. Am I a better person for it? Of that, I’m not so sure. Am I so stubborn that it takes a deadly malignant disease to change my insights and behaviors? Well, as everyone who knows me will tell you, I am stubborn.

Did it change my spiritual beliefs? Re-affirm or extend my faith in the Almighty? The answer is no. Now, I’m not saying I had it all figured out before this all started by any stretch of the imagination, but I find myself still pretty much believing in what I have come to accept as true over the past 61 years. In fact, one of the little “annoyances” I found the first time around is the number of people who just assumed I had experienced a Nearer, My God to Thee epiphany and wanted to know the inside scoop on the as above so below low down.

Don’t get me wrong. I can most definitely see the attraction of equating religious ecstasy with a long drawn out medical, near death experience. We all know the stories about fox hole atheists and people hit by lightning but live to tell. Try Googling “how near-death experiences changed my life” and you will get quite a few to say the least. After you sift through the many questions and comments regarding “is there life after death?” You will find any number of testimonials to the results being the attainment of a “better” life. Overcoming of anxiety, a strengthening of faith, finding one’s purpose and my favorite a new and more complete understanding of the truth. Spare me. I mean really, if you need to experience a near death experience to figure out what was lacking in your life, denial? Idiot? Both? Take your choice.

If you continue along this trajectory, you will also discover a great deal of information regarding advance directives, do not resuscitate being quite popular, various powers of attorney, durable, non-durable, medical and financial. Living wills, testamentary wills and trusts, all light reading to do in your spare time, somewhere between the fatigue, nausea and diarrhea so extreme you are in danger of dehydration. As I said, most of the memories I have associated with cancer/chemo/radiation are not pleasant, to say the least.

Similarly, meaning lots of questions concerning and about, I would like to take this opportunity to firmly state that since the time I discovered I had cancer, up and until today, I have not experienced what are routinely referred to as an “out of body” experience (OBE). I have not “seen the light”, “soul traveled” or “met my maker” all of which has been a point of regular inquiry. Are OBEs real? I don’t know. I’ve never had one so let’s move on, shall we?

What I can tell you is this. I seem to have changed in two major ways. One, there are any number of things, tangible and intangible that I thought were terribly important and are now far too trivial for me to give a rat’s ass about. My FICO (credit) score and virtually anything Mike Pence might whine about comes to mind.

Same thing with stray meteorites hitting the earth and whether one day, greed and Artificial Intelligence in the form of killer robots will wipe out the last vestiges of humanity. Terminator stuff. You might laugh, but Stephen Hawking believed in this scenario up and until his last days. Smart guy, right? But who knows, and importantly, who cares?

The other major shift in personality, or perhaps outlook on life in general, is I am not as angry as I used to be. I might even argue the angry, young buck in me is all but gone. This might sound a bit odd, but I say good riddance. Hate, anger, rage and all mutations thereof are at best a waste of time and energy. Wasting time is one thing, but energy? If you ever experience profound fatigue you will realize that energy is a precious commodity, the alternative being wishing, wanting, but not doing, and eventually, wasting away. If you need to express your ire, and I admit there are many times when it seems like the best idea, please save it for those times when perhaps action of some sort is needed. Better to act out than to wallow in quiet desperation I always say.

Which brings me to another question I am often asked with this one having no connection to cancer that I can discern (unless you consider Trump a kind of cancer), but keenly relevant to your present state of physical and mental health. Q: What do you perceive as the differences between Democrats and Republicans? A: There are many, most are petty, but there are one or two bell-weathers that are worth discussing. Here is a critical one.

It is my belief that when it comes to politics, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, their opinions, their own value systems and definitions. But, I also believe that when put into action, the first rule, the prime directive so to speak, of American politics should be to follow the Hippocratic oath, and DO NO HARM to We, the People.

There is no political persuasion, no economic theory, no application of law that should ever serve to hurt any individual, or group of similarly situated citizens at the expense of an ideology, a theory, a “greater good” for if one section of society benefits but only at the expense of another segment of the population, no matter how great or small, it is a failed ideology for it cannot in any way, claim to be in the interest of equal justice for all and cannot be reconciled within the American pantheon of good governance and politics.

In short, when a Democrats use the term “for all” they mean for all. We all do better when we all do better. When a Republican says, “for all” they seem to have a warped view, a bit tricky, but if you give it some thought want they mean is “for all Americans” with a somewhat less than holistic view of what “all” means and this cannot stand for in the final analysis, Republicans believe it is acceptable for the government to pick winners and losers.

That it is perfectly acceptable, perhaps even desirable for a discreet segment of our population based on who knows what, the white, the rich and of the right religious persuasion come to mind, to benefit from the actions of government at the expense of those not similarly situated within this narrow, and I might add, wrongheaded and dangerous, definition of what constitutes a “true” American. You don’t believe me? Then let’s delve a bit deeper as actions speak far louder than words.

Let’s begin with a discussion about the difference between inclusion and isolation. Democrats from the word go understand the importance and value of diversity. Of immigration. That being the land of opportunity means being the land of opportunity for all. That is why Democrats are for DACA and for comprehensive immigration reform. You know, inclusion.

The Republicans? Not so much. They want to build a wall or some other such nonsense thinking we can still isolate ourselves form the world and what ails, not America, but white bigots who can’t seem to see beyond their red MAGA hats and beer bellies that they are responsible for their own plight and if that plight is filled with pain, suffering, disillusion and failure, there is no one to blame but themselves. But "they" blame “them” the somehow less than Americans, anyway and today’s GOP/Trump Party just can’t serve up enough “very fine people on both sides” rhetoric to quell the masses all the while allowing the plunderers to do what they do best. That’s right, plunder.

And what is the result of this paradigm? You see it all the time. It’s called inequality. Racial inequality, economic equality, judicial inequality. It means stigmatizing under the color of law and order, who will succeed and who will not. Who will be rich, and who will be poor. Who will suffer without adequate employment, healthcare, including access to testing kits and vaccines, and eventually the possibility of a pension and dignified retirement, through no fault of their own.

It dictates that those who are wealthy are rich because they “worked hard”, are captains of industry, or in some instances, “blessed” as in chosen by God to succeed, as opposed to those who are inherently lazy, stupid, and/or should simply abide by the will of their Lord and savior and accept their pre-determined destiny. Starting to sound a bit like the justifications for slavery? Well, reduce the poor and the unworthy from the Constitutional category of “persons” to the legal status of “property” and you, we are there.

I close with this thought, one I had when I was in the infusion room hooked up to life saving medicine along with everyone else, black, white, Hispanic, young, old, male, female, straight, gay, bi, transgender. We are all one. We all come from the same maternal womb and no amount of artificial division based on the most peripheral of observations, fake science and prejudice will change the fact that harm to any one of us is harm to all of us. Success cannot be measured or justified by what I call the inhuman yardsticks. The stock market, the price of gold, the number of zeros in your off-shore bank account. These are the indexes of misery and unfortunately, every “I’ve got mine” Republican’s wet dream.

This must change. It will change or it will be the reason America ceases to exist. Fortunately, we the members of the Democratic Party and all like- minded individuals aim to do just that. Join us. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

Anyone for a Re-Phil?

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