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The Journey from 5-year-old Tomboy Ballerina to Climate Activist

Photo by Budgeron Bach on Pexels.com

In each of our lives, some years turn out to be more eventful than others.  Year 5 was a big one for me.

At 5 years old I figured out how to climb up to the top of the 7-foot tall, cinder block wall that stretched around our backyard in Culver City, CA and run along its 4” wide edge. It scared my parents, but I loved running and climbing, and I loved to imagine that I was running through the trees that surrounded our property.

The outstretched branches of beautiful green leaves shaded my path and seemed to extend an invitation to become a partner with nature. That year I also decided to be a ballerina and I saw a circus on TV. Both pivotal moments in the life of a 5-year-old. 

It was an old-fashioned, 3-Ring circus with acrobats and animals and sparkly costumes. The Ringmaster was a tall man wearing a black top hat, knee-high boots, and a red waistcoat with tails and shiny, brass buttons. 

After the first few minutes of enjoying the bright colors and festive atmosphere, I started to focus on the way the animals in the circus were being treated.  The more I watched the sadder I became.  Whips, chairs being pushed into growling faces, all types of animals being made to pose and bow and jump through hoops of fire!  To my 5-year-old mind, this was just unacceptable. It was clear to me that these animals did not belong here. And even though the animals seemed to cooperate I could feel their discomfort.  I just could not understand why anyone would take these beautiful animals out of their natural habitats and force them to perform.

My sadness quickly turned to anger. And it was at that moment that I became an advocate for animal rights and vowed to speak out whenever I witnessed any kind of abuse or neglect of these creatures with whom we share this planet. (Yes, I was a very intense little kid!)

As I grew up, I never lost my passion for animals or my love of the outdoors. In the third grade I beat the entire class in a race across the play yard! Anytime I wasn’t in a schoolroom or a ballet class I would be swimming in the outdoor pool or doing cartwheels on the lawn. 

When I was 12 years old my family moved to an upper, middle-class neighborhood in North Hollywood, California, located in a part of Los Angeles known as the San Fernando Valley.  From my bedroom window,  I could see open, blue sky and parts of the orange groves that blanketed the Valley.  I remember, as I walked to school each morning, being grateful for the sweet citrus smell and the serene skies.

In 1970, at the age of 15, I first became aware of how the environment was changing as I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood.  The growing development of housing tracts and business districts in our area had rapidly increased the number of cars on the road and slowly but surely eliminated the orange groves that had shaded our homes and helped to keep the air clean and breathable.

I remember wondering how the skies had become so brown.  Nobody talked to me about it but the adults knew it was the smog in the atmosphere caused by the use of fossil fuels to run our cars, homes, and businesses.

Smog. What a strange word. What was this thing that was suddenly beginning to impact our daily lives? Here is a definition from ScienceDaily.com:

SMOG:  Fog or haze combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants.

Smog is a kind of air pollution, originally named for the mixture of smoke and fog in the air…. Smog results from large amounts of coal burning in an area and is caused by a mixture of smoke and sulfur dioxide….  said Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke. “If these chemicals are as bad for people as many researchers believe, then commuters should seriously be rethinking their driving habits.”

ScienceDaily.com

We started to hear air quality alerts almost daily on TV. “Restrict outdoor activity. Physical exertion can be dangerous to your health!”  Bad news for an active, athletic teenager.

At 19 years old, as I left college to begin my professional career as a performer in musical theater, my nice, middle-class neighborhood was no longer a place I would have wanted to move into.

As a young adult, it was obvious to me, and to anyone who bothered to look, that changes in the environment were impacting our health and the health of the planet.

Now, as an older adult, I mourn the loss of the calm, year-round, moderate temperatures and clear, blue skies of my childhood. And I live with a growing concern about the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

All of that has turned that intense 5-year-old, animal-loving ballerina into a Climate Activist. 

