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Archive for March, 2010

Eric CantorMr. Cantor, you owe me a watch.  At first I thought I would be able to hold it high enough to spare it from its eventual fate, but today you had a little help from your party cohorts to fill the room with just too much of the brown stuff for me to save it, a chair to stand on wasn’t enough and I couldn’t get to the ladder in time.  Feel free to divide the bill among yourselves, because you are not alone in causing the damage, but you sir decided to be the mouthpiece of this new,  ludicrous Republican spin, so I guess that puts you front and center.

 
I listened in amazement to your address on Thursday, March 25th  as you filled the airwaves with the same ridiculous Republican hypocrisy that has nearly brought any hope of real progress for our nation to a grinding halt.   So let me take this opportunity to say…”ENOUGH!”
 
Let’s forget for a moment that you got on your belly and decided to slither beneath even the lowest lying branches of decency, as you tried to cleverly wrap yourself around the Pandora’s Box of religious fear-mongering that so conveniently can always be found in the low-lying places you like to inhabit of late. 
 
Let’s forget for now that you gingerly tried to constrict it just enough to crack the lid, so you could release a much needed distraction from the very real, hateful behavior we can all plainly see inching along to a destination of unthinkable atrocities. 
 
Let’s also forget that the Richmond Police told you before you spoke that the fearsome imagery you invoked of a bullet targeted at you because you are a Jewish-American, was actually from a random act of gunfire into the air that may just as easily have come from one of the nut-jobs that Sarah Palin so thoughtfully implored to “reload.” 
 
Let’s even try to forget the juvenile behavior your “distinguished” colleagues shamefully displayed on a day all eyes were closely watching American history unfold.
 
And finally, let’s throw every shred of dignity under the bus and forget the lessons of good sportsmanship we’ve all been taught in America as far back as our fist days on a recess field playing a game of kickball.
 
But, we can only forget and forgive so much!  A mere 48 hours after you took the podium to direct harsh critisism at the victims of such vile hatred, the very same two individuals that were chosen to carry the Republican banner to the highest office in the land during the last presidential election, spoke volumes about the wretched, instigating behavior you and your party either can’t, or won’t see.  A voice of dissent exercised his right to speak up while the enigma that is Sarah Palin was speaking at a rally for John McCain.  Instead of rationally addressing his concerns, she told him to “stick around…and learn somethin’.” 
 
Now I’ll concede that Sarah Palin is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to discussing actual policy, and that droppin’ a “g” here and there is the way she weaves her connective tissue to “Joe Sixpack,” but that’s not the problem I’m admonishing you and your party for Mr. Cantor, it’s the 90 seconds that followed that threw the coal into my now stoked fireplace.  I have no idea where security was at an event of that size, but the crowd decided to take matters into their own hands.  The Wrestle-Mania matinee went from the very top of the bleachers all the way down to the exit door, with spectators, not security, putting their hands all over this young man like self-declared bouncers.  See the video yourself here.
 
What did the woman that almost got within a heartbeat from the presidency do from the podium while this unacceptable episode played out right in front of her?  Absolutely nothing.
 
What did the man that almost became our President do from his perch right behind her? Absolutely nothing.
 
It was a sickening display of leadership.  It was another couple of nails added to the coffin of Republican dignity and earned respect you seem so determined to bury.  It is this very kind of spinelessness that I would call fanning the flames of reprehensible behavior Mr. Cantor.  It is high time you and yours quit kicking the can down the road and stand up to the problem instead of making excuses for it. It is time you start setting an example by deed and word that your countrymen should aspire to follow, instead of constantly acquiescing to the lowest common denominator.  It is time you quit the misdirection game of playing spin-doctor and start exemplifying honor instead.
 
President Obama had his own heckler in Iowa recently.  A young man was vocally angry about a component he felt was missing from the Health Care Reform bill that just became law in America. What did the President do?  He acted like a statesman.  He told that young man that there’s no need to shout, then he addressed his concerns, not once, but multiple times throughout the rest of his speech, not with vitriol and a snarky attitude, but with decency and respect for his opinion.  That is how you lead Mr. Cantor, that is how you capture the hearts and minds of those listening and put them right beside you on the high ground we should all try to inhabit.
 
