Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dear Mr. Biden....






One American’s Tale – From Dreamer to Beggar--

Health UnCare in America

 

Children Have Dreams...
Adults Should Too...
 

“The middle-class is where optimism lives.  The truly poor have given up and the wealthy have no need of it.”

 
 

Mr. Joseph Biden, Vice-President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC, 20501

 

                                                                                                             June 23, 2013
 
 
Dear Mr. Biden;

  Yes, I voted for your ticket.  And yes, I expected little in return.  Haven’t for many a year.  We elect leaders on ideals and then watch in dismay as the partisan brigands of both parties render the office impotent.  I, like millions, perhaps billions of other Americans hired you folks to do a job.  You have failed terribly at that task – worse yet, we, as a people have proven to be unworthy custodians of the principles sanctified by the founders of this democratic republic.  So if one is to point a finger, establish the crime, let it start with me.  For I too let the Republic down, for I traded my political activism -- born of the 60’s -- for the comfort of my parent’s middle-class lifestyle.  One earned, not bought.  This is a story of doing the right thing in America, only to discover the obsolescence of that grand ideal.

  "On the dole:"  The term originated in the UK about 1919.  Referred to those folks collecting 'unemployment' payments.  Not welfare, general assistance, disability, aid to dependent children, food stamps, heating subsidies...rusty nail soup or coffee boiled in a paper bag.  Unemployment.

 
Strike I


I began working at age 13, some fifty-odd years ago.  Left home at 16 to work in Alaska.  Never looked back -- only forward.  Managed farms, shod horses...can tell you how much a railroad-tie or a bale of alfalfa weighs by just looking at it.  Why?  Because I've picked up 3 or 4000 of them.  Can also tell you how much a horse weighs, one foot at a time, 10 or 15 times on a good day.  For the most part, I was self-taught, self-motivated…believed strongly that my efforts would bear not riches, but fruit  But then, I can also show you my radiographs, the last MRI and recount line for line the skepticism on my doctor's face.  But then...I don't see my doctor anymore.  See, my health insurance...all that was affordable around 1985...had a mystery cap.  At least to me.  The fine print casually revealed once the spinal surgeon has finished his work.  So basically the hospital took what little hope I had left, along with pretty much everything else I had managed to build over 25-years.  Bitter?  I suppose.  But then, I did have a bunch of Percodans to blur those few conscious moments.  And as a caveat, while I was still bed-ridden, the insurance company cancelled my policy.  Two months later my wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  I was told by a very nice social worker that the best thing I could do was divorce her.  That way she could file for public assistance and the possibility of treatment.  Didn’t matter really.  Most marriages cannot survive those kind of stresses anyway.  And gee, we had just closed escrow on our own little farm…nice place, that American Dream I heard so much about.  Wonder who lives there now?

 
Strike II

 
Fast forward:  Got off the pity-pot, went back to school, earned a couple degrees, went bankrupt again in the process and finally insane.  My other field, feature writing for newspapers and periodicals – my great fall-back craft, well…publishing managed to tank-out via corporate buy-outs, the internet and the sorry fact that honest journalism could no longer sell newspapers.  Age-discrimination also became fashionable in America, self-esteem expendable.  So I took time out to become a drunk, failed at that...reclaimed my clarity; and since my legs weren’t much good for walking anymore -- went to driving large buses full of angry former middle-class people forced to work and shop at Wal-Mart.  And yeah, along the way I ended up in the bug house a couple of times.  The police kind of frown on people who wait for a southbound train without a ticket, baggage or any clothes on.  Still, life rolled on...sort of, the ever-weary Phoenix -- the hopeless optimist, one of America’s many myopic Don Quixote’s.  See, I actually listened to Kennedy’s speeches, believed in the ethic of hard work, a compassionate heart and the ultimate rewards of doing the right thing.  Yeah, just another na├»ve slob headed to the packing house.

 
Of course, I never could acquire affordable health insurance after that.  Not because I was insane...hell they insure maniacs if they can pay the premiums. But my employers were often small companies, often family operated, and when you are employed in that $10-20 an hour range of income...well, you can't afford the premiums or the doctors.  So I had no medical care for 20 years...like so many Americans that work hard and cross their fingers that nothing happens -- wildly assuming that some magic bullet will show up down the road.  And it usually does.  It is called death or ruination.