That cinderblock wall around my family’s backyard has grown in size and now encompasses the entire planet. But the challenge of turning back the clock on climate change is not insurmountable if we act now. There is still room on top of that wall for future tomboy-ballerinas to run among the trees if we are all willing to adjust our daily choices, even just a little.

My first leap into learning about the history, science and possible solutions available to address the challenges of Climate Change happened when I was accepted into Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Leadership Training Program.

In July 2020 more than 10,000 people from all over the world chose to participate in the first-ever, Virtual Global Climate Leadership Training program designed and presented by Mr. Gore. I was one of those new trainees who walked willingly into what was sure to be a daunting landscape.

But we persisted allowing ourselves to be pummeled by the frightening reality of the images and statistics being shown to us. We persisted through the evidence being presented to us bringing to full relief the damage done to our environment: the loss of habitat, the melting ice sheets, the rising temperatures, the pollution causing increased illness in both human and wild species.  We persisted through all of that to the discussions of sustainable practices and new energy industries that can help us to build a healthier, safer world for our children if we commit to following through on new ideas, concepts and actions.

We persisted, bringing the number of international climate activists associated with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project to more than 35,000 people.  Local Climate Reality chapters in more than 500 countries are working on multiple public policy and community outreach programs designed to heal our planet and redefine our relationship with the natural world.

And we are not alone in these efforts. There are many other organizations also working to address the challenges we face.  We have scientists, engineers, philosophers, teachers, healthcare professionals, artists, scuba divers, lawyers, photographers, writers, and, yes, one or two billionaires, working together to find answers.

For those of you who remember clear skies, orange groves, and neighborhoods designed to support the people who live in them, rather than the financial expectations of stockholders, it is not too late to join the fight.  Wherever you fall in the cascade of generations currently living on Mother Earth, you can be a part of the solution. Join us!

This week, just in time for your holiday shopping, I offer a book of poetry from Author, Poet, Lyricist, and Artist, Ann Vincent Vila.

“Grieving Healing Accepting: 25 Sympathy Poems of Loss”

Available on Amazon

Ms Vila has written an eloquent book of poems for friends and loved ones suffering loss, a circumstance too many of us have had to live through recently. In place of sympathy cards or flowers, this book is a gift to anyone you know who is experiencing loss. Ms. Vila’s poetry offers the comfort and companionship of knowing you are not alone in your experience of loss or grief. Once read, these poems can be revisited again and again as your journey through grief takes the all-too-common unexpected detours to acceptance.

Available in paperback and Kindle editions, this collection of heartfelt thoughts for “the darker moments” solves the question of what to give to someone you care about that will acknowledge their suffering and offer support when you can’t be there to hold them close.

From the Author:

“It is a book for those suffering around us when we are left speechless and can find no words from our hearts to soothe those grieving souls. An array of work that speaks to the darker moments of life when despair arrives in the wake of loss leading from the darkness of grieving to the healing light of acceptance.”

Ana Vincent Vila, Grieving, Healing, Accepting

One of my goals for this blog is to offer a platform for authors whose work I admire.  I know a lot of wonderful writers and poets.  When a new work is available I make it my mission to feature their work or point to it so you can take a look at it.

This charming little story was sent to me by Carole Field, MFT, published author and playwright.  You can find her books, “Dating Down And Those of Us Who Do It” and “New York Guns, Kansas Nuns, Birth Control!” on Amazon.  I have known Carole for many years. We talk about everything. She is an educated listener and a deep thinker. I can always count on her to give me a unique, well-considered perspective on any issue.

Knowing her as I do I can absolutely accept that she wrote this story in one session while sitting in the parking lot of the Food 4 Less!  “The Smell of Make-Up” struck me as engaging, lovely, funny, and touching. Here she captures a moment in time that takes a bit of nostalgia, a bit of fantasy, and our current planetary restrictions and ties them all up together into a little bit of hope.  Seems like a gem of a holiday gift.

