The suffering of children

Many children do not survive abuse they endure behind closed doors and drawn blinds. The ones that do are scarred for life. Shame and distrust prevent most of those who escape their horror from ever telling their stories to another living soul. It takes real intestinal fortitude for a victim to come forward to say, “This is what happened to me as a child. Please don’t let it happen to other children.”

In his new book, The walls talked but nobody listened: a challenge to end child abuse, John D’Amico has mustered up the strength to expose the ugliest parts of his personal experience to the world. The abuse he suffered as a child runs the gamut of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that can happen to a child hidden away in any house on any street and any neighborhood.

Everyone should read this book. Everyone should get a good look at how a child can suffer right under the noses of neighbors, educators, social workers, law enforcement, service technicians who come to the house, and politicians. All those people looked but did not see while John lived in pain and isolation during his formative years. It isn’t pleasant reading until the reader begins to see that John was an exception to the usual outcome of severe child abuse and neglect. He went on to make a success story out of his life, but he understands that few victims are like him in that respect, and he doesn’t want any child to endure what he went through.

Anyone who reads The walls talked but nobody listened: a challenge to end child abuse and is not disturbed probably has some real issues with empathy. I challenge you to read it. John challenges you to do something about it. The book is available now as an eBook and soon to be available in paperback.

 

Modern medicine as seen by the patient

HIPPOCRATIC OATH: MODERN VERSION
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. (But we’re a drug company and don’t have to share what makes us billions of dollars.)

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. (Let’s run some extra tests so we can charge more. We’ll use the excuse that we might be taken to court if something goes wrong.)

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug. (I will also remember that there’s money to be made in my practice of medicine.)

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery. (Well, if I must, but I really don’t want to share any fees.)

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. (I’d be willing to admit to my frailties, if I had any.)

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. (Economic stability? If they can’t pay, send them away.)

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. (Leave that up to the dieticians, fitness experts, and the media. I don’t have time for that.)

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. (My society is the upper class.)

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. (Me, myself, and I, and my.)

May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

HIPPOCRATIC OATH: CLASSICAL VERSION

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

—Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.

Now why do you suppose it needed to be re-written?

Stuff and Nonsense

An English word that has always annoyed me (though I’m guilty of using it, too) is the word “stuff.” It’s one of those catch-all terms that has more meanings than the old woman in the shoe had children. Some of its usage is understandable, e.g., rescuing a wounded warrior is the “stuff of greatness.” Used to refer to a pile or collection of unnamed articles, it makes sense. What child has never heard his/her mother say, “pick that stuff up off the floor?”

What irritates me is when the word “stuff” is used when being precise would be just as easy and much more exact, e.g., “Let me get my stuff” when “let me get my tennis racket and balls” is much more communicative.

Okay, so maybe a kid doesn’t know the name of kale when he whines, “I’m not going to eat that stuff.” Until recently, I wouldn’t eat it, either. On the other hand, when a reasonably intelligent adult asks, “where’s the stuff I need to clean the floor?” then “stuff” becomes nonsense. It would be much easier and plainer to ask, “where’s the mop and broom?”

As a verb, “stuff” makes perfect sense when referring to placing a large amount of “stuff” into a tight space. Santa Claus “stuffs” the children’s stockings, and they pull out candy, fruit, and small toys the next morning. Mom “stuffs” the turkey with dressing. ‘Nuff said. An encyclopedia (who remembers those?) was “stuffed” with valuable information.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit quirky about the word “stuff.” There are times when, as a noun, it refers to an unknown substance, and that makes perfect sense. “What’s that stuff Emily’s got in her hair?” We don’t know what it is, and we have to call it something. Okay, “stuff” will do. But on other occasions, it’s just plain laziness, e.g., we learned a lot of “stuff” in her class. Why not say, “we got a great deal of information in her class?”

Well, excuse me. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I have a lot of “stuff” to do.

J Hamilton

On a more serious note: Let’s work toward ending child abuse. When you purchase a copy of John D’Amico’s book, THE WALLS TALKED BUT NOBODY LISTENED a portion of the proceeds goes to non-government programs for battered women and children. Link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+walls+talked+but+nobody+listened&sprefix=The+Walls+Talked%2Cstripbooks%2C291

Fugitive children

I don’t get it. The US gives over $30-billion in humanitarian aid annually. A big chunk of that money goes to assist countries who take in people from neighboring countries fleeing war and certain death. Somewhere around a billion dollars has been sent to cash-strapped Jordan to help with housing Iraqis fleeing militant religious groups that indiscriminately murder those who do not support their extremism.

