Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Have You Hugged a Pig Today?!!?!

To Quarantine or Not to Quarantine, that is the question ...

Last night in our kitchen, April 27th in the year 2009, Ali asked me, “So are you freaked out about the swine flu?” And of course, as occurs in our kitchen, or any other room in the house when someone poses a question, discussion ensued.

I told Ali I felt like things were very “hysterical” right now, but also that I felt as if I had died, gone to heaven and woke up during a repeat episode of “That 70s Show.:”

I, and many of my age-mate peers can remember things like this happening before, like, remember that time at band camp, in 1976, our bicentennial year, when that soldier got sick at Fort Dix and everyone freaked out?!?!?”

Yes, we had that, and lived and hopefully braced and educated our ways through it, because when Legionnaire’s disease flew down the pike and out the air vents and blasted the “flu thing” off the map. We were learning to temper our hysteria, based on prior bracing and education measures, and Leginnaire’s disease was like the followup/brush up course to get us ready for things like the Tylenol poisonings, etc.

Face it, life is an ongoing process and while you our out and on-going, you might touch a doorknob covered with microscopic slime, and weird stuff does find its way in, out, under and through the air vents, and sometimes big fat buttheads poison your food, drink or medications, and if they get bored or really angry about things, there are any number of bullying, terroristic activities that might worry any given population.

You have to live and learn to live with what’s up and coming and, yeah, sometimes … terrifying.

Ali noted that there had been a lot of the “hysteria” thing at her school, too, as well as the usual joking that goes along with this kind of stuff. I mean, seriously, when’s the last time you made out with a pig?!?!?!? And why are the pigs getting such a raw deal in this, because pigs are really cute, and it’s everybody’s favorite thing to do at the State Fair, go in and gawk the big fat mommy pig and all her cute little piglets!

Where is the real harm in that, or anything?!?!?! That’s always the tough question to answer with things like this

It was also good to hear that instructors at her high school quickly launched on this stuff, as fresh “teachable moment” interesting shit, that will keep the kids’ minds open, beyond the usual textbook stuff. It’s always great for a teacher to have current events to apply to past documented knowledge, to bandy it all about, and inform the young minds before them. Textbooks are for kids! News clippings, conversations, pros, cons and debating bold face supposed lies, is where the real education takes place.

Several summers ago, I took a class entitled “Coming Plagues, Disease, Inequality, and History.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But I must tell you it was a fabulous ride, and was taught by two of my favorite professors, one in History and the other in English.

Our only “textbook” was The First Horseman, Disease in Human History, by John Aberth, a textbook of sorts, yes, but a slim paperback volume and quite actually a “good read.” I highly recommend it. You can swallow it in one sitting, even, and the only side-effect is it will make you hungry for more information.

From there we launched into research, discussion, comparisons and stark contrasting with trips on the web, in the library, reading Camus’ The Plague (love that book!), Fools Crow by James Welch (another one of my fav-fav-favs!) and poetic works such as the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Browning. The former list does not even bust into the latter works or discussions that took place as the class continued.

Suffice it to say, talking about plague and disease, well it really is quite INFECTIOUS!

The class, though small, (since it was a summer school thing) was diverse in age, majors, gender, etc., including that of the profs, one male and one female, one born and raised in this country, and one born and raised abroad, with a 10 to 15-year age difference between them, as well. (So the room, on a daily basis ran the range of boy, girl, boy, girl, and ages between 17 and 60).

We all had different perspectives on the history of disease, and yes within those perspectives existed myths and bogus constructs that can be as debilitating, if not more so, than an actual physical disease.

I suppose, all things considered (and believe me we dove in and tried to consider everything!!!!!), the class while well-rounded was merely a stepping stone to future understanding.

Ali and I talked, last night as well, about how these myths, bogus contrasts and a slew of mis-information coupled with hysteria can really color things that are actually going on. We talked about how much easier it is to approach situations like this by grabbing information from everywhere (public opinion and outcry, mass-f’d up media, etc.), all of it, mixed together to form something we can learn from, ask questions about, and live by.

And we did talk about the media a lot! I mentioned strongly to consider the mean age of reporters on some stations and news writers on the web, who were younger than myself, who do not have a “That 70s Show” reel running in their head from which to launch constructive opinions on the craziness going on. So it’s easy right now for this whole stinky swine flu subject (on radio and TV, at least and if you are not flipping channels and frequencies) to really adversely infect psyches as well as physical bods, because so many have taken the swine flu bug and really run off with it in a million, (advertisers-buy-your-space-here-because everyone is watching!) TV news directions!

Working in the medical field, far removed and at my desk, I am also pulling in consultations and such from a number of hospitals in several areas of the country, presently. Among the infectious disease docs I’ve encountered of late, there does not seem to be the same hysteria as we see on TV. I mean if I see one more masked person, I’m going to scream. While that’s cautionary, let’s not show the same picture a zillion times, because that’s entirely something else!

I haven’t been doing a lot of medical transcribing lately, but in the very recent past have peppered it in again in the salt mines of my other varied work, just to keep my finger on the pulse of what goes on in medicine nowadays. So I was pleased to be a part of this right now, pulling information and essentially “live feed” from actual hospitals in actual cities, where the big news hysteria aspect of all this has not settled in at the hospital workplace. The doctors are transcribing in measured form, and as far as I can tell, I can’t hear any screaming or hysteria in the background.

The medical feed allows me that “live” and very interesting perspective on things, as the country moves through this particular germy ilk. Hopefully, we are learning from our past mistakes, getting to a point where we have something to put forth in the future for similar concerns, and keeping some of the hypo-ola (crapola) at bay.

Yeah, I know, long answer, long answer … but that’s what it’s like if you are standing around in our kitchen. And if Ali ever asks a question (any of my kids), I’m always mindful of the fact that this means they really, really want to know something, and they also really, really might have something to say about things, something they’d like to bounce off a parent in a “safe zone” before they discuss it at the school lunch table and someone pours milk over their head! (Seriously the discussions at Ali’s lunch table this year have really run the gamete, to include (but not limited to) this past election and their ever-always discussions and debates on religion).

So, by Kid Three, April 2009, I’m used to this kind of “kitchen chat,” and I also was glad she didn’t ask something like, “Hey, Mom, how would you feel if I bifurcated my tongue with a hot knife, pierced my butt cheeks, quit school, grabbed my guitar and my notebooks and ran off to be a teen hobo? Is that a train whistle, I hear?”

See, some conversations, even while in-depth, world-widely covered, and difficult to factor yourselves in an out of, are a lot easier than questions she (and her sisters) might otherwise ask (have asked), which would make me want to stick my head in the freezer!

... now, where did I put my copy of Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask?!?!? ... because, dammit, if the kids don't ever-so-often, ask!

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my ... and rats, and swine and birds, oh my ... aching ass ... and we have not even discussed what happens if "the rabbit dies!" When did furry creatures, cute little pigs and birds become so scary?!?!?!

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