THE SMELL OF STAGE MAKE-UP   by Carole H. Field

I am never really vexed by the randomness of thoughts. I’m aware our synapses aren’t linear. Ultimately, we just make them work.  But this particular, glaring, non-sequitur was so unhitched, I had to go home and scribble it on paper.

So- there I sat in the parking lot of  Food  4  Less on Van Owen Blvd. Not the most religious of experiences. And I watched the masked and gloved, largely Mexican, families cajoling and joyously poking each other towards their/our essential pilgrimage.

And so, what else do I think of when I’m in a grocery store parking lot on a scorching, Sunday morning during a pandemic? None other than-  how much I missed the smell of stage make-up. Naturally.

Yes- the smell. Not the pretty colors or what it did to these deep-set eyes, but the smell. That first blast when you unscrewed the lid and it hit you, without permission.

              “How do you do, Sugar? We’re in this together “, it would say.

I  would light up like a twin finding his counterpart, or, even, a virgin birth.

The make-up from Macy’s or Bloomies or the cheap drugstore on W.  53rd  never had that certain smell, nor, the voice, avuncularly calling me  Sugar.

That darling little man on E. 41st s who never looked up from reading Backstage or Show Business but could accurately advise you from some third eye.

              “Watcha up to?” he would ask.

              “Yay- I am going out with ‘No, No, Nanette’ next week, “ I would respectfully reply.

              “Mazel tov,” he would say. “Get the Max Factor #5. You’re part light olive, part pink. Anything else will drown you out. We got new lip brushes from Berlin. They’re on sale. “

And, I’d leave there, smiling, with my new stash, still never seeing the color of his eyes.

And in the subway, I’d steal a bench, peruse the area to begin my new relationship with no interruption, and uncap one of my new potions.

 And, there it’d be again. The waft, the greeting, the historical ambrosia left by every actress before me and every actress henceforth, hoofing, in “No, No Nanette”. And it would say,

              “Hi, Sugar. We’re in this together.”

 Whether it was the Belasco, or a black box on Melrose, or Temple Israel‘s backstage in Detroit, the smell of stage make-up had the same voice.

I pulled myself inside the grocery store. No doubt everyone in there was thinking the same as me. Understandably, I hobbled over to the lonely make-up stand. There, far from commanding,  smiled the Revlon and the Maybelline. They were trying. But I pretended, for just one second, that I was surrounded by the smell of  Max Factor and Ben Nye and….And, that the word pandemic was only something cobbled together on a Scrabble board.  And, that the lights were as radiant as ever on the Great White Way. And, the only masks anyone was wearing were for effect, for something theatrical, under the silly magicians, cheesy sleight of hand. Undoubtedly.

              “Sugar,” said the voice from Max Factor #5.  “Hey- you got it goin’ on. This pandemic thing is temporary. They all are. Go with your inner resources. Go for the love, Carole. Because whether you’re basking in the smell of odorous, legendary, rouge, or of the inhibitions produced by your mask, it’s all about the love. Did you ever believe it was about anything else? “ he laughed.

I cautiously moved away from the make-up stand and filled my basket with food. I now had to look at Food 4 Less with different eyes. Yow- who knew that roast chicken and mascara had so very much in common?              

Oh…..what was it I said about random thoughts?

While the election will eventually be over, the threat of Climate Change will not. We will all be affected by the multi-faced environmental consequences of the changes happening in our world.

**Join us tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 10, 2020 **, to hear what our CA State Assembly has been doing to address these issues.

This Zoom meeting is FREE and open to all.

Register at bit.ly/SFVCR

CA State Assemblymember
Jesse Gabriel

Our Special guest Speaker will be CA Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel.

https://jessegabriel.com/

Assemblymember Gabriel has just been re-elected as the CA State Assemblymember for District 45 in the San Fernando Valley.  He has championed efforts to address California’s housing and homelessness crisis, strengthen public education, pass gun safety measures, and protect vulnerable communities.

