The C Word

NOTE: Pardon me for the long post. It’s been a while. But hang in there with me. Read this in parts or as a whole. But read it. Please.

The day before that dreadful election in 2016 I wrote a piece (“America’s Bone Marrow Biopsy”) that detailed an old blood cancer scare of mine while comparing that scare to what the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Tr-mp might mean if the unthinkable happened. I wrote: “What is going on in our national bones?” Then:

This election will ultimately decide whether the obvious infection coursing through our democratic blood—Donald Tr-mp and the alt-right racists and xenophobes and conspiracy nuts he has attracted and normalized—is actually cancer or whether it is something less severe, but still troubling, still able to negatively affect our quality of life as Americans.

No matter who wins on Tuesday, America—understood as one nation united under certain political and moral assumptions—is sick. And we cannot blame our sickness only on Donald Tr-mp. The pathology he represents has been with us since our founding. It afflicts every self-governing civilization to some degree or another. In modern times, America’s democratic immune system has mostly been strong enough nationally to fight demagoguery, bigotry, xenophobia, and other forms of blood- and marrow-fouling hate. In the past we have been strong enough to reject malignant figures like Tr-mp, who has cheated his way through life, molesting women, workers, and the truth.

But there are signs our immune system is weakening. We have symptoms of something terrible going on inside us.

The day after the election I lamented:

The doctor, armed with our election test results, just told us what somehow we already knew: America has cancer. Stage 4.

I did not know at the time that, as I was writing those words, cancer had taken root in my own body. I did not find out for sure until July 24 of this year, my granddaughter’s ninth birthday, but somehow it was something I “already knew.” So, like our Tr-mpism-plagued country, I have cancer. Whether cancer will ultimately have me has yet to be determined. Officially, my cancer diagnosis involves two primary malignant tumors (“synchronous neoplasias”), Image result for cancerand I will, of course, write more about my own personal encounter with the C word in a future post. For now, because I’ve learned a little about the disease and because I am incorrigibly interested in our national social and political health, I want to focus on the fight to save our flawed democratic system. After all, our country, in one form or another, will still be here long after I am gone.

As I suggested in November of 2016, I think it is important to diagnose the problem we have and give it a name—a serious name—to communicate how serious the situation is. Cancer, obviously, is among our deepest, darkest fears. That’s what first came to my mind when I contemplated a country under the rule of Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. And others have done so, too. On Friday, Steve Schmidt, a conservative who was a senior campaign strategist for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain, wrote on Twitter (emphasis mine):

Trump is vile, dishonest and corrupt. He is stoking a cold civil war in our land. He is assailing our institutions, traditions, alliances and is a party to the global regression of democracy. He is incompetent and mentally unfit. This is a national emergency.

This National emergency has every potential to cause a disaster of immense proportions. Should that happen generations will look back with wonder that people didn’t proactively understand the causal effect of the emergency to the disaster. There is also a crisis in America.

The crisis is different than the emergency. There is a crisis of cowardice. The GOP majority are complicit quislings enthralled to a dime store Mussolini who they know is morally, intellectually and mentally unfit for his office. This crisis of cowardice is making the emergency worse because these cowards have chosen their tribe and personal ambitions over America and have failed their oaths to defend the Constitution. They refuse to fulfill their oversight obligations as a coequal branch of government and have effectively obliterated the system of checks and balances that makes the American Republic work. I think it is important to think about the nature of the Emergency, the nature of the crisis and the possibility of real disaster as three distinct but interrelated metastasizing cancers. We don’t at our collective peril.

Also on Friday, President Obama finally broke his post-presidency silence. In a surprisingly combative speech given in front of students at the University of Illinois, he essentially defined the cancer that is Tr-mpism, that is the Republican Party these days, telling the young folks:

…even though your generation is the most diverse in history with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.

And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear mongers and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.

A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold and demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. They promise to fight for the little guy, even as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further. They appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?

Of course it sounds familiar. Maybe it sounds too familiar for some folks. Maybe people are tired of hearing about all the incompetence and corruption. Maybe there is some exhaustion, or cynicism, setting in, thwarting the will to fight the disease and fight the fear of the disease. That remains to be seen. But I want to emphasize something Obama said:

Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear mongers and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.

