Monday, March 29, 2010

When censorship can be a good thing.

When I started blogging nearly three years ago, I thought that the platform would provide me with a certain level of freedom. Finally, I would be able to express my thoughts, my opinions, my views on the world uncensored.
No editors.
No worries.
But that was not so.
Too many triggers for my passions are connected with indivuals, individuals I care about, people I don't want to hurt. Others are triggered by anger that, if expressed without proper evidence and purpose, could create some excellent lawsuit material for the offending parties.
Finally, there are bridges I cannot afford to burn.
Yet I see it happen every day.
Bloggers bash without consideration of consequence. They reveal private information that belongs to others without consent. They hurt other people and they hurt themselves. They forget, perhaps, that once words are distributed on the Internet, they are impossible to take back.
Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, they will remain.
One blogger in particular affected me deeply.
She wrote on an online forum about complaints from her children. They had pleaded with her to stop brutally ridiculing them in her blog for the sake of page views. She refused to stop, arguing that as long as her children lived under her roof, she had the right to reveal whatever she chose. Her blog wouldn't be funny without them, she wrote.
I'm betting that she won't be blogging the exploits of her grandchildren.
She won't be allowed to know them.
Another woman wrote honestly and humerously about the end of a long-term relationship. Her name and location were part of her profile. The blog was popular, so popular that it inspired her to write a book about ending relationships. Her book is selling well.
But she had to end the blog when strangers tracked down her ex-boyfriend and threatened him. The world is full of sick people, sadly, and many of them are addicted to the Internet.
So, I vent here and I write about raising our twins on my other blog, but I am always careful. My older children have declined to be included in any blogs and I respect that. My twins will decide what happens to their blog when they are old enough to understand. Until then, I write about them in a way that might help other parents of identical twins.
I am not free to write without care because I do care.
I am own editor.
And when I think about topics for my posts, I follow two rules: I must write as if everyone in the world will read it and I must ponder how it will play out several years into the future. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing as long as we don't abuse it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Obamacare: for some, it's a lease on life

A friend of mine informed me the other day that she doesn't have to wonder how she will  die. The government and insurance companies will kill her, she said.
She has lymphoma, one of those cancers that never really goes away.
Four years ago, when she last underwent chemotherapy, she paid a $40 co-pay per treatment.
That was it.
But her coverage has changed since then.
If she comes out of remission now, she will also be responsible for 20 percent of each treatment. That would put her and her husband into thousands of dollars of debt with both of them nearing retirement. She also has to worry about the lifetime cap on their insurance.
What if she exceeds it?
What will happen to him?
She can divorce her husband and let Medicaid pick up the tab, but that's a gamble.
Sick people have to be divorced for a certain number of years before the goverment will  forgive the spouse of financial liability. If her cancer returned before the deadline, her husband would lose everything and, because they would be divorced, he would have no say in her medical care.
Sometimes, she said, she would rather just give up.
She would rather die.
This is the urgency that opponents to the health care bill do not understand.
Some people cannot wait.
While Republicans and Democrats were battling, people were dying.
Real people.
President Obama's health care bill might not be a perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction.
My friend still has decisions to make, painful decisions.
But, at the very least, this bill alleviates two of her concerns: there will no longer be a lifetime cap on health insurance; and, if her husband loses his job, they will not have to worry that her pre-exisiting condition will leave them with no health insurance.
If it hadn't passed?
She would probably give up, believing it was the selfless thing to do.
For her husband's sake.
While politicians bickered, she would die.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Perspective: mother vs. mother-in-law

My mother and my mother-in-law both read the same book recently, a gift from me.
A New York Times best seller.
Both left the same message on my answering machine:
"I need to talk to you about this book."
I had just started the novel and had not yet formed an opinion.
"I couldn't even finish the last chapter," my mother said. "It just wasn't real."
My mother was disappointed by what she felt was an exaggerated plot with exaggerated characters. The main character, a 12-year-old girl, suffers emotionally after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father. My mother didn't find the traumas to be all that traumatic. She didn't find the resolution all that satisfying.
Great, I thought.
The author is a friend of mine.
What if I feel the same way?
Would I be able to face her?
Then I returned my mother-in-law's call.
My mother-in-law, a woman known for guarding her emotions, could barely contain her excitement.
She loved it.
She even cried when she read it.
"I never cry when I read a book," she said.
I was baffled.
Such intense, polar-opposite emotions from two women who are only a year apart in age. Why? I mentioned the conflicting reactions to my mother-in-law. She wasn't at all surprised. My mother, she explained, has an entirely different perspective on suffering.
Here I am. A writer, a journalist, someone who should understand audience.
And she was right.
I had missed it.
The problem is that I am also a daughter, and daughters can't always sympathize with the children their parents once were because we are naturally selfish. We want to be emotionally cuddled when we hit bumps on the road, to become objects of our parents' sympathy, recipients of their wisened advice.
We don't want to see that our parents are still vulnerable themselves, even as adults. We don't want to deal with their unresolved issues because we want them to help us resolve our own. So, sometimes, we are unintentionally blind.
Of course it wasn't real for her.
My mother grew up in Germany during World War II. Her father fled to Romania to escape recruitment in the Nazi army. She was taken from her family at 10 years old and sent to Youth Camps. From there, she was placed in people's homes, where she worked for her keep.
Her siblings were also taken away.
She saw her mother only occassionally.
She has told stories of beatings and hunger and loneliness, but she rarely goes into great detail. Instead, she often recounts her childhood with stories of her youthful rebellion. How she sneaked out windows to pick flowers, how she refused to stay in bed when sick, how she wandered through old castles and played imaginerary games.
If only some rich great aunt had swept her up at 12 years old and gently placed her in a mansion-of-a-home with a private bathroom for each bedroom, a maid who adored her and all the clothes and delicious food she could imagine. How could someone so lucky possibly be suffering to the extent that the main character suffers?
I picked up the novel a few days ago and started reading it with a new curiousity. The writing is beautiful. The author worked her entire life as a different kind of artist and her talents carry into her writing. The images she paints with her words stir all the senses. I see, feel, taste, smell and hear when I read. The experience is exhillerating.
But at the same time, I am guarded.
I am aware of my mother's perspective even as I am drawn in by this young girl's plight.
I feel sympathy for the girl, not because her situation is so horrible, but because of the way she endures it and because of who she is, the way the author has drawn her. I feel joy with her, not because she landed in a wealthy home with lots of love, but because of the way these unique and charming characters surround her and pull her out among them.
My mother's perspective and my mother-in-law's observations dimished my expectations of the novel ... in a good way. They reminded me to tear down my own psychological defenses, to read beyond the literal plot and to focus instead the author's portrayals and resulting portrait of human nature, of the nature of community.
And I got something even better out of it, better than I could have imagined.
The novel, and this experience with it, brought me one step closer to understanding my own mother.