On November 10th he will be our Special Guest Speaker at the Climate Reality Project San Fernando Valley Chapter meeting. As he gets ready to start his second term, we wanted to hear from Mr. Gabriel about climate-related issues impacting our community and our state. Please join us and bring your questions.

Join us to hear his update about Climate Change issues and

to ask your questions. It’s Free!

Register at bit.ly/SFVCR

Would a heaping dose of hope-in-the-future help you right now?  How about someone in your circles who might be looking for some inspiration?

Stack of books fanned with adds for posts

A whole lot of us are finding just that in a newly published book from my dear friend Barbara Caplan-Bennett. If you have been feeling the weight of all the crises happening in our world, if you are not sure how to find hope in the face of your daily struggles, this is a book worth your time.

Check it out for yourself and then please help spread the word.

NOSEWORTHY, A Memoir

“Noseworthy is a memoir about a woman who faced a difficult choice when diagnosed with melanoma — lose her entire nose or very possibly lose her life. Her year long journey to obtain a prosthetic nose is filled with big challenges and small victories.”

This is a real-life story of courage in the face of great trauma (or as Barbara likes to call it, “the shit show”) and, ultimately a triumph over a life-changing course of inescapable events.  Barbara has been a bright spot in my life for many years. I have always been awed by her ability to keep smiling through the tears and to welcome whatever life throws at her.

I watched her face this battle and come out on the other side with her moxie, her sense of humor, and her love of life still intact. As a writer she has a natural gift for making her readers comfortable and the skill to tell her stories in her very authentic, likable, honest voice.

To Order an Autographed Copy  —  Email    Noseworthy2020@gmail.com

Venmo, PayPal, credit cards Accepted

Also available on Amazon  —  bit.ly/NoseworthyBarbara

 

For More Information  —  Follow Noseworthy on

Facebook:    facebook.com/Noseworthyamemoir

And

Twitter:  @noseworthy2020

The electric fan sits on the floor by the window. It protects me from the heat and humidity that plagues modern society.  In my youth I lived in world where my goals were achievable and my task list was short enough to complete by the end of the week. Here in Los Angeles it was almost always pleasantly warm and dry.  And I didn’t have to Another hot,oppressive dayfight the weather to make space in my brain to tackle daily goals and dreams. I don’t remember having so much to fight for and certainly not so much to fight through.

Now I feel the encroaching world press in on me in ways I never expected. And on top of all the daily challenges, the aches, the tasks piling up around me, the demands of a world grown altogether too connected to handle in any rational fashion, I have to fight through the physical discomfort of an environment grown so hot and sticky that it produces another, previously unexplored, struggle:  distraction. Distraction of a physical nature that Just. Should. Not. Be. There.

But there it is.  It frightens me to think I may have grown so old that my body can no longer survive in its environment. And it frightens me to think that we may have so deeply destroyed our environment that we, as a species, may not survive the very effects we have loaded on our planet and our own backs.

But, I have never been one to sit in my fears for very long. No pouting, pity-party for me!  So, kick up the level on the fan.  Take a drink of cold water. Take a deep breath.  Focus on what’s next.  Focus.  Ignore the ache that sits at the back of my brain that screams at me, “You could lose this time.”  Just put one foot in front of the other for as long as you possibly can and – focus. Say a prayer of gratitude for the cool air coming at me from the fan by the window enveloping me like a Cone of Silence.  (Yeah, you have to be “of a certain age” to understand that reference!)

Just keep fighting to move forward. Enjoy the cool air and ….. Focus.

Jacob Sitser, 91, passed away on Saturday, January 28, 2018  in the city he grew to love, Siesta Key, FL where he spent the latter part of his life enjoying the view of the beach from his 5th floor sunroom balcony and the company of the love of his life, Helena Pimenta Sitser.

Jacob, known to friends and family as Jack, was born in 1927, an only child, to Yetti Richter Sitser and Mauricio Sitser in Saõ Paulo, Brasil.

