Radio Lora, 14. Juni 2010 und Alternative Radio
Boulder, Colorado, 28. November 2009
Amy Goodman ist die mit zahlreichen Preisen ausgezeichnete Moderatorin des täglich ausgestrahlten Radio- und Fernsehprogramms “Democracy Now”. Für Howard Zinn steht sie in der Tradition von Upton Sinclair, George Seldes und I.F. Stone, weil sie heute – in unserem elektronischen Zeitalter – wie jene seinerzeit, den mächtigen Massenmedien mutig und kreativ Paroli bietet. Sie ist die Autorin von “The Exception to the Rulers” und “Breaking the Sound Barrier”.
Im Jahr 2009 starben in den USA 45 000 unschuldige Menschen, also 100 pro Tag. Es hätte Präsident Obama jedoch wenig genützt, Jack Bauer, den brutalen Geheimagenten aus der beliebten Fernsehserie “24”, mit der Aufklärung dieser Todesfälle zu beauftragen. Denn hier handelte es sich keineswegs um die in dieser Serie üblichen Gewaltverbrechen, sondern um die fatalen Folgen eines unzureichenden Gesundheitssystems. Dem Weißen Haus gute Dienste leisten könnte dagegen der Darsteller von Jack Bauer, der Schauspieler Kiefer Sutherland. Er ist nicht nur der Sohn des berühmten Schauspielerehepaars Shirley Douglas und Donald Sutherland, sondern auch der Enkel von Tommy Douglas, dem Pionier des modernen kanadischen Gesundheitssystems. Als Premierminister der Provinz Saskatchewan gelang ihm in den 1960er Jahren, die Schaffung von Medicare, einer allgemeinen Krankenversicherung. Obwohl die kanadischen Ärzte unter der Regie des amerikanischen Ärzteverbands AMA versucht hatten, dies mit einem 23-tägigen Streik zu verhindern, war Medicare so erfolgreich, dass es bald darauf sogar in ganz Kanada eingeführt wurde. Zur gleichen Zeit konnten auch in den USA, Medicare und Medicaid, die allgemeine Krankenversicherung für Senioren und Bedürftige, durchgesetzt werden.
Wenn (der konservative Journalist)Rush Limbaugh “24” als eine seiner Lieblingssendungen bezeichnet, dann könnte er von Kiefer Sutherland, dem Darsteller seines bewunderten Helden, sehr viel lernen, denn der schloss sich im Jahr 2000 den öffentlichen Protesten gegen Kürzungen im staatlichen Gesundheitssektor an und bezeichnete das private amerikanische Gesundheitssystem als menschenverachtend. Sollte es Sutherland eines Tages gelingen, südlich der kanadischen Grenze, ein rechtsgerichtetes amerikanisches Publikum von den Vorzügen einer allgemeinen staatlichen Krankenversicherung zu überzeugen, würde er mühelos in die großen Fußstapfen seines berühmten Großvaters passen.
Als Community Organizer und Senator setzte sich Barack Obama vehement für die Einführung eines staatlichen Gesundheitssystems ein. Der Präsident Obama denkt inzwischen hauptsächlich an die nächsten Wahlen und möchte dieses Problem möglichst schnell vom Tisch haben. Zur Erhaltung des Status quo pumpen Versicherungen und Pharmaindustrie täglich 1,4 Millionen Dollar in den Kongress. Darüber hinaus, versuchen die Öl- Gas- und Kohlenindustrie mit weiteren 300 000 Dollar pro Tag, gesetzliche Maßnahmen gegen den Klimawandel zu verhindern.
Zum Gesundheitsreformgipfel im Weißen Haus war unter den 120 unterschiedlichsten Interessenvertretern kein einziger Befürworter der allgemeinen Krankenversicherung eingeladen worden. Der demokratische Kongressabgeordnete John Conyers und der Vorsitzende der Ärzte für einen Nationalen Gesundheitsplan verdankten ihre Teilnahme ausschließlich den heftigen öffentlichen Protesten gegen ihre ursprüngliche Ablehnung durch das Weiße Haus.
In den Medien werden die Anhänger einer Gesundheitsreform als Sozialisten und Kommunisten beschimpft. Dabei wäre es eigentlich höchste Zeit, dass wir erkennen, dass die USA als einziges Industrieland der Welt seinen Bürgern keine gesicherte Krankenversicherung bietet. Ich meine damit nicht irgendeine chice Sorglosrundumversicherung, sondern das Grundrecht eines jeden Neugeborenen zu überleben, unabhängig ob seine Eltern reich oder arm, Demokraten oder Republikaner sind.
Und was unternehmen die Medien? In unserer digitalisierten Hightech Welt, mit hoch auflöslichen Fernsehgeräten und digitalem Radio verschwindet jede Kritik hinter einem dichten Schleier von Entstellungen, Lügen, Fehlinterpretationen und Halbwahrheitren. Was wir deshalb dringend benötigen, sind mächtige Medien und keine Medien der Mächtigen! Eine Woche vor dem Gesundheitsgipfel im Weißen Haus kam bei keiner wichtigen Fernsehstation und in keiner großen Zeitung auch nur ein einziger Befürworter der allgemeinen Krankenversicherung zu Wort, über sie wurde nur lauthals geschimpft. Und das, obwohl die Mehrheit der Bürger eigentlich für eine allgemeine staatliche Krankenversicherung ist. Man müsste sie ihnen nur erklären. Und das könnte ganz schnell und ganz einfach geschehen, denn bei der bereits existierenden Medicare Versicherung müsste man lediglich das Eintrittsalter auf den Tag der Geburt senken und schon wäre jeder Bürger krankenversichert.
