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In Honor of…Thoughts on bereavement from someone who knows

img_0775_2I have probably sat with a hundred or so bereaved people at this point.  I have listened to their stories, cried with them, opened my heart to them, and been a compassionate witness to their suffering because I know from my own experience that whatever the circumstances of the death, the grief in losing a loved one is deep, and profound, and can shake the very core of one’s being. I’m posting this Q&A about bereavement on my blog to honor those who lost their lives in a historic Charleston, SC, church last week in just the latest mass shooting in America, this one sadly a reflection not only of the disastrous stranglehold guns have in this country but of our continuing legacy of racism. I’m also posting it in honor of the wonderful Patty Donovan-Duff, who in 1995 founded the Bereavement Center of Westchester and the Tree House, a wonderful program for bereaved children and their parents where I have had the honor to be involved for a number of years, running the parents group under Patty’s gentle and expert oversight.  Patty is retiring this year and the outpouring of love for her and admiration for what she has done in creating these wonderful programs was truly something to behold.  Her thoughts on bereavement from this 2008 interview are worth reading.  Here’s the link to the full article: http://www.insighttrails.com/blog/2008/03/qa-patricia-don.html

Q&A: Patricia Donovan-Duff, Director, Bereavement Center of Westchester
By Jon Berry

A GRIEVING HUSBAND LOOPS THROUGH THE CEMETERY on his daily run to visit his wife’s grave. A grandfather who had a decades-long romance with his wife finds after her death that he can love again. A child decorates a pillow commemorating his father with his dad’s beloved silk neckties.

Patricia Donovan-Duff, the founding director of the Bereavement Center of Westchester, in Tuckahoe, NY, has seen people express grief and healing in many ways. Her response is always the same: It’s all OK. There is no one way to mourn.

Since opening in 1995, the Bereavement Center has provided a safe place for thousands of people to talk about the death of a loved one. They come for eight-week groups for children and their families at the Tree House, the center’s children’s program. They come for groups for adults mourning the loss of children, spouses, parents, or siblings, and for individual counseling. The non-profit organization also offers educational and on-site support programs for schools and communities.

Donovan-Duff describes it as sacred work. It is done by a staff of social workers and nurses complemented by 70-plus volunteer facilitators trained by the center.   The main requirement, she says, is to be a good listener.

A registered nurse, Donovan-Duff previously was bereavement coordinator for the Phelps Hospital Hospice Program in Sleepy Hollow, NY. She is a founding board member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, an organization for the more than 300 grief-support programs. The Bereavement Center is a program of Lawrence Community Health Services, which also operates Jansen Hospice & Palliative Care and Lawrence Home Care.

I talked with Donovan-Duff about the grief process – a topic that is still relatively new in our culture – and how she came to this calling.

QUESTION: When the Bereavement Center was started, there weren’t many programs like it. Did you have a model?

DONOVAN-DUFF: The Dougy Center, in Portland, Oregon. It was started 25 years ago by a nurse working on a pediatric oncology unit. She noticed that kids would come in saying, “What happened to Joey? He isn’t here.” Nobody would tell them that the child had died. They were afraid the kids would be scared that they would die. But guess what? The kids were already afraid. So, the nurse’s approach was, “Let’s talk with them.”

Q: It’s remarkable that this field has grown from that one center in Portland to more than 300 today.

A: It’s a movement.

Q: What is behind it?

A: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross had a great deal to do with it. In her book On Death and Dying, she wrote about the stages of dying, which she later changed to phases – coming to terms with death is not a linear process. When I started in hospice work 24 years ago, it was very hard to talk with doctors about death and dying. Today people use words like “die,” and talk about the needs of dying people, like the need to not be in pain and not be alone. Hospice opened that conversation up. The grief movement, I think, came out of the hospice movement.

If you talk with someone who went through a death in the family as a child 25-30 years ago, they remember pictures being taken out of the room. The person’s name wasn’t spoken. It was like nothing had happened. We see remnants when our volunteers come in to take training and talk about their experiences. They’ll say nobody ever talked with them. Some weren’t allowed to go to the funeral.

I think what we do is a very big wellness program. The message is that grief is the natural and normal reaction to a death. It’s painful. It can look like chronic depression, but it’s something different. Historically the medical world has treated grief with medication or by telling people to exercise. We say, “Let’s talk. Tell us the story.”

“I think what we do is a very big wellness program. The message is that grief is the natural and normal reaction to a death… We say, ‘Let’s talk. Tell us the story.’”

Q: What happens when people don’t talk about their grief?

