Be Scary Tonight!

From comes proof of synchronicity. Incredibly, in the same week that Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network posted–and then un-posted, a lurid warning about the occult influences lurking in Halloween candy bars, Catholic theologians issue a warning against having fun on October 31st. Remember that November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. And this year it falls on a Sunday. Woe unto those who miss Mass because they stayed out too late at a costume party…

THE Catholic Church has swung its crook at celebrants of Halloween, warning parents to forbid children to dress up as ghosts and ghouls, and dismissing the celebrations as a pagan night of “terror, fear and death”.

No. Actually it’s a night when neighbors who hardly knew each other discover that doors will open to masked strangers and candy is given and received in an act of trust. I learned that my city block contained way more kids and parents and nice people than I ever would have met if I had not taken my child trick or treating.

And as far as the scary stuff. We have to let it out some time. Life is scary. It’s finite. For just one night a year we dress up like skeletons or Darth Vader or whoever we want or fear to be. We can’t be nice all the time…

Father Joan Maria Canal, a Spanish priest and liturgical expert, was quoted in the paper as saying that parents should “direct the meaning of the feast towards wholesomeness and beauty, rather than terror, fear and death”.

Fine, Father Canal. Maybe I’ll dress up like the nuns. The nuns were about seven feet tall, built like refrigerators, and– come to think of it– dressed a lot like Darth Vader. They wore really strange shoes. We wondered if they had hair. There was mystery then.

Anyway, every culture that lasts more than a generation allows a little space for wildflowers to grow.

Tonight is a religious holiday for me. I look back on the old year, I look at the leaves turning scarlet and yellow. Today was a day of borders– an unseasonable warm front on the last day of October. Fierce Southern winds on the cusp of winter. I walked on Blackstone Boulevard and thought of all those who have passed. I feel their presence tonight.

The moon is waxing, the veil is thin. There’s a goddess who blesses the runners and walkers on the Boulevard. She is manifested by a statue of a young woman walking into the wind. The statue was commissioned by a bereft mother, a monument to her lost daughter. I looked at it today and felt how we all dance on the edge of a cliff.

But we dance.

So don’t eat too much candy– at least not all at once. Pagans don’t proselytize. Paganism isn’t well-defined at all. Maybe it’s just the human spirit that needs to laugh at our fears, eat some candy, and walk outside once on a while.

Happy Samhain. Blessed Be.

Shadow Woman

Sometimes I think that we were all imprinted by those Barbie dolls we played with (boys included) and grew up believing that all women should look impossibly thin, hairless and tan. Unless they are already brown. Then they should be blond. They should have no body fat and enormous breasts. A magazine recently photoshopped a cover model so that her pelvis looked all out of proportion. Her bone structure failed to achieve perfect femininity.

Virginia Woolf once said that she was haunted by the Angel in the House. A Victorian ideal of the perfect housewife, mother, source of comfort to all. Quite beautiful, but who could be her all the time? Who could be only her? A writer, who by nature has to be self-absorbed, egotistical and moody, can’t be angelic most of the time. Maybe when hosting an occasional party, or on Halloween for fun. How oppressive to never be able to relax and be only human. The Angel didn’t have to step on the scale every five minutes, but she was forever baking things, arranging flowers, dedicated to pleasing her man, her family and all of creation.

The shadow side of the Angel, however she is defined, is the condemnation of the woman who fails, who is merely human. We all fail. We’ll never be good enough to reach a receding goal.

The Angel of the House becomes the slutty housewife, with curlers in her hair and babies crying. Barbie is fat, hairy, smelly– you know in your sinful soul that unless you are ever-vigilant, your physicality will reveal itself to your everlasting shame.

Echidne of the Snakes has a discussion about women and body hair. I’m old enough to remember when a young guy who grew a beard would be called dirty, smelly, queer, subversive and all kinds of things. But he went ahead and did it anyway, because personal appearance is really very important. Women in the Muslim world risk flogging to wear jeans. Why? Because being yourself in the world is worth suffering for.

So while I will defend anyone’s right to be themselves, and live in the tanning booth if they want to, I regret the body shame we are inflicting on women for just being natural humans. Virginia Woolf lived in a time of profound limitations on women, but she got to keep her clothes on. It would probably not have occurred to her to hate what she saw in the mirror.

Women creating their own personal style, plastic surgeons collecting unemployment, diet books remaindered. How scary is that?

It’s About Time

The Senate has confirmed Dr. Regina Benjamin as our new Surgeon General.

Highly qualified, and much needed, Dr. Benjamin has been kept waiting while politics held up what should have been a quick confirmation. With a flu crisis ongoing, and much work to be done to improve the health of our nation, Dr. Benjamin will be one of our more active and visible public leaders. Good luck to you Doctor, we’re glad you’re on board.

UPDATE: Doctor Nancy puts the role of the Surgeon General in perspective.

AND MORE: Keeping a qualified doctor from serving the American people in a time of crisis was a strategy on behalf of a big insurer. Shocking.

Public Option

health care demo daylight
Providence City Hall

At least 50 Rhode Islanders came out on a chilly evening Thursday, October 29 to show support for a strong public option for health insurance.

Rallying on the steps of City Hall we sang, waved signs and got lots of support from passers-by. The rally ended with a march to Blue Cross, and then back down Weybosset St. past Johnson and Wales and back to Kennedy Plaza.