Laut Dr. Steffie Woolhandler aus Harvard und den Ärzten for a National Health Plan starben 2008 2200 US Veteranen, nur weil sie keine Krankenversicherung hatten, das sind – im gleichen Zeitraum – viermal soviel Tote wie im Irak und in Afghanistan!
Meine Mutter war eine wunderbare 79 Jahre alte gesunde Frau, die in ihrem ganzen. Leben nur ganz selten zum Arzt gegangen ist. Im August, nach einer Fahrradtour in den Bergen von New Hampshire, klagte sie plötzlich über Schmerzen auf der rechten Seite. Sie ging zum Arzt, der sie gleich beruhigte, dass es keinen Grund zur Besorgnis gäbe. Ich jedoch war beunruhigt, da meine Mutter eigentlich noch nie über Schmerzen geklagt hatte. Daraufhin wurde eine Computertomographie gemacht und ein metastasierender Tumor vierten Grades entdeckt. Das war für uns alle ein Schock. Meine Großmutter, ihre Mutter, war erst vor ein paar Jahren im Alter von 108 Jahren gestorben. Anfang September gingen wir ins Krankenhaus. Meine Mutter, meine drei Brüder und ich. Wir hielten vor ihrer Tür Wache, Tag und Nacht. Als Medicare Patientin gab es keine Versicherungs-Probleme, doch Gefahr drohte durch die mangelnde Kommunikation zwischen den Ärzten, den einzelnen Abteilungen und dem privaten Pflegedienst. Während die Zeit immer knapper wurde, schickte man die falschen Gewebeproben ins falsche Labor, gab ihr zu essen, wenn sie eigentlich nüchtern bleiben sollte und sie bekam nichts zu essen, wenn sie sich möglichst reichlich ernähren sollte. Obwohl meine Mutter später wochenlang nur flüssige Nahrung zu sich nehmen konnte, brachte man ihr eines Tages Yoghurt und Cracker, nicht als Mahlzeit, sondern um ihr Schluckvermögen zu testen. Sie wäre beinahe an diesen Testcrackern gestorben.
Nach einer ihrer zahllosen Operationen flüsterte sie unaufhörlich: “3000, 3000, 3000, vor 3000 Jahren haben die Chinesen die Schmerztherapie erfunden, warum haben wir das bis heute nicht geschafft?”
Während einer meiner Wachen am Bett meiner Mutter las ich in einem Artikel einer Dr. Diane Meyer, wie ungeheuer wichtig doch für die Patienten das Gespräch mit dem Arzt sei. Doch was nützt ein solches Gespräch um 5.30 Uhr früh, wenn der arme Patient noch völlig schlaftrunken und verwirrt ist? Und wenn Angehörige diese einmal tägliche “Plauderstunde” versäumen, haben sie eben Pech gehabt.
Und so machten wir uns auf die Suche nach Dr. Diane Meyer. Zu unserem großen Glück arbeitete sie am Mount Sinai Hospital, dem das Krankenhaus, in dem meine Mutter gerade behandelt wurde
Wir fanden sie genau im richtigen Moment. Denn am Abend zuvor hatte man meine Mutter von der Intensivstation auf eine Normalstation verlegt. Doch da dies dummerweise ein Samstagabend war, hatte man es versäumt, ihr ihre Medikamente, auch nicht die schmerzstillenden, mitzugeben. Es fand auch keine weitere Arztvisite statt. Sonntagmorgen war meine Mutter vor Schmerzen dem Tode nah. Als der Arzt endlich erschien, fragte er sie, ob sie über das Sterben sprechen wolle.
Von Dr. Meyer, einer der Protagonistinnen der in den USA noch jungen Disziplin der Palliativmedizin, haben wir kurz darauf gelernt, dass man immer zu allererst dafür sorgen muss, dass ein Mensch keine Schmerzen leidet, bevor man mit ihm über das Sterben spricht. Als wir sehen mussten, dass wir den Menschen, der uns unser ganzes Leben lang beschützt hat, nicht mehr beschützen konnten, nannte sie uns die fünf wichtigsten Sätze: 1. ich danke dir, 2. Verzeih mir, 3. ich verzeihe dir, 4. ich liebe dich und 5. Lebewohl
– 3 –
Meine Eltern hatten sich in einem Kibbuz in Israel kennen gelernt. Meine Mutter war die Tochter eines bitterarmen New Yorker Rabbis. Verwandte ihrer Mutter waren im Holocaust umgekommen. Deshalb war das “Nie wieder” für uns alle zum ehernen Gesetz geworden. Nie wieder, gegen niemanden, nirgendwo. Auch deshalb war meine Mutter noch kurz vor ihrem Tod noch einmal nach Israel, in die besetzten Gebiete gereist, um sich selbst ein Bild von der dortigen Situation zu machen.
Die Medien sind so mächtig und viel wirkungsvoller als jede Bombe und jede Rakete, aber sie informieren uns so einseitig. Sie klären uns nicht objektiv auf über die Konflikte und Kriege auf der Welt, die Erderwärmung, die Weltwirtschaftskrise oder über die fehlende Krankenversicherung in diesem Land. Das Leben in der größten Demokratie der Welt birgt nicht nur Vorteile, sondern für viele eine große Gefahr, sie werden von keinem Gesetz geschützt. Nach dem 11. September sind Tausende von namenlosen Muslimen, Arabern, arabischen Amerikanern und Südasiaten spurlos verschwunden oder wurden willkürlich verhaftet. Nur die Medien könnten diesen Graben überwinden. Denn sobald wir ein palästinensisches Kind, eine israelische Großmutter, eine afghanische Tante oder einen irakischen Onkel sprechen hören, lösen sich alle Karikaturen und Klischees, von denen die Fanatiker aufgehetzt werden, in Luft auf. Die Aufgabe der Medien wäre es, Brücken zu bauen und nicht das Bombardieren von Brücken zu verteidigen.
