To Doctors: The Soul Isn’t Gagged and Bound in Its Bodily Prison

On Wednesday, September 9, my personal account of battling with prostate cancer through spring and summer of 2020 was released on Amazon.  As of Thursday, September 10, a promotion went active that offers the Kindle download free for five days (i.e., through Monday, September 14).  The book’s title is Why I’m Not Dead.  That’s how I feel about the contrast between mainstream medicine in the US and the alternative treatments I received in Mexico—death sentence vs. new chance at life—and the rest of the book strives to be similarly straightforward.

Inasmuch as the ebook is free for the moment, I see no reason to paste in excerpts here.  I’d rather discuss, very generally, what the book is and is not.  (My plan, by the way—if Amazon’s software throws up no roadblock—is to offer the ebook for free in a promotion at the beginning of every month for some while in the future.)

My text is NOT a “hit piece” on mainstream American medicine, if by that colorful phrase is meant an emotionally surcharged and manipulative indictment of the entire system.  It’s the testimony of one man.  It bears upon a single series of incidents relating to how that man was lost in the bureaucratic shuffle—then asked to content himself with a death sentence because some inflexible paradigm directed him to the Dying square after he landed on the Metastasis square.

Now, my “board game” analogy certainly implies that the system is flawed.  A thoughtful person cannot be handed a stone instead of a loaf of bread and fail to ask, “What’s up with this bakery?”  It could be that my falling through the cracks (as in not receiving the basic diagnostic test for two months, then being forced to await the results for another month) was just bad luck.  On the other hand, there’s no doubting that “the system” offers cancer patients a very limited menu of options: usually surgery, chemo, and radiation (which you can order a la carte or as a Blue Plate Special).  At the same time, it vindictively suppresses any attempt on the part of patients or doctors to draw innovative treatments—using diet, vitamin supplements, heat therapy, Rife technology, etc.—into the mainstream’s flow.

So the book, naturally, contains some reflections upon the medical establishment’s motives.  That establishment placed me under sentence of death.  Then, two months (and about $40,000) later, I returned from Mexico virtually cancer-free.  That’s not supposed to happen… yet it happens over and over again, for those who can afford to eat deep into their life savings (for Medicare supports no such alternatives, and the flight to Tijuana isn’t even tax-deductible).  I attempted to keep my rampages to a minimum, and also to confine them to sections marked “Commentary”—as distinct from those marked “Chronology” that continued the linear narrative of my journey.  But I couldn’t very well pass over the polar separation between how I was treated in Tijuana and how in my own country, how I was given a new lease on life in Tijuana and how consigned to death in Georgia.

The hipshot conclusion reached by several (usually much younger) fellow patients at Carlos Bautista’s Immunity Therapy Clinic) was that we Yanks need more socialism.  No, that’s not a thesis whose merits impress me.  In fact, I contend that my experience in the US was very much that of a pawn caught in a vast, impersonal socialist system.  We already have the worst aspects of public health care: long delays, one-size-fits-all diagnoses, pigeon-holing treatments, a highly manipulative payment structure, haughtily indifferent doctors or “experts”, and an unstated assumption that your individual inconvenience is not a concern to the well-functioning state.  Also typical of socialism is that particularly abusive aspect of late capitalism which draws misdirected denunciation from our young citizens: corporatism.  The state, that is, farms out certain development or production needs to private operations.  I suppose in a socialist state, the emphasis is on what the central authority deems necessary (as in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, or in Communist China today); whereas in the late-capitalist model, private industry dictates (very subtly, through lobbying and bribery) where the emphasis goes so as to maximize profit.  In neither case is competition allowed to flourish and energize innovation.

So I’m not ranging far and wide to attack Big Pharma, and I’m not launching into half-baked political diatribes against capitalism.  Everything I say is said from the perspective of somebody “on the ground”.  I do not, for instance, float any proposal about how to straighten out the health insurance racket.  It’s a nightmare for most of us to negotiate… but I realize that the “inside baseball” awareness needed to advance workable improvement isn’t in my possession.  I’m not going to fire a broadside when I don’t even know if my cannon are loaded with grapeshot or chick peas.

My “commentary” sections are very occasionally dedicated to religious issues.  The book neither cries foul on religious concerns as being out of bounds in the “cancer game” (how could it?) nor insists on transporting divine will into the middle of every moment.  Cancer remains a mysterious subject, even to those who have studied it for a lifetime.  Sometimes lifestyle choices—smoking, drinking, consumption of sugar or red meat—seem a likely motive force… but then there are people like me who’ve made the right choices but find themselves under attack, anyway.  Genetics, maybe.  After much research (and, of course, prostate cancer is only traceable through the male line, which is evasive in my family’s history), I did find a genetic marker.  My uncle’s fatal cancer began in the prostate.  But my older brother has been unaffected, as has my first cousin.  Could it be stress?  Again, this is a plausible factor in my case—very plausible.  Yet many people have been more stressed than I throughout their careers and family lives, and… and I see them cruising along into their seventies with drinking problems, but no cancer.

So… is it “God’s will”?  Certainly you can discover something of God’s will for your life during any tragedy or calamity.  A devastating flood, a car accident, six months on the front line of a bloody war… these are experiences that can make your earlier priorities disappear into a vapor of silly illusions.  It was so for me as I skirted death this past summer.  But I’m always appalled to hear the theory advanced that God is punishing Jack or Jill by visiting that person with a dread disease.  What odious arrogance—what spiritual nullity!  St. Paul writes that the ill do not sin, meaning (I suppose) that their energies are entirely consumed in fighting off the threat to their body rather than divided between routine living and ambitious, toxic daydreaming.  The suffering are dear to God.  It is the most prosperous of us who should worry about where we stand in His eyes.

The one thing I want more than all else is for readers of the book afflicted by cancer not to feel bound and gagged by a supercilious medical community’s verdict that they just need to settle down and die comfortably.  I hate that Siren song—that whisper of the Serpent—with all my heart, mind, and soul.  May nobody succumb to it through professional bullying!  In our struggle with death, may we wrestlers in the mortal match shout in the face of Establishment “experts” that we are spirits trapped in bodies, and that the spirit will have its say!

As I explore the option of free promotions, I’ve decided to give several other publications the same trial run.  Here’s the list.  Again, all ebook download are free until Tuesday morning, September 15.

Faith/religion/spirituality:

Social and political commentary:

Nightmare Made of Dreams (essays tending toward a paleo-conservative, somewhat pessimistic conclusion, in that progressive thinking has undermined even our culture’s self-styled Right)

Fiction (novels):

Visit my Amazon Author’s Page for both Kindle e-books and on-demand bound copies.

Why Does Mask-Wearing Give Us a Fraudulent Sense of Fulfillment? or, How to Find Comfort in Slavery

My posts are basically of two sorts.  One endeavors to share with others my own interpretation of issues when it seems to me to consist of overlooked or underestimated insights.  The other doesn’t begin with a clear position and perhaps doesn’t find one by the end—it’s essentially an exercise in thinking out loud.

What I’m about to write concerning our cultural addiction to masks is very definitely of the latter sort.  I don’t understand the masks—the servile acceptance of them, and especially the passionate devotion to them.  I don’t understand on many levels.  Right at the surface, I am nonplussed at the resistance of some people—many, many people—to allowing the obvious empirical fact that most masks don’t work as prophylactics against tiny microbes the size of a virus.  The standard commercially available mask’s chances of blocking such a particle fall below one percent.  Not only that… but most masks are affixed with unclean fingers, a thumb often slipping on the inside (i.e., on the surface from which your nostrils will directly draw air) after the same hand has gripped doorknobs or pawed furniture.  Not only that… but few people dispose of their mask after a single use, meaning that they place before their mouth and nose an object increasingly steeped in bacteria.  Not only that… but very few masks actually achieve a snug fit around nose and jawline: to a virus-sized particle, the opening has the same ratio as a meteor crater to a mouse.  Not only that… but breathing your own carbon dioxide exhalation for extended periods of time isn’t particularly healthy.  (Cancer, for instance, prospers in oxygen-deprived cells.)

Now, I would nevertheless cheerfully wear a mask in certain settings.  If I had to stroll through Walmart on a crowded afternoon, I would welcome the opportunity to indulge my hypochondriac tendencies without appearing odd.  Some people don’t know enough to cover their face when they sneeze or cough.  A mask is appreciated in such mixed company.  Same for crowded airports.  And I fully grasp why medical personal would typically wear masks.  By definition, their job confronts them with people suffering from infections throughout the day.  A mask won’t block all airborne contagions… but it’s a good first line of defense against droplet infection, whether from a sneeze or a spurt of blood.

These are not the situations, however, which present themselves with greatest regularity in the Year of the Lunatic.  Instead, we see drivers enclosed all alone in their vehicles tightly masked up.  We see people meandering in the open air, as in a public park, masked to the hilt.  We see Major League ballplayers poised disconsolately in left field, a hundred feet from the shortstop and with no spectator anywhere in the stadium, masked like Zorro.  My brother told me (uncritically—quite approvingly, in fact) that the Fort Worth symphony orchestra will negotiate its “pandemic” season by masking even the brass and woodwind sections: the musicians in question are to remove their masks when their time comes to play a few notes, then cover up again like spacemen fleeing an alien planet’s toxic atmosphere.

