American Views Abroad

Monday, April 27, 2009
It's time to break out of the cocoon being ill creates and re-enter the political arena. One gets so involved with oneself when illness strikes and depleted energy leaves you unable to see the bigger picture. It is too easy to think at such moments politics doesn't matter, but politics is involved in all facets of life whether it's health care, jobs, war, torture, even mundane things like where to park your car, or as in the case in Berlin yesterday where they voted about whether religion should be taught equally next to ethics in the school plan. The majority voted no to organized religion and opted for having all students, independent of their religious background, being taught values in a secular way. Those students who want lessons in their religion can, of course, do so outside the mainstream plan.

On the other side of the pond there are two enormous themes burning brightly. What to do with torture, in particular to those who willingly agreed to it use and why. Should they be held accountable? Perhaps the better question should be: how could they not be held accountable? Frank Rich in The Banality of Bush White House Evil sums it up in perspective at

'President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won't vanish into a memory hole..... Congress and politicians of both political parties should get out of the way. We don't need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation's commitment to the rule of law.'

The other theme is the economic crisis and how it is affecting the common person, the forgotten one in the huge sums of money being thrown around daily in the media. Tomgram: Nick Turse, Hungry and Without Options in New York at

'Here, on a quiet, tree-lined section of 116th Street in Manhattan, it's possible to see the financial crisis that has the planet in its grip up close and personal. The new working poor, as well as more families with young children, are threatening to overwhelm New York City's last hunger safety net.'

Friday, April 10, 2009
After a ten hour operation to correct a severe scoliosis of the spine on March 2nd, the last weeks have been spent recuperating, slowly getting on one's feet again, learning to walk with a walker and on crutches, battling stairs, regaining strength, and dealing with being out of action. The doctors did a magnificent job putting two rods down my spine and straightening it up from a dismal 54% off-kilter to 32% placing nine screws on the left side and five on the right. A CD with pre-and post operative x-rays are revealing in how great the damage was and what modern medicine at its best can do today. Imagine having this in former times. Imagine not being able to walk more than ten minutes without doubling over in pain.

Of course, one is in another world after going through something like this. A monster operation, as one of my doctors so lovingly put it. One might expect to recuperate reading many novels and resting comfortably. Reality is something else. The surprising part was experiencing almost no pain, though lying on a scar 25 cm long. Pain management when done professionally is excellent today in this respect. From the time my eyes opened the day following surgery, three pain specialists were at my side asking: on a scale of 1 - 10 where do you place your pain? It never went above 3 which was very good news. They were kind, friendly people, as were all the nurses and doctors. Under no condition did I ever feel like a number, but as a patient in the center of it all. However, there was no energy left to read or follow current events. The time was spent, instead, starring out of the window and in this new hospital from my room that meant looking into the rooms of other patients. It was a bit like Jimmy Steward in that one film where he has a broken leg in a New York apartment and spends his days watching the neighbors. Only I didn't follow a murder as in the film, but other patients, some rather critically ill, who were being taken care of devotedly. There was a male patient who couldn't move and it was touching watching a male nurse wash him down, dress him, change his bed, feed him. It was a bit difficult picking up a newspaper to read about Ponzi schemes or the economic crisis while experiencing being taken care of by health workers whose salaries don't cover the personal effort they put into their work.

It is going to take, most likely, till the beginning of June to be able to walk on my own again. It's an up and down process, but each small step is one in the right direction. The good news here is that our health insurance covers all expenses. Yes, one can have universal health care and get excellent care in a very modern hospital without having to worry about a financial burden being brought on by illness. The rest is up to the patient. It's a game how far to go every day. No lifting anything over 10 pounds, no bending down, no falling, moving around a bit, but not too much, doing exercises to strengthen certain muscles. There's a waiting period of a couple of months or more for those rods and screws to mesh into the rest of my back and spine.

It takes a lot to get to the point of accepting having such surgery done, of putting yourself in the hands of others, of having to go through months to get back on your feet. It's a journey that tells you a lot about yourself.

Disclaimer: American Views Abroad is not responsible for offsite content. All links in blog entires are external offsite links, unless otherwise indicated.