So wie im Februar 2003 die Menschen gegen die Invasion des Irak protestierten, so müssen wir heute nicht nur gegen Folter und Erderwärmung aufbegehren, sondern auch dagegen, dass der Opfer des Amoklaufs eines Irakkriegsveteranen in Fort Hood oder der ständig wachsenden Zahl verzweifelter Soldaten, die sich das Leben genommen haben, nicht öffentlich gedacht wird, dass sie unter Präsident Barack Obama, genau wie schon unter George W. Bush, ignoriert und vergessen werden.
Die Medien müssten uns nur eine Woche lang die hässlichen Bilder des Krieges zeigen, Bilder von toten Kindern, sterbenden Soldaten, von von Streubomben zerfetzten irakischen und afghanischen Frauen. Bilder, die man nicht wie Picassos Gemälde “Guernica” am Gebäude des UN Sicherheitsrates einfach mit einem blauen Vorhang verhüllen kann. Nur für eine Woche und ich bin sicher, dass die für ihr Mitgefühl gerühmten Amerikaner nicht zögern würden, “nein” zu sagen und erkennen würden, dass im 21. Jahrhundert Konflikte nicht durch Kriege gelöst werden können.
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Bridging the Media Gaps by Amy Goodman
Boulder, Colorado 28 Nov 2009
Amy Goodman is the award-winning host of “Democracy Now” the daily syndicated radio and TV program. Howard Zinn says, “Amy Goodman has carried the great muckraking tradition of Upton Sinclair, George Seldes, and I.F. Stone into the electronic age, creating a powerful counter to the mainstream media.” She’s the author of “The Exception to the Rulers” and “Breaking the Sound Barrier.”
Let me just explain what happened in Canada. We were heading to Vancouver because that night we were celebrating three community radio stations in Vancouver. We hit the border around 6 in the evening, but that’s plenty of time to get to downtown Vancouver, and we thought it would be very routine. We handed in our passports at the border. They took them, looked at them, scrutinized them, and then handed them back and said “Pull over.” It’s pouring rain. We’re right on time, and that’s good for us, but this is going to be a problem if they hold us up. They tell us to get out of the car and go into the facility, which is like a big hangar. There are not a lot of people inside. We go inside, and now we’re waiting and they’re looking through our car, and we’re waiting and waiting. Then they call me up and they say, “Amy, we want your notes for the talk tonight.” I said, “My notes for the talk?” I do have a small problem, and that is I usually don’t have many notes for the talk. “You want my notes for the talk I’m going give at the Vancouver Public Library?” Couldn’t they just come and listen? I assumed there would be some of them there anyway. They said, “No, you give us your notes now.” They were not fooling around. These are armed border guards and they were serious.
I went out to the car. This is extremely distressing. I got a copy of Breaking the Sound Barrier and I came back in. I said “Here.” I don’t like this whole thing of the author being on the cover, but I have to say it helped for that moment, I thought. So they knew exactly who I was. I handed it to them. And it’s got a forward by Bill Moyers, so that’s a good thing, and it was edited by Denis Moynihan. I thought that would be a ticket right out of that border. But he looked at it and said, “I want the notes.” I said, “Actually, what I do is I read columns from the book and I just sort of explain them.” He said,” What are you talking about?” I said, “Well, I actually start with the last column.” I didn’t read the whole thing to him. But I’ll read it to you.
By the way, we were at the Douglas crossing. I said, “It’s about Tommy Douglas.” Tommy Douglas. If there are any Canadians here, you will know who he is. It’s about the premier of Saskatchewan, considered the greatest Canadian ever. He was the one who established the Canadian national health care system. So I said, “Well, I begin my talk by talking about Tommy Douglas.” He said, “What else are you talking about?” I said, “It’s about the whole health care debate in the United States and what you have in Canada.” “What else are you talking about?” “Well, I’m going to talk about the global economic meltdown.” “What else are you talking about?” “Well, global warming. We’re going to talk about global warming and what’s happening in the world today.” “What else are you talking about?” So I said-and I thought this could be a trigger, but it’s a public talk-“I’m talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” “What else are you talking about?” What was he looking for? I said, “That about sums it up. Those are big topics.”
He said, “What about the Olympics?” Anyone who knows me knows I am not an enormous sports fan. My nephew Jasper is 10 years old. He’s a total Red Sox fanatic, and I try to pretend that I know what he’s talking about. I know that the World Series was between the Jets and the Nets. I know that kind of thing. This is like my greatest fear, someone is going ask me sports scores. Now this is going to determine whether I get over the border? I said, “What about the Olympics? You mean when President Obama went to Copenhagen to try to get the Olympics to Chicago?” He said, “And you didn’t get them.” I said, “I know we didn’t get them. That I know.” He said, “No, I’m talking about the 2010 Olympics here in Canada.” I said, “Actually, I wasn’t planning to talk about the Olympics.” I don’t know if this offended his Canadian national pride. He said, “You’re denying that you’re talking about the Olympics.” I said, “I wasn’t planning to talk about the Olympics.” “You’re saying you’re not talking about the Olympics tonight.” “Yes, that is what I’m saying.” He clearly did not believe me. He was incredulous. And he told me to sit down.
Then they went and they really went through the car. I went out to check on them, and they were on our colleague Chuck’s computer, who was driving us. They were sitting there as if they were typing. Who knows what they did? And when eventually we get to the car, Denis saw that they had been in his e-mail. So who knows what was happening? They’re rifling through the papers, they’re combing through the car.
Then they come in and they tell me to come into the back room. In the back room they take my photograph and they make four copies of it. They take Denis’s photograph, four copies. Chuck’s as well. And they glue the photos to what are called control documents and they staple the documents in our passports. I said, “I wasn’t aware that we needed a visa to come into Canada.” They said, “It’s not a Visa. It’s a control document.” And I opened it, and it said we had to leave by yesterday. We were in on the 25th, out on the 27th.