You have to laugh… but you can’t.  You want to cry, or to howl… but your stupefaction freezes the sounds in your throat.  What the hell?  Why?  Why?

My wife, like a lot of people, will shrug, “They’re just crazy!” and move on.  It’s a proletarian version of Michael Savage’s decades-old thesis that “leftism is a mental disorder.”  I don’t necessarily disagree.  In fact, I’d scarcely disagree at all (though I would label the disorder more spiritual than mental).  But, you know, we’re all crazy in some way or other.  For instance, we justly criticize the Left for supposing itself capable of creating a terrestrial utopia, where all are happy and no one will ever sicken or die; yet in the next breath, we warn anyone who will listen that we need to return to constitutional government and free-market capitalism so that everyone willing to work will be fulfilled and prosperous per saecula saeculorum.  Are we crazy?  Don’t we know—haven’t we learned yet—that life on this earth always decays around the edges (if not rots from the head down)?  The superiority of freedom is not that it makes people happier, but that it renders them more capable of accomplishing the ends for which they were created.  Many people are happier being slaves.

So I guess I’m looking for something more—some specific pedigree for our collective dementia. Why do we worship the mask as a mask?  Ignoring its miserable lack of efficiency, why do we (some of us—more than a few) applaud a face wearing a mask as if it were centered under a halo?  Is there not some of that love of slavery in such perverse affection?  But what makes us love servitude?

Our masters order us to wear masks, and we comply because we’ve grown so sheep-like: yes, I’m distressed and disgusted by the prospect of my fellow citizens knuckling under to tinpot autocrats.  But is it just because we’re sheep-like by nature?  I don’t believe that.  I believe that servitude is attractive to one side of our nature… but we have a more spiritual side that usually wins the confrontation.  Why isn’t it winning now?

Something in us denizens of the twenty-first century (going back to us children of the Sixties) wants the mask—needs the mask.  What is that something?

Could it be the very failure of that capitalist system which we’re accustomed to posing as an alternative to servitude?  I mean this: perhaps, as our advancing technology has rendered us more dispensable as individuals—as our jobs have become more mechanized, more distant from our hands and our hearts—we have settled into a certain comfort with being tiny cogs in the vast machine.  Perhaps we welcome the suppression of that most immediate sign of our individuality: our face.  We construct identities (a.k.a. “avatars”) all the time on our bizarrely christened “social media” which we like infinitely more than the real thing.  Perhaps we welcome the erasure—finally—of the real thing from public view.  No more having to smile at real people greeted in real settings, no more having to bluff our way through real conversations where we feel overmatched or uninterested.  At last, at long last, we can circulate in public like a home-alone teenager who stumbles from his video games to the refrigerator for a soft drink.

And how we hate those who refuse to mask!  Stop calling us back to that loathsome alternate-reality!  Stop making us feel that we’re hiding, that we’re not good enough—that we’re cowards!  Stop standing in the way of progress!

On of the phenomena that would lead me to doubt this explanation is the degree of self-interest—indeed, of pathological selfishness—observable in many mask-idolaters.  Far from accepting absorption into the Hive, the Machine—the Borg—they appear to demand that all the rest of society run off the rails in deference to their own fear of infection.  “Why are you exposing yourself?  You might catch COVID, and then spread it to my nephew… and then I’ll contract it from him and die.  You’re threatening my life!”  I hear some version of this mad rant over and over.  (If it were logically applied to other conditions of modern life, then we would resume the ban of alcohol; for why suppose that laws against drunk driving will suffice to keep your life safe—why not, rather, prosecute everyone found in possession of an alcoholic beverage as an attempted murderer?)

Yet perhaps this objection is more paradox than contradiction.  It seems to me that those who want to secure their lives to the point of denying anyone else the right to breathe freely are afraid of life.  Their insane terror of death is really a horror at the emptiness of life.  Living has brought them no reward… so they cling to it since the possibility, the illusion, of future reward is all they have.  Their defense from the fetal position is no assertion of forceful ego: it’s the protest of an ego that has never fully formed, and likely never will.

If you had built a house with your two hands and raised your children in it, you would defend it to the death.  If you had amassed an attic-full of paintings from your own toiling hand over a period of twenty years, you would rush up the burning staircase to rescue them.  You would cheerfully die for that which has made your life worthwhile.  But the slave has found nothing to bestow such worth upon his life.  A mere salary doesn’t do it, a hefty hike in salary doesn’t do it, and a mansion bought with that hefty hike doesn’t do it.  The slave remains a stranger to himself—and he would rather not see his face, or expose it to anyone else.

To that extent, perhaps the slave isn’t happy at all.  Maybe he’s just lazy.  Maybe he was only happy in choosing not to be free because he spared himself the anxiety of having to explore how far he might scale—or fall.  There is higher happiness and lower happiness.  Maybe the mask is visible proof that we have opted for lower happiness.

Is there a way that we could stop grinding out slaves in this progressive economy that has less and less need of human beings?

Health Care: System vs. the Individual

I’m finishing up the story of my victory over prostate cancer with the help of the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, having been left to die by our American health-care system.  Below is a passage from the final chapter.

I’m one man—and a man, at that, who’s never liked doctors’ offices or hospitals and doesn’t particularly trust authority.  I’m getting old; and in the twilight of my day, I developed a life-threatening health problem.  I sought help… and none was given.  My Medicare was charged over and over for costly articles concealing a ridiculous amount of redundancy and for needless office visits.  At the same time, those articles (and I mean catheters, primarily) were never anything approaching a cure for my condition, and those office visits were spaced so far apart that my initial cancer had three months’ grace to metastasize.  Meanwhile, simply diagnosing the disease, which should have been Job One, was overlooked by the staffs of two clinics for two of those months; and after the diagnosis was finally addressed by one clinic, I didn’t learn of it personally for yet another month.

I was dropped and kicked around like a football where twelve-year-olds scramble across the muddy field of some Middle School playground on a rainy October afternoon.  There was truly an incompetence reminiscent of a childish game about it all. While most of the nurses I met face to face were caring people, the medical establishment in general showed me little respect.  My health and my life were obviously not of any consequence to “them”, the gears and pistons of a faceless bureaucratic machine.  When, at long last, I understood that my life might well be cut short by cancer, the responses I encountered were of two sorts: 1) palliatives were offered to render death as painless as possible, and 2) calls were never answered and my appeals for help were utterly ignored. I suppose Number Two, properly speaking, would be a persistent non-response.

This is one man’s experience, in the grip of one dreadful disease, when transiting through the labyrinth of the “greatest health care system in the world”.  I place that phrase in ironic quotation marks because, of course, I consider my experience a miserable one.  I would sooner consult an old curandera with her basket full of herbs than return to the *** Clinic or to ___ Urology.  Now, I am but one man, and I’ve had no significant experiences of our system other than the one described in this book.  Maybe I’m a statistical outlier.  I don’t know how to rebut that proposition conclusively.  Maybe I’m just Mr. Hard Luck.

That theory doesn’t really handle the embarrassing evidence, though, that anyone can find in our medical establishment’s rates of cancer recidivism. I saw an appalling number of people at the Immunity Therapy Center who had cycled through years of conventional, mainstream therapy in the US—and who were in terrible shape, not in spite of their surgery + chemo + radiation, but because of it. Liz once told me (probably with a smile behind her mask) that they called patients like me “cancer virgins”, in allusion to our having lived through none of the mainstream treatments at all. We were the ones who responded best to therapy. Although the American “toxic trifecta” will often kill cancer cells, the problem is that most living cells in the tumor’s vicinity also die. For a year, two years—maybe three or four—the patient’s blood comes back free of the disease; but if a loose-floating cancer cell proceeds to multiply anywhere in the body now, the natural resistance mounted against it is far less than a healthy body’s would be. Indeed, two of our system’s three favorite treatments are themselves carcinogenic—and recall that we all have had cancer cells somewhere in our body from birth. The temporary eradication of detectable cancer, therefore, usually comes at the cost of creating a cancer-tolerant environment whenever the disease decides to flare up again.

Am I just complaining to grandstand? Am I just “one of those”—an enemy of the establishment who strokes his ego by assuming avant-garde or “woke” postures? You can pigeon-hole me wherever you please, wherever the result gives you the best night’s sleep… but one thing I’m most definitely not is a far-left radical.  A classical liberal I may well be, in the strict sense of believing in the value of individuality—in the essential right of individuals to live free, to enjoy liberty: the right to try, to fail, and to learn. Yet that’s a sense of the word which nobody understands any more (though it animates our Declaration of Independence and Constitution as “liberal” documents).

