A family member came near dying these past few weeks.  It was touch and go for a while.  There were tests, and doctors, and then finally the OR and surgeons, and a hospital stay, after the surgeons removed pieces of his lung.  I know it won’t make much of a difference to say this, you might even say it’s whistling Dixie, but here, in the South, they still sell cigarettes for 5 dollars a pack, and I think that is criminal. But that’s the tobacco lobby hard at work.

I think anyone who makes or sells a pack of cigarettes for any price at all ought to be treated no different from any common pusher peddling crack cocaine, to name but one poison that we are all so lucky, I’m sure, to have so widely available in this country.  Guns and ammo stores that breed like fruit flies are another one of my big favorites.  Not to mention those vile payday loan shark operations that prey on the hapless poor, particularly in the South.

I’ve thought a lot, these days, about certain things — I suppose it’s normal to do that when someone close to you gets real sick.

You never want to get lung cancer; trust me on this one.  So if you’re young, and you know you’re invulnerable, and nothing bad can ever happen to you, think about my relative.   You never want to smoke so much that your lungs turn brown-black and that you have to start breathing with the help of oxygen tanks, after they take out pieces of you, and shoot you up with pain killers because it hurts so much.  You never want to smoke, period.

I think there’s been all kinds of cancer around us, for some time now, and I never noticed it, not really, not to the extent that I see it today.

This cancer just kind of crept up, and metastasized.

Let me try to explain.

Four years ago, I gave money to a young senator’s campaign to help with his election.  He was a black man from Chicago, and I contributed because I believed in him.

My husband would put up signs all along US1 which runs along here, here being a part of Florida where I live that is inhabited primarily by white, rich, winter people, many of whom are elderly and Republican to the bone.

Life’s been good to most of them.

After all, they are, for the most part, the sorts of people who never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or if the bank is foreclosing their house next week.  At least so I thought, until banks started foreclosing even here, on my block, which is located in one of those insular chi chi gated communities you hear about, where nothing can ever go wrong, and the houses all boast a sort of quasi fascist architectural sameness of style, that faux Mediterranean look so beloved around these parts, and the bad outside world is kept at bay for any number of reasons, some of them none too pretty at all.

Not that we’re great heroes or anything, but my husband sort of risked his neck a bit putting up these signs, which he made himself, buying the wooden materials to make the sign supporting structures and putting it all together himself with hammer and nail, and getting, with some difficulty, enough campaign posters, which he  stapled to his amateurish sign posts, from the county’s understaffed Democratic chapter.

At night, people would come by, eyeballing him, as he put up the signs, not just any people, but gangs of dangerous looking, creepy rednecks, riding around in beat up pickup trucks, toothless goons looking for trouble, who were obviously hired to get rid of any Democrat election sign they laid their beery eyes on, and would take out the signs my husband had put up along US1, soon after he planted them.  We complained to the sheriff, and eventually the signs stopped being stolen, as much, after the sheriff warned that anyone found taking down signs would spend a year in jail, and be fined a thousand dollars.  It was even announced on the local TV news.

When the young black senator was elected President, after it turned out there were more people, in 2008, like us than people who voted for the sad figure that a war hero had become, along with his cartoonish running mate, we were happy, because I knew this country so desperately needed a change, after the poison of the Bush and Cheney years, after all the bogus reasons for sending American troops to fight where they had no place dying and getting maimed, after the murder of thousands of Iraqi civilians, after Abu Ghraib, after all the shenanigans in real estate that we became particularly exposed to here in Florida, after all the pretend good times of the Bush years, after all the bank bailouts, and the rest of it, things that did nothing but diminish us all as a nation.

Things that made us seem less than what we are.

When the young black senator, now President, started getting a lot of flack from right-wing politicians in Congress about his health care proposals, my husband wrote to him.  He explained to him to please keep at it, because there many people like us, who have seen their insurance premiums go up, and up, and up again, with no end in sight, and that we had already spent 100,000 dollars on these insurance premiums, to date, in the last ten years, and that eventually this might bankrupt us.