A professional musician from an early age, Jack mastered both the viola and violin.  At the age of 21 he was granted a scholarship to study music in the United States of America.  After graduating from music school Jack chose to stay in the US and became an American citizen. He married Dorothy Perlberg (divorced in 1973) and served four years in the US Airforce as a member of the Airforce band – an experience that provided him lots of amusing anecdotes about musicians being led by an Airforce Major who knew nothing about music!

During this time he became a father to Sheryl, Tara & Gerald.

Always concerned about being a good provider for his family, Jack made his career in the banking industry.  An amusing turn of events that happened when he saw a job listing in the newspaper for a “teller”.  His minimal English language skills led him to believe the job was for someone who could tell stories.  But take the job he did and he moved quickly up the ladder to become bank Vice President of major banking institutions including Union Bank, Lloyd’s Bank and Banco Do Brasil, eventually, taking the position of Bank President for Banco Real.

Jack never gave up his love of music and stayed connected throughout his life to a worldwide network of chamber musicians with whom he played regularly.

Jack’s favorite music partner was his wife of 43 years, Helena Pimenta Sitser, an accomplished cellist and pianist.

Jack is survived by his beloved wife, Helena, his children, Sheryl Sister, Tara Sitser Brickman and Gerald Sitser, his step-children whom he adored, Maria Lucia Machado Martin (married to Tom Martin) and Eduardo Machado (Married to Maria Beatrice Hadler Machado), his seven grandchildren Phillip, Marcos, Ricardo, Fabio, Mariana, Guilherme and Artur, plus more spouses and great-grandchildren than can be listed here. All of whom were treasured by Jack and brought great joy into his life.

Jacob Sitser was a man of grace and compassion, a support system to many, and a wonderful family man.  He will be missed.

***************************

SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM MY BROTHER, GERALD SITSER:

Among nearly a century of accumulated photos of my father, the one I cherish most is a portrait from his college days, joy and contentment on his face, his beloved violin in hand. Throughout his life, music was his refuge — from a turbulent world, the stress of work, the bittersweet onset of age. Most importantly, it was a passionate bond between himself and those he loved.

I’ve always maintained an impossibly ideal image of my father. But I’ve also seen how others admired and respected him: This thoughtful and generous man who was always available to offer a comforting shoulder, to share a few wise words, to calm any rough waters, and to bring a smile to every face in the room.

Dad was rightfully proud but never vain. He was a bastion of civility in a world that’s forgotten politeness. He was a patient teacher whose greatest lessons were to think for yourself, to remember that your actions have consequences, and that the world owes you nothing that you haven’t earned for yourself. He gave of himself freely with no thought of personal reward, knowing all the while that there is no greater reward than knowing you’ve made a difference. He understood the value of a moment of sorrow, but only for a moment and no more; for he also understood the need to shrug off your troubles, pick yourself up, and move on.

I can only try to emulate my father, but perhaps that’s enough. If there’s any part of his legacy I can pretend to claim, let it be his quiet strength and unwavering sense of dignity. There was only one of him. The world was lucky to have that; and his family, the luckiest of all.

***********************

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM MY SISTER, SHERYL SITSER:

My father had a magic touch with people as a result of being generous, caring, empathetic, wise, funny, and fair-minded. Almost everyone who knew him wished that he could be their father and we were the lucky ones who could claim him as their own.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

When I was a child it seemed that few of my friends had fathers who were as compassionate, wise and loving as my father. As each went through some minor crisis (they didn’t get the party invitation they had hoped for, their mother wouldn’t let them wear make-up, typical teen-aged angst,) they obviously wanted a grown-up to talk to and didn’t feel their parents would be responsive or sympathetic enough. I offered to “lend” them my father who was not only the world’s greatest listener, but also gave the best advice. He always knew exactly what to say to cheer them up let them know that things would get better and my friends were always amazed and grateful that they had the opportunity to talk to this wonderful man.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