His talk of “antibodies” in our politics reminded me of something Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in her recent book, Natural Causes. Ehrenreich is best known for her political activism and writings on various social issues, but she holds a PhD in cellular immunology. She’s also a breast cancer survivor. In Natural Causes she relates how she discovered something “deeply upsetting” about our immune system and cancer, something so upsetting that she “could only think, This changes everything.” What she found was,

the immune system actually abets the growth and spread of tumors, which is like saying that the fire department is staffed by arsonists. We all know that the function of the immune system is to protect us, most commonly from bacteria and viruses, so its expected response to cancer should be a concerted and militant defense. As a graduate student, I had worked in two different laboratories dedicated to elucidating the defenses mounted by the immune system, and had come to think of it as a magical and for the most part invisible protective cloak. I could walk through the valley of the shadow of death, so to speak, or expose myself to deadly microbes, and know no evil, because my immune cells and antibodies would keep me from harm. But here they were—going over to the other side.

I found this shocking. I found it disturbing. Does our immune system actually betray us, when it comes to cancer? Does it actually “enable the growth and spread of cancer,” as Ehrenreich claims? Yes. The culprit is a type of immune cell, a type of white blood cell, called a “macrophage.” Apparently there are “good” macrophages and “bad” ones, the bad ones helping to make, as the British Journal of Cancer puts it, “the tumour microenvironment conducive to tumour progression and metastasis.” Yikes. There’s even a name for these traitors: tumor-associated macrophages, or TAMs, which, as The Scientist magazine alarmingly notes, “can make up as much as 50 percent of a tumor’s mass.” Ehrenreich, writing about the state of biological science at the end of the 20th century regarding the immune system, wrote:

…as the century came to a close, it became increasingly evident that the immune system was not only giving cancer cells a pass and figuratively waving them through checkpoints. Perversely and against all biological reason, it was aiding them to spread and establish new tumors through the body.

Now, hopefully you know me well enough by now to know where I am going with this. The most basic definition of “cancer” is “the disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body.” As far as out body politic, as far as our Republic and the Tr-mpism that plagues it, we can apply that definition. There are “abnormal cells” of people who find Tr-mpism strangely appealing. But there is another definition of cancer: “a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate.” We can also apply that definition to our national nightmare. What we see with Tr-mp and his most ardent and faithful followers (and his abettors in Congress) is destructive and hard to contain. And the very immune system we rely on to protect us from corruption and demagoguery—our free press—often is like Ehrenreich’s bad macrophages that perversely and against all reason give Tr-mpism a pass and figuratively wave it through the checkpoints.

We saw it during the campaign, even though generally our press is mostly good at fighting corruption in our politics. Journalists normally excel at exposing compromised politicians (bacteria) and demagogic rhetoric (viruses), but in too many cases they do what they did in that 2016 campaign. They spread a cancer like Tr-mpism. In Tr-mp’s case, because they had not seen anything like him in national politics, the press gave him countless hours of free air time, which was worth a gazillion dollars. They disseminated his demagoguery. They featured, almost endlessly, his misinformed and bigoted voters and their cultish devotion to him. All the while they went about thoughtlessly “raising questions” about Hillary Clinton for what amounted to a relatively harmless handling of her emails and, by comparison to Tr-mp, a rather tiny amount of corruption involving the Clinton Foundation and her speeches to Wall Street bankers. By doing that, they unwittingly helped spread the cancer that we now face.

And the aiding and abetting of the disease continues.

After Obama’s anti-Tr-mpism speech on Friday, TV journalists waited breathlessly for Tr-mp’s response from Fargo, North Dakota, part of which was broadcast live on MSNBC (and probably CNN) an abc news.jpghour after Obama’s. On Friday evening’s ABC’s World News Tonight, the first story featured was “CLASH OF PRESIDENTS,” as if we were witnessing a typical political fight between moral equals. And add to that the fact that for over a week journalists of all kinds offered nearly undiluted praise for John McCain, who got a lot of deserved credit for his heroism but a lot of undeserved credit for being part of the “resistance” to Tr-mpism. Then, when that weird Op-Ed came out in The New York Times three days ago, part of the press made the coward behind it a hero for the “courage” to come forth and tell the world that his or her boss was mentally challenged or just plain nuts but that don’t worry, the nasty conservative agenda was marching on.