While I am certainly not a Republican, I don’t wish for your party to implode, my America would only suffer if that happened. I know you’ve all been doing your best lately to keep America lashed to a 19th century steam-powered locomotive, but most of us are ready to board a Maglev-bullet-train into the future.  So what I do wish for, is an end to the ridiculous game-playing, an end to the daily finger-pointing, and an end to the utter hypocrisy you seem to have embraced. Only then can the real work of governing, the work you were all privileged enough to be chosen by your constituents to do, finally become realized.  Only then will you be helping move our nation forward.
 
Just in case my effort to get through to you is on a frequency you just can’t hear, let me put it in self-serving language you may understand.   Who do you honestly think America will gravitate to in November?  The party of “No?”  The party of “Hell No?” Or the party of “Yes We Can,” more recently know as the party of “Yes We Did!”   We can do great things working together for common causes Mr. Cantor, and the day I see that finally sink in, I’ll start addressing you by your full and proper title, but not one day before.
 
 
***Donations and/or writing jobs greatly welcome! :)
Enterprise damagedThis week, Health Care Reform was, at long last, signed into to law in America.  While this particular episode of tomorrow’s History Channel took over a year to film, the final cut is going to play like a great Star Trek episode.  
 
Fan or not, we all know the characters and we all know the situation will eventually be desperately grim, and the chances of survival will be infinitesimal at best.  This moment comes when a Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly de-cloaks and sends a Scott Brown proton torpedo, along with some well placed laser fire, right into the unshielded hull of a caught-off-guard Enterprise. 
 
Federation President Obama himself happens to be on board and as a Commander-in-Chief that had proven himself worthy of battle in the past, he takes charge from the Captain.  He immediately calls for “shields up” but the damage is already done and it is immense. With the red alert now blaring on all decks, panic breaks out among some of the crew.  But the President remains unfazed, he has his Vulcan half to thank for his temperament, and his logic. The damage report reveals breaches on many decks. 
 
They had started this mission with a skeleton crew and already had barely enough bodies to man the 216 stations it would take to arrive at their planned destination.  The first crew count was sketchy, roughly 200, it was impossible to tell how many were lost for good and how many simply lost their way in the smoke-filled chaos.  Warp drive was lost and there was heavy damage to the weapons stations.  The crew was losing hope, they started to give up.  But with his uncanny ability to feel their pulse , President Obama’s very human core takes over and he opens the comm channel to all decks. He talks with passion, his words bring about a calm amidst the turmoil, he reminds every soul on board of their mission, he reminds them all why they signed up and how each of them promised themselves they would act in the face of insurmountable odds, he reminds them of pride, honor, dignity … and sacrifice. Always a student of history, he invokes Lincoln to paint the strongest stroke,  ”we are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” 
 
The comm starts crackling with chatter, the voices of the crew thought lost to the carnage start checking in. Engineering reports they will have warp drive up shortly, the weapons systems start coming online, and all stations are now manned, with three souls to spare.  The Enterprise is back in the fight! 
 
You know the rest, President Barack Obama makes his rendezvous with history.  He and his crew are granted a brief reprieve to reconstitute themselves in a fragile sanctuary. He and his crew boldly go where no president has gone before… 
 
But just as the climactic ending starts to wear off and our pulse returns to normal, we hear that oh-so-familiar refrain, “Stay tuned for clips from next week’s episode.”  And I must say, it looks like one heck of a scary ride.
 
The Klingons are mad as hell, turmoil and dissent are spreading on the home-world. The escape of the Enterprise from their clutches has damaged the very essence of the Klingon empire, their pride. They have broken into family factions, and while they have all been part of the Federation of Planets for some time now, they have always loathed the weakness of the Federation’s current leadership and their constant strive to pursue social justice and equality.  In a Klingon mind, war is always the right answer, sheer brawn triumphs all, compromise is forbidden, and the weakness exemplified by mercy and compassion is a plague that must be contained at all costs. 
 
From the hallowed high council floor, a bellicose Brigadier Boehner incites his home-world, vowing to fight the Federation’s agenda tooth and nail in the halls of power, every step of the way.  He calls them liars, he calls them corrupters, he calls them thieves of Klingon treasure, he admonishes them on every front imaginable. 
 