 
Strike III

 
So in 2009, my body starting phoning my brain...you know, like when your laptop sends you an 'error message.'  Already had a spine full of popcorn and assorted ruptured discs, disinterested nerves and faulty wiring.  Previous surgery had compromised my feet.  My right knee had been destroyed a few times leaving the leg crooked.  Left wrist broken three times.  Pain was a regular routine, not something you bothered to question or cure.  Then suddenly, I began losing the nerves in my hands, my feet…it crept up to my knees and elbows.  The company I worked for had just been bought out by a large corporation the previous year.  Being big, they could negotiate for affordable benefits for their employees.  By splitting the costs, we both won a little.  Healthier employees meant less absenteeism, hence more profitable operations.  So I was insured...for just long enough to find out that my body was failing.  See, I could no longer find the brake-peddle...which my 40 or so passengers would probably not appreciate...if they knew.  Trouble was, I did.  So I stopped.  Turned in my medical card on my commercial licenses.  I could not, in any form of good conscience, risk others...even as I watched my personal sense of security (and my stupid male pride), abandon the room.


  Strike IV
 

First, it was treated as job related.  So I was thrown into the arena of 'workmen's compensation' which operates health care like a runaway puppy mill.  They profit only if the problem is work-related, which means they will not explore systemic causes...subsequently, the patient's concerns, opinions, doubts...well, they remain secondary to the need of conducting eight-weeks of physical therapy on a diagnosis that failed the diagnostic model.  So, in the interim, the situation progresses.  Refuse the diagnosis or treatment, you are deemed fit for work.  Can't work...termination for non-performance.  Fortunately, you have one appeal for a second opinion...after 8 weeks of costly and unproductive nonsense billed to the states Workmen's Compensation program.  Eight weeks later...finally a second look.  Bottom line:  unchecked metabolic problem, vascular anomaly that would have killed me within a month and peripheral nerve damage that was both aggressive, progressive and not fixable.  Hmm.  And then the fear sets in...along with the wishful thinking.

 
The job vanishes.  However, they are happy to inform you that you can continue your health insurance for 3 months by paying the entire premium yourself.  Sure.  With what?  State Disability will kick in...eventually, and after a good fight.  But it might amount to half of your previous income.  Rent, utilities remain the same, Safeway isn't offering free dinners...and you need surgery...sooner, not later.  Oh...and an additional matter gets disclosed: vascular necrosis of the left hip, four fractures.  Well, maybe later on that one because if I'm already dead...well, you get it.  So do they.  The mysterious ‘they’ that seem to run this show.

 
Helpful friends tell you to apply for a Cobra extension.  Ah...great.  Oh, I see.  For a fifty-something male, it is higher than my rent.  And since my State Disability is based on a $15 an hour income versus $60-80k?  You can do the math.  Thirty days later, I am officially terminated and my health insurance is cancelled.  Oh yeah...I'm still dwelling on the 30-day death sentence on the other matter...and sure, I'm rational...kinda, sorta.  And I'm paying for these life-saving medications out of pocket.  No, out of savings and the food budget.  And the State Disability folks are gambling on me dropping dead before they need to make a decision.  And even if they do, it is merely a one-year reprieve.  Resources become strained because at $15 an hour the rainy day savings fund is based on your tax refund.  Year-end bonus -- the only one the middle-class sees anymore. 

 
Finally, I find a county health-care program.  Yearly membership fee, lots of co-pays and while standing in the insufferably long lines at the County Hospital, you notice that English is the fifth...maybe sixth language of choice.  Do I resent it?  Yes.  Is my resentment legitimate?  Well, no.  See, my mother was a war bride.  A damn foreigner as we unholy patriots like to say.  Contradicting the minor matter of this nation being founded by immigrants, and all that rosy bullshit printed on the Statue of Liberty.  Except that today, it is about race, not just ethnicity.  And the sorry truth is that now, today, this country cannot afford the generosity of its expansionist past.  And unlike my mother escaping the vulgar intentions of ordinary people in Nazi Germany --  these 'tired and weary' folks cannot outrun their skin color, their language or the fact that they make a convenient target for problems not of their making.  And they too are in for a surprise.  The great dream left this place a long time ago.

 
Oh...almost forgot.  In order to gain access to this county program, I was forced to give up my primary care doctor.  That, after her thoroughness, her dedication to her profession...caring a little more than most...caught the problem that should have killed me.  So I owe her my life and reward that good work by being forced to fire her.  Ah, but it does get worse.