No, I’m not “out to get” the American way.  It’s not my fault that our way has been lost, not by me, but by both of our political parties. Republicans are supposed to say that this health-care system, for all its flaws, remains the best the world has ever seen.  Democrats are supposed to counter that the system refuses to offer equal health care for all and seems preoccupied, instead, with enriching pharmaceutical companies.  Republicans answer that companies have a right to a profit, and that, indeed, without profits to reinvest in research, American enterprises would not lead the world in the development of miraculous new drugs.  Democrats volley with the sneer that a lot of the profit never finds its way to the lab, and that what comes out of the lab is designed more for mass-marketing than for effective, lasting treatment.

I could strike a pose and grandly cry, “Calm down, ladies and gentlemen.  There’s some truth on both your sides.  We must work together…” and so on, and so on.  In the meantime, both sides will have written me off as belonging to the other if I show myself weak-kneed on a single article of their manifesto.  The truth, however, is that I don’t know where the truth lies: I’m just pretty sure there’s not much of it on either of these sides.  Our American labs do indeed develop miraculous treatments and technologies… and then those marvels are left for physicians in other nations to offer their patients, because a) existing treatments here can yet be milked for so much money (as per the Democrats’ accusation); and b) any treatment must have a 100 percent guarantee of success, or else the “victimized” patient can sue the doctor for millions (a state of affairs ushered in by Democrat mega-bureaucracy and “lawyer-ocracy”).

But Republicans, for their part, don’t seem very interested in sustaining a sensible, anti-statist, “Tea Party” side of the argument.  They know that no state-run system can supply uniform health care to every member of a vast nation—that a cutting-edge treatment will always be costly, and that providing it to all who need it could bankrupt the system in many specific instances.  They know that lawsuits further drive up the cost of care for consumers, and that watchdog agencies like the FDA too often simply screen the gold-mining of pharmaceutical mega-corporations that have slipped donations into the right hands.  These are hymns from their base’s hymnal, but the Honorable Representative So-and-So echoes the lyrics of a different creed when Congress takes a vote.

Look at the current brouhaha over drugs like hydroxichloroquine and, just lately, an extract from the oleander plant.  I myself certainly don’t know whether there is merit to pursuing these prospective treatments for CV-19 or not… but people who have no more knowledge than I have staked out a position passionately, based (it appears) on nothing but their “R” or “D” affiliation.  The R’s contend that we should encourage further research into any treatment until it can be conclusively proved ineffective or dangerous; and, further, that willing individuals should be allowed access to such treatment if they find the element of risk acceptable.  The D’s, in contrast, insist that not a dime should be spent on theoretical cures that don’t have the weight of big-league names behind them; and, further, that no individual should ever be allowed to select a treatment, no matter how resigned to risk he may be, that the paternalistic SuperNanny of centralized government hasn’t approved officially.

These positions are the precise opposite of those which the R’s and D’s occupy on cancer drugs and treatment.  There, the R’s defend what I call the Medi-Pharm Complex’s supreme authority to dictate where we can go for therapy and what therapies we may receive.  The D’s cry foul, claiming as individuals of free will the inalienable right to risk their lives in submitting to a new therapy that might save their lives.  Now, suddenly, the latter sound like the true liberal of the nineteenth century, while the former sound like totalitarian statists who are about one move away from making us all have chips implanted into our skulls.

Do I have a “political view” on all this?  In the terms used to define politics these days, I would say “no”.  I would argue that my view is mere common sense.  I’m not interested in promoting any broad agenda: I just want the freedom to live out my own little life like a responsible adult with a functional brain.  Let me try something that may work… and if it doesn’t work, deprive me of the right to sue my suppliers for not shouting in my ear with a bullhorn, “There’s a risk!”  Let me possibly mess up, as long as I have a chance of succeeding.  Don’t measure me for a coffin and then offer me a few months’ worth of joints until I stop moving and can be settled into my new, permanent home.  Treat me with some respect.

Why is that political?  I am one man.  Let me breathe.  Stop rationing my air.

Isn’t it ironic (in this unending chain of human ironies) that Mexico, our dysfunctional neighbor to the south whose government rests on the spectrum somewhere between socialism and brigandism, allows individuals the freedoms that they once enjoyed up here?  No, the Mexican state doesn’t secure those freedoms well, and few can reliably access them.  Most of the “allowance” is off the books, off the radar.  But when so much is regulated and policed, the system becomes overloaded.  It also loses its vibrancy, if carried to the extreme. People stop working, because there’s no point: you can’t keep what you earn, you can’t profit from your own ideas, and you can readily disappear for protesting.  So…

So certain little enterprises are permitted to prosper in the underbrush, like the mavericks—the cimarrones—that broke away from the original Spanish herds and became the longhorn breed.  They aren’t enough of a threat to round up, and the government doesn’t really want to waste energy and resources in rounding them up—especially when they also generate tax revenue and attract foreign visitors with full wallets.  My Mexican benefactors sent me home with instructions to inject myself four times a week.  Oh, the lawsuits, if I were to draw the wrong amount from the vial!  Oh, the lawsuits, if I were to harm myself!  I was sent away with the implicit assumption that I was a responsible adult.  When is the last time my own nation, the self-styled Land of the Free, made such flattering assumptions about me?

My politics?  If by that word you mean “broad agenda”, I have none.  Capitalism worked well for our medical establishment until a few entities prospered too handsomely: then we had, not a free-market economy, but rule by Mogul emperors.  That each emperor was nominally a private-sector actor when tax forms were filled out was an irrelevancy; for the emperors have come to own the public sector, and our watchdogs—our SuperNannies—are mere puppets on private, behind-the-scenes strings.

Socializing our system wouldn’t have made my journey any easier.  In fact, look at my path and tell me that it doesn’t resemble a nightmarish trek across the terrain of socialized medicine.  Long waits, one-size-fits-all prescriptions and treatments, shameless profiteering by peripheral private concerns that supply the public machine, cut-your-losses negligence of cases that have grown complex or fallen between the bureaucratic cracks… I already know what socialized medicine looks like.  We have it right here, right now, in the US of A.

And, yes, to the extent that we don’t, it’s because the unholy alliance between the stethoscope team and the lab-coat team makes higher profits when government doesn’t mandate fixed costs for drugs.  But it’s government that prevents the free market from forcing costs down by allowing patients the option of alternative treatments.  It’s the government that conspires with the Medi-Pharm Complex to punish those who dare to go off the grid for help. I can’t even claim my flights to and from San Diego as medical expenses on my income tax—but I will have to pay tax on the investments I had to liquidate in order to finance the saving of my life.

With freedom like that, who needs oppression?  With capitalist cronyism like that, who needs socialism?

“The same people keep getting themselves killed”: I’m constantly remembering that old French saying.  What hope is there for us?  The hope of life under the radar, between the cracks—the hope I place in individual human beings who persist in finding a way to be humane.  Maybe we don’t need a new system; maybe we need as little system, in fact, as we can possibly get away with.  Maybe the more we try to fix things so that we answer everyone’s problem, the more we force everyone to be that abstract Citizen whose problems are all answered on the “Frequently Asked Questions” page.  Maybe, to the extent that we have a system, it needs to be characterized by flexibility—by adaptation to local and individual circumstances: by a liberality of chances both for those seeking help and those offering it.  Maybe we just need to get out of our own way.

The American Medical Establishment: An Anti-Spiritual Assault Force

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On the night of Wednesday, August 12, I thought for sure that I was coming down with a case of CV-19. We had been to a Mexican supermarket on the west side of town in search of nopales (prickly pear leaves, incredibly high in antioxidant). A few people in the mercado were probably not legally resident in the state of Georgia. Even those who were so might have staged a vacation from Mexico to parts north in order to escape the COVID outbreak in their homeland, which peaked there a good two months later than it did here. Mexicans also tend to have some genetic component (and “Mexican” itself is not a racial designation, by the way) which is less resistant to corona viruses than is the more Caucasian mix of DNA. So… with my sore throat settling into my lungs and a splitting headache going like fireworks, I was sure by midnight that I had managed to acquire more than cactus leaves on that excursion.

During the next day, however, the respiratory symptoms quickly vanished. The headache remitted slightly, as well—but it was succeeded by something more alarming. The right side of my face appeared to be mildly paralyzed. My smile was entirely lopsided. My right brow wouldn’t lift, and my right lid would hardly close. Half of my mouth had grown so lazy that my speech was slurred. I had suffered a mild stroke. No doubt about it.

At least, I had no remaining doubts by early evening—and I wasn’t about to attempt riding out another night with a stroke’s aftershock just waiting to blow my lid off on its second try. My wife took me to the ER, where I was immediately introduced into an examination room, and… and the doctor promptly diagnosed something called Bell’s Palsy. He even offered me up as a textbook case to the student-doctor dogging his heels. I searched the Internet after they continued on their rounds. Sure enough, I could check all the boxes for Bell’s Palsy.

What’s far less clear is where this disease comes from. My helpful ER doctor insisted that deer ticks bear it, and the Internet supports that theory… at times. But both the Mayo Clinic’s site and Web MD beg to differ, cautioning that we really don’t know. There may be a connection with cold viruses or sinus infections. My property is sometimes practically overrun with deer; but I also always use insect repellent before working in the undergrowth, always wash off carefully after returning indoors, and have never found a tick on board. I had indeed been hacking away at overgrown brush like a convict on Devil’s Island after my five-week visit to the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana (where my prostate cancer was stopped in its tracks and chased back to normal levels). The opportunity to be jumped by a tick was certainly there… but so was the opportunity to bung up my sinuses badly, which I had in fact done. Undetected tick or sinus infection: either one was a credible candidate.