But I want to focus on something that one member of the press did last weekend that will be repeated as we draw closer to the 2020 presidential election. In this case, the damage was done by CNN’s Dana Bash, who was filling in for Jake Tapper on the network’s Sunday show, State of the Union. The guest was the just-elected Democratic Party nominee for Florida governor, Andrew Gillum, who is now running against a Tr-mper named Ron DeSantis. I’m going to post most of the long transcript in order to make a point. Read it and imagine the same thing happening to a Democratic presidential candidate two years from now, all of which feeds the cancer of Tr-mpism:

BASH: Thank you so much for joining me this morning. Let’s start with the president himself putting you in the spotlight and your race, of course, describing you this way in a tweet: “A failed socialist mayor named Andrew Gillum who has allowed crime and many other problems to flourish in his city, this is not what Florida wants or needs.” You’re now in a general election in a state that Trump won. You ran pretty far to the left in the primary race. In order to be governor, you need to win voters in the middle. How are you going to do that?

GILLUM: Yes, Dana, let me first say how extremely proud I was yesterday watching Senator McCain’s funeral. The comments from his daughter Meghan, from the president, all the former presidents, really was a display of really who we are as a country. Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump are at the far other extremes of what we want, not only as a country, but as a state. And I will tell you, I don’t believe that any of the issues that I stood on in the primary are in any way disqualifying in this general election. We’re going to win this race because the people of my state are interested in having an education system that their kids can get a good, quality education. And right now, we rank 40th of 50th in quality. The people in my state want access to good and affordable and accessible health care.

BASH: And I want to…

GILLUM: They want to see teachers paid what they’re worth.

BASH: And I want to get to a lot of those issues and dig deeper on them in just a moment. Before, though, I want—I have to get this out of the way. I don’t want to give undue attention to this. But, this week, a white supremacist robo-call came out in your state of Florida against your campaign. You, of course, are the first black nominee for governor in the state of Florida. How are you going to fend off against attacks of what really are not just racially tinged, racist things like we’re seeing there now?

GILLUM: Yes. Yes. Well, first of all, I have to tell you, I do find it deeply regrettable. I mean, on the day right after I secured the Democratic nomination, we had to deal with some of the dog whistles directly from my opponent. And I—and I honestly want to sincerely say this, Dana. We can have a challenge between ideas and around what we think the people of the state of Florida deserve. What I don’t want this race to turn into is a race of name-calling. I want to make sure that we don’t racialize and, frankly, weaponize race as a part of this process, which is why I have called on my opponent to really work to rise above some of these things. People are taking their cues from him, from his campaign, and from Donald Trump.

BASH: And we should…

GILLUM: And we saw in Charlottesville that that can lead to real, frankly, dangerous outcomes.

BASH: And I also want to make clear that your opponent, Ron DeSantis, has—has condemned this robo-call, which, again, we’re not playing. It is beyond offensive. I want to look…

GILLUM: Of course.

BASH: … talk about what the president mentioned also in that tweet, which is the crime rate in your city. Mr. Mayor, it’s true that your county has the highest crime rate in the entire state of Florida. The number of murders there hit a new high just last year. How do you explain to Florida voters why they should trust you with their state, when those crime rates are so high?

GILLUM: Well, I’m the mayor of the city of Tallahassee, not the county of Leon. And in the city of Tallahassee, we actually are experiencing a five- year low in our crime rate. In fact, we’re on par to see historic lows in our crime rate this year if we keep on the pattern that we’re currently on. And, Dana, we didn’t do that by arresting more people and throwing away the key, but by leaning into smart justice, restorative justice, second chances, because the best way to control a crime rate, frankly, is to reduce the number of people who re-offend. We’re very, very proud of, I think, the very progressive way in which we have addressed crime in my city. And it’s evident by the numbers. I’m extremely proud of where we are. And, frankly, I would like to see those kinds of strategies scaled up all around the state of Florida.