 
Strike V

 
 It takes six months to arrange the surgery.  Try waking up every morning for six long months and being surprised that you are alive.  Meanwhile, the other problems progress.  State Disability (California) runs one year -- at that point it is then up to the Feds.  If you think the state process is tedious, the Federal version will turn suicide into a business plan.  Again, the idea seems to be centered on promoting death over duty.  Now, try to remember that for the past year you have been trying to live on $1200 a month.  You learn things about shopping that would appall your own mother.  And because you are sick, a little old...you need to eat healthy and well.  But 'healthy and well’ is expensive.  That is why most of America's major health issues can be traced to the $1 menu at McDonalds.  The most caloric bang for the buck.  Pun intended.

 
So...you figure with Federal Disability you can focus on maybe trying to get better...you were almost on the street, but outran the bullet this time.  Guess again.  They calculate your Social Security Disability based on the fact you were still on State Disability when they finally determined you were finished working for the moment.  That happened on the last month under State benefits.  So, they send you $737 a month…period.  You protest, you holler....no human can be found.  It is now 4 months later.  The phone is off, the vehicle is unlicensed, the auto insurance lapsed, your 'life-saving' meds have run out.  Heat is next...then the roof.  Your meager savings are long gone and if you still had any bad habits, you couldn't afford them anyway.  Oh...and since the Feds took over the disability, the county threw you off their health care program.  As in, "don't slam the gate on your way...."

 
Right away you assume that maybe MediCare, MedicAid...something might be out there.  Sorry.  The age game.  You get the miserly disability payments, but no access to health care. Today, most physicians/clinics won't even deal with MedicAid.  The system is broken, reimbursements very, very slow and the paperwork abominable.  At 62-years of age...I'm too young for MediCare and even with a declared disability, I would have to wait 18 months to qualify.  If I retire outright, 3 years to wait. And in the middle of this, I moved from California to Oregon to cut my living costs – living here like a king in a trailer that is probably smaller than a Senator’s bathroom.  This necessary in light of the fact that I no longer have access to medical care in the sunnier south – which was my home.  So that leaves the emergency room...which is exactly the kind of health care that is bankrupting most hospitals.  And it is 150 miles away....and well, the car is unlicensed, uninsured and probably shouldn't drive when you are having one of those near-death moments.  911?  Phone’s off. 


Now, just so this doesn't sound overly whiney -- yeah, some of this is my responsibility.  Should have been greedier, more selfish...invested better.  Oh.  Forgot.  The reason we have Social Security is because the last time people invested in their own future, the Wall Street brigands did a little exclusive piracy with their retirement.  Gee, how quickly we forget.  But yes.  We are all responsible for our lives, worse yet, our sense of hope.  But the hard reality is that my life is not too much different than many others.  Ups, downs, happiness, death, bills, bad and good decisions.  And I completely agree that it is not the government's responsibility to take care of me or anybody else.  But it is the government's responsibility to maintain a system sufficiently so that we just might have that ability ourselves.  That is the core value of any democratic system and a social conscience is not only mandatory, but a fundamental right of the governed.  Otherwise, these lofty ideals, the banner held high, the doctrine we claim to champion on this restless planet, ring hollow and cold.  And like so many other Americans today, I am simply tossed in the garbage like a used diaper.

   *********

I wrote Social Security Disability a letter the other day.  I said, “Why don’t you just send me a check for $100,000 and we’ll call it a day.”  My thinking?  Two things really. The first is that I can get a hip transplant in France for $15,000 – all inclusive.  France is ranked #1 in the world for the quality of their healthcare.  The US is #34 behind Morocco and Costa Rica.  And because the attorneys and bean-counters run medicine in this country, no hospital could even provide me with a quote, a guesstimate or even a wild premonition.  My vet can tell me that it will cost me $150 to neuter my cat.  Why can’t our hospitals do that?   After all, it is a service.  But never mind, it is a rhetorical question anyway.  I was just musing over the idea of ever walking again.  Seemed like it might be a good place to start the conversation.

 
"What, soup again?"
Secondly, I’d use the remaining money to begin anew…this time with two legs instead of one.  See, it is going to cost the taxpayers that much money no matter which way you juggle the numbers, and probably substantially more to leave me permanently nailed inside this economic box.  Which is nothing more than forced, institutionalized poverty with no available options….no road back to productivity.  Just more cynicism followed by an unremarkable death.  This is the new Gulag for America’s middle-class.  This is where I live.  This is where millions of other Americans live.  And this, Mr. Biden, is your constituency.
 