There were costumes– a giant screw, a red-tape mummy, and drums. I spotted nurses and doctors in the crowd, as well as a woman who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. This affects us all. Anyone can find themselves cut off from access to care if we don’t reform the system now.

The scariest thing looming over this Halloween is the prospect of a weak bill masking as reform. The insurance companies are ready to cash in if they have no competition. So don’t expect your congressmen to receive your psychic projections. Call or email today.

Contacts for Senators Reed and Whitehouse here.

Congressman Kennedy here.

Congressman Langevin here.

Parents Beware

It used to be easy. Just throw out all the apples, (in case of razor blades), make sure everything’s wrapped, and tell your kids to stay away from that house on the corner with the barking dogs. Of course, you make sure someone of the age of reason is walking with the little ones, and make them carry flashlights.

That seemed to cover it. We were on to the careless drivers, un-restrained dogs and rumors of contaminated candy (never happened in my neighborhood). But we never thought about the spiritual dangers lurking in that mini Almond Joy bar. The Huffington Post quotes a blog on the Christian Broadcasting Network claiming that most of the candy sold on Halloween is dedicated by witches. I feel very offended that no retailer has offered to pay me to dedicate their candy. Who’s doing all the dedicating? What do they charge? Anyway, link here for a slideshow that rates your favorite candy on the scale of perdition.

Knowing that the HuffPo is a vehicle for card-carrying liberals, I thought that they might be exaggerating, or that CBN might have removed the post by now, but here it is. It’s actually really creepy. If I ever want to read some really scary stories on Halloween, I’ll check out CBN.

Back here in the realm where people believe in the evidence of their senses, and try to practice common sense, October 31st is predicted to be nice, with Waterfire scheduled downtown. And I have the night off. Cool.

UPDATE–Darn it, CBN has removed the lurid post about mysterious Halloween stores that appear in strip malls around this time of year, staffed by temp witches and closing after All Saints Day. Too bad, the writer had a definite talent for the horror genre. I’ll admit I only skimmed it. As an ex-Catholic, ex-Pentecostal who survived three baptisms with my sins intact, and as a Unitarian Pagan, I’ll admit that this stuff kind of creeps me out. If I wanted more of it, I’d re-connect with the Catholic Charismatics or find Kyria Abraham’s Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. (see Demon-Haunted Pawtucket).

But CBN has a nice condescending post with an amused, superior tone. Did you know that there are only, approximately, 55 shopping days till Christmas? That never fails to scare me this time of year.

UPDATE: Talk to Action has good background on Kimberly Daniels, the author of the infamous Halloween post.

We Can’t Afford the Status Quo

Everyone knows that waste is costing us. My teachers in nursing school, my employers, the patients. We all try to be careful, but it’s like bailing with a teacup when there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat.

The fundamental problem is that health care in America is not a public good with the patient at the center. It’s a Wild West with big profits to be made by the most ruthless, and then a system of regulation and liability to try to equalize things after the fact. And people don’t get on the bad side of this until they are at their most vulnerable–when they’re sick.

I hope that Crooks and Liars will forgive me for posting a big hunk of this article, but it needs to be seen. Here’s from the Thomson Reuters report on wasteful spending in the US health care ‘system’…

“The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That’s one-third of the nation’s healthcare bill. The good news is that by attacking waste, healthcare costs can be reduced without adversely affecting the quality of care or access to care. That’s the point of this report – to identify areas in the healthcare system that can generate game-changing savings.”

Those game-changing savings, TR found, could be found across a broad range of health care spending. Between $600 billion and $850 billion, it estimated, is wasted on:

* Unnecessary Care (40% of healthcare waste): Unwarranted treatment, such as the over-use of antibiotics and the use of diagnostic lab tests to protect against malpractice exposure, accounts for $250 billion to $325 billion in annual healthcare spending.
* Fraud (19% of healthcare waste): Healthcare fraud costs $125 billion to $175 billion each year, manifesting itself in everything from fraudulent Medicare claims to kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary services.
* Administrative Inefficiency (17% of healthcare waste): The large volume of redundant paperwork in the U.S healthcare system accounts for $100 billion to $150 billion in spending annually.
* Healthcare Provider Errors (12% of healthcare waste): Medical mistakes account for $75 billion to $100 billion in unnecessary spending each year.
* Preventable Conditions (6% of healthcare waste): Approximately $25 billion to $50 billion is spent annually on hospitalizations to address conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, which are much less costly to treat when individuals receive timely access to outpatient care.
* Lack of Care Coordination (6% of healthcare waste): Inefficient communication between providers, including lack of access to medical records when specialists intervene, leads to duplication of tests and inappropriate treatments that cost $25 billion to $50 billion annually.

I can vouch for the redundant paperwork. I’d rather empty a bedpan than do insurance paperwork. They’re both unpleasant and necessary tasks, but if I was any good at office work I’d be making big bucks as a secretary. When I help a patient use a bedpan I’m checking for pressure ulcers and other complications. When I fill out some of these forms I’m duplicating what has probably already been done a dozen times but the information didn’t follow the patient. I don’t mind working, I just mind stupid work. I want to use my documentation time for real information about the health of the patient.

Waste and stupidity are killing people.

Are you ready to come out for better health for America? This is a crucial time, we can get a mess of sausage or a real reform bill. Make your voice heard.

Please join us for a rally for healthcare reform
Thursday, Oct. 29th at 5:00 p.m.
on the steps of the Providence City Hall.

Take the bus and avoid the traffic jam, good friends will be there.