Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Turn our Environment into a Political Tool, John McCain

As often as I can, I try not to make this a political blog. I have seen online debates get really nasty, and I do not want to be a part of that except for protecting (not imposing) my own opinions. Looking over this site, I have posted only a few politically-oriented blogs, all on occasions which have either motivated, angered, or interested me. In this situation, I am angered. John McCain is creating a facade to make himself seem pro-environment for his own political benefit.

I first saw this commercial roughly a week ago and the fakeness of it was immediate. Sure, it shows how McCain disagreed with the President on several environmental issues. He aknowledges the threat of global warming, he voted several times against ANWR drilling, and he even supports alternative energy sources, proposing to lift the fuel efficiency standard to 35 mpg on American cars. These are all things which I stand for and would make it seem as if John McCain is genuinely concerned with the environment.

However, the commercial failed to mention his inconcistency with ANWR drilling. Although he did vote against it several times, he voted to preserve the existing budget for it. He also proposed a lift on a federal ban of offshore oil drilling in certain areas, letting the decision come to the individual state governments. His so-called plans for conservation do not agree with his funding methods. In 2007, he sided with President Bush, who vetoed $2 billion in funding for restoration of the Everglades. The funding should have been $7.8 as stated in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. I know our government doesn't exactly have money right now, but that whole problem is a result of the tax-cutting, laissze faire policies of him and his fellow Republicans anyway. Instead of standing for our natural resources, McCain sided with Bush and the real estate developers to cut the CERP funding even further. I know I'm throwing out different stats and facts at a rapid rate, but I'll just do one more. McCain voted against funding for solar power research as well, and we all know that solar power could have a promising future in areas like the Southwest, where it is usually sunny.

It is clear that the 2008 election is about change and both candidates are trying to portray that aspect in their campaigns. McCain is trying to distance himself from the Republican Party for that reason. My problem is that, if he wants to look pro-environment, his voting record should match up with that. He is playing the typical Republican game of skewing the truth (in this case, his voting record and who he sides with). I already know he generally does not support environmental change. But when he campaigns that he does support this, it is just another game of politics which we have seen for the past eight years. I am not disregarding any instances in which the Democratic candidates have done something like this. No candidate is perfect, of course, and we have seen it from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as well. And if, for some reason, I was running for president, I would have made many more mistakes than they ever did. But this sharade is big. He is creating a false image blocking out years of inconsistency and anti-environmental votes. So when he bullshits us on TV, it further strenghtens my dislike for him as a candidate. And I'm sure that most other environmentalists see through this commercial as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writing Cures

It seems that, this month, there have been a lot of strange signs related to my mother's death. I am far from superstitious, yet (perhaps as part of the grieving process) small things seem like signs to me. For instance, the plant my mom had gotten my grandmother for Mothers' Day bloomed the morning of the funeral. Or, even some of the things my mom said the week before her death are comforting to me. I had overheard her talking to my aunt on the phone about my dad getting a motorcycle. "You never know when your ticket's up," she had said. "If there's something you want to do, go out and do it". Having heard this, I know she is at peace with everything that has happened.

But one of the strangest things was a journal that was sent to me last night. It was sent by a coordinator from the Wisconsin Donor Network, whom my father and I worked with in the hospital. There was an envelope from her, addressed to me. So I opened it, and in it was a copy of "The Healing your Grieving Heart Journal for Teens". It is a book filled with advice and open-ended questions with space to write in. When the answers are well-thought out, they can be very thought provoking and helpful as well. The strangeness about it, though, is that I destroyed the last journal I kept only a few days ago. I had been writing an entry, but I found it difficult to even think. Everything seemed so overwhelming. My brain felt like a fog of grief and frustration. Struggling to think about the past few days, I simply crumpled the pages. That was it. My entire journal with months of writing was destroyed, and I felt a sense of bitter satisfaction by doing it. I thought I would never write again--not in a journal, not in this blog, not in stories. I thought I had lost not only my ability to write, but my desire as well. Having this journal sent to me, I think, is a sign. I have to keep writing. I have written about everything since I learned how to do so. Giving it up would be unfair to myself and to my mother.