All through this time we’re saying, “We’re really late to this talk.” And anything we said was adding information that they were taking down in their computer and taking notes. One of the guards was reading the columns when I brought the book in, and the other was taking notes. And then they went onto the computer and started adding. And when I said, “You know, they’re going to be waiting at the library,” they said, “How many people?” I said, “It’s about 300. The point is, we’re holding them up.” But for them that was information-how many people would be coming, what radio stations are sponsoring this.
This is a serious violation of freedom of the press. When reporters are surveiled, monitored, detained, it’s actually not just a violation of freedom of the press and the terrible personal feeling of violation, professional feeling of violation, but also for a whole profession. It’s a violation of your and Canadians’ right to know, because when journalists feel there are subjects that are taboo, when they feel that they’re going to be messed with if they really start digging into an issue, it’s going to make it tougher for you to get information. That’s a violation and a threat to a democratic society. Information is power. Making informed decisions makes for a strong democracy, because you can do it based on the best information available.
Coming into Canada, we were about an hour and a half late to the Vancouver Public Library. To say the least, I was extremely rattled. I gave the talks. It just became big news there. Now, to say the least, my interest is piqued about the Olympics that are taking place in Canada. Why were the border guards so obsessed with what I would be talking about around the Olympics? And then I started to dig, and found out it didn’t actually take much digging. The story became top news in Canada. CBC did a whole piece. They came out and interviewed me. Many of the CBC radio and television-that was television-and talk shows were calling. The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, everyone has done big stories now, because it tapped into the anger that many groups across the political spectrum are feeling, the concern about what will happen to the homeless, what’s happening to civil liberties.
Let me then read you this column, because I was telling the truth when I said that we start with the piece about Tommy Douglas.
“Imagine the scene. America 2009. Forty-five thousand people have died in the year, an average of well over 100 a day. Who’s taking them out? What’s killing them? To investigate, President Obama might be tempted to call on Jack Bauer, the fictional rogue intelligence agent from the hit TV series 24.” How many of you have watched or heard 24? A little higher concentration than Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. In Canada they knew it much more. But it’s a very serious show, because of the level of torture in it. Even West Point generals have appealed to the heads of Fox to tone down the torture. So many soldiers who go to Iraq, Afghanistan, have been to Guantánamo, perhaps tortured at Abu Ghraib have watched 24. Maybe Obama will “call on Jack Bauer, the fictional rogue intelligence agent from the hit TV series 24, who invariably employs torture and a host of other illegal tactics to help the president fight terrorism. “But terrorism isn’t the culprit here. It’s lack of adequate health care. Forty-five thousand people die a year because of inadequate health care. So maybe the president’s solution isn’t Jack Bauer but the actor who plays him. Kiefer Sutherland. The star of 24 is Kiefer Sutherland, whose family has very deep connections to health care reform in Canada. Kiefer Sutherland is the son of Shirley Douglas, the actress, and Donald Sutherland. And Shirley Douglas’s father is Tommy Douglas. Tommy Douglas is Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather. Tommy Douglas, the pioneering Canadian politician, who is credited with creating the modern Canadian health care system.
“As a youth, Tommy Douglas almost lost his leg. His family couldn’t afford treatment, but a doctor said, ‘If you let medical students watch, I’ll treat you for free.’ As an adult, Douglas saw the impact of widespread poverty caused by the Great Depression. He went into politics. He became the premier of Saskatchewan, pushed through many progressive policies.
“His biggest battle, for which he is most remembered, is the creation of universal health insurance, called Medicare. It passed in Saskatchewan in the early 1960s. Doctors there staged a 23-day strike to try to stop it from taking hold. They were led by the U.S. American Medical Association. Why? The AMA was afraid the contagion would spread south. Despite opposition, the Saskatchewan Medicare program was so successful and popular that it was adopted throughout Canada. While Tommy Douglas was fighting for health insurance in Canada, a similar battle was raging in the U.S, resulting in the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, giving guaranteed single payer health care to senior citizens and the poor.
“Rush Limbaugh says that 24 is one of his favorite shows, and he’s visited the set. He should learn from the real-life actor who plays his hero, Jack Bauer. Limbaugh and his cohorts like Glenn Beck may find truth not as satisfying as fiction. In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did a poll and named Tommy Douglas ‘The greatest Canadian.’ At a protest in 2000 against efforts to roll back the Medicare system in the province of Alberta, Kiefer Sutherland defended Canada’s public, single payer system. He said, ‘Private health care doesn’t work. America is trying to change their system. It’s too expensive to get comprehensive medical care in the U.S. Why on earth are we going to follow their system here? I consider it a humanitarian issue. This is an issue about what is right and wrong, what is decent and what is not.’ Maybe Jack Bauer can save the day.”
A few years ago he was asked by a reporter how he expects to fill his father’s shoes, Donald Sutherland. And he said, “It’s not my father I’m concerned about, it’s my grandfather.” Imagine if Kiefer Sutherland were to speak out south of the northern border, south of Canada, to speak here. He addresses a wide audience, and particularly a right-wing audience. Think of the effect of him advocating the single payer system. If he were to do that, maybe he could fill his grandfather’s shoes.
Why is it that the corporate media will not bring us an accurate representation of what single payer, what universal health care is? We know what the president thinks. He wants it off the table. Nancy Pelosi wants it off the table. But that’s what President Obama thinks and wants. It’s not what State Senator Obama wanted. We play the video over and over of him saying he’s for single payer health care. It’s not what Senator Obama wanted. But now he’s become president, and, yes, they’re concerned already about the 2010 not Olympics but elections and the presidential election after that.