Now, today, here at home, tens of thousands of children are flooding the country fleeing kidnapping and murder because they are not part of a drug cartel gang. What’s the difference between having a gun held at people’s heads because they belong to a different religious group or sect and a family threatened with assassination because they do not support drug trafficking? It’s the same threat, isn’t it?

I don’t know what the answer is. What I do know is that humanitarian aid to a foreign country to provide safe haven for refugees is approved by most Americans. But when it is in our own backyard? Well, that’s another story. Load those kids up and send them back to the drug wars? It’s unconscionable.

To paraphrase from the bible, if anyone harm one of these children and lead them astray, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and dropped into the sea.

Subject and object pronouns and garbled past participles

Yes, you even hear it on TV from newscasters and newsmakers. Example: “They had a big surprise for Jane and I.” Same person would never in a million years say, “They had a big surprise for I.”  Unless, of course, you’re Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (or was that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?)

Look at some teeth grinding examples of misused pronouns:

  1. The family went to visit she and Tom.
  2. The boss said it was a perfect job for I.
  3. Him and Jerry are the best players on the team.
  4. Her and Sally are my sisters.
  5. Us and Mary went to the movies last night.

 In most cases, the problem arises with compound objects, i.e., Marian gave a ride to Jerry and I yesterday. No, she gave the ride to me…Jerry and me! Sometimes, however, it’s compound subjects that create the grammar faux pas, i.e., Jerry and me both want to go to the movies. Me want to go to the movies? I don’t think so unless pidgin is your native language.

 It’s amazing that native speakers of English could go through 10 to 12 years of classes and not learn how to use pronouns. It’s also astonishing that after all those verbs conjugated in class, people still misuse past participles. “I seen him in town yesterday.” Groan. And past tense of irregular verbs? Take the verb “cast,” for example. The same news reporter who would never say, “I casted my line into the lake,” will often say, “Yesterday, the weatherman forecasted rain for today.” That’s like fingernails on the chalkboard for those who are old enough to know what a chalkboard is.

 The more I listen to Americans talk, the less hope I have for saving the language.

Recycled Waste Water

As Joan Rivers might say, “Let’s get real” when we talk about water. Specifically, drinking water. It’s something we all need, and it’s in short supply all over the world. Yes, there are rivers and lakes in countless places that haven’t been affected by drought, but there is no practical way to spread it around. Besides that, rivers and lakes have become horribly polluted by man. Water conservation in drought areas is of paramount importance, of course. Water recycling is a major way of going about that conservation. But someone says, “Yuk! Are you saying we should re-use water that we flushed down the toilet?” Well, yes.

 All ground and underground water has to be filtered and treated before it is safe for human consumption. We all know that. What we also know is that waste water can be filtered and treated to be as pure as the lake and well water we drink every day.

 “But it’s just the idea!” someone complains, “I mean drinking water that…well, you know.”

 “Oh, come one. Don’t be so squeamish. What do you think all those fish and wading birds are doing in the lake? Do they hop out to visit the euphemism? (Most people don’t want to use the word toilet.) Then there are dogs, and even people, who seem to think a river or a lake is just one big waste watering hole. If you’ve never seen a boy or a man relieving himself in the lake, you’ve probably never been to a lake.

Truth is there are microbes, dangerous chemicals, effluent, and all sorts of nasty things in surface ground water that have to be filtered out and chemically treated to be safe for drinking. Even water pumped up for the diminishing aquifers must be purified. So let’s get real and understand that all water undergoes some sort of purification before we put it to our lips.

 “But I only use bottled water,” someone protests.

 Get serious. Where do you think that bottled water comes from? Bottled water trees? Water is a precious commodity. Let’s not waste time thinking about where it comes from. If it’s been treated and purified, drink it and be thankful.

 

English language euthanasia

Well, it seems that pop culture is determined to destroy the last vestiges of the English language. As I sat watching (with horror) the Jimmy Kimmel late night show I could scarcely believe my ears. Jennifer Lopez was giving the host a crash course on language euthanasia. It began with the phrase “I luh ya,” which Miss Lopez explained means “I love you.” That was followed by several minutes of unintelligible speech that Kimmel helplessly tried to decipher.

Coming out of language shock, I wondered what the point was. It’s still a one-syllable word. Why kill it with sloppy articulation? Instead of learning all the mutilations of the English language, why not be more constructive and learn a foreign language like Spanish or French? The effort it takes to learn the distorted lingo could be much better spent, could it not?

