Tuesday, June 06, 2006

things i've noticed this morning

The defocusing of belief by PZ Myers @ Pharyngula:

Here's how that works. Criticize some attribute of religion, such as its reliance on "faith", that uncritical acceptance of cosmic baloney. Concerned defender of religion rushes to assert that a) there is evidence for their religion, or b) many religious people have a capacity for critical thought in other areas, or c) their particular religion doesn't have a faith component (which, I'm sorry, I do not believe). Therefore, because there are these exceptions (dubious as some may be), I should not criticize religion. That's a bogus argument. One might as well say that because a) some theft is motivated by justifiable causes, b) many thieves would never rob their own mother, and c) their own philosophical world view lacks the concept of property and ownership, we should be more tolerant of thievery.

The other effect of this strategy is to turn religion into a completely empty word. When someone can say they don't believe in any deities, the supernatural, or any kind of afterlife, but that they are "religious", then religion is meaningless. It means I am religious. It doesn't seem to matter that for most of human history, both of us would be labeled "atheists" and condemned for it, and in many periods even executed for it.

maniclawyer at dailyKos (NB: I never read kos diaries, but they one had surprising resonance in how superior medical care outside the US saves an American's life; his story is about difficulties getting treated for mental health, which only gets worse):

Surprisingly, the move made an immensely positive difference in terms of my access to medical care.  Even as a foreign student, for just two hundred dollars I was able to enroll for a year in the French national health care system.  How very ironic it was to receive medical treatment overseas for free that I could not obtain in the US even as working attorney.

Although I had been denied Medicaid in the United States after I lost my job, I had a French Carte Vital within a month.  This universal health card assured that doctors, hospitals and pharmacies nationwide would provide me the help I needed.  (Except, ironically, the American Hospital in Paris, which doesn't accept government reimbursements.)  

In France, I was finally diagnosed as manic depressive, bipolar.  In France, medical diseases that are particularly severe are covered for all necessary treatments at all hospitals and with no co-payments.  Since manic depression is defined by the government as a "particularly serious disorder", all of my associated costs were covered 100%.  In France.

My psychiatrist treated me twice weekly without ever asking me for payment.  We tried a number of medications without the fear that the one I most needed might be beyond my financial means.   I tried lithium for the first time, but it didn't work for me.  Still, I felt much less desperate knowing that I would always be financially able to see my psychiatrist and take the medications he prescribed.  

The most difficult part of fleeing to France was foregoing the practice of law.  I wanted so desperately to live the middle-class ethos of consistent work and respectability.  Yet I finally accepted that pretending to be sane was more work that I was able to do.  Although I had managed to render service to my clients and make a professional mark, yet the emotional burden was more than I could continue to carry.

Because of effective and consistent treatment or for whatever reason, I never had a car accident in France and never received a speeding ticket.  But, as the war in Iraq drove up the US deficit and drove down the value of the dollar, I found I couldn't afford to live in France anymore.  I couldn't work and I sometimes had no food to eat beyond a croissant and a glass of orange juice.  I found myself living in poverty, unable to pay even my most pressing bills.  The desperation and anger came back and I didn't know what to do.

I came back to the United States and tried to apply for Medicaid, but after submitting ten times as much paperwork as had been required for success in France, I was rejected in the US as having too much income, even though I was living at the poverty line.

Today, I've made what peace with all of this that I can make.  I live in one of those third world countries where the dollar goes further.  Although there is no national health care here, the very same medications that cost $200.00 per month in the United States are available here for just $30.00 dollars per month, which is seven times less.  

Today, I still can't afford psychiatric help. But I'm happily married, the weather is warm, the food is good, and psychiatric intervention hardly seems as necessary anymore.  I have all of the daily challenges I did when I was a practicing lawyer.

I don't drive anymore, so now the world is a much safer place for me and everyone else. I wish I had never been as insane as I was.  

Sometimes I wonder if I could return home to the United States and practice law if necessary.  But, I know I couldn't work and succeed in the US without consistent psychiatric help and medication, and I know those won't be available in the US until there's a program of national health care.  Since providing health care to all Americans is considered "communist" and anathema to the American spirit of individualism, I have little hope of ever returning home, and many readers might think that's just as well.  

Sometimes I'm horrified to think how many psychiatrically ill people just like me are locked away in prisons because the chances they took turned out turned out worse.  How many suicides, broken families and addictions might have been prevented if doctors asked "what help do you need?" instead of "how much money do you have"?

I can't pay my student loans.  I may never again formally use my $150,000 legal education for which my mother and other contributors paid so dearly, but at least I won't drive from doctor to doctor, searching desperately for affordable psychiatric treatment.

And finally please take note of the brilliant graphic novellette-in-progress of The Shooting War. It is 2011 and the ongoing Iraq War draws citizen journalist/v-blogger Jimmy Burns to downtown Bagdhad. As he describes:

I picked a brilliant time to head into the belly of the beast. The oil crisis was just hitting its crescendo. The Islamic junta in Nigeria had teamed up with Chavez and the Iranian mullahs to cut off oil to the West. Gas hit $10 a gallon and the American publc went ape-shit. Everyone, left, right, middle, was screaming get out of Iraq.

But McCain was trapped. There was no way he was going to give up America;s "coaling station" in the Middle East. Too much blood spilled. Too many billions spent. The "enduring bases" were built to endure. The oil fields in the north were still under the control of our last friends east of Jericho - The Kurds. They are McCain's only hope to keep the spigot from getting shut off all together. But down south, it was getting ugly - really ugly.

The Arab peacekeepers were talking about pulling out, after suffering unspeakable horrors. In Baghdad, block-to-block battles were going down daily between the various Sunni and Shiite miltias in '09. McCain purged the Iraqi Army of extremist from both sides and reconstituted it with our old allies, the Baathists. It was a bold move. There weren't many 'secular nationalists" as McCain liked to call them, left alive. This meant that the 10,000 American troops left in the country wre still taking the brunt of the pain. Rumor was Iranian armor was inching its way NOrth for the Great Showdown all the Jesus-freaks and Jihadheads had been waiting for. It was looking more and more like Saigon '75 every day. That or Judgement Day.

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