Part of the ER doctor’s prescribed treatment was to visit a neurologist. Thanks to a cancellation out of the blue, we were able to see a highly esteemed one the following Tuesday. He listened to my whole story: not just the terrifying Wednesday night and more terrifying Thursday, but the history of my prostate cancer. Somewhere along our ride, I sensed the train easing off the rails. This specialist seemed more interested in the narrative behind my cancer than in the much briefer story of my Bell’s Palsy. Thinking out loud, he observed that prostate cancer likes to shift to bones, as mine in fact did; and he questioned me closely about whether I recalled any mention in my long-ago bone scan’s lab report of metastasis having proceeded from pelvis and hips up to the neck region. “We neurologists don’t believe in coincidences,” he murmured apothegmatically at one point.

If that was a joke, I found it to be in distinctly bad taste. Was he implying that I had cancer in my brain now—that a growing tumor might have touched off Bell’s-like symptoms? Wasn’t he implying precisely that?

But he waved aside his own insinuations, noting that the scan done in the ER five days earlier revealed absolutely nothing unusual. Yet he still asked my permission to access the three-months-earlier scan done to assess the stage of my cancer.

Why? Wasn’t a brain scan done five days earlier evidence enough? Even if the more distant bone scan mentioned a trace of cancer around the upper spine, that was then and this was now. My treatment at ITC had driven my PSA score down from 295 to 4.3!

What about the little detail that I had all the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy, and that a tumor would have announced its presence gradually rather than exploding like an H-Bomb in my skull?

What about the further little detail that I was already improving? (And as I sit writing, the improvement is utterly beyond question; recovery from Bell’s Palsy is said to take three to six months, but in one week I have recovered significant muscular function.)

And, okay: the scientist mistrusts coincidence. So let’s say that I’d had a recent heart attack rather than cancer: would Bell’s be related to my cardiac? What if I were diabetic? Has to be a connection… right? We don’t know the exact cause of Bell’s. Therefore, anyone who has it along with any other condition may be susceptible to theories about a connection between BP and his other condition.

What kind of logic is that? Why did I have to take half a day off and saddle Medicare with another charge just to listen to such claptrap?

I’m sorry, but… but what kind of human being treats other people this way as routine practice? My wife, who attended the entire consultation with me—and who also used to work with an ophthalmologist—commented that doctors often think out loud in this manner. But… why? It doesn’t strike me as very professional. If a cop finds a wife quivering on her doorstep as she recounts the details of a break-in but observes the husband standing strangely cool in the background, does he say, “Excuse me, madam… just thinking out loud. But have you given any thought to the possibility that your husband staged the whole thing and is going to sell your jewels after pocketing the insurance money?”

“Thinking out loud” is not necessarily a good idea. It’s usually a very bad idea if not done in intimate company. When you’re a cancer patient and you have to put up with person after well-meaning person almost bursting into tears with, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you!”—when you keep telling people, “I’m not done yet, by a long shot,” and ginning up your spirits for the battle… pretty much the last thing on earth you need is a guy in a white coat sprinkling in, “Could be that cancer’s making a comeback. I’d like to check on that.”

Yeah, you just check on that. You have a clean test that’s less than a week old—but you go ahead and dig back a quarter of a year for the same information. See if you can build some kind of argument to discredit the non-traditional treatments that saved my life. Or if that’s not your game… well, just keep slopping your stray thoughts over the lip of the pail. Don’t mind me.

I didn’t meet any doctors like this in Tijuana; but since my rash of health problems in 2020, I’ve met more than a few in the USA. Not ER doctors: no, I mean specialists. Men at the peak of their profession. My best guess is that there’s something perverse in the way we train our sawbones class. They don’t view patient morale as a factor in cure. I’m close to wondering, indeed, if they view the deliberate fracturing of morale as a useful step in treatment. Crush the patient: convince him that he has no hope whatever other than to surrender himself abjectly into your hands. Then do with him whatever you did with cadavers and Rhesus monkeys during your training and research. That’s his best chance: recognizing you as God Almighty.

Is this the training that Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx received? Is it why they and their cohort seem to take a professional pleasure in seeing people of my son’s generation beset with depression and suicide—because now “they will look to no one but us for salvation”? Is that why such elite healers would rather drive our children to despair and self-destruction than allow life to return to normal with the aid of a drug having a century’s worth of reliable successes?

I can’t help it. I’m really starting to loathe American doctors. I see the animating, redeeming power of the spirit on one side… and then I look to the other, and I see white coats and stethoscopes.

If We Love Our Children, We Should Talk to Putin

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I found the following article by a certain Freddy Kühne in the PDF containing all the July publications of Peter Helmes’ Die Deutschen Konservativen: “Von den USA, über Europa, Israel, Iran bis hin zu China und Hong-Kong – Eine geopolitische Analyse über die derzeitig anhaltende Kompasslosigkeit deutscher Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik” (pp. 23-31). In English, the title runs, “From the USA Across Europe, Israel, and Iran and Thence to China and Hong Kong: A Geopolitical Analysis of the Currently Dominant Lack of Objective in German Foreign and Domestic Policy”. Mr. Kühne originally titled the piece somewhat more revealingly on his Christlich liberal konservatives Blog as, “Nordstream 2 und US-Truppen: USA und Polen sollten stärker auf deutsche und russische Interessen eingehen, sonst zerstören sie dauerhaft die traditionell guten Beziehungen – vor allem zu Deutschland” (“Northstream 2 and US Troops: the USA and Poland Should Weigh German and Russian Interests More Carefully or Risk Permanently Damaging Traditionally Good Relationships”).

Sorry about all the German. If you read the language, then you can probably recur to the article itself and fare better than I would in trying to translate it. My purpose in this space, in any case, has seldom been to immerse myself in politics, and I’m going to handle the issues here with the “lang spuin” which—according to a Scots proverb—is needed when eating with the Devil. Just from reproducing the titles above with a hint of sympathy, I’ve probably already ended up on the Devil’s prongs, in the view of any American conservative. Well, for that matter… aren’t Boris and Natasha also supposed to be the favorite villains of the Left nowadays? Everything Russian, to every patriotic American left-wing or right-wing, is despicable. We agree on nothing—except we can all agree to hate the Russians.

And let’s get one thing clear: Putin is no choirboy. He’s likely the richest man in Europe. He’s corrupt, he’s mendacious, and he’s ruthless to the point of being murderous. He strikes up friendships of convenience (which he has no intention of preserving when convenience is no longer served) with the most loathsome regimes on the planet, and he hatches or nourishes subversive plots against his adversaries whose conception is utterly destitute of any moral awareness. He is our era’s Cesare Borgia; and if he continues playing his various dangerous games in the fashion of a gambler who runs bluffs but also packs a .45, then he may just be the tyrant who finally brings human history to a close. A desperate man… yes, you can have that in spades.

But the gist of the article above captures that delightful German virtue (so rare these days, in Germany and elsewhere) of Realpolitik. Russia is what it is. And what, then, is it? A nation of several ill-matched nations, plunged into chaos after the Soviet Union’s collapse and brought into a rugged, mobster kind of coherence by Putin’s rough hand. Putin wants Russia to revive and prosper, almost as much as he wants himself to thrive and prosper. His providing of oil to Germany is essential to both economies, but especially to Germany’s—the few Germans who have retained their sanity know that wind turbines cannot sustain a twenty-first century industrial state and that supplies from across the Atlantic would vanish in an international conflict; so the fracture of East/West relations following the crack-up of the Ukraine leaves Deutschland in a pickle. America is content to back the western Ukrainians (the same outfit, let us remember, that so enriched the Biden family), although the eastern Ukrainians have deep historical and cultural roots that tie them to Russia much more securely than Putin’s “invasion” could ever have done. The Central European nations, recollecting decades of Soviet domination all too well, take America’s side in the quarrel with gusto, and (in states like Hungary) are indeed embracing Western values more vigorously than we seem to do now in the US. Poland is all too eager to host the troops that we will withdraw from German borders.

Where does this leave our conventional alliance with post-war Germany, however—and, indeed, our centuries-older alliance with France? Most importantly of all, where does it leave us in the only game that really matters in the long-term survival of freedom around the world: the chess match with Communist China? The Chinese are successfully wooing small peripheral nations of the EU like Greece as the Franco-German nexus of Brussels’ power brutalizes its little brothers, on the one hand, and falls out of favor with its big blunt uncle from across the Atlantic, on the other. And China, of course, is only too happy to see Russia drawn into the tug-of-war, not just as America’s long-standing and favorite enemy, but now also as a source of energy driving the EU’s fragmentation. The more pawns go drifting loose about the board, the more little pieces the “People’s Republic” can snap up as it occupies unwatched squares.