But one of the families that make up the empire, a family that has been slowly growing in strength, doesn’t think words are enough.  This family had tried to organize around a matriarch in the beginning, a simpleton from the northern lands named Commander Palin, she was launched to prominence when Admiral McCain surprised everyone by announcing her as his second-in-command during his failed bid to become President of the Federation, but she had thus far refused to completely take the reins, although she did leave the door open in case future events would dictate such a move could serve her own self interests.  So instead of a tight knit family with purpose and direction, it was more like a headless monster, wobbling along, with family members of lower standing and recognition trying their best to seize control through tactics of fear and terror.  
 
Fanatical nobodies start crawling out of the woodwork in the vacuum of power, riling up the mob mentality with talk of militia, revolution and weaponry.  The sting of defeat started to allow the tone of defiance to evolve into the actions of treachery. The division of idealism saw the chasm grow wider. 
 
How will things turn out?   Will the President and his crew be able to withstand the confrontations they are sure to face on their perilous trek back home though hostile territory?  Will their precious cargo survive the trip?  Will the Federation stand?  Will the Klingons acknowledge the possibility of an alternate path to a better mutual future?
 
Stay tuned to find out!
 
Now that I’ve had some fun taking creative license to blur the lines of fiction and fact, and I got to have a little chuckle inside from the images in my mind of Rep. John Boehner with tussled hair and crooked teeth, launching spittle as he rants , or Sen. McCain with long flowing hair and a moustache, or Sarah Palin (sorry,  I don’t know what title to give her these days, adventurer, author, huntress, commentator, wilderness girl, almost-full-term-governor, Tea Partier?) with protruding skeletal features on her forehead, and of course the hint of those points on our President’s formidable ears,  I do want to make sure that the message itself  is not taken lightly.
 
The sad truth is, there really are misguided fanatics out there like Mike Vanderboegh, a self-proclaimed revolutionary militia leader, part of a small group of lunatics that seem to be gathering on the fringe of the Tea Party movement.  It’s not a rumor mind you, I heard his words myself in this interview
 
Somewhere along the line, these geniuses jumped the tracks from the righteous fight of our Revolution for Independence from a real tyrant, and landed on another track of our history, the Civil War.  You know, only one of the darkest pages of our past that saw American brothers dying at the hands of one another.  
 
He actually said their ranks comprise of 3% of America’s gun owners, 3 million muzzles that can be pointed at the hearts of tyrants, and he actually advocates getting good and prepared to do just that! 
 
Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Vanderboegh, 3% is not a very mighty number when your talking about a slice of pie.  When a person threatens to take aim at the heart of another citizen because they failed to have the majority voice in a civilized democracy, it is not tyrant-hunting, it’s treason, and I know how America will respond.  I just hope they skip a few chapters to the back of the book on the Civil War and see how it ends before they go and do something stupid. 
 
Just to help them along, America has fought on this ground before.  The Union, the banner under which the federal government fought, was led by a noble man by the name of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican I might add, and they fought for the ideals of equality and social justice that still define our nation today.  The Confederacy, a band of 11 Southern states that declared secession from the Union, was the enemy of that government, but their undoing proved to be numbers, Southern “Unionist” armies formed in every Confederate state, sapping the strength of the Confederacy from within.  So if you and your cohorts really want to tread this dangerous ground Mr. Vanderboegh, I advise you to take a good look at the size of the piece of pie in your hand, because I assure you, I’m not the only one that would stand in opposition with the ability to  snuff out a candle at 100 yards. 
 
But let’s be wise enough not to repeat that dark chapter of history, shall we?  Today’s America is better than that.
 
  
***Donations and/or writing jobs greatly welcomed, you name it, I’ll write it!  :)
Fiery Obama“The character of our country.”  With those words the final line on the health care debate was drawn in the sand by President Barack Obama at a raucous, campaign-style rally on the Friday before history would be decided.  
 
After over a year of heated debate, after over a year of enduring every dirty trick in the book thrown his way by a desperate opposition trying to frame health care reform as a vehicle to socialism, bankruptcy, or worse, Barack Obama rekindled the fire that launched him to the highest office in the land and captivated the entire globe in the process.  Yes, the Barack Obama that made millions of disillusioned Americans stand up and believe in “Yes We Can” again was back, front and center!
 