Do you know how much money the insurance industry, big Pharma is pouring into Congress? Like $1.4 million a day. I’m sure it is much more than that. Look at the oil, gas, and coal industries, the, what, $300,000 or $400,000 a day they’re pouring in to try to stop any kind of climate change legislation. These entities, these industries, these corporations want to maintain the status quo. But can we afford that?
Okay, that’s what the government thinks and wants. When President Obama held his White House health care summit last March, 120 people, supposedly representing every option, were at the White House, except single payer. He didn’t have anyone who represented the single payer point of view, even though most people in this country are for single payer. Look at the media, the way the media works. If they raise that issue, they call you socialist. Do we talk about the socialist soldiers, the socialist military? Do we talk about socialist firefighters? We believe that we should all support firefighters, right? We don’t talk about them as socialists. Do we talk about the socialist police? Or socialist public education? Maybe some do. No. Why is health care so different?
Most people in this country don’t realize, it’s not Canada that’s alone in the industrialized world, or France or Britain. It’s the United States. We’re alone in the industrialized world in not guaranteeing a basic right to health care. I’m not saying the fancy stuff. If you want to get your boutique health care, go pay for it. That’s fine. But the basic right so that a baby who is born poor has the same chance of survival as anyone else in this country, that is not a Democrat or Republican or liberal or conservative thing. I think that’s value we all share.
So no, Obama didn’t want anyone there representing single payer. But then Congressman Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who was the sponsor of 676, the legislation for single payer every single year, asked if he could go. The White House said no. There was a threatened protest. Obama responds to protest. The community organizer in chief, now the commander in chief, knows the power of the demand. The good thing is, just think, parents all over this country are now saying to their kids, “Maybe you could be a community organizer, too.” He knows the power. But who is making the demands? It is those who are used to walking the West Wing of the White House, used to walking the halls of power. And when they whisper in the most powerful person on earth’s ear in the Oval Office, if he can’t point out the window and say, “If I do that, they will storm the Bastille,” if there is no one out there, he’s in big trouble.
Now the community organizer in chief has become the commander in chief, and the mantle is now on your shoulders. It’s as simple as that. Breathing a sigh of relief on Election Day, which was more than a national event, truly a global election, that sigh of relief cannot be where you stop but where you start. Now the work begins. That wall, I think, that so many people felt they were facing, a brick wall that they were hitting their heads against for so many years, has become a door. The door is open a crack. But whether you will kick it open or it will be slammed shut is up to you.
So that issue of what Obama represents and single payer. So Conyers gets to go because, though the White House said no, they threatened to protest, the single payer advocates. So they said, okay, he could go. They still threatened to protest, Physicians for a National Health Plan, so they invited the head of Physicians for a National Health Plan. That was two of 120. So that’s the position of the White House.
What about the media? We are not a part of the state. My brother David and I wrote this book called Static. The reason we called it that is that in this high-tech digital age, with high-definition television and digital radio, still all we ever get is static, that veil of distortion and lies and misrepresentations and half-truths that obscure reality, when what we need is for the media to give us the dictionary definition of static. That’s criticism, opposition, unwanted interference. We need a media that covers power, not covers for power. We need a media that is the fourth estate, not for the state. And we need a media that covers the movements that create static and make history.
Where are they on single payer health care, actually, what could be a very popular option in this country? FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, fair.org, a media watch group in New York, did a study of the week leading up to that White House health care summit and they looked at the major television networks and the major national newspapers. Hundreds of stories on health care in that week leading up. There was not one piece on television that included a single payer advocate. It was only mentioned to be attacked.
This is amazing when most people are for it if it’s explained to them. You can explain it easily. Their argument is there’s an 8-second sound bite, and if you take longer, you’re just not ready for prime time. Actually, it’s much easier to explain single payer than the thousand-page bills they’re coming up with in Congress. Think about it. One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand-seconds-four, five. Can we explain what this is? One-one thousand: Well, single payer is Medicare, just dropping the age of eligibility to the day you’re born. This isn’t even radical. This is something that everyone understands every reference point in that sentence. It’s something we already have. It’s not radically changing the system; it’s just expanding it to include everyone. Medicare has its problems, but it’s a basic system that at least everyone would be guaranteed a basic form of health care.
And yet, if you wonder why the media doesn’t bring us this, aside from just continually echoing the establishment-how many Viagra ads can you see in an hour? The advertisements, the corporate backers of these corporate networks, big Pharma, the insurance industry. This is why KGNU is so important, this is why Denver Open Media Foundation is so important, Open Source now it’s called, Free Speech TV that’s based in Denver is so important. Independent media is critical so that we can have a discussion about these critical issues.
Insurance. We had Dr. Steffie Woolhandler on, who is at Harvard Medical School, with Physicians for a National Health Plan, one of the founders. They released a study estimating four times as many U.S. Army veterans died last year because they lacked health insurance than the total number of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. The Harvard Medical School team says more than 2200 veterans under the age of 65 died in 2008 because they were uninsured. This is astounding.
Health care. This has been a very difficult tour. One, being stopped and detained at the border as the state rifled through our documents. Especially, for journalists, the idea that they’re compromising your sources, whatever it is that they find and whatever they did with it. But also, my mom got sick, so I’ve certainly experienced health care in America in a very personal way.
My mother was a wonderful 79-year-old woman, extremely healthy. She hardly went to the doctor her whole life. She was hiking through the mountains of New Hampshire in August. She came back saying she had a pain in her right side. She went to the doctor. He said not to worry. I called him up, I said, “I worry when my mother has a complaint, because she almost never complains,” and I asked him to check her out further. He did a CAT scan and found fourth stage, metastasized cancer. This came as a complete shock to us. The horror of it, as you can imagine. My grandmother, her mom, lived to 108, died just a few years ago.