Last night, I began to read and write in the journal that was sent to me. I knew it would help and it did. The first section of it was about my relationship with the person and some of our memories. It made me think of the time we had spent at our cabin near Lake Sherwood--sitting by the campfire, playing croquet, riding our bikes to the gas station. Those memories hurt as much as they help. And I think it will be that way for awhile. Even though my fondest memories of her are painful, I think bringing them back is important. Shutting them out would make things even more painful. Part of the grieving process is remembering the person who has passed, and I find it a necessary thing to do. This journal will allow me to do that. Having the journal sent to me, I know that I must continue writing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Saying Goodbye

It's one of those things that, even six days later, seems difficult and painful to believe. Sometimes a situation has no finality to it because you don't want to aknowledge it even started. This has been one of those situations. It has been six days since my mother passed away due to a spontaneous aneurysm.

I was awoken Saturday morning by my dad, saying that I needed to get up because there was a problem with Mom. So I got dressed and made my way downstairs to the kitchen. There she was, on the ground, aided by the paramedics. She was completely unconscious. Our first guess was that she had had a heart attack.

We rushed to the hospital, where she was sent to the cath lab to detect any possible blood clots. For a few minutes, my dad and I waited in the guest area, completely in shock. We knew she was going to be okay--maybe she would need a heart medication or surgery, but she would be okay. When the doctor came to see us, he said there was no blockage in any of her blood vessels, and the problem was likely neurological. I knew that either meant a stroke or some type of aneurysm, but I asked nothing. If it was a stroke, I knew it would be a long road to recovery. If it was an aneurysm, well, it couldn't have been.

A few minutes later, she was taken to a room in the cardiac intensive care unit. My dad and I entered the room to see her, hooked up to IVs and breathing tubes. She seemed peaceful, yet it hurt to see her in a condition like that. A few months ago, my aunt was waiting in the hospital for a liver transplant and she became very frail and sick. It was difficult to see her as well, but now I believe seeing that prepared me for seeing my mother.

The nurses and doctors began to run heart scans, brain scans, and blood tests. While that was happening, my dad scrambled to notify our family--some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, who were camping together; my grandparents, who were in Seattle; the rest of my family, who was at home; and my brother, who was at college nearby in Waukesha. Shortly before my brother arrived, the doctor talked to my dad about the prognosis. I had overheard him saying it was an aneurysm and that the brain was damaged completely. There would be no chance of recovery. After the doctor left, my dad came back into the room and said, "You know what's happening?" I nodded and we both lost our composure. Even though it was my toughest experience so far, I am glad I knew what was happening then. Any bit of hope for recovery was destroyed, and I am thankful for that. Unrealistic hope is terrible for the mind. If I would have spent the next day thinking there was a possibility of recovery, I would have been crushed.

Over the next few hours, our entire family began to show up in the waiting room. The only other person who knew the exact prognosis was my brother.

The next few hours were very emotional as everyone came into the room to see my mother. The feeling of disbelief was undescribable. She had been so healthy, so young. She would always walk every day after dinner. The night before, there had been no complaints at all. There was no family history either. Why would this happen?

Naturally, the doctors decided to run a few more tests and scans to confirm what was happening. The results, of course, were the same. And by that time, everyone knew what was going to happen. There was no more denial. The chaplin joined our family in the room as we said a prayer of sorts. It was the most emotional experience of my life. Everyone was in tears and I must have hugged everyone as well. I still remember my uncle's words to me: "You have to stay strong, okay?" Technically, my mother was in a deep coma and the only sign of brain activity was a few labored breaths. Once it was determined that she could no longer breathe on her own, she was announced brain dead at 10:10 PM.