A: I think it resurfaces when the next death happens. The psyche can do an amazing job of repressing. But the memory is still there. I think a lot of mental health issues are due to losses that weren’t attended to.

Q: What are the biggest concerns of people dealing with the death of a loved one?

A: That they’re going crazy. They don’t understand what they’re going through. Grief can be all-encompassing. People think there’s something wrong with them if, five months after a death, they can’t concentrate at their job. But it’s normal. That’s what we say all the time: Everything’s normal. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. There’s just your way.

Grief can be like a roller coaster. You can feel happy, then sad, then happy, then sad. When you’re going through those feelings, you don’t know they’re normal. You feel you should be getting better: better-better-better. But grief is better, not better, better…then you may hit a bottom. The other metaphor is that grief comes in waves: You turn the corner of the A&P, and burst out crying.

“Grief can be like a roller coaster. You can feel happy, then sad, then happy, then sad….You feel you should be getting better: better-better-better. But grief is better, not better, better…then you may hit a bottom.”

People in this work have come to see that there are tasks of grieving. The first task is to accept the reality of what’s happened. I was with a woman yesterday whose husband died on Saturday. She said, “I heard you do bereavement counseling. I think I’m fine, but I might need a group at some point.” She said she hadn’t cried. I asked, “Have you thought that maybe you’re in a little shock, that it hasn’t permeated your body, in every pore, that your husband has died?” And the woman, who was in 60s or 70s, looked at me and said, “Yes, I forget about it sometimes. I woke up this morning, and it took me a minute before I remembered.” The first task is to accept, “OK, it’s happened.”

The second task is to feel the feelings – experience the pain. That’s the hardest part. It’s when you’re missing the person who’s died. It hurts physically. It hurts emotionally. We ask people to tell their story again and again and again. People need to tell the story of someone’s death more than once. The more you tell it, the more real it becomes, and the more you remember. When I had my babies, I needed to tell people the story of everything that happened over and over again. The same thing needs to happen at the end of life when someone dies.

Q: How do you help people access their feelings?

A: We talk about how you are now. What are you going through? What are your worries and concerns? In talking about what’s going on now, feelings come out. The feelings may be good, but they also may be ones you’re afraid to talk about, like guilt or regrets. Sometimes there’s ambivalence. It might not have been a great relationship.

Everybody is different. Sometimes families don’t understand the reactions of different children. One child is crying, the other’s not. We’ll ask, what were they like before? You grieve in character. If you were a crier before, you’ll probably be a crier now.

“Sometimes families don’t understand the reactions of different children. One child is crying, the other’s not. We’ll ask, what were they like before? You grieve in character. If you were a crier before, you’ll probably be a crier now.”

The next task is to learn to remember, to commemorate the person who died, in your own way. You might put up a small shrine with pictures and candles. You might have pictures next to your bed. You might go to the cemetery. You might wear a heart necklace with with a photo of the person. Every way is OK.

One of the beauties of groups is that they normalize. Support groups are wonderful that way. People talk to other people and realize, “I’m not the only one who hasn’t given the clothing away, and it’s been two years.” “I’m not the only one who goes to the cemetery every day.”

In a group I ran years ago, there was a young widower with little children. Midway through the eight-week group, he felt safe enough to share how he remembered his wife. He said, “I’m a runner, and the cemetery is in my town. Every morning, I run, and I go to the cemetery, and I lie down on her grave.” There was quiet in the room. He looked around the group. He knew he was revealing something that could go either way. Were people going to say he was crazy? And the group said, “Oh, that’s so wonderful.” He had such a sense of relief.

When somebody dies, there’s a real fear that you’re going to forget them. You’re going to forget their voice, what they look like. In the beginning, when someone has just died, you think, “Where the hell are you? Where did you go?” Even if you believe in heaven, you ask, “Where are you?” One of the goals in grieving is to bring the memory of the person inside your heart. In the beginning the memory’s too painful – you can’t bring that person inside you forever yet. But eventually, they’re just with you.

“When somebody dies, there’s a real fear that you’re going to forget them. You’re going to forget their voice, what they look like. In the beginning, when someone has just died, you think, ‘Where the hell are you? Where did you go?’… One of the goals in grieving is to bring the memory of the person inside your heart.”

Q: We live in a culture that goes so fast. How do you help people slow down and hear what’s going on inside them?

A: Hopefully they have a certain experience in the group or in individual counseling – a pause that happens when people feel someone is truly listening to them. People going through grief need to surround themselves with people who will listen and be with them. There are a lot of casualties after a death – friends who are not there for you, family members who don’t understand. We ask people who are grieving, “What do you need?” “I need someone to just listen and not tell me what to do or what to feel.” “OK, find that person in the next week. Who can do that for you? That’s a need you have.” “Well, maybe my friend Ann. She’s a good listener.”