In the beginning of September, we went into the hospital. I say “we” meaning mom, my three brothers, and me. We were the sentries at her door, the four of us. I can’t imagine a patient going in without someone there as an advocate. Even four of us weren’t enough, and one of my brothers is as professor in oncology at Johns Hopkins, a doctor. This gives you a sense-the four of us around the clock. At first we didn’t sleep there, but then we realized it was too dangerous to even leave her alone for a few hours. The catastrophic mistakes from the beginning to the end. It’s not just lack of health insurance which is an issue-and that’s an enormous issue-but my mom had Medicare. That was the good thing. So that wasn’t the issue. But the lack of communication between doctors, between departments in this privatized health care system we have is astounding. Aside from the issues like trying to diagnose her cancer and sending the wrong tissues out, and then to the wrong address, everyday matters, a tremendous amount to figure out what to do. We were just desperately, every day, trying to fix these problems.
Let me give you one example. One day I’m in her room and the swallow expert comes in. She comes in with yogurt and crackers. My mom had been on clears for weeks. Clear, that’s broth, tea, maybe Jello, if she could even handle that, water, apple juice, clears. Sometimes she hadn’t even drunk water or had ice chips for days, but that was because it got very complicated. When she wasn’t supposed to eat anything, they were bringing her food and when she was supposed to eat, they had her on NPO, which means no food. So I would go out and buy food, until it occurred to me-I would be in a grocery store and think, I don’t even know what she can eat. So I went to the nurse and I said, “Why am I always trying to figure out what my mother should eat?”-this was at the beginning-“Don’t you serve food here?” She said, “Of course we do.” I don’t know why this didn’t dawn on me. I said, “But then why aren’t you bringing food in to my mother?” And she said, “Well, she’s NPO.” In fact, it was the opposite. She was supposed to eat as much as she could. That was a separate thing.
But now we’re talking weeks later. Only clears. The surgeon made it very clear. And this swallow expert comes in with yogurt and crackers. I said, “Oh, sorry, you must have the wrong room. My mom is on clears.” She said, “This isn’t about the food. It’s about testing the swallowing mechanism.” My mother is there. “What kind of yogurt is that?” she said. Her eyes get wide. She hadn’t eaten for over a week. The swallow specialist said, “Oh, it’s blueberry yogurt.” “Blueberry yogurt,” my mother said. It looked like the richest ice cream custard. I said, “No, no. There’s no way. The surgeon said she can’t.” She brings in a doctor. They know we were trying to control her care completely. And they said, “You’ve got to step aside. This isn’t about the food; it’s about testing the swallowing ability, and that’s very important.” I said, “I know I don’t have a medical education, but I graduated from elementary school. And when you swallow something, it goes into your system.” They told me to step aside. She swallowed the yogurt and she got deathly ill, one of the worst days, that led to the final week. The surgeon comes in later that day, and he turns to me, because he knows how involved me and my brothers were, and he said, “What about clears don’t you understand?”
My mother came out of surgery one day. She was in the recovery room. I don’t think she ever went unconscious. It was amazing. When everyone was anaesthetized, she was awake. She was in every intensive care unit-in surgical intensive care, in medical intensive care, in pulmonary intensive care. In medical she is there and she says, “Clear away everything on the medicine table that is over the bed and don’t let the doctors or the nurses come. Play The Most Dangerous Man in America, put it in your computer, the story about Dan Ellsberg.” And she sat transfixed for 2 hours. Then, when my brother David, who I write the books with, were standing there, she was talking to anyone after, she just holds forth on the courage of this man and how he changed history in the United States. She loved films as a way to understand people and cultures.
So, anyway, another time she’s lying in the recovery room after surgery and we were all around her, and the doctor is there, too. And she’s whispering, “3,000, 3,000.” I said, “What, Mom?” “3,000, 3,000, 3,000.” The doctor says, “What, Mrs. Goodman? 3,000? 3,000 what?” And she said, “The Chinese figured out pain management 3,000 years ago. Why haven’t you figured it out yet?”
I’m sitting near her one day reading The New York Times op-ed page. You know the advertorials that Exxon and Mobil pioneered at the bottom of the op-ed page? They look like an article so you think you’re reading a news article, but it’s actually corporate propaganda and they pay for this box? So that’s what I was reading. It was an article that advertised a hospital, and it was written by a woman named Dr. Diane Meyer. And it said that the two things patients want most are time with their doctor-doctors seem to be moonwalking out of the patient’s room before they even come in. Especially at 5:30 in the morning, when the families aren’t there, when, if you were healthy, you couldn’t make sense of anything if you were the patient, you’re supposed to say how you are doing. And then they’re gone. As one doctor called it, our “play date” with the doctor, which the family got once a day, if we missed it, we wouldn’t get to talk to the doctor.
I’m not saying all doctors are bad, by any means. My dad was an eye doctor and an eye surgeon. Now I understand. I used to get so angry when I was growing up, because if you went to my dad, you would wait for 3 to 4 hours. His whole waiting room would be full. And I said, “Dad, don’t you respect people’s time? Just spread out the appointments further. If you’re going spend an hour or two with a person, just spread the appointments out.” It made so much sense to me. But he said, “Ame, I can’t do that, because in the practice you have to have an appointment every 20 minutes, so I have to stick with this or I can’t be part of this practice.” But what he was doing was the opposite of not respecting his patients. He was talking to them. He would know whole generations of a family. So he would know the parents and the issues they had with their eyes, so he would learn about the kids. So when he’s talking to the child and saying, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and really learning, because he’s so deeply, intensely interested, he’s also looking at their eyes as they’re talking to him and he’s seeing them as they act and operate. I now have such renewed respect for who my father was.