Mr. Kühne’s article further considers the role of the Middle East in the Great Game… and I will grow prolix in this brief post if I attempt to summarize all of his points. He notes with especial force, however, that German leaders have yet to condemn the brutal and ongoing Chinese suppression of Hong Kong protests, and that the habitual German “kind word” for Israel (mandatory in the wake of the Holocaust) is undermined by a similar tolerance of Israel’s bitterest enemies. It’s all connected; or, in Germany’s case, the disconnect is all part of China’s sweeping strategy, best expressed (without a trace of subterfuge) by its “One Belt One Road” initiative. Dissension everywhere, fragmentation everywhere, poverty and rebellion everywhere… the US fighting with Russia over Bashar al-Assad’s future in Syria, the US fighting ISIS, Iranian Shiites also fighting ISIS and funneling money to Syria in the struggle, US “allies” in Saudi Arabia and Turkey lifting the weakest of fingers (in the former case) and actually attacking the most effective ISIS resistance on the ground—the Kurds (in the latter)… the West drained of resources and starting to boil with internal unrest, Russia increasingly hostile due to the molestation of customers for her oil… China wins. China wins from all of this. Hungry for world domination, a megalomaniac Xi jinping wins every time in this round of back-stabbing from the sidelines.

All nations who have any pretension to a humane, civilized lifestyle need to unite against the Chinese Communist menace. That means patching up fences with Russia. Putin, for all his faults (and is there enough paper on earth to record them?), is no fool. He sufficiently desires the prosperity of Russia that he would never sell her out for a seat on Xi’s galactic board of mandarins; and, for that matter, he is sufficiently bright to know that such a chair would have an oubliette positioned beneath it. He has lakes and lakes of oil, but little beyond that by way of bargaining chips. While he has made an immense investment of this wealth in next-generation weapons technology and poses a serious threat now to our survival in the US, his economy resembles its Soviet antecedents in featuring virtually nothing but guns and oil. His citizens can eat neither.

We can share a table with this devil without having our hand snapped off. I do believe that Donald Trump intended to make progress in that direction before media-driven “Russian scandals” stung his ego and turned him into as virulent a hawk on all things Russian as, say, John Bolton. And who was pulling the strings of the useful idiots in the mainstream media? Not Vladimir Putin. I suggest you research the degree of Chinese ownership in our major news and entertainment outlets. Do the words “Hong Kong” and “NBA” mean anything to you in conjunction?

All roads lead back to Beijing—and the only way to keep our children from having to crawl on their knees to Beijing, kowtowing all the way, is to split Putin from that alliance. Are there enough adults left among us to do it?

I’ve said my piece. I’ll cast my vote later.  Then, whatever the result, I will live whatever of life God has allotted me on this earth and leave my son to make his way, as well, in our cauldron of lunatic ambitions.  Do what you can when you have the chance.  I would ask only that you give these matters a little honest thought.

Why Are We Dying Today?

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I’ve been preoccupied with composing an account of my escape from an American medical establishment that left me to die of prostate cancer to an alternative approach in Tijuana, Mexico, that saved my life.  Pardon me, then, if I don’t opine this week upon our socio-political meltdown for a couple of thousand words.  Instead, allow me to offer a section of the emerging book that I wrote just moments ago.  The “chronology” sections, by the way, are interspersed with more subjective sections titled “commentary”.  What’s below is a section of the latter kind.

Again, I find myself having to defend the “chronology” section as a repository of facts.  The effort above seems like a broad, deep pool of feelings.  But when a crime victim has PTSD and sues the criminal for damages to help with therapy costs, date and location aren’t really as important as the fact that the perpetrator kept the victim in a cold, wet basement for a month.  The fact of feeling strikes me as no less relevant when we consider the damage done by our medical establishment.  It’s a fact that I felt myself progressively invaded by a deadly illness yet couldn’t even get a diagnosis.  It’s a fact that I was driven to think about suicide in the utter absence of any support from highly paid “professionals”.  It’s a fact that the PSA results were available long before I was informed of them, and that any reasonable person would therefore have supposed those results to be unremarkable; and it’s a fact that any such person, surprised in that reasonable supposition by the news that cancer had practically devoured one of his organs, would be somewhat traumatized.  Good grief!  It remained a fact throughout this time that I still couldn’t do more than a sponge-squeeze over the toilet bowl without a catheter, two and three months into my original blockage!

No spokesman for ___ Urology ever tried to claim that the COVID pandemic was to blame.  I’m sure I would have heard that excuse if any excuse at all had ever been offered… but no, none was ever offered.  Even if we concede that the way our hospitals shut their doors and closed their labs to non-COVID patients led to magnified misery, however, we’ve done nothing but admit that the system is a disaster.  If you can’t handle the victims of a train wreck without disconnecting all of your existing patients previously placed on life-support, then you’re running a pretty crappy health-care facility.

I’m in a hurry to close the book of memory on these sulfur-scented pages, so let me wind up the present commentary by squeezing in a thought that I’d entertained right from the start of my ordeal.  The first time I ever met Dr. X (March 12), I asked him a question so obvious—yet so puzzling—that it almost turned reality inside-out.  Where were all the Enlarged Prostate victims of the past?  Even if their enlargement was benign and not cancerous, they would have died an excruciating death within a few days because of not being able to urinate.  Dr. X gave the laconic response that people just didn’t live as long in the past.  This apparently meant both that a) men didn’t develop enlarged prostates very often because they were in their graves before reaching their sixth decade, and b) when they did suffer a urinary blockage… yes, they were goners very quickly.  He added something nondescript about the nightmarish ways that the latter sufferers would try to handle their condition.

Okay, but…  but where’s the evidence of the nightmare?  Does it appear only in med-school textbooks?  Why?  Because ancient authors were squeamish about portraying such horrors before a general audience?  Aelfric wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing the demise of Herod in one of his sermons.  The epic poet Lucan wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing bizarre (perhaps even imaginary) mutilations in battle scenes.  Suetonius didn’t seem to think the tender eyes of his readers couldn’t bear ghastly detail when it came to the excesses and orgies of decadent Roman emperors.  Why is urinary dysfunction the single sort of physical torture excluded from pages accessible to the layman’s eye?

And plenty of fellows got old, in the old days.  I’ve browsed through more than one decrepit Irish graveyard in my time.  Such places make interesting reading.  There are waves of die-off: the Reaper works his scythe most actively at certain moments in a man’s life.  Young lads doing hard manual labor with more brawn than brain sometimes didn’t see thirty.  A man who lived past forty in this group had a good chance of seeing eighty.  Where is the vast harvest at fifty or sixty—especially vast if almost all males are doomed to develop an enlarged prostate during those years?

To this day, I don’t know why prostate cancer chose me, in particular.  An inquisitive mind might look at all I’ve just written and say, “Our toxic modern environment is the evasive culprit you seek: our poisoned water, our poisoned air, our poisoned workplaces.”  Granted.  That sounds very reasonable.  Yet in my case, others around me (thank God) weren’t struck down.  If environmental pollution was the only relevant factor, then I should have had a lot of company.

I keep returning to stress.  Am I saying that people didn’t suffer stress in ancient and medieval times?  Yes, I am: or few of them, to be exact, suffered stress to the degree that we routinely do.  A Roman who wasn’t one of Caligula’s courtiers could get on with his life without great hassle.  An astronomer who didn’t publicize his findings could live comfortably elbow-to-elbow with the Spanish Inquisition.  And nobody, even among the most tormented—even Boethius languishing in his cell—was being suddenly informed that his identity had been stolen, or that his bills couldn’t be paid because a credit card had expired and his account’s password mysteriously refused to work.  We are blindsided and bushwhacked by such menacing assassins constantly, almost daily.  Even on a day when we don’t receive a red e-alert, we can’t be sure that our sailing will be smooth until we lie in bed that night.

I am conservative in most of my tastes.  Yet (or, I should write, “hence”) it annoys me when self-declared “conservative” mouthpieces praise our feverishly progressive lifestyle to the skies.  In the particular instance of cancer, we’re even supposed to celebrate radiation- and chemo-therapy as a blessing of our era.  Some of the “alternative” therapies—diet, supplements from rare plants, heat therapy, yoga—would land us in a pretty place, wouldn’t they, if we had to rely upon them and nothing else?  (Pause for superior smirks.)  Well, I’ll have much to say shortly about such “conserved” treatments, and also about extremely advanced ones that the “progressive conservative” Medi-Pharm establishment regularly slanders and stifles.  For the moment, just accept that for some of us older folks who don’t blithely punch buttons without any idea of what they may ignite, this brave new world is terrifying.

It made me a nervous wreck, at any rate: it was one of the contributing factors.  A rich man who knew that Caligula’s eye was lustfully studying his possessions could pack his tail out of Rome overnight for months at a time.  Now “they” know where you are 24/7 even when your phone’s turned off… and you, for your part, really have no idea who “they” are.