We say this to kids, too. In our society, adults are not good at listening to sad stories, especially from kids. They don’t want to see sad kids. They want you to be better. They want you to be fixed. People are fine for a little bit, then they say, “OK, we want the old Patty back now.” We tell people to give somebody the job to be your special friend, who you can call up and say, “I just need to cry. I need to remember. Would you let me do that?”

A lot of this is common sense. But I think in many ways, we as a society have lost our connection with our instincts. We don’t trust ourselves. We tell people, “Trust your gut that you know what you need. If you need to stay home from work one day because you just need to cry or go to the cemetery, do that. It’s OK.” It’s like taking an antibiotic. Attend to your wound. This doesn’t get better by itself. It doesn’t get better with time. It’s what you do with that time.

“We tell people, ‘Trust your gut that you know what you need. If you need to stay home from work one day because you just need to cry or go to the cemetery, do that. It’s OK.’…Attend to your wound. This doesn’t get better by itself. It doesn’t get better with time. It’s what you do with that time.”

The next task is to start to reinvest in the world. The focus is less on the person who died and more on you. You learn who you are without this person who died. People are different after a profound death. It changes them. They can become better people. They can learn through that process and grow.

Q: Are there things that people have said, who have come out the other side of mourning,  that have stuck with you?

A: There was one wonderful man who came in after his wife died. They had an amazingly close, storybook relationship. He was grieving her so intensely. He really wanted to die some days. He wasn’t going to do anything with that feeling – he had grandchildren – but that’s how bad his pain was. He went to the cemetery every single day. I never would have imagined that he would have a relationship with another woman, but, today, he does. He’s never going to marry her. His wife was his one true love. In his wildest dreams, he probably never would have envisioned that he would be enjoying life again. He still misses his wife, and always will. But he’s different now.

We’ve had people who have come back to volunteer at the center because they want to give back. I’m in the middle of a volunteer training right now. It’s amazing. The world just stops: We’re talking about death, dying and grief. There’s such silence and presence.

Our goal is to teach volunteers how to be present. One of the nights of the training is about sharing a loss that you’ve had. We do a guided meditation, then divide into groups of two. For half an hour, the two people tell their story to each other. We then come back together and talk about what it’s like to have somebody really listen to us. Some people have never experienced anything like it. Our world today is so much about phones and computers and multitasking, we’ve forgotten how to be present for someone. The biggest gift you can give anybody is to let them know that you hear what they’re saying.

“Our goal is to teach volunteers how to be present…. The biggest gift you can give anybody is to let them know that you hear what they’re saying.

Q: What kinds of rituals do you use to help clients open up?

A: Simple rituals. At the beginning of every session, people introduce themselves saying, “Hi, my name is ___, and my mom died.” It’s a ritual of articulating the death and accepting the reality. For children, this can be really hard. They may not want to say it. They can pass. There’s also a checking-in about how the week has been.

Our rituals are more focused at the end of the group. One of our goals in these eight-week groups is teaching them all, children through adults, how to deal with loss. Hopefully we are planting seeds that they can use in the future.

We have a goodbye ritual the last night. In the adult group, it might be having stones on a plate. You take a stone, hold it, and say a wish for yourself and a wish for the group. The stone will be passed around, and everyone will touch it and bring it back. It’s a way of saying goodbye to each other.

In the Tree House, with the kids, we have a ritual at the end called the Memory Pillows. We start with blank canvas pillow cases. We put pictures of the person who died on the pillow case. For the last three weeks, the kids decorate the pillow cases in their own individual way. They draw pictures. They write letters to put inside the pillow. One little boy decorated his with his dad’s neckties; the dad had a magnificent collection of silk ties. Then we put pillows in and close them up. On the last night, we put up a painting of a tree on a big drop cloth. We’ll remember each person who died. The family will come up and hang their pillow on the tree. By the end we have a huge mural. In a very visual way, the kids see that they’re not the only one going through the death of a loved one. They see they’re all different and have done this work in different ways, and it’s all right. It’s good to remember, any way you want to remember.

“In a very visual way, the kids see that they’re not the only one going through the death of a loved one. They see they’re all different and have done this work in different ways.”

Q: In what ways is this spiritual work?

A: It connects human beings on such a very, very basic level. I consider that sacred work. I think that’s what this world is about, being present and connecting with people.

Q: How did you get into this field?