In the 70’s when my father was the president of Bank of America at downtown Los Angeles, he chose two proteges he would train to take over management positions. He recieved a suprising amount of resistance from the other bank executives because one of those trainees was a woman.  He was told that Bank of America had never had a female executive before and that woman weren’t competent enough for management. My father perservered and was eventually able to promote them both. This, and many other stories, show why my father was my hero.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

My friend Marsha was acknowledged by everyone who knew her to be a beautiful girl but because she was overweight, society was extremely cruel to her. One day she was sitting in church talking to friend when a man approached them. He told them he was an artist and wanted their permission to draw their likenesses for possible use in a Christian magazine. Marsha was extremely flattered as she had been lead to believe no one would ever be interested in a picture of her. Several months later she received a copy of the magazine with a beautiful drawing of the two girls. She called her father who didn’t seem to think it was very important or significant. She was crushed to think her father didn’t care.

Since my father knew Marsha pretty well, I told her to call him. As expected, my father was excited for her and told he was not only proud of her but was not at all surprised that someone would recognize her beauty and want to use her image.  In a matter of minutes, my father cheered her up and helped repair the damage done by a cruel, unfeeling parent.

These are examples of why Jack Sitser definitely qualified to be named “Father of the Century”.

***************************

 

 

 

I published this post six years ago.  It has gotten only more relevant as time passes.  As we reach this year’s Thanksgiving celebration I give thanks for those in public service who actually understand that their jobs exist to serve the public.

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950)  was a playwright, journalist, public speaker and champion of the working class.  He wrote more than 60 plays in his lifetime and was the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name).

Many of us may be surprised to learn that he was also a co-founder of the London School of Economics.  No slouch he.

In stark contrast to the attitudes of so many of our currently elected officials, here is his statement about public service:

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

…if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm.

Yesterday President Obama posted his thoughts on the Republican bill currently on the floor of Congress that would radically change what we know as health care in this country.

I know this post has been widely circulated. But I believe it is important, and hopefully helpful, to isolate a few of his thoughts from the post.  The entire post is included below.

 

 

“We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.”

“For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.”

“I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.”

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

POSTED June 22, 2017; on FaceBook by President Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

words-matter

 

I have long been a fan of the short story form.  In fact, the short story form is far harder than longer forms of writing. Making your intention clear in a limited amount of words is not an easy task. There is a long line of authors whose work I enjoy but top of the list in this regard has always been Harlan Ellison.  There are many reasons I am a life-long, die-hard Ellison fan, but chiefly, my admiration is for his ability to select just exactly the right word for every moment in his stories with never a word wasted.

 Here’s a favorite example: 

 “A foot was planted between my shoulder blades and the fist let go of my shirt, and I was booted forward onto my suitcase, which slid a few feet, carrying me as on a raft.

I fell off, rolled over and tried to sit up. Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death were staring down at me.”

Quoted from All the Lies That Are My Life by Harlan Ellison

 There is no need to give the reader any more detailed description of the four guys who are about to beat up our protagonist. The phrase “Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death” tells you everything you need to know.

 Another master at choosing just the right words is Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who sums up this thought beautifully:

 “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

And another famous author offers clarity on the subject. When asked his opinion on cursing Mark Twain had this to say:

“The English language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. I figure we ought to use all the words we got.”

 Notice here that he did not advise using MORE words than needed at one time but choosing the RIGHT words for what you are trying to convey at that moment.

 

 Words matter.  They can offer great kindness but also great sorrow. They can build relationships or tear down entire communities. Words have weight and meaning and sometimes great consequences. 

When you are attempting to evaluate someone’s character listen very closely to the word they choose to use.  Their choices are not casual. They are a result of a lifetime of attitudes and perceptions and are evidence of the state of their inner psychology. 

 The speaker is telling you something about who he is and how he chooses to participate in this thing called Life.  

 Words matter.  Listen closely.


Tara Sitser - Leadership Member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project

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