BASH: Let’s move on to health care. You mentioned that you support Medicare for all. A study earlier this summer from George Mason University estimates that Medicare for all, that plan, would cost the government $33 trillion—with the T—dollars over the next decade, which obviously would require a significant tax increase. Florida has—has a reputation, as you know, for being a tax-averse state. Are you ready to tell the people of Florida that they need pay a lot more in taxes to fund your health care plan?

GILLUM: Well, let me first say there was also a report, Dana, that showed that, should we move to cover more people to a Medicare-for-all system, we could actually save the system trillions over an extended period of time. But I will tell you this, because I…

BASH: You could. But in the short term, in order to do that, you need to raise taxes. Fair?

GILLUM: So, what I would say is, first of all — and I want to be clear about this — the state of Florida could not take this road by itself. We would need to do it as part of a federation of other states coming together. Think of Florida, New York, California, and a few of the other larger states.

BASH: But, sir, are you—in order to do that, taxes would have to be raised. Is that—is that fair? Do you agree with that?

GILLUM: I don’t buy that. So, let me just say, for instance…

BASH: How do you do that? How do you find that kind of money for the government without raising taxes?

GILLUM: So, first, I would say, one, Florida could not do it by itself. But, secondly, we have the opportunity to expand Medicaid for over 700,000 of the most medically needy people here in the state of Florida. My governor and legislature refuse to do that. Do you know it cost us about $6 billion in money that should have come from the federal government to the state of Florida that we never received? And so I’m simply saying—and this is—I want to be clear, Dana. This is very personal to me. I remember growing up as a kid having to wait for the mobile dental clinic to come to the neighborhood in order to have my teeth cleaned. The biggest concern for people…

BASH: Yes, I know you have experiences.


BASH: And you’re coming from a real place, a personal place in supporting this. But as a government official, you have to make it work, and you have to make the numbers work.

GILLUM: Absolutely.

BASH: And so I don’t—I still don’t understand how you would do it without raising taxes.

GILLUM: So, the first step we would take is expand Medicaid and pull down about $6 billion a year from the federal government. That’s important. Secondly, as governor of the state of Florida, I would work to bring a number of the largest states into a conversation around how it is, together, we might be able to negotiate prices and access to health care to cover more people and ensure that even those who — of us who are in insured, who are right now paying premium increases year over year over year, all because Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump have worked overtime to make access to health care more affordable.


BASH: Will you say that you will not support raising taxes to make your health care plan work?

GILLUM: I will absolutely not raise taxes on everyday working Floridians to give access to additional people.

BASH: What about wealthier people?

GILLUM: So, what I said—and I ran on this, by the way—is that we will increase taxes for the—for corporations in our state who right now, just so you are aware, only 3 percent of companies in the state of Florida pay the corporate tax rate, 3 percent. And that 3 percent under the Donald Trump tax scam got a windfall of $6.3 billion overnight, due to the tax reform that took place in Washington, D.C. We’re not asking for all of it. We simply said, we believe that we ought to bring a billion of that money back into the state’s government, because being a cheap date state has not worked for the state of Florida. And, unfortunately, we have got to do that if we’re going to be leading state.

BASH: One more—one more issue. We have spent a lot of time, understandably, on health care. On immigration, you have joined growing calls for replacing ICE, the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency. The state of California actually passed a plan last year to become a so-called sanctuary state, which limits state cooperation with federal immigration officials. Would you support that plan for the state of Florida?

GILLUM: No. What I would support is the policies of this current administration have been wholly misguided and, in my opinion, are quite un-American. Not one of us wants to undermine the work of ICE to do the important work of making sure that we end sex trafficking and human trafficking, making sure that we are precluding drugs and other sort of insidious entrances into our state.

Unfortunately, this border crisis that the president created is all of his own making. We have not had the level the border crossing into this country since 2010. This is a straw man argument meant to speak to his base. It doesn’t keep any of us safer. And he’s turned this — the work of this important agency into a deportation and family separation force. And I simply believe that it’s un-American, and it also makes all of us less safe.

BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask about something that’s going on back home in your city. There’s an ongoing corruption probe into development deals in your city of Tallahassee since you have been there. I understand that you’re cooperating in that investigation, you want to see justice done. But this investigation has already breached your inner circle. A subpoena went out to your longtime friend, former aide. You’re the mayor. Does the buck stop with you on this?