For a man with a slight frame and narrow shoulders, he proved without a doubt that what you see can be quite deceiving. On this day he heaved the Democratic party, and a nation spiraling to disaster, right up onto his back and proved that his sinewy limbs may very well be able to tote the load right across the finish line to a victory of historic proportions.
 
The character of our country, that is what is being decided Sunday for the world to see.  I’m reminded of a powerful scene in the movie A Few Good Men.  Two Marines were on trial for following a “Code Red” hazing order from a superior officer that left one of their fellow, weaker Marines dead.  When all was said and done and it was proven that the two were following a direct order, a basic principle they were trained to adhere to without hesitation or question, they were still charged with conduct unbecoming and discharged from their service.  Baffled, one of the Marines turned to the other and asked why they were still being discharged, it had just been proven that they were simply following orders, just as they were supposed to.  The other Marine thought about it and said, “we didn’t do what a Marine is supposed to do, we didn’t stand up for the little guy.” 
 
That is, and always must be, the character of our nation.  That is the code our selfless men and women in uniform embody.  That is the code of our American character, the character that leads us to fight tyranny and oppression wherever it is found, be it on our own home soil or far away lands.  That is the character of our American ideals and it is what makes us the beacon of hope the world turns to for guidance and support in trying times and the example by deed we hope they will follow.  That is the character that every legislator granted the privilege to carry our voice to the halls of power must always strive to adhere to.
 
The opposition to health care reform is a formidable force.  They use their constitutional right of free speech to give an amplified voice to despicable vermin like Rush Limbaugh, a man so pitiful he used his pulpit to denigrate an eleven year old boy that chose to take up the banner of his now-dead-mother and carry her voice to the battle at hand. 
 
Or another blight on humanity like Glenn Beck, a disgusting man that uses his soap box to preach the same kind of wretched fundamentalism that culminated in four ghastly fireballs exploding into our collective consciousness on September 11th 2001.  What noble purpose can he possibly hope to serve by waving around the swastika of Nazism, or the hammer and sickle of Communism, symbols that still instill nothing more than fear and hatred? What kind of person uses the imagery of tyranny and oppression as the tools of progress other than those our collective American character has always chosen to fight against, and defeated, time and time again?
 
That is not the imagery we need to paint, it does not speak to our character and it certainly doesn’t speak to the very real suffering that millions of hard working American families are enduring each and every day, with their legions growing by the minute .  If you want imagery to encapsulate the true magnitude of the choice before us, imagine the coffins of those that could have been saved, imagine their grieving families putting those coffins in the ground, torn apart by the anguish of losing a loved one. Imagine the family that’s living in their car because they chose to save their child instead of keeping their home. Now imagine if it was your own family bearing that cross. Now that would be more appropriate imagery.
 
So today I ask every legislator with our future in their hands to ask themselves the real underlying question and look past the theatrics and chicanery meant to befuddle and confuse, to look past the flawed logic that is being trumpeted from the mountaintops to cause paralyzing fear.  I ask them and every American to look at this vote and choose if they are willing to strengthen the character of our great land, or unravel it.  I ask every legislator not to look at the future though the lens of their own career, but through the lens of little guy that needs their help.  I ask them to show the strength and courage it takes to fight for what’s right, and the fortitude and resolve to see it through to the finish.
 
The character of our county is at stake right now. There are not many alive today that were around when this fight started.  Will our children and theirs perish before we show the true colors of our character and do what’s right?  Or will we help our President tote this mighty load across the finish line as early as tomorrow and start a new chapter in the history books?
 
Yes, the character of our country, that is the question at hand.
asteroid impactMy wife asked me the other day why I like to watch disaster movies so much.  No one in the world knows me better than she does, no one knows better the time and energy I’ve sacrificed to give my best effort to make at least some kind of small difference for the betterment of our collective future without the luxury of material compensation.  So she was baffled that I could possibly take pleasure in the catastrophe and mayhem that would follow an asteroid pulverizing a good portion of our planet, or the unbridled chaos of an alien invasion bent on the extermination of our species, or the upheaval and anarchy that would ensue if a virulent plague would indiscriminately ravage the globe and rob us of society as we know it today.  I would like to share my answer with all of you, with the hope that you may look at today with a slightly altered perspective, and that tomorrow, for all of us, will see brighter days to come. 
 