Late-Stage Social Lunacy: Half-Lunacy Is Not a Cure

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I have to say that it was nice being in a sort of “news quarantine” for five weeks while I was receiving treatment in Tijuana.  Of course, we’re never in such isolation anywhere these days—not really.  Baja California, especially, was bristling in masks and “Corona panic”.  The virus appears to have peaked a couple of months later in Mexico than in the U.S.; and with all the activity (legal and otherwise) occurring daily along the international border, infections were bound to proliferate.  Yet my wife and I, having already witnessed the hysteria months earlier, were pretty unfazed.  We wore masks, all right—on our walks to and from the Immunity Therapy Center, because the smog was so dense!  That’s another reason, by the way, why people in metropolitan centers might perceive CV-19 as the bubonic plague: because their air is so foul, and many of them already have compromised respiratory systems from daily living.

As for the two of us, though senior citizens and (in the case of one) fighting off cancer, we never felt ourselves under siege from an invisible killer.  (No, I don’t even regard cancer that way: on the contrary, my body’s healthy cells are cancer-killers.)  To return to the states, therefore, and find that panic has revisited—or even exceeded—its original levels was a shock.  What’s going on?  If you feel at risk, stay at home.  If you have to go out, wear a mask.  If you happen to know that cloth masks have zero efficacy and mass-marketed models only about fifty percent, then… first of all, good for you: you did some homework.  So take your fifty-fifty chance in the knowledge that, if you lose, you’ll probably end up with a bad cold for a few days.  And try to stay off ventilators, which earn big money for hospitals but are death traps in most cases.  Like masks, they keep healthy, oxygenated air from circulating (cancer dreads oxygen, by the way) and send back to the lungs higher levels of carbon dioxide along with whatever toxic microbes may lurk in your system.  I learned that much many decades ago as a young man hiking about in the snow.  Wearing a ski mask for hours is a surefire way to wake up with a chest cold the next morning.

Now, I’ve spoken to friends and relatives (not necessarily the same thing) who are terrified of CV-19 because they have personally watched it ravage an acquaintance.  The disease is not a hoax, even though it isn’t anthrax vapor.  Baseball star Freddie Freeman apparently thought he might die from his round with the contagion, despite being a young athlete in peak form.  Curious to me, though, is the way such cases are publicized.  Instead of delving into why somebody of Freddie’s demographic should have registered such an eccentrically, improbably severe response to COVID, broadcasters send the message, “See?  Even this professional athlete lay briefly at death’s door.  Just imagine what COVID could do to you if you don’t wear your mask and stay home!”

Same thing for the unfortunate kids who are playmates of a friend’s grandchildren: she informed me that their faces were all over the news in Florida as they fought for life on respirators.  My first question is… why?  Why are they news?  Because, of course, so very few adolescents even show symptoms when they contract the disease.  The press decided to run with these two young sufferers, I must assume, in order to purvey the mistaken notion that, yes, your little ones are also risking their lives when they cross their home’s threshold!  A genuinely inquiring mind, in contrast, would ask, “Why these two, out of so many thousands?  What in their profile has put a target on their back?”

Hospitals in the Palmetto State have been caught red-handed nudging a decimal point over to shift a 9.8 percent positive result on COVID screening tests to a 98 percent positive; and, of course, we’ve seen similar shenanigans all around the nation.  (My brother-in-law personally knows of a case where a man who was shot to death was logged as a CV-19 victim.  The bullet, you know, simply hastened along the inevitable!)  We can all speculate about the financial and political motives of such fraudsters—or we can do as my sister does, and just break off the conversation once it jeopardizes the “deadly plague” narrative (the same approach as Twitter‘s and Facebook‘s, come to think of it, if “break off” can include throttling your adversary into permanent silence).

But my greater interest here isn’t in sordid profiteering or yet more sordid propagandizing: it’s at the other end.  It’s in the population of bacchantes like my sister—people who appear to need the panic at some level, to embrace it as the filler of a great empty space in their lives.  What precisely is that space?  How did it evolve?  As a sign of late-stage social cancer, how many years does it suggest our nation has to live?

Other kinds of irrationality would imply that we’re already in our death throes.  BLM: now, there was one species of lunacy I was able to ignore entirely in Tijuana.  That it had literally ignited large swathes of our major cities therefore struck me with a smack upon my return.  One bad cop uses excessive force in one urban take-down… and, no, it’s not just black folks who have suffered the aggressions of that “one bad cop” in their municipality.  Oh, but it is!  And it’s not just one cop, but all of them; and it’s not just a municipality—it’s the whole damn country!  Take it all down!  Take everything down!  Take those statues down!  Take those street signs down!

Like millions of Americans, I had thought that I might escape the lunacy by losing myself in the faintly resuscitated baseball mini-season.  (At the very least, the quality of play in today’s game is a sure antidote to insomnia.)  But ESPN and the MLB aren’t content to pummel you with the Freddie Freeman narrative multiplied exponentially; that left jab is infallibly followed by the right hook of BLM.  Entire teams kneeling as the flag is raised, “BLM” emblazoned on the side of bases around the infield… it’s so very much like the marketing of Freeman’s misfortune.  Instead of inquiring into the specifics of abusive police practices and suggesting constructive solutions, the message is… what, exactly?  Abolish police forces?  Kill “pigs”?  Or can it be tailored infinitely to suit individual taste?  My son speaks of a case involving an athlete whose locker was defaced with the “n” word during high-school hazing incidents.  Okay… so you’re against that.  So am I—so is every sane human being.  I also assume that any competent principal would suspend the bully who slams a weaker kid into the wall and shouts “faggot” at him.  Does that mean that we should close down gymns across the nation?

Uh… what’s that, again?  What are you saying?

That you hate slavery?  That all whites, or all Southerners, should be punished for the institution’s presence in our history?  Is that why all Confederates in bronze on rearing horses need to be torn down throughout Alabama?  Is that why all streets and high schools named “Lee” or “Jackson” need to be rechristened “Marx” or “Engels”?

The so-called, self-styled Right has in fact primed us for this particular species of lunatic excess.  I have taken the estimable Glenn Beck to task many times in recent years for truculently insisting that our Civil War was fought only and completely—by all participants—over the issue of slavery.  Never mind that several Northern states allowed slave ownership, never mind that Lincoln excluded these from the censures and mandates of the Emancipation Proclamation, never mind that the vast majority of Southrons in uniform owned no slaves, never mind that some Southern slaveholders were themselves black, never mind that there were more abolitionist organizations in the South than in the North before John Brown’s murderous uprising torched the countryside, never mind that Lincoln could never have been elected had he admitted openly that he would meet secession with armed suppression, never mind that violent resistance to the war erupted in states as far flung as New York and Illinois when Lincoln’s draft was enforced… no, never mind history.  Mr. Beck—Grandpa History in his rocking chair—would have none of it.  And, to be fair, neither would a great many other Rightists who saw deploring the South as a slam-dunk manner of declaring their broad-mindedness, their distance from anything smacking of the John Birch Society.  “I may be for ending food stamps, but I’m not a racist.  I think flying a Confederate flag should be considered a hate crime.”  Yeah, thanks for that, Conservatives.  Beck’s own “defense” of Southern monuments was that we should never forget the evils of our past lest we slide back into them.  A statue of General Beauregard, in other words, should hang like a scarlet “A” around the South’s neck perpetually so that all Americans may ensure that they don’t become like that!

Such projection of evil upon the Other is precisely—and I mean *precisely*—what BLM is doing to white people everywhere (and, somewhat more implicitly, to various other non-African minorities).  It’s what Hitler (and Stalin, with much less “coverage”) did to Jews.  It’s what mask-fanatics are doing to non-maskers, often (as YouTube has not yet managed to suppress) attacking free-breathers physically, sometimes with deadly force.  The insane, homicidal self-righteousness of John Brown—and the Brownshirts—is in those attacks.

I happened to read just days ago a passage well over half a century old from Karl Popper’s Open Society and Its Enemies.  One of the keenest minds of the modern era observed that the Hegelian, historicist distortion (we would say “progressivism” today) had infected, not just our Far Left and Far Right, but also our conservative center.  We all have the inclination to view our civilization’s past as a Darwinian kind of climb up a staircase that this or that group seeks to impede.  Leftist loons are destroying everything!  No, Rightist racists want to conduct bloody purges!  Mask-resisters are going to kill us all!  Something’s very, very wrong with the world, and it’s… it’s them!  It’s him!  It’s outside of us, absolutely not us!  We need to eliminate the not us, or we risk being pushed back down the stairs.  Silence is violence!  All good people must stand beside us!

You know what?  The Left is right, the universities are right: there’s something very wrong with our society and our nation.  It’s that we created them—and then denied our creation as them.  Stalin and Mao didn’t force them upon us.  They’re our children, our brothers and sisters: we made them.  Yet we only ever point to them as what’s wrong without looking within ourselves to find what we did wrong in birthing them: the examples we failed to set, the message we failed to convey, the practice we failed to bring to what we preached.  They’re full of hate because, though we’re not “deplorables”, we did something deplorable along the way.  And penitence is not a matter of sharing half-and-half in their lunacy: of shutting down schools but not requiring masks, of taking a knee before the flag but supporting the local P.D., of melting down General Lee’s statues but safeguarding General Washington’s.  The nature of our sin isn’t that we wouldn’t let our wayward children have half the house to tear up at playtime.