My aunt, as I mentioned, received a liver transplant roughly six months ago. She has regained a lot of weight since then and is healthier than she had been in years. Because of her experience, there was no question that my mom would become an organ donor. Until the next day, she would be kept on life support until the transplant operation. The operation, evidentally, went very well and she donated her kidneys, liver, pancreas, lungs, and heart valves. Until the next morning, though, my dad and I stayed overnight in the hospital. We tried to get a few hours of sleep, although it was hard because of the constant beeping and chiming of the hospital room. Not to mention, the stress of the situation made it difficult to sleep.

We are thankful that my mother's parents were able to make it to the hospital. Since there were thunderstorms and flooding around Wisconsin, their flights were cancelled and they spent the entire day in an airport. In fact, since they could not call us from the plane, we didn't even know which flight they were on. We used the nurses' computer to find that out and when they would be arriving. They finally arrived roughly an hour before my mother was sent to the operating room. So the four of us said goodbye and a few other things until she was taken away.

The funeral was Wednesday with a viewing on Tuesday night. So many people made it to the funeral--my dad's co-workers, my mom's co-workers, our extended family, and some of my friends and teachers from school. I want to point out how helpful everyone has been lately; donations to the school my mom worked at, giving us meals, helping with grocery shopping and laundry, and simply providing moral support. Our living room has been filled with the various flowers given to us. Yesterday had been our first opportunity to transition back to "normal". The funeral arrangements were finished and we had some time to ourselves for once. Of course things weren't normal then and they probably never will be. Obviously, we're discovering how difficult it is to run the house without Mom. I've learned how to do laundry, how to care for the garden, and how to clean. Besides that, it hasn't been easy to wake up knowing she isn't around. For a split second in the morning, I expect her to be downstairs making coffee or talking to our bird. Then reality sinks in and I realize things will never be how they used to. However, I'm confident that the hardest part is over. I know some days will be good, and some will be painfully hard. The only thing to do is to make it through each day knowing that, eventually, things will be closer to normal.

Monday, June 2, 2008

In the Name of War

Don't be fooled, this will not be a liberal, anti-war rant. That is for another day. See, final exams are coming soon and my English final is especially demanding. We had to pick some type of greater theme and connect it to something we covered in class. So my theme is: war brings out the worst in people. We also have to make three creative examples to demonstrate the theme, like a story or poem or song or drawing. The honest reason why I picked the theme I did is because I was listening to "Violet Hill" by Coldplay, which is an anti-war song. It gave me the impulse to do my speech on a related theme. I have been waiting to post some of my writing here, so this is a good chance for me to do so. This is a poem I wrote about what war makes people do:

The coming night was seemingly still
It was lit by the moon and shining stars
Until the masses came, ready to kill
The town we knew would no longer be ours

They circled the wall in a great big mass
While the mothers and children hid inside
The guardsmen took posts and shot to their best
But the enemy just threw them aside

They charged in through the gates and filled the streets
They raided homes and turned them into flame
Their mercy was not present in the least
Their so-called honor was all put to shame

Fathers, mothers, and even young children
All killed through swords, maces, arrows, and gore
The town was then open for pillaging
And all of it was in the name of war

I didn't have much time to put it together, but it's just a few of my thoughts on the subject. This project has been relatively tolerable, actually. I don't mind English projects so much because I like writing and giving speeches. The truth is, I haven't written a whole lot lately, besides in my journal and on this blog. I am finally finding some time to do that, so I have been thinking of a few ideas. I was hoping to start writing a short story last week, but things like that never go to plan. I have a nicely developed idea to use, though, so I will be expanding on it when I am ready.

Ironically enough, the idea I have been considering is slightly war-related. The basic idea is that it involves a young man who was deported from his home with his family. He had lived on a farm, which was raided by a "superior" race that sought to turn the area into a gigantic manor farm. He now lives in an urban slum and struggles to adapt to a new lifestyle. This should make a good premise for a short story or novella, but we'll see how it turns out.