A: I became a nurse because I wanted to help people.

Q: When did you first feel that?

A: As a kid. I was raised Catholic. Along with the guilt – which everyone talks about – being raised Catholic made me want to be a better person. I always knew I’d be in a helping profession. I wanted to be a nurse all through high school. I liked healing, the hospitals, the white uniforms. I loved being in the middle of crisis and being with people.

When I went to college, I majored in nursing. They were just starting nursing degrees. I discovered psychiatric nursing, and thought, “Whoa, this is great.” I loved it. I was drawn to it.

I think I was also drawn to death. I was scared of death when I was young. There were no big deaths in my family. But my best friend died when I was six. She and I had measles at the same time. This was before the vaccine. I recovered, but she died. I have this memory of being in a dark room – when you had measles they kept you in a dark room – and emerging and asking, “Where’s Mary Elizabeth?” “Oh, she died.” I didn’t go to the church for the service.

I’ve always been the kind of person that, when I’m afraid of something, I don’t run away from it. I go to it. I want to figure it out, so I won’t be so afraid of it. When I graduated from college, before becoming a psychiatric nurse, I worked for a year on an oncology ward of a hospital. Patients died every day, alone, in pain, in a very sterile setting. I remember going into the med room and just crying.

“I’ve always been the kind of person that, when I’m afraid of something, I don’t run away from it. I go to it. I want to figure it out…”

Q: Did you think you’d wind up where you are now?

A: No. Never. It’s been a process. Two big things that I’ve learned in the work that I’ve been doing the past 12 years – and I’m a different person because of it, I believe that – are the value of being totally present to the moment and that life is a process. Grief is a process, and life is a process.

In a way, I feel everything has led me to this. I was a psychiatric nurse for years. One day, when I was working at St. Josephs Hospital in Yonkers, I was having a conversation with the social worker, and he said, “You know, my wife’s starting a hospice program at Phelps Hospital. Are you interested in a job there? They need a nurse.” It was pure coincidence. That year on the oncology ward was so horrible. Part of me thought I would go back to that and try to help make it better.

I interviewed and everything fell into place. It was the infancy of hospice. It was all very grassroots. It was wonderful. We relied on volunteers. We had a chaplain. We brought in visiting nurses. I learned how to work with volunteers. I learned how to work on an interdisciplinary team. It taught me a lot about starting a program. I took a break at one point to spend more time at home, but continued to work with the hospice. Then Phelps asked me back to start a bereavement program to support families of hospice patients.

We networked with other bereavement programs. One day I went to a talk at Jansen Memorial Hospice, and the chaplain approached me and asked, would you like to be a director of a new program for children and adults? They saw a need to bring bereavement work not just to people with loved ones going through hospice, but to the community at large. They felt there was a lot of unattended-to grief in the community. I thought about it long and hard. I never aspired to be a director of a non-profit, with the fund-raising and administration. But I took the job. It’s been an incredible growth process to build something from nothing.

Q: Do you have things you that you do for yourself spiritually?

A: I do yoga. Not as much as I want to, but I love it. When I get up in the morning, I have a semi-meditation to try to center myself. I get my cup of coffee and sit in my living room and try to be still for five or 10 minutes.

Q: And you get spiritual experiences in your work.

A: Absolutely. Usually every day there’s a moment – we call them moments – when we’re working with people, or working with volunteers, and you make a connection. It’s a gift.

Q: Has this work changed your relationship with death?

A: In a way, I think I’ve befriended it. I don’t want to die, but I now know I don’t have to die in pain, that I don’t have to die alone, and that millions of people have been through it. We don’t know what is on the other side, but I have faith that there is something.

Q: How do you avoid burnout?

A: I try to keep a sense of balance in my life. A stable home life has helped me a lot. It helps me turn work off when I leave here. The times that are hard are when there’s not balance. Something is happening at home and my equilibrium is off.

I have worked with incredible, amazing people with sad, sad stories. But I find that when I’m right there with them, things come into focus. It becomes clear that what a grieving person needs is someone to just sit with them and listen to them. What we do is very simple. We’re not trying to fix people. We don’t have the pressure of trying to make things better. We offer our presence. We listen and validate. We try to help people not feel so alone; there’s a healing when that happens.

“What we do is very simple. We’re not trying to fix people. We don’t have the pressure of trying to make things better. We offer our presence. We listen and validate. We try to help people not feel so alone; there’s a healing when that happens.”