Hollywood is masterful in the way it brings vivid imagery to our most primal fears, no one does it better.  We’ve all had thoughts of “what if?” We’ve all wondered how humanity could possibly endure terrors of biblical proportions. We’ve all wondered if mankind would find a way to survive and how our civilization would look once we weathered the worst of the storm only to find that everything we know, everything we trust, everything we believe, has been turned inside out.  We’ve all wondered how the human spirit would endure,  how we would rebuild a new tomorrow when the comfort of yesterday was ripped from our grasp, how our most basic faith would survive.
 
It is the answers to those questions that magnetizes me to the genre.  It is my unshakeable trust that goodness and decency would see their finest hour if we were left with nothing to depend on but each other,  that’s what  wills me to watch.  It is my unwavering belief that collectively our moral compass doesn’t really need an arrow to point the way, that even without one we would all find ourselves instinctively stepping on the same path forward, that’s what keeps me coming back.  It is my desire to see the superficial dividing lines of race, national origin, or religious beliefs get wiped away by the powerful tide of the oldest human condition, the basic need to survive, that’s what  makes me gravitate to such tales. 
 
History has tested us all before, and no nation, or empire, has ever been spared.  We’ve seen hatred manifest in holocaust, we’ve seen tyranny evolve to genocide, we’ve seen arrogance unleash racism and sexism, we’ve seen heinous carnage in the name of the one thing that is supposed embody the best qualities of our character, religion, and somehow it continues to this day. Yes, we’ve seen the darkest sides of mankind. 
 
But, when Hollywood decides to torment our psyche with visions of an apocalypse at our doorstep, we all know deep down inside what it will take to ensure the continuity of our very existence, a unified stand that coalesces around our better angels, finally free of the deeply etched lines that divide us from one another.  To see that brought to glorious life on the sliver screen, that’s why I watch.
 
Lady Destiny knows our history too, but she gives us an opportunity every day to change our stars, she unrelentingly offers us her greatest treasure, the freedom of choice, and all of the magnificent possibilities that those choices could afford us if we choose to embrace the wisdom learned from past mistakes.  The question today, and every day to follow,  is what will we do with her gift?
 
America, today we find ourselves at just such a crossroad.  While the ramifications of the calamities we all see heading our way daily may not be as instantaneous and awesome as a gargantuan piece of the heavens on a collision course with the blue planet we all call home, they could prove just as potent and lethal for far too many of us that find ourselves inching our way toward the edge of the abyss.  If we choose to turn a blind eye once again, no soul will be left un-ravished, no individual will be untouched, and no dream will remain unscathed.  
 
In 2008 we found ourselves gripped in the life and treasure-draining torment of two far-away wars, the materializing specter of another great depression, and the indignity of joblessness claiming more and more of our fellow Americans by the day.  In 2008 I, and most of you, heard a man vocalize those fears, we saw a man with vision put his finger on the problems and fill us with the possibilities of hope for a better tomorrow. In 2008 we chose that man to lead our great nation, not unanimously of course, but with a strong democratic majority.  In 2008 we reached for Lady Destiny’s gift and chose a new course, a course that was breathtakingly simple, a course that was achievable, a course that we knew was right. 
 
When President Obama took the helm, our great American sailing vessel was already in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and all of our navigation equipment was spinning out of control.  But instead of giving our new captain the authority to chart the direction we chose him for, we got panicked by the rough seas and decided to turn on the emergency radio for assistance. For some reason we chose to tune in to the very same station that had landed us in that foul harbor to begin with, and the minority of doom-sayers started to feel empowered.  All of a sudden, a crippling mutiny was, and still is, afoot. 
 
To make matters worse, Main-Stream-Media decided to open that sinister channel on all decks with unparalleled volume, giving pure repetition the ability to masquerade as truth, no matter how much farther off course it would send us.  I can only hope this deficiency of real truth won’t prove to be the 21st century version of scurvy that robs us of the strong-minded and able-bodied souls that we will need to man all the ropes and sails.   After all, we are all in this boat together, and like it, or not, we will all be voyaging as one until we find a new port to shelter us from the storm, as long as we can avoid finding the bottom of the ocean together first.
 