GILLUM: Yes, so, first of all, not a former aide of mine. But I will say this much. I — no one in my government is under FBI investigation.

BASH: He was a campaign aide, correct?


GILLUM: A volunteer.


GILLUM: Volunteer, not an aide. But the point being though, Dana, is nobody wants more for any activity that is illegal or corrupt that has occurred, we want to make sure that any individual that participated in that is held fully accountable. The good news is, is that it doesn’t involve my government or myself. We have all been fully cooperating. And the difference between how we have addressed this and how Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump have addressed the FBI is that we have welcomed them and have tried to aid in their work.

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have tried to undermine and undercut the FBI at every single turn, the president even going so far as to suggest a deep state as a way to undermining that work. That is an absence of leadership. And I think that what we have done here has, frankly, been a model of how you deal with these kinds of things as a way to root out any bad players, any bad activity. And nobody wants to bring that to a conclusion quicker than I do.

BASH: Final question.

Bernie Sanders was one of your big supporters, particularly towards the end of your primary race there. You endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Would you support Bernie Sanders for president in 2020?

GILLUM: Oh, Dana, I’m trying to get elected governor.


GILLUM: We’re trying to save this state.

But I will tell you, I’m deeply appreciative of the support of Senator Sanders. And you’re right. I did support Secretary Clinton. I spoke to her earlier last week, she and the president, President Clinton. I value their friendships. And I think what is important is that what we showed is that we have got the ability to bring together all the wings of the Democratic Party.

BASH: Thank you.

Now, really there are two points here. One is that at no time has Tr-mp or any Tr-mper ever received such anus-probing scrutiny. That may be because most Tr-mpers avoid the real press and prefer the friendly confines of Fox or talk radio. But it also may be because Tr-mpers attract the attention of the legitimate press for completely different reasons than do the average liberal Democrats, who for the most part are focused on policies and helping people with those policies. Journalists know how to handle such liberals because such liberals are willing to submit to anal examinations by real journalists and real journalists understand how to interview politicians about policy issues.

But when it comes to Tr-mpers, journalists don’t even imagine that they will get a straight answer from them. For many reporters, the attraction of interviewing Tr-mpers has to do with their utter shamelessness, their utter adulation or cynical use of Tr-mp, their unwillingness to admit the obvious: that Tr-mp is at least partially out of his mind and a corrupt narcissist and a certified grifter. So, journalists, knowing they won’t get a straight answer from such people (think: Kellyanne Conway), instead use their platforms (think: CNN’s Chris Cuomo interviewing Conway countless times to no avail) to spread the cancer, albeit not out of malice or with an underhanded purpose. It’s just the nature of the beast, like those misguided macrophages, who although they are supposed to be protecting us from cancer, actually help it spread and eventually kill us.

So, to end this lengthy essay, what is it we can do? What treatment will work to eradicate the cancer of Tr-mpism, the cancer of today’s Republican Party? As he often does, Obama has an answer. We, you and me, we are the treatment. We are the chemotherapy. Our votes and activism can radiate the Tr-mp tumor and shrink it until the cancer goes into remission or, Allah willing, dies a final political death:

You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert. This is not Coachella. We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hard-working people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart. And they’ll step up and they’ll join our government, and they will make things better if they have support.

One election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed. But it will be a start. And you have to start it. What’s going to fix our democracy is you.

People ask me, what are you going to do for the election? No, the question is what are you going to do? You’re the antidote. Your participation and your spirit and your determination, not just in this election, but in every subsequent election and in the days between elections. Because in the end, the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Tr-mp or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists or too much compromise from Democrats or Russian hacking. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism.

I urge all of you, especially young people, to read Obama’s entire speech. If there is an anti-cancer agent in our body politic, it is young people. We older people have screwed up this experiment in self-government. We, especially baby boomers, have really done a lot of damage to the country. We’ve used up and not replaced the things we were given, while stealing from the future, and we’ve allowed Tr-mpism to flourish. But it’s not too late. Along with an empowered and empowering youth, we can fight and beat this thing, this ugly, ugly thing.