Some time passed, and one day, a letter came in the US mail.  It was from the White House.   My husband opened it, expecting a form letter, and, instead, was stunned to realize that it was a short note written by hand and signed by the President himself, saying that we should hang in there, because he was confident that health reform would pass.  It was not a long note, just a line or two, but it was from the President.  He had taken the time to listen to us, even if just for a few minutes, and, more importantly, respond in such a gentle, encouraging way.

We have never received a letter from the President of the United States before, and I felt so moved.  So did my husband, even after our friends started joking that the country’s really in trouble if he has the time to write these little notes to people like us.  Maybe you’d be too, even if it came from someone whom countless ill-mannered boors contemptuously and invariably refer to as “this President,” as if he is nothing but a temporary mistake, as if saying his name would somehow sully their perfect make-believe world, the one in which they know all the answers.

Now it’s been two years since we received that wonderful note from Mr. Obama.

Today, I have to hold my nose sometimes at the goings on in this country, and, especially, the goings-on in this most corrupt of states, a state that, among other things, has the gall to officially conflate Robert E. Lee’s birthday with the celebrations that occur on Martin Luther King day.

Since it helped the frat boy skank the 2000 Presidential election, Florida, except for that brief, shining moment when it went for Obama in the general, remains to a large extent the corrupt, shady deal place, which, for some reason I can’t quite fathom, seems to attract more than its fair share of every scam artist imaginable, usually from the other 49.

Not just thieves and liars, but people without conscience, who seem to care about little, except for their own, immediate self-interest, many of them aging boomers, and their parents, and their crazy uncles, and not forgetting the angry old men who drive angry old cars that have decals that say things like “4 million went to Obama’s Inauguration, and only 14 missed work,” the kind of racist dorks you always see wearing those hideous shorts, white socks and cheap sneakers, who wrap themselves in flag and self-righteous fury, and are fixated with making sure that their Medicare and Social Security payments never dry up, and to hell with the rest of it.  To hell with the future; let’s turn the clock back to when things were really going our way.  To hell with gays.  To hell with blacks, except those who sell their own conscience up the river.  To hell with East and West Coast Liberals.  Latinos, except some of those second and third gen ones in Miami.  To hell with Progressive college professors.  To hell with unions.  To hell with the scum who occupied Zucotti Park, and places like it around the country, where young people are saying no, we don’t buy into the lies any more.  In short, to hell with anybody who is not them or believes other than what they believe to be Infallible Truth, as told to them by FOX news and its lackeys.

I still yearn for change we can all believe in, but after the continuing pointless quasi messianic revenge wars, with no real end in sight, after the obsession with controlling far-flung corners of the planet, and now, increasingly, our own population, with drones, after the all-out assault on our civil liberties, and much worse, after the failed attempt at solving the medical crisis in this country, the pandering to the rich, the bowing meekly to a rabid, uncompromising right-wing cabal that seeks nothing less than the destruction of the liberal strain of political belief in this country, after the cutting or trimming of many of the social programs so desperately needed by some if not many poor families all over this country, after the handing over of billions in armaments, no questions asked, to places like Israel, all because we believe, supposedly, it’s the right thing to do, or, rather, because most politicians in this country fear the voting block that is driven by some Bronze Age nonsense about the coming rapture, which justifies the pillaging of Palestinian lands, and after closing our eyes to the plight of people just like this person I mentioned up top, the one who contracted lung cancer, but who also rotted with a heart condition for years before that because he did not have the money to pay for the huge deductible on his insurance policy and take care of his heart, after all these things, and many other things like this, I think we have become, in many ways, a heartless, misguided country that is about to eat its young with lack of opportunity and massive college tuition debts and the rest of it, as the world continues to look at us, askance, if not aghast, with a barely concealed sense of horror.  Not that I really give a damn, but I think, too, that an increasing number of old school Republicans barely recognize their own party.

Whatever.

The damage has been done, and more serious damage is about to be unleashed, if things go the other way in November.

End of an error?

Get real.  It could be that the nightmare is only just beginning, if we go the other way, halfway through, despite all our deep misgivings.

Well, I’ve certainly said here more than I thought I would.

All I can say, for sure, is that I am often reminded, nowadays, of the poet’s words:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Isn’t it a pity, sang George Harrison.  We could have been so much better than this, as we truly were, once, I suppose, before we had to start telling the world how great we were, instead of it being the other way around.

But I’ll still be looking for that change.

© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016.