Freedom of Speech Is A License to Speak — Use It, Or Lose It!

As writers, we have a responsibility to speak out when things get under our skin and poke at our gut in an unrelenting way.

Words that evoke emotion or provoke thought is what writers do and should be doing, especially now at a time of one-party government led by an authoritarian bent president.

Jessica Kourkounis via Getty Images Breannamarsh15 via Reddit

Yes, our President has authoritarian tendencies. He embraces dictators like Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan and condemns our democratic allies — And no, I’m not speaking as a progressive, though I wear the label proudly. I’m speaking as a citizen of our great democracy, as someone who can’t sleep at night when I think about the man who sits in the oval office with a temperament of a five-year-old.

You may have noticed that his epidermis is thin. He can’t take criticism or responsibility for his actions or words. He has no problem blaming others for his mistakes then sacrificing them to save himself. His only loyalties are to his family and his bank accounts. That is the only constant in a chaotic administration ruled by an unstable man.

His masculinity is threatened if he’s not a “winner” or doesn’t have the biggest crowds. *wink* *wink* He responds to unflattering accusations by lashing out with pompous, incredulous lies to protect his manhood, while undermining the institutions that are a framework of our democracy: the press, the intelligence agencies, the judicial branch, the scientists and the laws that he believes don’t apply to him.

You might think he’s dumb or crass or inept at diplomacy. It doesn’t matter. He is capable of destroying us by the power he wields in the highest office, along with the controlling party of one that enables him, putting party over country to hold onto power.

The GOP started their power grab years ago by redefining electoral districts through Gerrymandering. They continued their absorption of power and deference to the powerful by hijacking Obama’s supreme court seat to keep the court conservative, by denying the reality of science for the sake of oil company profits, and by tweaking the Senate rules to favor lobbyists and special interest groups. If they approve Trump’s budget, they’ll cut programs for the poor and middle class and change the tax code to enrich the rich, allowing billionaires to control our country like Russian oligarchs — the men Trump admires and emulates.

It isn’t paranoid to think there could be a political shift in this country from democracy to autocracy. The cracks are evident in our divided political system and the uncertainty of what is real or false. Thanks to Trump’s cult-like repetition ridiculing and demeaning the “dishonest media” and branding them as “an enemy of the people.”

Undermining and vilifying the media is a playbook often used by dictators to effect a radical change in government.

“The phrase “enemy of the people” — that has a history. The only people that I know that have used that phrase were (Joseph) Stalin and the people who succeeded Stalin in the Soviet Bloc,” Nadler said. “The press is not the ‘enemy of the people.’ Nobody is an ‘enemy of the people,’ because they disagree with me or you about what we ought to be doing.”

During Trump’s recent overseas trip, he shut out the media, conducted press briefings off camera, and never held a press conference in order to control the coverage. According to MSNBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell:

When world leaders convened at the G7 Summit in Italy, the United States was the only country that didn’t hold press conferences:

If we ignore signs of the erosion of our freedoms or dismiss the notion as progressive neurosis or hysterical hyperbole, autocracy will blindside us one day.

It has happened before to people in nations content in their complacency of unintended ignorance. It happened while they sleepwalked through their day and missed the legislative creep of plutocratic policy passed by their leaders, as they pulled the strings that unraveled the fabric of society.

Whether we agree or disagree on right/left wedge issues is irrelevant, as long as we can agree that we need to be free in order to disagree.

A Doctor Almost Killed My Father

Street Vendor Outside Bronx Lebanon Hospital

My father’s fragile frame paces through my mind, dressed in a flimsy gown, hiding the dignity he tries to keep. With a nurse on each arm, he sloths toward the exit sign, a cruel promise resonating in a distant hall.

Lingering hysteria shadows the tasks I perform to imitate normalcy. Thoughts of my father ride a tangent back to immediacy, while life shines beyond my reach like sunlight breaching a cloud’s periphery.

My father languishes in the step-down ICU. Smiling weakly beneath a tangle of lines, his pallid cheeks belie a still healthy sense of humor; he jokes between blood transfusions and telemetry readings, PICC line and catheter insertions, during a weeklong endurance test amid painful pokes of regret. A decision by an urgent care doctor put him there. He prescribed medication that caused my father’s kidney failure.

A red flag flapped in the ominous wind that swept into the doctor’s office; his actions ill-conceived. The computers were down. No patient history to see or phone call initiated to the office that could access my father’s records. The doctor’s derelict decision caused an emergency medical ripple effect: a 280 blood pressure spike, a carnival-like ambulance ride, and admitting paperwork before my father landed in the step-down ICU, his kidneys compromised by an ethical lapse in the Hippocratic Oath.