[photo credit: Cleveland Clinic; ABC News]


  1. Welcome back, Duane. We’ve been needing you and missing you. This is another brilliant and inspiring piece of work. Thank you. I will reply more to the broader topic at a later date.
    For now, I am distressed to hear about your cancer. Here is a little message of hope.
    In 2007 my wife (then 51) discovered she had multiple myeloma. She went through chemo and a couple of bone marrow transplants in an effort to give her 5-7 more years of life. They put her on a brand new drug regime. She has been officially in remission for 10 years now.
    Her blood counts are good. She has all her hair — still red at age 62 (no gray). She looks 45 rather than 62. She is an active, hard-working executive in a demanding profession. You would never know she had/has cancer. She has become one of the “poster children” for this treatment plan — now 12 years old. I wish for you a similar success. You are a tough, courageous guy. I believe you will win. If you do — we all do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, my friend, for the (arguably undeserved) compliments and the personal note of encouragement. Your wife sounds like an amazing person and certainly has an amazing story. Good luck to her and to the both of you. Her story demonstrates that it takes more than toughness to beat a disease like cancer. It takes science, good science, science that can be frustrating sometimes because of its stop-start character. The toughest guy or gal in the world is no match for the disease without assistance from the one branch of knowledge we have that actually has positive measurable results (although just having measurable results isn’t the last word on knowledge). Thankfully, besides being your soulmate, your wife is one of those positive measurable results. My best to you both.



  2. Duane, I am devastated to learn of your diagnosis. I look forward to learn of your treatment options and for now will remain optimistic while knowing about the many advances that have been and are being made in the cancer field. Coincidentally, Anson and I just yesterday exchanged emails wondering about your absence from these pages. We have both missed you very much, obviously.

    Your post here is, by my lights, right on target. In particular, I found the journalist’s probing questions and Gillum’s answers very interesting. Jousting with the obvious issue of taxes is playing with political fire and I think he handled it about as well as anyone could. The elephant in the room not directly mentioned, but implied, relative to healthcare, was that when everyman gains, somebody has to loose. In this case it would be doctors, hospital administrators, drug companies, the whole medical-industrial complex. The momentum of that money juggernaut will not be easily limited. But, we must try. It will have to be an incremental approach. Just the other day I read of a consortium of large hospitals coming together with a non-profit to produce cheaper and more generic drugs.

    I can’t think of a more important election in my lifetime (2016 excepted) for which we need to get the Dems out for that that coming up.

    I am pulling for you, health-wise, my friend. Please keep us up to date. We need you.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks my old friend.

      That was nice to hear that you and Anson were inquiring about my absence. We, the three of us, have had quite a relationship over the years, no?

      And, yes, I plan on writing some about my experiences, mostly, as you might imagine, from a philosophical-ish point of view. I have found some therapy in thinking and jotting down some thoughts about the larger picture.

      In any case, I agree with you about Gillum. I admit I had never heard of him until his surprising win and I was quite impressed by his ability to handle tough questioning on the big stage. Damn, I hope he wins down there.

      As for healthcare, I am not sure it is as clear a zero-sum game as it might first appear. Right now, hospitals, for instance, are being taxed by those who can’t pay because they don’t have insurance. For the life of me, I don’t understand why hospital administrators aren’t our number-one cheerleaders for universal health care, something like Medicare-for-all. While the consortium idea you mention sounds interesting, I would be interested in a consortium of all the nation’s hospitals arguing for some kind of national health care system that everyone can access even in non-emergency situations.

      Just look here in Joplin. How much good could be done by an aggressive group of hospital officials, from both Mercy and Freeman, who could mount a large campaign in favor of, say, Medicaid expansion here in Missouri? Multiply that effort by other hospitals in other communities and what would happen? Then try the same thing in terms of transforming our ad hoc medical system into, as I said, some kind of Medicare-for-all in which the government could have negotiating power over the worst elements of the medical-industrial complex. I know it’s a dream.

      Finally, Jim, thanks for the kind words and the encouragement. It helps to have folks like you in my corner.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben Field

     /  September 8, 2018


    It’s great to hear from you again! Like Obama, your posts are inspirational to those of us here surrounded by the TAM infested population supporting the tumor growing in our democracy. I don’t have a God that I can pray to, that can relieve your diagnosis, but accept my goodwill towards your battle, and know we are with you and your efforts.

