Archive for December, 2012

A year after first seeing doctor about cancer, how much have I learned?

by David McElroy

Last sunset of 2011

It was a year ago today that I saw a doctor for the first time about what I was to discover was breast cancer.

I had been feeling a small lump for a couple of weeks and I finally decided — on New Year’s Eve — to call a doctor friend and go over to his house for advice. He took a look and told me that it could be benign, but there was a good chance it was cancer. He gave me advice about who to see.

Then we sat on his porch next to some woods and watched the last sunset of the year through the trees. (That’s a picture I took at the time.) It’s hard to believe that’s been a year.

The end of a year and the beginning of another one almost always leads to reflection. For me — this year in particular — it leads to questions about what I’ve learned and whether I’ve “spent” the year wisely. I certainly didn’t have any control over the way the year started. I didn’t have any control over the uncertainty that came from the diagnosis of breast cancer and the surgery to remove it. But I’m not sure how well I handled the rest of the year. I’m not sure I’m any better off than I was as I sat on my friend’s porch in the late afternoon a year ago.

Up until that lump showed up, I had big plans for 2012. When you find out you have cancer, plans go out the window. Uncertainty creeps into everything. That’s understandable, but I think I let that overshadow everything else. I don’t think I ever got to the place of saying, “Hey, that was scary, but it’s over. I can go back to what I’d planned.”

I think that my fear — and especially the fear of what it felt like to go through the crisis alone — threw me into a tailspin that’s taken longer to recover from than I realized. In some undefined way, I was waiting for someone to rescue me, I think. It’s hard to accept that nobody’s going to rescue me. I just have to deal with life — and with life-threatening crises — alone.

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Bad Quaker podcast interviews me

by David McElroy

Bad Quaker logo

Ben Stone was gracious enough to ask me to chat with him for Thursday’s episode of the Bad Quaker podcast. You can listen to it here if you can stand an hour of me. He and I talked for an hour about subjects ranging from partisan politics and anarchy to entertainment and whether the country is heading toward collapse.

And if you’re wondering what a “bad Quaker” is, here’s an explanation.

Art and culture are keys to winning the future for freedom of choice

by David McElroy

All in the FamilyWhat was the key to changing Americans’ attitudes toward race relations in the ’70s? Some would argue that it was political activism or congressional action or even street protests. I’d say that “All in the Family” was more important than any of those.

Do you remember “All in the Family”? If you lived through the ’70s, you probably saw it as a first-run sitcom. If you came along after that, you probably saw some episodes in syndication. After a shaky start — on a network with no real expectations for it — “All in the Family” took off to become the monster sitcom hit of the ’70s, with a long period during which it was No. 1 rated.

The show was about a lovable bigot and his family — his dim-witted wife who sometimes had the biggest heart and best insights, their ultra-liberal daughter and her even more liberal new husband. It might sound like a typical sitcom family, but the subjects were anything but typical. It confronted racial issues and bigotry (among other social issues) in a very up-front way.

The show was a success because it was funny. It was well-written and well-acted. It felt as though its biggest mission was to entertain, not to preach. And that is why it worked better than all the preaching in the world.

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Where are Obama’s tears when he’s the one killing innocent children?

by David McElroy


It takes a special kind of hypocrite to cry public tears over the death of 20 innocent children when you’re the one bombing civilians and causing far more death and injury than what we saw in Connecticut last Friday.

Barack Obama got a lot of political mileage from the emotion he showed when he made a statement Friday about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some people have quietly suggested that it was political theater and the tears were faked, but I have no reason to think that. He might very well have been upset about the murdered children. But does he cry for 7-year-old Syed, who his drones killed in 2009? Does he cry for 6-year-old Sameeda, who was badly injured by one of his drones in 2009? Does he cry for any of the innocents caught up in his immoral and indecent violence?

A recent study by the law schools of Stanford University and New York University concluded that only 2 percent of the people killed in Obama’s drone strikes are “high-level” targets. Although the Obama administration claims that it’s “exceedingly rare” for innocent civilians to be killed in these attacks, nobody else accepts that fiction.

The Stanford/NYU report accepted figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, which concludes that somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to 3,300 people have been killed in the strikes, of which 500 to 900 have been innocent civilians.

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We can’t trade away gun rights and believe it’ll give kids perfect safety

by David McElroy

Sandy Hook-child with adult

In the last couple of days, I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing — from politicians and almost everyone else — concerning what to do about the crisis of gun-related violence in schools. I’m frustrated by the arguments, because they’re arguing the wrong points.

The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has renewed calls from some people to ban guns or at least control them more tightly in undefined ways. Those on the other side of the debate have said the way to stop such shootings is to arm teachers and let potential intruders know they’ll be shot. Many reasonable and intelligent people are taking sides along these battle lines, but I think they’re making a very basic error in their thinking.

Both sides assume we have a crisis related to school safety or mass shootings, so each side is trying to solve that predefined “problem.” But what if schools are already safe enough? And what if “mass shootings” aren’t the problem that both sides seem to assume they are?

How safe does the world have to be before you consider it “safe enough”?

For the families and friends of those who died in the shootings Friday, the shootings were definitely a crisis. The lives of survivors will never be the same. They’ve been scarred and changed.

But can’t the same be said of people who go through any traumatic incident? If 26 people (including 20 children) had died in an airplane crash, we wouldn’t hear cries to ban airplanes. Even though we would look at the crash and see whether there were lessons to learn from the specific incident, we would simply mourn the dead and acknowledge that the world can’t be made completely safe.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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