When we voted Barack Obama into office, we knew he wanted to reform our health care system and make it work for every American, we knew he wanted to create a new future by creating millions of green jobs and breaking our dependence on foreign oil, we knew he wanted to make a world-class education accessible to every American without regard to their financial station in life, we knew he wanted to end the misguided war in Iraq and bring the fight to those that brought the fight to our soil instead, the ones hiding like cowards in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we knew he wanted to lessen the influence of special interest money in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to the workings of government, and we knew it was the right thing to do, we knew it was the right choice.  Why are we so busy now making the journey all the more difficult?
 
So I ask you America, what’s it going to be? Is our tale going to end in blackness and oblivion?  Or are we going to follow the lead of the great patriots of our past that bled for us and gave everything they had to make this an epic tale about what’s best in each of us, a tale about compassion and spirit, a tale about courage and honor, a tale about self-sacrifice and perseverance that deserves to be called an American epic? 
 
Scene one is about health care and it’s being written right now.  What’s it going to be America?  Will we fail under the self-imposed burdens of partisanship, or rise to the grander challenge together? Will we be blinded into tilting at windmills, or will we see clearly and overcome the real obstacles in our path?
 
Lady Destiny is waiting for our answer, for better or for worse. So, what’s it going to be?
The Road ForwardIt seems that many Americans tune right out when they see another story about health care these days, so I’m not going to make this a story about health care.  Instead,  I’m going tell you a tale about a dream and two buses.  I hope it delivers the point I feel compelled to make.
 
It’s like I’m trapped in a dream, a dream so vivid and real I find myself questioning if I’m awake or asleep. It starts with me finding myself crammed in a crowded bus terminal with scores of other Americans waiting for a bus, any bus, to arrive at last.  We’ve been huddled together for the last fifty years, watching one bus after another just pass the terminal right on by, but now, finally,  after the eternal wait, two buses pull in together, but neither is marked. 
 
Desperate to leave the station, I spring to my feet to go ask the bus drivers what their destinations are.  I’m filled with hope that this miserable way station will soon be behind me once and for all. 
 
So I approach the first bus. It’s old, dusty and dented and has obviously seen a lot of hard miles.
 
I climb on and pose my question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  The driver sets his beaten cap back on his head and says, “This bus is on the road to a new beginning. You should know before deciding on which bus to take that on this bus there are going to be many stops along the way, there will be bumps and potholes, curves and traffic.  This bus is always crowded, we’ve got nurses and mechanics, teachers and plumbers.  We’ve got hard working couples and single parents,  we’ve got seniors and students, and a whole bunch in between, all of them doing what they can to make ends meet. Since there are so many that need to ride this bus, the fare will be what you can afford and no one will be turned away. I should also tell you that we will be stopping for anyone broken down on the side of the road and offer them assistance or even a lift.  If we happen to break down along the way ourselves, we’ve got all the tools with us we could possibly need to fix any problem that arises, but we will be asking everyone on board to work together to get us back on the road and you may have to get your hands dirty. Our destination is the journey itself – we’re going that way my friend.”  He points his calloused finger through the grit covered windshield and adds with a smile, “forward.”  Not knowing what to think, I thank him and climb off for the other bus.
 
This bus is different, this bus is shiny and clean.  This bus looks sleek and fast. This bus not only has a driver, but a tour guide with a microphone sitting right behind him.  This bus has air conditioning and little plasma TVs on the back of every wide, comfortable seat. This bus is really, really nice. 
 
So I pose the same question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  This driver doesn’t answer the question, he just shrugs and points over his shoulder to the tour guide holding the microphone and says, “don’t ask me, I’m just the driver, the guy with the mic tells me where to go.” 
 