    After having been misdiagnosed with lung cancer here in Joplin, I would urge you to seek treatment elsewhere, but at a very minimum get a second opinion. My son would not be a father today, had we followed his pediatrician’s advice, instead taking him to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas where he was successfully treated. Your brilliant mind and optimism will serve you well in your battle.

    Hoping the blue wave, that is most definitely coming, will allow you to concentrate on your health as opposed to the cowards in the GOP. The racists, the false Christians, party over country hypocrites, and enablers have been exposed. Your articulation of our situation is echoed in us, our families and others in this fight. Be well, my friend, we’ve got this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ben,

      Thanks so much for not offering what you don’t have and offering what you do. You don’t know what that means to me and how encouraging it is.

      As for treatment, it has begun and I have elected to go locally. There are several reasons for that decision (many people offered the kind of advice you thoughtfully did; I’m sorry you had those bad experiences). One, I did some research on my condition and the standard approach to treatment and was mostly satisfied (there were a few exceptions, of course) with the way things were handled by my “team” (I’m in the Freeman system). Second, the TrueBeam linear accelerator (which has been at Freeman for three years now) is pretty up-to-date technology. I feel sorry for folks treated here locally before this radiotherapy machine. Lastly, I just didn’t want to have to travel and be away from family. And if I did get a treatment plan somewhere else, it would have likely been executed here, so I figured why spend more time (I messed around way too long in getting to the doctor, so I didn’t want additional delays).

      Finally, I hope you are right about the blue wave. There are days I am encouraged and days not so much (kind of like my own personal situation!). I am glad Obama finally got thoroughly engaged and hope that continues. Overall, I feel like we do have this, at least this time. To tell you the truth, one of my fears is that if the Democrats take back the House (and, Allah willing, the Senate), that the economy, which is overdue for a corrective slowdown, will either start overheating with inflation (which the Fed will attack with even higher interest rates) or job growth will slow enough that the Rs will make an issue of  “that’s what you get when the Democrats take over.” I can see that happening and needless to say that is one scenario I hope does not happen, even though if it does Democrats could make a great case for the presidency in 2020. I dunno. Politics is sometimes complicated, ain’t it?

      Anyway, thanks my friend.



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  September 8, 2018


    Of most importance is your return to writing publicly. Whatever happens with your body, keeping your mind functioning and focused is critically important. My own disease, thus far, is, in part, held in mitigation (but no cure of the absolute nature) by thinking, critically and writing about my thoughts.

    I am sure you know that Carol Stark’s cancer has returned after several years of remission. I have had a few personal discussions with her about how she will deal with the Big C, again. You might want to have coffee with her, sometime.

    As for your column about current politics, I offer this view of a very recent event, the Kavanaugh hearing. I did my absolute best to keep politics out of my mind and listen intently to all the discussions, questions, answers, you name it. The bottom line became that I found it all an intellectual feast, extraordinarily thought provoking. What, in fact, are the “right answers” in terms of a host of deeply emotional, political issues, like right to “life” (define life), limits (of course there are limits) to Presidential Power, etc., etc.

    But it was more than an intellectual feast. After all the screaming and yelling, gottcha questions and vague answers, etc. I came away with a deeply renewed understanding of why I chose to serve for 23 yrs. to “protect and defend ………”.

    The IDEAS of America were on full display, in great detail, during those hearings. It would be akin to sitting on a jury in a very complicated and intense legal case. I would suggest that NO ONE could make a final judgment, to confirm or not, regarding Kavanaugh without having listened intently and with an open mind, to that hearing. Even then it would take deep and careful deliberation in a very private jury room with only fellow jurors participating, to reach a final verdict, confirm or not.

    One final thought. NO (thinking)JURY would ever reach unanimity in such a trial on such deep issues. Absent such unanimity of 12 members we would rarely (never?) approve any justice to sit on any court of law. So what to do? Well we have a set of laws that tell us what to do in such a case and it is majority rule, like it or not. And of course the majority changes all the time, over time.

    Yes, Trump is ………… I agree with almost all the adjectives you write. But the institutions of America are still holding and America will, again, survive this crisis. My only concern is we might well drive out one form of cancer only to replace it with another form even more virulent.

