Why Ask Why [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A rare warm day, walking the Des Plains River trail. I should have been startled when Kerri suddenly jumped off the trail but I’ve grown accustomed to her spring-loaded-photo-impulsive-gambols. I actually love the passion of her image capturing so I’ve learned not to be surprised when she leaps and snaps. There is no danger. There is a photo opp.

“SEE!” she exclaimed, showing me the photo. “Even nature is asking ‘Why?'”

My first thought: Which “why” is nature asking? Why a pandemic?  Why so much division?

Simon Sinek has made a career of teaching people to ask “Why?” before asking “How?” It makes sense: you should probably know why you want to scale the mountain before asking, “How will I do it?” People need an answer to “why.” And, because we are human, the answer to “why” need not be reasonable or rational. “Because it is there,” is an acceptable answer to “why?” I want to. I need to know. I want to feel. I need to see what is there.

“How?” is a question that can only be answered after the fact. “How” is known through reflection. There is the plan. There is the reality that comes when the plan meets the unknown forces. The plan changes. The only honest answer to “how” is: do what makes sense and we’ll talk about it later.

Amidst a pandemic, it is only human to throw up our arms to the sky and demand an answer to our “Why?”  To borrow a lyric from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: “I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I know, darling,  that you do.” In other words, viruses are intention-free. Sometimes, even though we want an explanation, there is no “why.”

There is, however, always a plan, there is a path to “How?”  How do we protect ourselves? How do we deal with it? In fact, there are layers to the question “how?” The first layer of ‘how’ is simple: social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands. Looking back from this vantage point, we know it is the best we can do short of a vaccine. Simple science.

The second layer of the how-cake is more complex and, like all ‘how’ questions, we will only be able to talk about at some point down the broken road. Maybe a vaccine. Maybe herd immunity. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe we will be foolish, like the Philadelphia parade during the Spanish flu and escalate the death toll to the point that we wake up and listen to the first ‘how?’

The virus is a force like a tornado is a force. Why did it take my neighbor’s house and not mine? Why did the forest fire rage through this neighborhood and not that neighborhood?

Here’s the only “why” question we really need to consider: in the face of this virus-forest-fire, why did we rush out to light matches (pack into bars and onto beaches), parade around screaming about our individual rights instead of metaphorically rushing into the fire to save our neighbors in the only way we knew how (social distance, masks) –  as we would have done in an inferno?

I don’t believe in an interventionist god. But I do believe in intentional human beings (conscious and otherwise).

Nature need not ask “why?” We do. It’s a sure bet that our answer will make little or no sense at all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHY

 

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Pull The Curtain [on KS Friday]

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I once heard an author speak of the impossibility of writing a farce about The United States of America. He said that before the last chapter was written, the farce will have actually occurred. The bar of absurdity drops quickly from sea to shining sea.

Today we are watching the collapse of the American mythology “The best health care in the world.” In the face of a public health emergency we are seeing with greater clarity how fractured and incapable our system is of delivering even the most basic of services. That statement, sadly, is a daily fact in the USA for many of its citizens (more on that in a moment) but the pandemic has pulled the curtain on the wizard. Oz is not what it seems.

In the past 24 hours I’ve heard it reported multiple times: the difference between our inept response – beyond the absence of coherent leadership – and other nations, is the system itself. In a single payer system no one is confused about what to do or where to go and no one is reticent to seek medical care because of the costs. The necessary tests are available because profit is not the primary motive; public health is.

Our system is a shattered mess of profiteering and, I believe, intentional obfuscation.  Even the people within the system can’t get a straight answer so they can’t provide a lucid response to even the most basic of questions. Yesterday, our question was, “How much does it cost?”  A mere 24 hours ago, Kerri had her first occupational therapy session for her broken wrists. We called our insurance provider to check to see if we were covered. The OT facility also called and we both received two opposing stories. A third call was placed and a third answer was given. So, a fourth call to the insurance provider was made and, yes, a fourth story, a competing answer was proffered.

Four calls. Four stories. The policy itself is ambiguous. We asked the intake receptionist how much the therapy would cost if we decided to pay out of pocket. Her answer, “It depends.” Can we pay the bill we will most certainly receive or should we forgo the therapy altogether? [note: my wife makes her living playing the piano so this is no small or insignificant question]. Kerri started to cry. Standing within the pages of this farce, I started to laugh. No one (outside of the USA) would believe it if I wrote it.

Within 24 hours, our personal farce went nationwide. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID, said it best of our national travesty-of-a-system “It’s failing. Let’s admit it.”

The lucrative business of health care has blinded us for decades to the real needs of public health. We are, by any measure, an increasingly unhealthy society (check obesity rates, infant mortality, teen suicides, etc. if you doubt me). It seems to me that the point of health care should be the health of the public and not profit margins. The conversations coming from the White House are about whether or not our tests and treatments for a pandemic will be covered or not. It’s penny wise and pound foolish. It’s also obscene.

Kerri and I pay nearly half of our combined incomes for “healthcare” that is null and void if we cross the state line. And, now that we are attempting to use the policy that is pushing us into poverty, we are flush with competing stories about the costs but remain empty of even the most basic answer to the simplest of questions.

In the meantime, Senegal is doing a better job testing and protecting its citizens. The farce: our stubborn insistence that this sham of a system, the most expensive yet least effective, is the best in the world.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SAGA

 

 

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