I don’t think everybody can do this work, just like not everybody can be a social worker or a doctor or nurse. But those people who can do it, and do it for a long time, can have a very full life. This is work that makes you pause and appreciate what’s important. The best part is to see someone when they are so fragile and so raw, and then see them a year later and they are so different. That’s why I don’t get burned out. I see the resilience of life, that people do go on.

Gratitude: 11 of the many things I loved in Paris

I have painstakingly learned to count my blessings every day, a practice not particularly natural for an old cynic like me, but actually helpful in maintaining spiritual and emotional peace and calm.   I suggest readers out there make this a practice too.   I’m spilling over with gratitude right now, after my recent quickie trip to Paris with my husband, who had to travel there to make a speech. Here are a few of the many things I loved and felt grateful for in Paris:

1. Paris.

2. Everyone speaks French (and English).

3. The bridges over the Seine, which connect the Left and Right Banks, especially the glorious Pont Alexandre III, with its Art Noveau lamps and its golden winged horses, cherubs and nymphs, and the Pont Solferino, where lovers place locks on the sides of the bridge and throw the keys into the Seine to symbolize their undying love!  Where else but in Paris?

4. Reading “The Paris Wife” in Paris.  Now I’ll have to read lots more Hemingway.

5. Having dinner with my husband’s French publisher, Dominique Gilbert, a lovely and kind woman (and of course brilliant for publishing him), her husband, and another couple, friends of theirs, at La Fontaine de Mars.  This is the restaurant where President Obama ate with Michele and maybe snubbed Sarkozy????  Basque food.  I’m glad I tried Cassoulet.  It was very authentic, but might have been a little TOO authentic for me. (We’re talking beans, duck, and sausage.)

6.  Receiving an email while there from a theater workshop back here granting me an interview.  I’m hoping they’ll help me stage my play-in-progress, “Survival Instructions,” a kind of one woman autobiographical thing, with supporting players, based on my memoir. Do I have the acting chops to be the “one woman?”  We’ll see. The last time I was on stage was 30 years ago, when I played “Inez,” one of three characters looking for a way out of hell in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit.”  Also grateful for the other email I received, also while in Paris, that I now have an agent for that very memoir.  On the creative front, things are definitely moving along nicely.

7.  Watching my husband speak about his subject, entrepreneurship and customer development (His book is called, The Start Up Owners Manual.  Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.) Bob was a hit, even if most of his jokes were lost on the French audience.  I got the jokes however. (I’ve been getting them for 35 years.)

8. An authentic home-cooked meal in Versailles (the town, not the palace) at the home of the parents of our friend, Gregoire.  Gregoire’s mom must have been cooking for days, and she served each of many courses with great ritual and love. Also loved talking politics with the group.  Surprised to find a Frenchman advocating for a kind of United States of Europe.

8. The Rodin Museum, where you can walk right up to some of the most famous statues in the world.  Standing in front of Rodin’s white marble masterpiece, “The Kiss,” I found myself weeping.  Only one other artist ever did that to me before.  Jackson Pollack.

9.  The artist Muriel Stalaven, whose work we saw in a street exhibition, also brought me to tears.  (Wow. Two in one trip.) Here’s a link to her site, which includes a video that shows how she creates her figure drawings in ink in seconds.  I’m not exactly sure why I was so moved by her work.  Its simplicity, maybe.

11.  The Church of St. Surplice.  I love the churches of Europe, but I am always struck by how strange and ironic it is that the Catholic Church, the hierarchical and dogmatic church that erected such edifices (not to mention that often appears to be morally bankrupt, as in, say, the Inquisition, and the harboring of pedophile priests), could have developed out of the simple message of Jesus, who, it seems to me, preached only non-heirarchical kindness, inclusion, and love.

McCain/Palin: Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same old thing and expecting a different result.” With polls in recent days actually showing that Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential candidacy may be moving people toward the Republican ticket, I’m beginning to wonder if our whole country has gone insane, or at least half of it, anyway. Could the country actually be on the verge of doing the same thing…again, and expecting a different result? How can even a small proportion of the eighty-two percent of Americans who think the country is going in the wrong direction buy the notion that McCain and Palin are going to take the country in a different direction, when McCain himself has voted with Bush 90% of the time? The only different direction in which McCain and Palin are going to take the country in is even further to the right, with a Vice President-in-waiting who apparently believes that global warming isn’t man made, creationism ought to be taught as science in schools, Iraq is a war from God, and books that don’t conform to her faith-based world view ought to be banned, and who might actually get to BE President, given McCain’s age? Yes, Washington is broken, but it’s not ONLY because of corruption, as McCain keeps saying over and over and over; it’s certainly because of policies, and on that, electing  McCain and Palin is doing the same thing.  Isn’t it insane to expect a different result? 