So back to my mom in the hospital. We’re reading this article, and it says two things-I know doctors are under a lot of pressure and the whole issue of spending time-it says patients want two things: time with their doctor and pain management. You see, pain makes you sicker. And what a doctor needs to do is take the time to understand what the patient is going through to really be able to deal with the pain. So I’m reading this and I’m saying, “Mom, this Dr. Diane Meyer. We have to find her hospital. This is where we have to go.” And it says “Dr. Diane Meyer, Mount Sinai Hospital.” That’s where we were.
So we got in touch with Dr. Meyer at a terrible point. So often something good comes out of something terrible. But my mom was so sick one Sunday morning because she was moved from surgical intensive care to the main floor, and the doctor, because it was a Saturday night-don’t get moved on a Saturday night-just didn’t transfer any of her medications or her pain service to the main floor. It was Saturday night. We called, but we, as he said, had already had our “play date” with him in the morning, so when my mother was being moved Saturday night, he wouldn’t call in.
By the Sunday morning she was in agony, so much pain, as she lay there when he comes in to visit that he said, “Do you want to talk about end of life?” We learned very quickly from Dr. Diane Meyer, who is a pioneer in this nascent palliative care movement in this country, it’s the last time you talk to someone, the least opportune time, the wrong time to discuss this with someone, when they’re in so much pain. You have to regulate the pain.
She taught us so much in those last few weeks, if anything could be bearable. She taught us what you say when this person that you love so much, who has protected us our whole lives, could we protect her, something we realized we couldn’t in the end. She said, “You want to say five things: thank you, forgive me, I forgive you, I love you, and goodbye.”
My mother was an amazing woman. She taught women’s history and literature at local community colleges in the 1970s, the beginning of the women’s liberation movement, and cops and firefighters, civil servants would take her class because if they got more credits, they would increase their salary. What could be easier than taking a class in chick lit, women’s literature? So they all sign up, they come into the class. And there is my mom introducing them to Toni Morrison and to Virginia Woolf. And suddenly the cop is bringing his wife and the firefighter his daughter, this daughter he cannot seem to understand what she’s becoming, the wife who seems angry, and then there and then not there. And soon, by the end of the semester, they’re bringing their whole families, they’re starting to understand. That’s what great literature does-speaking across generations, across ethnicity, race, gender. That’s what my mom channeled. She taught me so much about feminism.
When my dad died, my mother continued to travel. She went to Iran, to Turkey, to Vietnam, to Laos, Cambodia, she went to Israel, she went to Palestine. My parents met at a Hebrew-speaking camp. They weren’t allowed to speak English. And they went to camp with Noam and Carol Chomsky. Noam and Carol knew each other since they were 2 years old in Philadelphia. My dad and Noam were bunkmates. My father would say how is Noam Khomsky? And I would say, “Dad, it’s Chomsky. He’s a linguist.” To show how complex my mother was, one year she was voted funniest camper, and the next year most serious. So, yes, they’ve been to Israel many times, and we went with them.
Towards the end of her life, she went to the occupied territories. She wanted to understand. She went with a human rights delegation and had a Palestinian tour guide. And I can’t remember if it was Jericho or Bethlehem. I can’t even ask her now. But they got to a checkpoint, and there had been some agreement that they could go through the checkpoint, but, of course, the Palestinian guide went up to the Israeli soldiers and they said no. Then my mother stepped forward. She spoke a kind of classical Hebrew. That’s what she learned when she was a kid. It’s sort of like Shakespearian English, I think. And she walked up to these soldiers that could have been her grandchildren and she said something to the effect of, “You will part the waves.” And these soldiers separated and they let the whole tour group go through. I tried this the other night at the border, but it didn’t work. That Palestinian tour guide put his arm around my mom and said, “I’m sticking with you.” That has been my philosophy throughout my life.
My mom was very poor growing up. Her father was an orthodox rabbi, ran the local yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. He was the Yiddish rabbi and the principal of the school. They didn’t have money. In the summer they would get away to these bungalow colonies to get away from the summer heat. She described one summer she was out playing-I always had this image of this when I was growing up, of this kind of black cloud descending on the colony. But it was the wail that went up. And she realized it was her mother crying, wailing because she had received a letter that informed her that a number of members of her family had died in the Holocaust. That was the backdrop that we grew up against, was the Holocaust. We were very aware of it. My parents imbued us with that motto, which was much more than a motto but a credo, our whole lives. “Never again” meant never again for anyone, anywhere. Never again.
The media brings us so little new information. It simply reinforces the status quo, a status quo we can’t abide or afford anymore. We need to have people in the media because the media are the most powerful institutions on earth, more powerful than any bomb or powerful than any missile. It’s an idea that explodes on the scene into your consciousness that takes us outside of that box, your TV screen, because we see where the status quo has gotten us: global warring, global warming, the global economic meltdown, the lack of health care in this country. We’ve got to get beyond this. But we can’t get beyond this with this small circle of pundits on all the networks who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.
I think, for example, we live in the greatest democracy on earth for some, but for others it’s a very frightening place. Think of that border. For some their whole lives are on that border, where no laws exactly apply, you don’t have rights, you could disappear. What happened after 9/11? Thousands of people in this country-mainly Muslims, Arabs, Arab-Americans, people of South Asian descent-disappeared, were arrested. Thousands of people. We don’t know their names. They didn’t know the charges against them. Many of them were deported. Whole areas of Brooklyn, like little Pakistan-that’s what we call it in Brooklyn, a huge Pakistani community-were decimated.
How do we bridge these different worlds? Because we live in one world in this country, we should, and we have to decide what that world should be. I think we bridge it with media. When you hear a Palestinian child or an Israeli grandmother, when you hear an Afghan aunt or an Iraqi uncle, it blows away caricatures and stereotypes that fuel the hate groups. You’re hearing someone speak for themselves. That’s media that builds bridges between communities rather than advocates the bombing of bridges.