Best wishes;

  
Andy Juell
  
 

cc: Kathleen Sebelius,
Director,DHHS

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Little Background on Turkey to Consider...


 

Turkey: A Primer on 20th Century Political Evolution


 [Originally published at Demokracy.com, I was looking at political models for Afghanistan and Iraq that might bring stability out of chaos. Turkey has long been an example of stability with a substantial degree of democracy in the Islamic world...though not without some difficult choices. This is how it got to the present...a present that is currently in jeopardy. Published at the start of President Obama's first term.]

Perhaps the biggest disappointment to come out of eight years of American intervention in Afghanistan is the apparent inability of the Afghans themselves to decide what they want to be when they grow up.  Sure, that sounds like an average dose of lip service in this climate unless you consider the UN definition of “a failed state.” Afghanistan currently ranks seventh on the Failed State Index (FSI), a sort of Unfortunate 500 for dysfunctional nations.[1]  Somalia and its happy band of pirates is number one. For the purpose of perspective – out of a total of 177 UN recognized countries.    

 
Previous US administrations somehow came upon the idea that the American model of a democratically elected government in a highly secular and tribal chunk of real estate was just the thing “to bring peace and stability to the region.”  Where have we heard this wistful speech before?  Probably somewhere between “winning the hearts and minds,” and if all else fails we’ll carpet bomb the daylights out of them until they come to their senses.  How does a country with a little more than 250 years of civility conclude that one system fits all, that it is the right system or if it is even that useful of a system?  More importantly, is it exportable?

 
The US has spent more time in Afghanistan than was invested in all of World War II and Korea combined. To date, the Afghan government has made little progress toward establishing anything close to a stable government.  The country continues along the same path of sectional violence, the US led coalition now morphed into the role of neighborhood cop.  A great unifying tactic if it wasn’t for the body count.  The State Department meanwhile, pushes the importance of elections and parliamentary process, which totally ignores the traditional power structures of Afghan society; those that encompass family ties, community obligation and whichever interpretation of Islam that gets practiced in the neighborhood.   All eyes are told to look to the West.  Perhaps a better answer lies much closer to home:
 


     “Today the Turkish nation is called to defend its capacity for civilization, its right to life and independence – its entire future.”   

                                                                           Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1920.[2]
 
 

     Kemal (Ataturk was added later – something like ‘Father of the Turks’) had just made a pretty remarkable set of announcements.  They included:

 
      ¨The end of the Ottoman Empire.  Well, it was almost dead before World War I anyway.

     ¨The abolishment of the Caliphate.  (Political authority under Islam.)

     ¨The formation of the secular Republic of Turkey.

     ¨The unacceptable state surrounding British occupation.

     ¨And the need for the Armenians in the east and the Greeks in the west to relocate elsewhere. There was no place for Orthodox Christianity in the new Republic.
 
     About the man:  Mustafa Kemal was born in Salonika (now part of Greece) in 1881.  Most of his early history has been revised so often that most versions lack credibility. Raised in the Moslem faith, a product of military schools, he later served with great distinction as a Lt. Colonel and division commander at the battle of Gallipoli, orchestrating one of the greater defeats the allied forces suffered in the First World War.  A great fan of the west and particularly The Enlightenment (having been assigned to Paris and the Balkans at varying points), he also fully embraced the potential power of the media, using newspapers (often his own creations) extensively in his nationalist pursuits.  Above all, he believed that the only way to save Turkey from complete partition by the allied powers was to establish a modern, secular republic.  In his words, “Islam and civilization are a contradiction in terms.”[3]   
  
The background:  Things were going badly on the western front for the British and French in World War I.  Russia was taken out by both the Nationalist and Bolshevik revolutions.  Britain’s attack at Gallipoli, (Australian and New Zealand forces, ANZAC) was aimed at knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war.  Instead it turned into a rout.  Britain then tried to turn the Arabs (with T.E. Lawrence’s deft assistance) against the Turks, promising them an Arab state for their trouble.  Naturally that was a lie, the one apparent constant in British colonial policy.  The Allies won the war, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned by the Treaty of Sevres creating what today are known as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and of course, Iraq.  The Sultan was left in Istanbul as a British puppet and Kemal fled to Ankara with plans to turn Anatolia into his new republic. He was able to deceive the British and the Arab world just long enough to consolidate his forces in Anatolia, a process pushed along by his creation of opposing media outlets.  The Arab world believed he was fighting to preserve the Sultan and the Caliphate, the British assumed that his services were already on the colonial payroll.  By the time the British realized his intentions, they were already outgunned, out-manned and out maneuvered. In 1923, they signed the Treaty of Lausanne ending hostilities.  The Republic of Turkey was born.