But it’s even worse than that.  I’m starting to worry about the sanity of the candidate himself.  John McCain has actually been touting the idea that Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience because Alaska is next to Russia.  And Palin, who crammed like a schoolgirl for the now infamous ABC interview with Charlie Gibson, echoed that bizarre absurdity by saying that her foreign policy bonafides include her vision: the fact that she can SEE Russia from Alaska.  Between all this, and  McCain’s perseveration on “We are all Georgians” rhetoric, on peculiar ideas like “Sarah is my soul mate,” and “She’s the most wonderful Vice Presidential candidate in history;” and his impulsive, cynical, irresponsible, politically-motivated pick of this extremist, unvetted, untested Vice Presidential candidate, I feel as if we’ve all landed in the movie Doctor Strangelove, and we’re stuck in the room with General Jack Ripper ranting and perseverating about those Commie Ruskies and our precious bodily fluids. I keep thinking about what a member of McCain’s own party, Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, said once about Mr. McCain, “The thought of his being President send a cold chill up my spine.  He’s erratic, he loses his temper and he worries me.”  Me too, Thad.  Me too. Has anyone actually considered the longterm personality consequences of five years of torture?  Is it possible there’s PTSD here? 

But this isn’t Dr. Strangelove, after all, it’s 1984, and the Republicans seem to have so mastered the art of doublespeak that a sizeable number don’t even realize that we’re being had….again.  When McCain nominated Sarah Palin, I thought surely women, except the true religious right, weren’t going to buy her  just because she was a woman and “one of us?”  We did that already with Bush, who was judged by many as “someone you’d like to have a beer with.”  Are we about to do that again, and get the same result?  I’m sure John McCain is fun and likable in his own way, and Sarah Palin is a lot of fun on a moose-shooting expedition, but why don’t we try something new after eight years, maybe elect someone really smart to the highest office in the land?  After eight years of George Bush, underachiever, do we really want to elect someone who graduated near dead last from Annapolis?  Isn’t that doing the same thing and expecting a different result?  Isn’t that insane?  

I keep asking myself what can be responsible for this vulnerability of Americans to Swift-boat tactics instead of logic and common sense? Why are so many unable to look at a problem and figure out the right solution? Or at least a different solution than the one that hasn’t been working?  Is it a lack of education or critical thinking skills?  Identity politics?  Is that people have no memory? Is it that people can’t prioritize what’s important any more?  Is it that our consumer culture has made us so used to being bombarded with ads and sales pitches that we’re unable to go beyond sound bites and jingoistic phrases? Is it a media that simply isn’t doing its job?  Is it something in the water? Have we gone insane to even think for one moment that we’ll get a different result with McCain and Palin? 

They can call Obama an “elitist” and a “pervert” and whatever else their Rovian minions dream up, but the result will be the same.  While the world moves forward in science, technology, and medicine, we’ll be banning highly promising lines of medical research like stem cells, teaching Adam and Eve as science to our young people, and arguing over irrelevancies, like gay rights, which should be a given in this country. 

While the world burns and terrorists proliferate, to a great degree as a result of OUR policies, we’ll continue with our “tough talk and bad strategy,” to quote Senator Obama. 

While the planet sputters and begins to die, we’ll continue to prop up Petro-dictators in the most repressive, pre-modern, anti-woman countries on earth, countries in which the Church IS the state, and further erode our own separation of church and state in the process.  In the end, we’ll look more like them than they do like us.

While the rest of the world looks on in horror, we’ll continue down our current path, increasing our deficits, mortgaging our and the world’s future, adding to the world’s overpopulation by pushing abstinence only and restricting access to sex education, birth control and abortion, and doing nothing to stop the world from moving toward nuclear catastrophe. 

 

While the signs of global destruction mount all around us, from melting ice in the Artic to wild weather in the Americas, we’ll just continue along the same path we’ve been going for the last eight years, and expect a different result. And the Republicans will continue to live in their fantasy world, insisting that America is still and always will be the world’s “leader,” and calling anyone who would dare speak truth unpatriotic.

 

Bush calls us the “angry left,” but I’m not angry.  I’m horrified that the country has gone insane. I’m grieving. I grieve because we’ll be electing a war monger who will not only keep us in the unnecessary, disgraceful war we’re already in in Iraq, but is going to get us into another war with his bellicose “We are all Georgians” rhetoric. 