We have all sinned, and not against each other, but against Him who made us.  We sin when we imagine we can make everything better than it was—that the fatal element of “what was” is not enduringly latent in us as we are.  Our faith in staircases, in “progress“, is a sure symptom of our sin.  And we give no sign from day to day—any of us—that we have diagnosed the illness.

Is Fretting Over Politics Worth Shortening Your Time on Earth?

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I don’t know where my cancer came from.  To be clear, we all have cancer cells circulating within us like so many little time bombs… but a healthy person’s immune system is up to the task of diffusing them, or at least sand-bagging them.  Why did my system fail?  I didn’t drink or smoke.  I never ate junk food or sweets (well, hardly ever), and I worked out vigorously for an hour a day.  Why me?

Genetics?  Prostate cancer is particularly hard to trace in that it only affects males, of which my mother’s side of the family featured very few to study.  I was under the impression that my one uncle died of a cancer first appearing in the prostate… but my big brother says “no” to that (and big brothers are always right, you know).  So… who’s next on the suspect list?

Could it be stress?  I’m hearing more and more about that culprit, and he has no alibi in my case.  I “stressed out” horribly at times during my academic career.  I walked away from all three tenure-track appointments I once occupied, not because I was facing release or dismissal, but because I couldn’t stand the steady onslaught of back-stabbing.  (At one institution, a dean urged me to stop publishing because I was making my colleagues envious; at another, I was told—oh-so-confidentially—to cast my vote at departmental meetings in conformity with the subtle hints of our Buddha-like chairman.  At all three jobs on occasion, my schedule was deliberately arranged to keep me yoyoing to and from campus from early morning to late evening, a tactic deployed against no one else around me.)  I had all the signs of clinical depression numerous times over these years.  Could I have been incubating cancer over that span because my immune system had been worn down?  Were my ruthless “scholarly” superiors planting my future road with deadly mines?

Whatever the truth may be, I’ve certainly chosen “stress reduction” to be a prime objective in my overhauled life as a “cancer survivor”.  (I’m using too many quotes; but honestly, all of us who survive in this life are cancer survivors, whether we know it or not.)  I haven’t entirely given up social media, though one social medium has apparently given me up: several Twitter friends are no longer receiving my posts after my five-week hiatus at Tijuana’s Immunity Therapy Clinic.  (No, nothing to see there: move on.)  Nevertheless, I’m very consciously awarding a lot less attention to politics.  I know we’re supposed to be activists, to get off our fundaments and mobilize, etc., etc.  Daniel Horowitz’s interview of Shannon Joy last week (Episode 686 of Conservative Review) left me blessing young people with confidence, energy, and appropriate poise.  But I’ve personally never been able to take the field for a few downs without transforming into Cu Chulainn during one of his supernatural distortions.  I get too worked up.  The younger and more stable of you will have to play this game without me.  (Seriously, when I did indeed play high school football, my classmates remarked upon my fearsome, homicidal transformations into a fireball of hatred.  I quit the game and detest it to this day because I could never regard it as “play”.)

If what I’m about to write strikes some of you as quietism, I apologize.  It’s not my intent to endorse the attitude so common among my wife’s Appalachian relatives: “You can’t do nothing about nothing in politics.  Why vote for any of ’em?”  This is not unlike the attitude I discovered among the good people of Tijuana—and many who crossed my path were truly good people, by my estimate.  They cared about me when my own countrymen crossed to the road’s far side and hastened their step, leaving me to bleed out like the mauled traveler in the Good Samaritan parable.  I had to fight down tears when I left the nurses who had attended me.  They knew—every one of them knew well—that their nation rested firmly in the squalid hands of hooligans and shysters.  And there was nothing they could do about it, so they just got on with their own tiny bit of existence.

Down the backstreets surrounding our hotel, my wife and I would take occasional walks.  Empty storehouses and busy repair shops would alternate with ornate residences guarded by high fences and vicious dogs.  All of it cheek by jowl.  Strange.  But that’s how people live, in Mexico and in most of the world outside the U.S.  You cling to your bit of turf and try to keep it safe.  What goes on beyond the reach of Massimo’s canines is none of your business.

Defeatist?  Quietist?  Yes, indeed… but more and more, this attitude is also survivalist in the U.S. of A.  Just one very brief illustration.  Jeff Sessions, one of the most principled men in politics over the past couple of decades and perhaps the most coherent, consistent advocate of maintaining our national sovereignty over that time, recently lost his seat to an “I’m for Trump” cheerleader whose position on border security might as well be Chuck Schumer’s—or Thom Tillis’s, or Kay Granger’s: all three of them (I mean, including Tuberville) ostensibly opposed to Trump on his signature issue yet endorsed by him because they stroked his ego.  The “Trump base”—disappointingly, but not surprisingly—cannot distinguish between the positions championed by their superhero and the superhero’s charisma.  They will follow him to their own destruction (and quite possibly to his own destruction, as his impulsive reactions shred his message) rather than measure every local candidate against the Constitution.

And that’s what’s happening on the law-and-order side.  On the other… chaos, tear-it-all-down, helter-skelter—“anywhere out of this world” (in Baudelaire’s immortal phrase).  While the Republican, self-styled “conservative” punditry derides Biden’s dementia and indicts CNN’s mendacity, educated, middle-class white folks (some of them in my own family) draw all their information from… CNN, and also grow weary of masks, quarantines, and Armageddon without any speculative genius for tracing our national lockdown back to root causes.  They just “want it to stop”; and the Man doesn’t help them figure out where it started because he can’t admit that Anthony Fauci’s canonization was a gross lack of judgment (any more than he’ll concede that Jeff Sessions’ self-recusal was not responsible for the Mueller witch-hunt).

Average citizens won’t unravel this tangle; and even if they do, the President himself will continue to foul his lines even without a shamelessly lying mass media to sabotage the ship.  Our future isn’t going to be rosy.  It’s going to be a Mexican prickly pear.

But we’ll survive somewhere in the cracks, most of us.  The Pat Buchanans and Diana Wests who warn that the republic will be destroyed forever if Donald Trump isn’t re-elected have assigned death to us if we don’t get chemo.  I figure I could hunker down and live in Mexico 2.0 if I had to, though—and I figure I’ll probably have to.  (Hell, I’m already there: my government just bled my wife and me for over $300 to get a passport in case I have to return to ITC in Tijuana… and kept our birth certificates lest we try to travel on those again, and keeps all we paid into Medicare for forty years, and refuses to pay out a dime of it for the medical strategy that saved my life. Is this Mexico… or the Soviet Union?) If my future neighbors are people like the ones I met in Tijuana, then they’ll be much truer to me in our common misery than the elitist medical mandarins north of the border who left me to die as they hazed an ailing herd into costly, toxic treatments.

For that matter, Pat and Diana, what I consider most dangerous about the Left is its utopianism: i.e., its conviction that an inspired few can play God and make the world perfect.  When we of the Right, in turn, lament the passing of a Shining City on a Hill, aren’t we falling for the same mirage?  The corporatist state that birthed the Medi-Pharm Complex, you know, was a cancerous by-product of Mom-and-Pop Main Streets horribly mutated (at the expense of Mom and Pop) into ravenous wealth engines.  We lost our own way, and now the vultures are gathering around a corpse that has rotted from the inside out.

Mend your fence, grow your garden, and keep your head down.  Build locally if you can: stop letting pseudo-messiahs insert themselves into your hometown politics.  That’s my advice… and, for that matter, it’s Horowitz’s and Mrs. Joy’s.  Yet I need peace: I personally need a lot of it right now. There’s no live grenade I call fall on to save the rest of my squadron, so… so I’m not going to blow myself up in the garage. Why should you die before your time, asketh the Preacher?

Live what years God has given you on this earth.  Stop trying to make earth into heaven in your impatience with heaven’s hazy plan.

Why I’m Not Dead: Treating Cancer in Mexico

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When my blood was drawn for the first time at the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, it returned a PSA reading of 295.  Ask an older man in your life what that means; no layman I’ve spoken to has ever heard of a score so far in the clouds, though one doctor claimed that he’d seen higher ones.  I had metastasized prostate cancer, and U.S. medical professionals (including the one who “consoled” me with his awareness of higher PSA’s) all gave me up for dead, offering no more than palliative treatments to help me go gentle into that good night.  The Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia, persistently refused to return my calls.  I have to assume, in this stone-cold absence of response, that the clinic’s physicians didn’t want their batting average of successes compromised by a guy with one foot already deeply in the grave.

After two weeks of “non-traditional” (i.e., non-invasive, largely non-pharmaceutical) therapy in Tijuana, my PSA score was 65.  After four and a half weeks, just before my departure, it was 4.3: well within the normal range for a man of my years.

Something’s wrong with this picture.  In fact, not very much is right.  I have vowed to my creator that I will make several changes during whatever additional years my new lease on life may give me.  The foremost of these will be to alert cancer sufferers that they don’t have to die: not like lab rats in a cage that failed to make the cut in an experiment—not shivering and shedding their hair after procedures to “cleanse” them have reduced them to little more than shiny white skeletons.  I was actually the healthiest person in ITC’s treatment room on any given day.  The fact that I had received no treatment whatever back in the States left my body much better prepared to fight its battle against the invader.