The geo-political ramifications are immense if political
 instability continues in Turkey. 

 Much of the internal struggle dividing Islam and adding fuel to sectarian violence seems to surround the Caliphate, which is best described as both a person and a thing.[4]  One of the chief splits in Islam, the chasm separating Sunni and Shi’a communities is based on the interpretation of Mohammed’s successor as sole authority on Islamic law.  Each side accuses the other of being usurpers in a centuries long dispute over who has the right to read the mind of a dead prophet.  Many political and social issues in Islam today fail to achieve any real clarity while the two camps continue to hold on to conflicting interpretations of religious doctrine.  This is further complicated (or exasperated) by the very notion of Islamic Law, a shadowy domain where the words of the prophet Mohammad somehow hold credence with something as innocuous as the local traffic code. By all accounts it is an archaic system, one reminiscent of The Inquisition, but accepted in many quarters of the Moslem world.  Judging its validity is not the point, accepting its existence is, for the idea of belief is not validated by the structural framework of a society, though it is that very framework that accelerates the rift.  Kemal argued that Islamic Law was part of the “nomadic Bedouin custom,” totally unsuitable in the development of a complex, modern society.  That is difficult to argue against given the global interaction of nations today.  Countries like Egypt and Israel have both found it necessary to operate parallel courts to accommodate issues of marriage and personal conduct, but not civil law.  Religious law as the fundamental tenet of a nation is little more than locking the door and keeping the key.  All social, educational and political exchange stops. No common ground is allowed to exist on this dogmatic, unilateral dead-end street.  America was founded on the premise of religious persecution elsewhere, that in turn, sanctioned by the state.  The road to modernity through democratic ideals couldn’t traverse the murky ground of theological interpretation. Noted historians, Will and Ariel Durant once stated that “the Bible is a great book, a great tale, but if you had to live by it, you’d go crazy.”[5]  Then again, modernity may be our point, not the point.    
 
Constantinople (Istanbul) had been the official seat of the Caliphate since about 1514.  The last recognized Caliph was Abd al Majid II who with his family was exiled to Paris following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.  Kemal found this action necessary in order to create an Islamic republic based on civil law, not theology.  This was naturally viewed as an extreme form of heresy, particularly in the Sunni Arab world, complicated further by the establishment of language laws that reverted Arabic to second class status in both government and religious proceedings, though some laws were moderated later.  In itself, this was an offshoot of his policies on nationalization, but it also played into his desire to create a literate, inclusive society.  Again, in opposition to fundamentalism which he saw as “a way of promoting intellectual stagnation” by authorizing religion to define social progress, including the very function of government itself.  Oddly, the Caliphate seemed to end there.  Saudi Arabia did not attempt to re-establish it at Mecca, undoubtedly since it would threaten their position as an absolute monarchy, and it was only briefly claimed by the Taliban following the Soviet departure from Afghanistan.[6]  
 
Kemal was brilliant in many ways, but he was no saint.  His orchestration of the Armenian exodus was as brutal as any forced deportation.  He stacked the military with believers in his own cause and seemed more than willing to arbitrate disputes at the gallows.  Within Turkey he was seen as both savior and despot; in the fundamentalist world, a Doenmeh (a closet Jew), an alcoholic, a homosexual, a womanizer and a heretic – personal attacks that continue long after his death.  The real truth is as clouded as the newspapers Kemal himself used to create.  Yet today, Turkey remains a somewhat stable republic in the middle of one of the most volatile regions on earth.  Not perfect, but functional.
 