 

I grieve for the demise of this country and this planet.  But instead of fighting as we go down, some of us will be chanting insanely “Drill Baby Drill.”  Maybe it’s something in our precious bodily fluids.  Or maybe its in the oil

 

On going green, Tom Friedman calls John McCain “bloody dishonest.”

Yesterday on NPR, in an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Tom Friedman, Pulitzer Prize winning NYTimes columnist, told it like it is on the absolute necessity to go green. Although I definitely disagreed with him on the lead up to the Iraq war (which I always thought not only incredibly stupid but a strategic and moral catastrophe, and he originally supported), Friedman remains among the most brilliant commentators we have in this country. Friedman ought to be required reading (or listening) for every American. Here are a few memorable (approximated) quotes from that interview that drill down (you should pardon the pun) the problem with electing John McCain:

When I heard Rudi Guiliani lead that crowd (at the Repub convention) in chanting “Drill Baby Drill,” I thought, what planet are these people inhabiting? It’s as if on the eve of the advent of computer technology, the Republicans were out there saying “Let’s stick with the IBM Selectric Typewriter.” Type baby type. Type. Type. Type.

If the Petro-dictators–the leaders of the world’s most repressive, anti-modern, anti-woman regimes like Saudi Arabia, which we’re supporting by our addiction to oil, either foreign OR domestic–were up in the bleachers at that convention, they would have been giving each other high fives! They WANT us to remain focused on fossil fuels.

We ought to be promoting fuels from Heaven (wind, solar, etc) rather than fuels from hell (fossil based)

John McCain, whom I used to respect, has been ‘bloody dishonest.’ He’s making people stupid, and it’s frankly disgusting.

John McCain’s support for lifting the federal gas tax for a summer giveaway was absurd and misleading.

We ought to have 100000 innovators working in 100000 garages.

The current tax and production credits for wind and solar energy expire on December 31. A bill to extend them has been brought up in Congress eight times and John McCain didn’t show up to vote eight times. Obama showed up three times and voted to extend. So now, at this crucial time, the solar and wind innovators in this country are at a dead stop, frozen. Nobody is starting new projects. This makes no sense at all.

President Bush claimed we have an addiction to oil, but do you think he invited all these senators, Republican’s and Democrats, to Camp David and said, “Let’s work it out.” Do you think he lifted one little finger, one pinky to help?

Remember when Ronald Reagan pulled Jimmy Carter’s solar panels off the White House?

When Reagan canceled Carter’s tax credits for wind, Denmark bought the top American wind company and now has the largest wind company in the world.

Now WHICH party and WHICH Candidate are green? George Bush (and John McCain, his twin) don’t want to work it out because the Republican party (of which John McCain is a bonafide member, matter how much they try to distract you with their lipsticked Pitbull and claims of being energy savvy mavericks and change agents), is completely in the pocket of the big oil companies. Make no mistake. The only change they’re going to give you is to move even farther to the right than even George Bush. It’s amazing: Here we have a candidate John McCain who’s made a completely irresponsible pick for Vice President, and in addition has picked just possibly the most anti-green person he could have found. Apparently, in addition to her extremist views on religion, book banning, teaching creationism in school as science, her belief that you can turn gay people straight, and so much else, Sarah Palin also apparently believes global warming isn’t man made. Great. While the rest of the world is moving forward in science and technology and medicine, we’ll be increasing our deficits as Republicans always do; restricting the most promising line of medical research, stem cells; continuing to consume oil at a planet-killing rate; teaching Adam and Eve as science to our young people; arguing over gays; adding to the world’s overpopulation in a resource limited world by pushing abstinence only and restricting access to sex education, birth control and abortion. Now that would be a catastrophe. And the Republicans continue to live in a fantasy world and insist that America is still and always will be the world’s “leader,” and call anyone who would dare speak truth unpatriotic.

To hear the whole Fresh Air interview here’s the link on NPR

Be afraid, people. Be very afraid. Bush calls us the angry left? But I’m not angry, I’m mostly just sad. I grieve for the demise of this country and this planet. But instead of fighting as we go down, some of us will be chanting “Drill Baby Drill.”

Psychologists for TRUTH: Is McCain decompensating?

On this glorious Sunday afternoon, the Bruised Muse would like to follow up on my last post, in which I gave the “Bubblehead of the Year” Award to Cindy McCain for saying that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives Sarah Palin foreign policy bonafides, and, while I’m at it, respond to Bruised Muse reader Preston, who said, “Completely agree, that was a stupid comment! Have not heard it repeated, so they must’ve told her “don’t go there!”.