(Full disclosure: in the esoterica of medi-speak, I’m still classified as Stage Four because, I believe, supplements and injections continue to be part of my daily regimen.  You have to be off the program for a certain period and remaining cancer-free, I’m assuming, to be considered in remission.  But call me any stage you like—I’m in the game again, and I have the strength and the attitude I need to win.  Nobody in my native country ever gave me that gift.  No doctor among the lot would even write me a letter on medical letterhead so that I might obtain an emergency passport—none would dirty his sterilized fingers by implicitly condoning “voodoo medicine”.)

In this first of what I suppose may be many articles, I want to accomplish a couple of ends.  Right out of the gate, I offer my sincerest thanks to those who wished me well in my struggle and urged me to be of good cheer.  Most of these are Internet friends.  I’ve never met them personally, but their concern was the more obvious and credible for being expressed in thoughtful messages rather than squeezed into one of those awkward corridor-encounters.  (“You have what?  Wow… I’m so sorry.  Well, good luck, dude.  Oh, shoot—that’s my phone.  I gotta take this call.”)  Not included in the radius of my gratitude are the comments of a pair who exhorted me to get religion—*their* religion—in my hour of need.  It seemed as though they had been waiting, like the proverbial snake in the grass, throughout our “friendship” for a mortal crisis in my life to tell me that my spiritual convictions were forged of hellfire and brimstone.  What a way to encourage a friend—or to encourage anyone—confronting a deadly disease!

The broader theme I’d like to dispose of in relatively few (far too few) words is the almost knee-jerk supposition that capitalism is responsible for our dysfunctional medical system.  Over and over from fellow American patients at ITC, and again and again from family members after my return home, I had to listen to this tired refrain.  In my more vigorous moments, I would introduce the word “corporatism” into the discussion.  Socialized medicine isn’t the cure for what ails our health care: it’s Stage Four of the degeneration.  Why do we cancer patients have so few options in the U.S., and why will Medicare and the federal income tax turn a very cold shoulder to us if we seek assistance elsewhere?  “Because of Big Pharma,” pipe the critics.  “Doctors get a cut of the take on all the hugely expensive meds they prescribe.  They also love to do surgeries and radiation treatments with whopping price tags that typically produce very temporary good results.  They trick the patient into thinking that he’s mending while they actually weaken his body, and they bleed his insurance and Medicare for all they’re worth, at the same time.”

Yes to all that… but notice that our government has tidily arranged the scam.  Most of us are not paying out of pocket for these Pyrrhic victories scored over specific, localized outbreaks of cancer.  The government’s micro-managing allows us to believe that the cost is being absorbed by a benign Uncle Sam, or by insurance megaliths whose unfathomable resources permit everybody to prosper.  The truth is that—yes, again—pharmaceutical companies prosper, and so do the doctors who play their game.  That’s not capitalism in action.  At most, it’s late-stage, failing capitalism: it’s corporatism, the collaboration of private and public sectors in securing a choke-hold over the market.  Small insurers go under; or they’re certainly not able to compete broadly with the big names, at any rate, thanks to legislation that tightly squeezes the marketplace’s limits.  And while we can all concede that drug companies need mountains of funding to continue their world-class research and development, the entire health care system should not be enthralled to this worthy objective.  If an alternative therapy shows promise but does not involve medication, then it should not be branded “voodoo” and its successes denied even so much as access to peer-reviewed medical journals.

Such arrogant neglect, by the way, is seldom a result of behind-the-scenes pay-offs, in my opinion.  I think it reflects a root-level philosophical bias in our medical establishment, and in our technological enterprises generally.  Our culture regards its progress as adversarial to nature.  Rivers must be dammed.  Energy must be ripped from the earth’s bowels.  Viruses must be slain by super-vaccines.  The notion that the body might defeat cancer on its own if only given the right fuel and submitted to the right regimen of training is the equivalent, to our clinicians, of shaking rattles and eagle feathers over the patient.

Meanwhile, the private-sector half of the corporatist arrangement prospers handsomely, because every patient is placed on the same assembly (or disassembly) line involving drugs, surgery, and massive radiation; and the public-sector half, having received its cut of the profit (in campaign donations to statist candidates, etc.), supplies the muscle in the “protection” racket by forcing citizens to pay into a system that only underwrites the drugs-surgery-radiation protocol.  The resources beneath it all, far from being unfathomable, soon reach bottom as the system’s tentacles claim more and more of the populace and wrap around more and more treatments.  Instead of the best care for the greatest number, we have whatever care is available after strained resources have been divided by a denominator climbing into the hundreds of millions.

As I once pointed out to a fellow patient at ITC, Dr. Bautista would not be running his operation if the Mexican system enjoyed the sort of choke-hold over options that the American one exercises.  The Center’s physical therapist explained the situation in her homeland in terms that, I’m afraid, were too “inside baseball” for me.  (And we talked a lot about baseball, too!)  My garbled version of her brilliant summation would be this: the Mexican government is hopelessly corrupt.  Its agents know that they can’t serve the nation’s health needs adequately.  They therefore allow maverick start-ups like ITC to operate untouched.  The results are positive, demand is high, and profits escalate.  A government that can’t do much of anything on its own is very happy to let the private sector—a true private sector, a free-enterprise marketplace—purr along just under the radar.  In the U.S., where a Uncle Mao is still securing his power over every aspect of our lives, such benign negligence doesn’t happen.  Disobedience is not tolerated.  But in Mexico, where the line between patron and peon was drawn deeply and long ago, trickles of officially unnoticed efficiency are allowed to flow.

That may just be our own last best hope, as a nation—or as the shambles of a nation: enclaves of efficiency rising from the rubble of totalitarianism.  Or, should I say, that is the first hope awaiting us after the Collapse.

Living With Death

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It’s possible that I’m dying.  Well, so are we all, from the day we’re born.  But it’s “highly probable”, in my urologist’s words, that the through-the-roof values of my PSA test indicate cancer.  The first thing I whispered, into my mandatory dollar mask (lest I catch a bad cold), was, “Sh*t.”  Then, after a half-hour round of drilling biopsies, I remarked that I’d thought I might have a few more years than sixty-six, but… “I’ve had a good life.”  And I meant it.  I said it with a smile.

Of course, the doc rushed to assure me that the diagnosis was incomplete (by all means, let’s avoid the obvious inference until you have a number in every box) and that many treatment options would be available.  He was doing his job.  I know that.  I knew that at the moment.  I nodded, to put him at ease.  Then I thought a little more and said, “Well, I’ve had a good life… and if there’s more, then that’s good, too.”

I’m sure he didn’t understand my reaction.  It kind of surprised me, too.  Which of us knows how he’ll respond when he turns the corner and walks into a killer’s gun barrel? My position wasn’t one of instant surrender to death, though it probably came across that way; it was a full embrace of death as the eventual outcome (for us all, always) before a stiff competition to see how long my adversary needs to get me to the mat.  He wins in the end.  But he doesn’t know how much effort I’ll require to be driven down.

I’m not going to waste words praising or abusing the health care system.  Its minions didn’t “fail” me.  I could have been screened sooner, much sooner.  Yes, part of the reason I ignored the yearly checkup was my gathering from other men that a regimen of prescription drugs would have greeted me—a gateway to chronic headache and insomnia (with more drugs prescribed, no doubt, to alleviate those miseries).  I preferred to fortify myself with vitamin supplements and antioxidants, particularly after the medical community dismissed (with a hint of sneer) the problems I had two decades ago when working around first-generation personal computers.  It may well be, as I now realize, that I overdosed on one or two homeopathics, poisoning myself on too much Elixir of Life.  The men who peddled those all had M.D. after their names, too, so… so a cynic might say that I mistrusted the wolves and put my faith in large gray dogs.

That’s a hard saying, maybe: but do you know that thousands of lives are lost yearly because prescriptions piled upon prescriptions turn into a volatile brew whose action in individual cases nobody can anticipate?  Our society is having this debate right now in the context of vaccination.  I’m not sure anybody wins—or, at least, I’m not sure the patient consistently wins.  As the French used to say, “The same people keep getting themselves killed.”

I won’t even waste my ammo charging that Dr. Fauci and Co. delayed my diagnosis by two months with their pandemic masquerade.  They did… but I don’t imagine that those months could have made much difference.  (This has been a problem of long standing with me: if my prostate is eaten up with cancer cells, they’ve taken a hell of a lot of time to make just a little headway.)

No, what dismays me most at this moment, instead, is the fact—and it’s an unavoidable fact—that so many of my fellow Americans have locked their doors and crawled under their beds as Death’s slim shadow passed far up the street, like a spring cloud chased across the sun’s face.  The Man Himself is camped out on my porch now—and I don’t really care, because I so love this life that God has given me, despite my very clumsy handling of it.  How would I have lived any of it from under my bed?

It’s been a good life, a life that I have come to love deeply.  Now I’m going to meet the stranger on the porch and find out just how long he needs to drag me down the steps.