The opportunity for a more progressive society in Afghanistan was probably lost shortly after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. In the vacuum that followed, the same Mujahedeen we once funded became the Taliban we now hunt.  Instead of rebuilding schools and infrastructure, promoting education and a sense of inclusion, we simply walked away, leaving the task largely to under funded NGO’s and a lot of wishful thinking.[7] The Taliban, falsely claiming the right to the Caliphate sought to force an Islamic state on the people of Afghanistan as an alternative to both communist autocracy and western indifference – two models of what they saw as a similar dysfunction. We supplied much of the fodder for the Taliban position by reinforcing beliefs that Islam alone that would see to the needs of the Afghan people, faith having been the sole unifying factor over ten years of Soviet occupation.  Education should have been the tool of choice to defeat a return to fundamentalism, not merely the establishment of a western leaning central government, manufactured primarily as a base for US influence in the region. No one seemed interested in the greater investment in literacy, the real slayer of despotism, secular or political, and the one indispensable ingredient in democracy. Afghanistan claims a 28% literacy rate among men, women an even more dismal 12%; Turkey, 87% overall.  The Taliban know this and they fear a literate populous far more than anything our armories can ever produce.  But we can’t export a system if nobody can understand the instructions.

Turkey’s example may be a harsh one by American standards, but it allowed the time necessary to go from a shooting war to the process of nation building in a realistic time frame. That element of time is probably what has always hampered American foreign policy, the impatience inherent in the very system we seek to sell.  Any parent will tell you that it takes twenty years or so to educate and develop a child into an adult.  Americans tire of foreign intrigue as quickly as they tire of presidents.  This lack of continuity is not only a result of the fickle nature of American politics in general, but the bad decisions orchestrated by a system in constant flux.  We don’t even bother to apologize since the person that set the policy is never around to finish it anyway.  When Kemal died in 1938 from chronic liver disease, he left behind a far more literate society than he inherited.  Right or wrong in his methodology, he did bequeath them the tools necessary for choice, the one thing the fundamentalist camp can never accept.
 
 The question for Americans is whether we can endure a long-haul assignment, one that begins with security and ends with an informed society, one that just might decide that our model isn’t their model.  That’s the risk of intervention.  If US policy is confined to simply destroying the Taliban, then we’ve already lost this one.  If something else is on the table, this would be a pretty good time for a new President and a revamped State Department to explain just what that might be.   

 




[1] See Foreign Policy, Fund for Peace or CIA World Factbook.
[2] See Ataturk.com. or lamppostproductions.com (The former is highly biased.)
[3] ibid, or Islamicity.com
[4] Khlafah.com., or Ahmadiyya Muslim Caliphs. Also, alIslam.org.
[5] Believe it or not:  Interview with Johnny Carson, circa 1976.
[6] Lamppostproductions.com
[7] Non-government agencies.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Coming soon...



"The Littlest RaceHorse"

Late October, 1962. The US and the Soviet Union stand toe to toe, poised to unleash their nuclear arsenals over the deployment of offensive missiles in Cuba – a mere 90 miles off the coast of Florida. This is the Cold War, suddenly too hot to touch. Apprehension flows relentlessly down the irrational corridors of chaos and panic – personal choices driven by the political realities of a world gone mad. A pair of kids, suddenly cast adrift by the week’s escalating events, find themselves forced on a journey not of their own choosing – while the adults around them ponder the longest week of their lives. Forced to finally choose between the past and perhaps a very different future…one that seemed to share an improbable link to a young Thoroughbred horse halfway across the country. Lives that were stolen on a Thursday – and returned the following week. Irreversibly changed.

And some 2000 miles away, one Bobby Lee Hancock and his common-law wife, Fennel McCartney. A farmer, a horse breeder – a man grown hard by difficult times and unforgiving choices. And on that farm, a young Thoroughbred colt, seemingly doomed by the peculiarities of his own birth. Or so the old customs had always dictated. “Fen, I’m a farmer ya know. Shoulda hit that damn thing in the head with a hammer when it was born. Hell, next thing you’ll havin’ me raisin’ rats and corn weevils! And that damn Kennedy’s gonna get us killed maybe…or worse!”

But the young President had already moved beyond the brink of a final apocalypse – opening a second, perhaps more volatile door by questioning the very core of American values. Civil rights, the desires and ambitions of the country’s largest minority – women; and the wider responsibilities inherent to leading the world’s greatest democracy through an era restless for change. The 1950’s were the calm between very different storms – one engulfing the world, the second threatening the nation. But often, that‘change’ was personal and highly private as well, especially for children caught in a sudden and seemingly unrelenting tempest. And just as often, the salvation, perhaps life’s balance itself comes with four legs and a tail. Just a horse? Maybe not.


Cover Art:

© Azaliya via Shutterstock.com


© Sandra Mesrine, La Chambre Noire Studio Photography