Lest you lose hope, October 24 was amazing. The biggest day of action on almost any issue perhaps since February 15, 2003, right before the Iraq invasion, when millions rocked the globe against war, was October 24. It was inspired by 350.org. They organized these events, named after what scientists have identified as a sustainable target for carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. We’re now at 387 ppm. People all over the globe, more than 5,000 actions, events, protests, rallies.
Among those who did something was the president of the Republic of the Maldives. His name is Mohamed Nasheed. You know what he did? He held an underwater cabinet meeting donning scuba gear and literally meeting in 20 feet of water in the world’s lowest-lying country. He held a cabinet meeting underwater. All of the members of the cabinet were there except for two, who didn’t know how to scuba-dive. They signed an SOS from the front-line declaration, reading in part, “If we can’t save the Maldives today, you can’t save the rest of the world tomorrow.”
From global warming to global warring. War and the agony of war. You know, what happened at Fort Hood, this calamity, the shootings, the mass killings that killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people. A figure that isn’t talked about at Fort Hood is the number of suicides. Over the last six years it’s like 67. That’s like one almost every month at Fort Hood, the largest Army base. Then you translate that out or extrapolate it out to the whole military.
Let me tell you the story of one young man. U.S. Army Reserve Specialist Chancellor Keesling. He died in Iraq last June 19. The Pentagon called it a noncombat-related incident. Chance Keesling killed himself. He was just one in what is turning out to be a record year for suicides in the U.S. military.
In August, President Obama addressed the convention of Veterans of Foreign wars. He said, “There is nothing more sobering than signing a letter of condolence to the family of servicemen or women who have given their life for our country.” To their surprise, Chance’s parents, Janet and Gregg Keesling, will not be getting such a letter. Obama does not write condolence letters to the parents of those who commit suicide in the theater of combat. He’s simply following the footsteps of President Bush.
I know you’ve said that for those of you who voted for him, you thought you voted for change. In this situation it will take many people raising the issue. There is a suicide panel that has been set up, and it’s going to take a lot of pressure to change what is happening right now.
Chance’s mom said on Democracy Now!, “Chancellor was recruited right out of high school. This was something he was passionate about, joining the military. I wanted him to go to college, but he said he wanted to be a soldier. His dad, Gregg, added, “We had doubts about him joining when the war broke out. When many of us were trying to retreat, Chancy decided, this is my duty. But once he did his first tour, his marriage broke up during the deployment and he,” Chance, “fell apart.” He was considered a stellar soldier, by all accounts, but as he started to fall apart in Iraq, they put him on a suicide watch, took away his ammunition for a week.
After Iraq, Chance came home, but then he was offered multi-thousand dollars, more than $20,000, to return, to redeploy to Iraq. He knew he couldn’t. He had to get himself together. So he transitioned to the U.S. Army Reserve, hoping to avoid another deployment. He sought and was receiving treatment from a VA facility. Gregg said, “We sat down as a family. We said, ‘President Obama is going to be elected. President Obama will end this war, and you won’t have to go.'” But then his son’s orders to deploy came again. Chance went to Iraq without the bonus that he had turned down, because now he was just being forced to go.
He sent his parents an e-mail that included the word “suicide.” His mom got on the phone with him. She said it was a brief onversation, only 4 minutes. He said it was going to be a tough day the next day. He had this real tough exterior. She said he usually said “I love you” and “Goodbye.” He just hung up after 4 minutes. The next morning Gregg, his dad, said, “Chance locked himself in the latrine and took his own life with his M4.” He said, “Our grief is deep.” Gregg said, “The letter won’t stop our pain. We’ll still be hollow inside for the rest of our lives. But the acknowledgment from the President that our son gave his life in service to the causes of the United States is important to us.” The Keeslings credit Major General Mark Graham with helping deal with their grief and deal with the stigma of suicide in the military. General Graham’s two sons, one committed suicide in ROTC as an Army cadet in college in 2003, his other son went to Iraq a few months later and was killed by a bomb.
The United States is engaged in two, intractable, massive military occupations with no end in sight. Obama should certainly write letters of condolence to the Keeslings and to others whose loved ones have found that the only sure way to end the living hell of war or to escape the horror of its aftermath is to kill themselves. But an immediate withdrawal from the wars Obama inherited is the only way to stem the bleeding.
I do think that those who are opposed to war, those who are opposed to torture, those who are for health care are not a fringe minority, not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take it back. Someone recently asked me what I think of the mainstream media. I think it would be a good idea. It’s our job to get out there and capture all of this. Democracy is a messy thing, and we shouldn’t have to get a record for putting things on the record. I want to end with the first column, just the image of it. It began right before the Iraq invasion. There is a tapestry that hangs at the UN Security Council. It’s a tapestry reproduction of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, which is a depiction of the Spanish town in the Franco years that was bombed. It shows the agony of war, the pain in the faces of the humans and the animals. It’s become an antiwar symbol around the world. The reproduction of it hangs in front of the UN Security Council. When Colin Powell gave that push for war at the UN February 5, 2003, the speech he calls a stain on his career, and other U.S. and western officials were making these pro-war pronouncements outside the Security Council, the backdrop was the Guernica. It wasn’t lost on the U.S. and UN officials. So they shrouded the tapestry. They covered it with a blue curtain.
It’s our job to pull that curtain back, to show the reality, because only then can you decide what to do about it. Could you imagine if for just one week we saw the images of war? If for just one week in the U.S. press they showed the images of war, the photos on the front pages of every paper, the articles above the fold, on the networks, the top story-the images of babies dead on the ground, of soldiers dead and dying, of women with their legs blown off by cluster bombs or drones from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan. For just one week. Americans are a compassionate people. They would say no, war is not the answer to conflict in the 21st century. Democracy now!
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