Speaking of learning the pop culture lingo, I heard a famous personality of my generation trying to be up-to-date with hilarious results. Instead of saying “I’ve got you, bro,” she said, “I’ve got you, bra.” Forgive me, but I’ve got to say “LOL.”

Lion is a two syllable word

Lately, something has begun to annoy me as I sit in front of the flat screen.  It’s those short words that actually have two syllables but increasingly get reduced to one.  Number one on the list is poem.  I actually listened to a radio program on PBS not long ago to a guest poet who kept saying “pome” and “potry” for “po-em” and “po-etry.”  Wonder if he ever writes “limricks”?  After listening  only long enough to switch the channel,  I jumped from frying pan into fire as I heard a Realtor keep referring to himself as a “Rillator” and a “rill estate agent.”   Or, how about a TV presenter who talked about going to a “line” preserve in Africa?  Was he looking for the rare and dangerous “parallel line”?  

I would like people to send me other examples of lost syllables they run across.  Drop me a line (not a lion) in the comments for this short post.

A Book I Reviewed

Purgatory:  Soldiers of Misfortune by Darryl Olsen

Review:  Purgatory:  Soldiers of Misfortune

Spoiler alert:  There’s enough testosterone in the first chapter of the novel to cure ED for a million men.  This is not a novel for lovers of slushy romance stories.  That said, Purgatory: Soldiers of Misfortune by Darryl Olsen is an action packed fantasy tale with metaphysical overtones that video gamers and thriller movie lovers can sink their teeth into.  It is a page turner that can be read in one long sitting.  I did it in one day with a few breaks for exercise.

 The plot is so well crafted that almost immediately I was caught up in the almost theological question:  Is the rag tag group of people actually in purgatory?  If not, where are they?  Cleverly, I think, Olsen never answers that question and allows the reader to speculate.  Wherever they are after their demise in the world as we know it, they are not ethereal beings.  They eat, bleed, and are subject to regular bodily functions. 

 The main characters are solidly drawn and believable, some likeable, and some detestable.  When the cast of characters all come together in this land of yellow skies and extreme cold, the leaders of the group are Harry, a British veteran of the Vietnam war who was dying from the effects of agent orange, and Luke, an American soldier who was blown up in Afghanistan.  It falls to them to protect the group from the evil Von Ruse, tyrant of the Leviathans, his army, and the Maugs—half human, half beast—intent on devouring human flesh.  In the heroic party, though, there are two obnoxious characters—Susan, the vain and self-centered Korean girl, and Craig—the Wall Street whiz kid who thinks he has the answer to everything.

 The most mysterious character is Edward who is a 400 year survivor of wherever that place might be.  He is something of a cross between Merlin and Shakespeare, with a hint that he actually is the latter.  His function is to give advice to Harry and Luke without ever actually telling them what to do. 

 If the location is Purgatory, Olsen cleverly never confirms that supposition.  Would people actually have physical bodies there?  Would old German war planes somehow end up there?  Could there actually be an old van that Harry and Luke manage to make work have crossed over into this mysterious world?  To further cloud the issue Olsen adds the possibility of a time and space portal that may or may not exist.  I found myself constantly asking myself those questions as I continued to turn the pages.

 In all the action of the novel, Olsen manages to interject some poetic language.  I particularly liked the opening line of Chapter Twelve, “Dawn was blushing when Harry awakened to Luke stirring the fire.”  Olsen closes the novel with hints of a sequel that include a book written in code supposedly containing information about the “portal,” and a brief radio communication in German, possibly from the pilot of the old war plane they found.

 –J Hamilton, author of The Naked Zombie

 

Olsen, Darryl (2013-07-10). Purgatory : Soldiers of Misfortune (Kindle Location 2687). Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co.. Kindle Edition.

 

An eye for an eye?

Few people living today recall the sensational murder trial of Barbara Graham convicted of a gruesome murder in Burbank, CA, and subsequently executed in a California gas chamber.  A few more people may vaguely recall Susan Hayword’s Academy Award winning performance as Graham.  Ironically, the title of the movie was I Want to Live.

Flash forward to a courtroom in Colorado where a young man who walked into a movie theater and cold bloodedly killed a dozen or so innocent people.  He enters a plea bargaining deal that would forego the possibility of the death sentence.  “I want to live” is the message.

 How many times have we seen the same situation?  Killers who had no mercy for their victims, trying (and some successfully) to escape the death penalty because they “want to live.”  Regardless of what one thinks about the death penalty, there has to be pause to consider that the victims of murderers wanted to live, too.  The irony of the situation cannot be overlooked.  So, forgive me if I cannot empathize with those who callously take the lives of others but don’t want their lives taken from them.