    I can only repeat from above that I have renewed confidence that my professional choices long ago were sound choices. What I did was to serve to protect the institutions that allow hearings and outcomes (whatever the outcomes) to take place in the first place. I have needed that reassurance of late as I too struggle with the disease(s) invading our body politic today.

    Keep your mind active and informed. How your body responds will depend, in part, on how your mind leads you. I assure you I will do my best to stay tuned herein and continue to give you some ideas to think about, like them or not!!



    • Anson,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on keeping intellectually active. Alas, another thing we agree on! As always, your contributions here are welcome, whether I agree with them or not (mostly it is “or not”).

      I am sorry to hear about your health issue and that it is still an ongoing problem, although I am happy to hear that you are holding up well. And I am also sorry to hear about Carol. I just found out about it a few days ago from a neighbor. Yes, it would be nice to get together sometime. Right now, undergoing chemo and radiation treatment, my white blood count is down and I am a little cautious about going out among people (I was advised not to unless necessary). Hopefully she will have victory in this latest fight. Cancer is, as one of my oncologists said, mostly just plain bad luck. She has sure had her share, dammit.

      Now on to politics.

      I can’t agree with you on the Kavanaugh hearings. Unlike the Bork hearings of long ago, which were very illuminating and stimulating, Kavanaugh hearing has been frustrating because he has spent way too much time trying not to answer important questions and, sadly, trying to explain away what appear to be dishonest answers during his previous confirmation. And it is simply ridiculous and unacceptable that so much “evidence” (since you put this in the form of a jury trial) has been withheld from the public, including all those internal documents from the Bush administration. I am always suspicious when, in cases that don’t involve national security, the government tries to hide stuff. As all the Democrats have asked, just what is Kavanaugh trying to hide?

      Then you said that there could possibly be a cancer more virulent than Tr-mpism. Please explain what that might be. I assume you mean some form of “socialism,” which is a non-starter with me. You and I both know that even if a democratic socialist won an election, even for president, there will be no real socialism in this country. It’s a red herring, a strawman. Any socialism, of the European variety, will come in increments, as unfortunate (or as fortunate) as that might be.

      Finally, as for your military service. I do thank you for the time you put in. And I appreciate that you can sit and watch things like that Senate hearing and take some pride in the fact that when you were out there serving your country, it was for the noble purpose of protecting our democratic institutions, no matter how weak some of them have proven to be (I’m thinking of how Congress, controlled by Republicans, has not sufficiently checked the excesses of an unstable and corrupt Executive Branch). So, again, thank you and good luck with your own fight of a different kind.


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Duane,

    Like the others on this post, I am truly sorry to hear that you are being attacked by the dreaded C monster. But you will beat that sumbitch. You have to. We need your thinking, your commentary, your worldview, your wisdom. Even, from time to time, your humor. (By the way, if you keep your sense of humor during your treatment, that should help in your fight against the C monster.)

    I have very little to add to your commentary above. But with your forbearance, I would just relay a conversation I had re Trump, who I now refer to as “his assholiness.”

    A family member and I were having a conversation about the mental state of his assholiness. He said that, in any case, he’s now the president and we should do all we can to help him succeed.

    I said no, I want him to fail. In fact, I want him to fail so badly that his failure will inflict pain on the country; pain so severe that, in the future, any candidate for president who’s personal behavior is so similar to his assholiness that he will never win a single primary, much less a nomination or an election. Fear will be real.

    Of course, this nightmare could be over in a heartbeat if the Republicans in Congress would grow a backbone – one that’s not yellow.

    Stay well my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Herb, for the encouragement. I have tried to maintain my sense of humor, particularly since my sorry ass is being purposely bombarded by high-energy photons five days a week. Ah, the indignities!

      Anyway, I understand your point about Tr-mpism inflicting pain. The problem is some of that pain will fall on people who do not deserve it, those who knew this was coming and voted against it. I have often wished there was a way, a sort of magic cosmic justice machine, in which people get what they vote for without harming others. Alas, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, as someone with a biblical name once said. I just wish that weren’t the case, as I know you, in your better moments, wish too.

      Thanks again for the nice words and the encouragement.



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