A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Preparing To Die

The Buddhist tradition in which I practice has a particular skillful means available for dealing with your immanent death. I am not going to talk about it in any detail, or even give its name, but I can say that what it does is allow you to die cleanly, consciously, without fear, and without wandering in the fearsome and nightmarish twilight bardo state typical of the intervals between rebirths.

It is a glorious gift for those with the karma to find it. In old Tibet, harsh conditions of life and a very restricted diet (some greater or lesser amount of meat, barley flour tsampa porridge, hot butter laden tea, noodles, dumplings, and barley beer called chang) led to an average life expectancy of about 50 or a little more. As always, those with the right genes and the right attitude (intense Buddhist practice helps) could live to quite old ages, but most succumbed at half the lifespan of the oldest.

So men and women sought the death practice out from the lamas, particularly after their 50th birthday. It was thought very prudent to do so. And, having received it, they practiced it very diligently. The common experience was that it did what it promised, and this testimony was given by a people for whom the death process of friends and relatives was up close and personal (unlike our own) and all had great experience watching people die.

I turned 50 three years ago. I have also heard direct testimony from a fellow practitioner whom I trust of the efficacy of the death practice in the case of one of his children. It does what it is supposed to do.

I also have good reason to believe that I will not reach any very great age. I already subsist in my state without Medicaid, on charity from my doctors with samples, particularly of the drugs which control my bipolar mental condition. This is what Ohio Republican Governor Bob Taft is proposing to do to the mentally ill already on Medicaid in order to cut Ohio's taxes:

Nine years after bloated welfare rolls, frustrated taxpayers and lurid stories of Cadillac-driving "welfare queens" spawned national welfare reform, Crawley and Poteat [people on TANF] have the misfortune of being poor in a state that still draws accolades for cutting its welfare rolls from 749,000 recipients in 1992 to 195,000 today.

At the same time, Ohio also is drawing criticism for having the largest surplus of unused TANF money in the nation - currently $331 million.....Ohio, year in and year out, has the largest TANF surplus in the nation. In addition to the $331 million, the state is sitting on $505 million that is unspent but "obligated," meaning the Department of Job & Family Services has promised the money to Ohio's 88 counties.....Ohio has well over a half-billion dollars designated for the poor that's not being spent....

Other programs for the poor are in line for cuts, according to anti-poverty advocates who have been briefed by the administration....They say Taft's budget will recommend eliminating vision and dental coverage for Medicaid recipients, as well as ending the Disability Medical Assistance program. The program provides basic coverage for poor people who don't qualify for Medicaid but are medication-dependent.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 7, 2005

That's us. The poor and the mentally ill. So most of them on medication will soon be joining me begging our care agencies for drug samples. I doubt there are enough samples to go around.

In addition, President Bush's new budget proposes further cuts in Medicaid as well as in the Food Stamps, on which I live--as my ability to find and hold work with my condition and medications has so far been limited to 8-20 hours weekly @ $7.50 an hour. And I do work, as hard and as long as I am able, even though the more I work, the less assistance I receive.

My companion is in a similar situation, except that her conditions are so crippling that any return to work is simply impossible.

My teachers tell me to abandon anger about it. My death will go far better for me if I leave no residue here of ill-will toward anyone. I have seen this as a fact for myself, and my anger is diminishing steadily as I sustain other Buddhist practices.

But I think when it next becomes available, I will seek out the death practice.

When you have gotten a glimpse at what lies beyond the abandonment of your anger in preparation for death, there is really no room for despair whatever happens.

But I wonder, in an abstract sort of way, how long it will take for utter despair and rabid anger among the poorest of us to bring us to the mental condition of Palestinians, where wearing explosives under your raincoat is a common enough occurrence.

A bad practice, really, anger cubed, in fact, and very likely to lead to an unpleasant death, bardo, and rebirth. Very unpleasant.

It is far better to abandon anger and seek out the death practice.

We have been slowly eating away at the foundation of the good life of our people, to make a few of us insanely rich, for about 25 years now. If this continues, I really don't think it will matter that much how long I live past 50. I have a religious commitment to stay as long as I can for the benefit of others, but there already has been a rapid diminishment of the good I can do for others, and this decline is very likely to accelerate.

I can only hope that however long I do live, I do not live long enough to see the despair that makes people able to make and wear explosive raincoats finally come to this country.


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