Mr. Microphone takes his cue and starts his well polished pitch, “Welcome friend, you’ve come to the right bus.  I heard you ask where this bus goes, well, that’s the beauty of it, this is an express-liner that is going exactly where we know you want it to go.  There will be no stops along the way, no delays, no traffic and you will feel like you are driving on air. We mainly cater to captains of industry, CEOs and leaders of business, so there is plenty of elbow room and we have spared no tax dollar to guarantee a comfortable and enjoyable ride for our select clientele. Our fare is simple and affordable, only one crisp, new, three dollar bill.  If you don’t happen to have one, have no fear, we will gladly sell you one for five dollars. Should we experience any unexpected trouble on our journey, you will be comforted to know help is just a cell call away, I have the best cell phone money can buy right here.  We will have a highly skilled team on the spot in no time and be right on our way. If you want to arrive in style, this is really the only choice.”
 
That’s all I needed to hear.  After 50 years in a crowded room with stale air, only one word popped in my head and just as quickly escaped from my lips, “Sold!”  I reached into my pocket and found four singles and enough change to make five because I certainly didn’t have a three dollar bill. It’s all I had left, but this was going to be well worth it.  It was a meager price to pay for such comfort and luxury.
 
As I made my way to my window seat, I was pleased that no one had sat down next to me when I heard the hiss of the doors closing.  I looked around and counted six other people, well dressed professional types, all sitting relaxed and in comfort.  From my seat I had a view of the other bus and had spent the last few minutes mesmerized by the chaos.  So many people were trying to squeeze in, there were kids running around, and they had a devil of a time trying to get an older gentleman in a wheelchair up and onto the bus.  But the driver I spoke to was on the case and had a few husky men from the bus get out and help lift him in.
 
Their bus got on the road before ours.  We were still getting a speech from Mr. Microphone detailing all the frills available to us, champagne, sparkling water, roasted duck, filet mignon, and 4 spacious bathrooms for the seven of us.  Our seats could fold open into beds and there was even a Swedish masseuse available at no charge.  Ahh, this was the life.
 
I was so comfortable and relaxed, I must have dozed off, but I was awakened by Mr. Microphone and felt the bus starting to slow down.  “If you were wondering if you made the right choice choosing our line, let me draw your attention to the roadside just up ahead.” 
 
There was the other bus, broken down on the side of the road. They had blown a tire and caused some damage to the underside.  We had slowed to a crawl so everyone was sure to have a good look at what they were missing.  I noticed a few passengers getting the spare, another working the jack and the mechanic I had met at the terminal sliding under to see what he could do.  The teacher was leading the children in a game to occupy them and the nurse was caring for the elderly gentleman in the wheelchair that seemed to be having difficulty in the desert heat. 
 
“Shouldn’t we stop to help?”, I asked. 
 
Mr. Microphone took on an arrogant tone and said,”This is an express, remember?  We don’t stop for anything or anyone.  They made their choice and picked that bus, and now they are just going to have to live with it.  I consider it a lesson well learned for the next time they face the choice.”
 
I felt dirty and cheap, but there was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t go back to sleep after that.  I just found myself thinking about those people stuck in the hot sun and I started connecting some dots about what Mr. Microphone had said earlier.  I hadn’t spent one second applying any kind of thought when he was originally making his pitch to me about this wonderful bus, I was too blinded by all the bells and whistles, and I was too eager to get the hell out of that terminal at along last. I began to feel genuine fear wash over me. How do they know where I want to go without ever asking?  How could the seven of us be trying to get to the same place if we are from such obviously different stations in life? 
 
Just then came a loud bang, quickly followed by the familiar rat-tat-tat of a blown tire.  Our bus veered out of control and went off the road, nose first into a ditch and came to a jarring halt.  Everyone seemed to be physically OK, but very angry none the less.  These passengers were not used to inconvenience and it showed.
 
“Don’t worry people, we’ll be out of this in no time, I’m just going to make a call,” bellowed Mr. Microphone with his amplified voice.  He dialed and held the phone to his ear.  A frustrated look flashed on his face and he hung up and tapped the keys again, only to have the same look on his face with a tinge of panic creeping in this time.  He held the phone higher, nothing. He went outside and tried again, same routine and the same look, anger added this time.
 
When Mr. Microphone re boarded the bus, he tried to put on the calmest look he could, “I don’t seem to be able to get a signal out here in the middle of the desert.”  This was bad – this was really bad, and we all knew it.
 