My father lounges in bed amid an atmosphere of urgency: nurses scurrying in and out his room with get-well pills and intravenous goody bags. His eyes tell the story that his lips will never speak–the dull look of frustration, degradation, and pain rises and falls from a wave of the scepter of medical neglect.

His smile wanes in the torture of every passing day. The state of his condition tethered to telemetry and Creatinine numbers, once high now trending downward. My father continues adjusting to the discomforts inherent in a hospital stay, while the urgent care doctor continues prescribing meds to other daring patients.

A risk is the last thing my father or anyone expects when stepping into a healthcare provider‘s office seeking a resolution to pain or mystery ailment. My father and all of us are slaves to an imperfect health system based on corporate profits. We are as good as our last doctor and the medical insurance we can afford to pay.

Elderly patients like my 89-year-old father who is on Medicare will be insulated from the changes in our health care system. People 65 and younger will be affected by the legislation Congress passes. As senators dive into the nuances of health care benefits and test the temperature in high-risk pools, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies monitor the activity from above. They are highly paid lifeguards deciding who should live and who should die. Congress is just the maintenance crew. They work for the lobbyists and special interest groups, the 1% with the most money, not the 99% with the least.

Each day I wait for my father to be released. “Not today,” I’m told, though his condition continues to improve. He probably won’t be leaving anytime soon while the urgent care doctor returns home after treating a flock of patients, unaware that his care might lure them to the emergency room.

Finding My Focus In Life And Writing

When you're ADHDI’ve always had trouble finding my way from Point A to Point B and often end up at Point Z.

With thoughts in a constant state of flux, the only way to anchor them is to purge them onto paper. If I didn’t write, my backed-up brain would need an enema.

It’s hard for thoughts to stay in one place when you’re ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). While flitting around inside my head, my thoughts are every place instead of where they should be–at my desk focused on writing.

Most days I curse the ADHD gene (my son has it as do brother 1 & 2). Yet, I do enjoy the creative component of the trippy brain bugaboo, the other Stooge-like stuff, walking into walls, not so much, “N’yuk N’yuk N’yuk.”

When my mother was pregnant with me, she didn’t send a memo to the birth procurement department asking for her daughter to be born with a circus in her head. The circus was part of the bundle my parents received when the nurse dropped me off without instructions.

I didn’t know that I had a circus in my head until the adolescent years when my thoughts traveled to distant places and followed the spotlights sweep across the tent.

Sometimes my thoughts played hooky from the circus and took a trip to the beach, usually Tahiti.

I return from a head-trip with my gaze fixed on the same wall I was staring at when my thoughts went MIA.

I say to Myself, “Myself, where was I?”

Myself finally responds after repeating the question several times.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking to me,” she says.

Myself and I have a lot in common. She has good intentions but slips up every now and then.

“You were working on a blog post,” she told me. “… You were in hyperfocus mode until you flew to Tahiti.”

Let me explain the ADHD trait known as hyperfocus, which is similar to hyperspace because you’re in the zone, a Get Smart-like dome of silence, but invisible and does not appear on TV.

When I’m in the zone, I can focus for hours, an ironic comorbid ADHD condition in which half my thoughts want to party while the other half want to work. While in hyperfocus mode, I don’t eat, shower or pee. My thoughts fuse to the computer and I write for hours (or cruise the Internet if my thoughts were out late partying the night before.)

Distraction and hyperfocus are the two most vexing attributes of ADHD. Of course, there are others: obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, lack of time-management skills, impulsivity, difficulty transitioning, i.e., etc.

On days I have an open-ended, schedule my thoughts endlessly pinball in my head as I try to catch them. If my thoughts can’t latch onto a point of focus, they disappear in the Bermuda Triangle of tangents where ships and planes are lost and a clock becomes a quaint mechanism of time.

When your body’s constantly catching up to your thoughts, time passes in a parallel dimension. One minute it’s 10 a.m., the next 12 p.m.

And you scream, “Holy Shit! I missed an appointment. That’s why many ADHDers use tools like timers and/or medication (Concerta, etc.) to manage their thoughts.

That’s what it is like to be ADHD, a lifelong condition. The traits don’t suddenly appear one day while you’re shopping for spaghetti. They’ve always been a part of you along with that birthmark on your ass.

Are you ADHD?

What tools do you use to manage the symptoms?