Far from telling beautiful Cindy not to go there, the Republicans have made this an ACTUAL TALKING POINT, and we have John McCain himself actually repeating it, as in this interview with Charlie Gibson:

GIBSON: Can you honestly say you feel confident having someone who hasn’t traveled outside the United States until last year, dealing with an insurgent Russia, with an Iran with nuclear ambitions, with an unstable Pakistan, not to mention the war on terror?

MCCAIN: Sure. And one of the key elements of America’s national security requirements are energy. She understands the energy issues better than anybody I know in Washington, D.C., and she understands. Alaska is right next to Russia. She understands that.

If Sarah Palin understands that, why doesn’t she sling up that baby and her gun and march back up to Alaska to negotiate with and slay those pesky Rooskies and the moose they’re riding in on, presumably from Cape Dezhnev through the Bering Strait? (And then she can gut and skin and eat the moose too.) Do moose swim? Or is it mooses?

But seriously, Bruised Musers, according to the Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry by Andreason and Black, psychotic disorders are characterized by (among other things) disorganized, derailed speech in which, “The patient tends to skip from topic to topic without warning, to be distracted by events in the environment, to join words together because they are semantically or phonologically alike, even though they make no sense, or to ignore the question asked and answer another.”

Between the disorganized, tangential, illogical speech demonstrated in the Gibson/McCain exchange above; McCain’s constant repetition of irrelevancies and false slogans such as Drill Here and Drill Now (perseveration?); his bizarre switched on/switched off smile (inappropriate affect?); his apparent belief that we’re going to buy him as the “change” agent the country needs (delusion?); his offering of such peculiar comments as “Sarah is my soulmate,” and “She’s best Vice Presidential candidate in history,” (grandiosity?); his bellicose “We are All Georgians” rhetoric (paranoia?); and his obviously impulsive, last minute pick of an extremist, unvetted, unqualified VP, the Bruised Muse is really starting to worry about his sanity.

Senator Barack Obama actually DOES have the right temperament for the Presidency. A more impulsive, bellicose, and erratic man (say Senator John McCain) would surely have lost his temper in the face of the stream of stupidity, bald faced lies, and simplistic nonsense emerging from John McCain and the Republicans.  But Senator Obama laughs amiably and says, with admirably restrained sarcasm, “They must think you’re stupid.”

Delusional is more like it. Good for you, Senator Obama. If I were on the stump right now, my head would be exploding.

I’d like to suggest other psychological types contact me so we can start a group called “Psychologists for Truth.” Now I know Americans don’t like to hear the Truth, and prefer a prettied-up, romanticized version of life, but seriously folks: What are the long term personality consequences of a person enduring torture for five years? As Republican Thad Cochran of Mississippi said, “The thought of McCain being President sends a cold child up my spine.” Me too, Thad. And it’s getting colder by the moment.

Be afraid, reader. Be very afraid. This guy is going to get us into another war.

Rove has to eat his words as Palin asks what the VP does

Following up on my previous post on the cynical choice of Sarah Palin as VP, the Bruised Muse would like to invite Karl Rove to a word eating party. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” a few weeks ago Rove said that Obama was “going to make a ‘political’ choice rather than a ‘governing’ choice, and offered Tim Kaine as an example of such an intensely political and bad choice, one that would help Obama win but not govern. Karl Rove should know about these things because he presided over an Administration in which the entire workings of government took a back seat to politics in every single area. But he was wrong about Senator Obama, who made a very wise, non-political choice in Joe Biden, and showed great “judgment.”

Well. It turns out that it’s actually John McCain who’s made a “political” choice rather than a “governing” choice. Isn’t the VP supposed to 1) help the President govern, and 2) be the person best qualified to take over. Surely McCain doesn’t think this former mayor of a town of 6700 with less than two years of experience as Governor of Alaska is the best qualified person to take over, should he not be able to serve? What are we to make of his judgment when he picks someone with no foreign policy experience after he’s spent the last few months trying to sell us on the idea that Senator Obama is unqualified because he has no foreign policy experience? At least Senator Obama is self-reflective enough to recognize a potential gap in experience and chose a foreign policy expert like Joe Biden, who might actually help him govern, and who WOULD be qualified to take over. Perhaps the old warrior McCain feels he’s invincible. Doesn’t he realize that he’s 72 years old? We’ve had enough of a President with no capacity for realistic self-reflection.

You have to wonder if they even vetted this woman. Wow. For a real scare (or laugh, depending on your mood), watch Sarah Palin on youtube, asking the key question of our age:

What exactly does the Vice President do on a daily basis?”

Lady, with all due respect, let’s hope you never get to find out. John McCain puts America First? I don’t think so.