After a few tumultuous hours, panic and anger had a solid grip on all of us.  There was not enough food or water for this delay.  There was no help in sight and all other emotions were quickly turning to rage.  My fellow passengers, new to calamity and desperation,  were coming apart at the seams. 
 
Just when all hope was almost extinguished, there was a faint sound getting louder.  The steady, rhythmic beat of an old engine was heading our way.  It was the other bus and they were coming to a stop right behind us.  The driver stepped out and came tapping on the glass doors.  “You seem to be in quite a pickle, what can we do to help?”
 
“Do you have  a cell phone I could use to call for some help?”, Mr. Microphone asked, somewhat humbled by what he had been through for the better part of a miserable day. 
 
“Don’t carry one, everyone knows there is not a reliable signal out here,” chuckled the driver,  “we’ve picked up quite a few troubled souls stuck out here in the desert already, so I don’t have enough room for all of you, but let me see what I can do to help.”  
 
With that he disappeared back to his bus.  I could barely hear him trying to get his passengers to settle down so he could explain the situation. After a few minutes that were inaudible to me, the doors to his bus swung open again and he stepped off  onto the parched earth below.  But this time he was not alone.  One by one, every able-bodied passenger on board filed out behind him, and there were a lot of them.
 
The mechanic had a look and determined that the stranded bus could still drive if they changed the tire and got it out of the ditch.  The other bus driver started forming groups and telling them what to do.  As the mob circled us, you could sense nervousness from the pampered elite that I had shared my journey with so far, but not one uttered even a single peep of protest.  The way the bus was perched in the ditch, the mechanic didn’t even need a jack to change the tire and did so in a flash.  Then I heard the bus driver in a loud baritone voice, “One…two…three…LIFT !” It felt like the earth started moving. One back breaking inch by back breaking inch, the bus leveled out and when he finally called for everyone to drop it, you could tell we were back on even ground.
 
The driver came back to the door dripping with sweat and said, “There you are, all ready to go, enjoy your trip folks, make it a safe one.”  With that he waved his hand and called for his passengers to get back on their bus.
 
When Mr. Microphone said, “See folks, nothing to worry about, I told you I would get us out of here,” I almost threw up, what arrogance, what gall. I knew I had to get off this bus, I knew I didn’t belong here.  So, I snatched up my things and bolted for the door, not even saying goodbye.
 
I ran to the bus behind us and pounded on the door, just as the the driver started it up.  “I want to ride with you, can you take me with you?”  He cracked the door and said smiling, “I think we can make room for one more, how much of a fare can you afford to pay?”  An electric shock pummeled my system when I heard those words, I had given everything I had left in my pocket for the other ride.  “I gave the other driver everything I had left,” I said with a quivering voice. 
 
“I told you back at the station, no one will ever be turned away, climb on and find a seat.” the driver said with a knowing nod.
 
With that I started a new journey.  Maybe it wasn’t going to be a journey of comfort and convenience, but I did have peace of mind and I knew that on this bus I would never have the sick feeling in my stomach as we drove by troubled souls without bothering ourselves to stop and assist.  I also knew that I would never find myself stuck in a desert all alone with no one there to hear a cry for help.  Everything we could possibly need to make the journey forward is already on our bus and if we work together, there is no problem we will not be able to fix along the way.
 
I’m awake now, and I hope you are too, because today is not a dream.  Those two buses are arriving at the station right now. 
 
So keep this in the front of your mind.  It’s not about the divisive rhetoric you’ll hear spewed from a microphone, or the zeal and practiced polish with which it is repetitively delivered, it’s about knowing which driver is content to leave you stranded in the desert and which one won’t be.  It’s about choosing substance over flash and style.  It’s about realizing that it’s the crowded bus filled with fellow Americans from all walks of life that will always allow us to overcome any and all adversity we may face on the twisting, bumpy road that stretches ever forward to the glowing horizon we all instinctively seek.  It’s about which driver will incompetently trust your fate to a missing signal in the desert, and which one will have you trust in each other instead.
 
I hope this will help you choose wisely … but if you don’t, make sure you have a three dollar bill handy, or the ride to nowhere is going to cost you almost double the advertised price.
 
And yes, I lied.  I guess this story is about health care after all. Fifty years of waiting is long enough. 
 
All aboard!