Monday, August 24, 2009

Cuts Both Ways

There are times when I feel like I’ve said all that can possibly be said. I’ve written this blog for so many years now on so many topics near and dear to my heart that there is absolutely nothing more for me to say. And then I read something or talk to someone and realize there are whole worlds I haven’t even thought of writing about!

Today I read this article in the New York Times regarding male circumcision and how, due to studies that show men who are cut have a lower risk for HIV, public health officials are considering recommending this procedure to be routinely performed on male infants in the United States. While I’m all in favour of cutting down HIV transmissions, this is a flawed solution to a more complicated problem.

First of all, this study, done in African countries hit hard by AIDS, only focused on male to female relationships. And as we all know, not all men are the same! While admittedly the majority are lady lovers, there has always been a group of men that are exclusively into other guys. And let's not forget that another group are “equal opportunists”!

So while "het" circumcised populations are 60% less likely to become infected with HIV, "there is little to no evidence that circumcision protects men who have sex with men from infection," where the risk is actually at its highest.

Secondly, being circumcised only REDUCES the risk, it doesn't prevent it. I am concerned that some men would get the idea that they are “safe” because they are cut and only choose to have sex with other men who are also cut. They might even disregard all the years of progress and work done by prevention agencies to promote the use of condoms and the kinds of sex that is low-to-no risk. Furthermore there is no evidence that being circumcised reduces the risk of infecting the woman in a heterosexual realtionship. So instead of helping, I fear the use of circumcision as an HIV preventative tool would exacerbate the epidemic in North America even further.

Thirdly, I personally think male circumcision in the majority of cases is a frivolous cosmetic surgery. Think about it. All men are created with foreskin, it’s a natural part of the penis. Unless you are Jewish, there is nothing in the Bible saying this foreskin is bad. Perhaps in the day and age when people didn’t shower as frequently as we do now, it was more hygienic. And (I have no way of knowing this, but..) I would argue that, since the foreskin contains nerve endings and also covers the penis, that men who are uncut would experience far more sensation during sex. In Canada and many places in the States, government insurance plans do not cover this unnecessary medical procedure.

I’m often surprised at the arguments for circumcision. My mother said that they wanted us to look like our father, as if we would have had opportunities to compare! I’ve blocked out any and all sightings from my memory! The argument for tradition doesn’t fly with me either. My brother and I still have our tonsils because by the time we were born, removing them wasn’t deemed medically beneficial like it was for our folks. I suppose perhaps a case could be made that one would look different from the others in the school locker-room but I honestly don’t recall noticing (or, believe or not, looking)! I just wanted to do my thing and get out of there as soon as possible!

With the risk of botched circumcisions and numerous complications on top of it being unnecessary in the first place, I think most parents would be better off letting the child decide when he grows up to have that procedure done. Why subject infants, only a few days old, to needless pain, when there are tonnes of young men who willingly consent to painful cosmetic operations like nose alterations, tattoos or piercings? Why try and “fix” what wasn’t broken in the first place?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lie, Lie, Lies Everywhere

In the past month I've been shocked and appalled by the amount of propaganda that the Republicans have been feeding the American public. Not only have there been misrepresentations about the Canadian health care system, but the British as well. Since Danifesto has had to address this with friends back home on several occasions, the subject might as well be posted on here for future reference! (Go here for the myths about Canadian health care)

And while I'm at it, let's just call a spade a spade. The fact of the matter is that the people making the most noise about this are the very same ones who didn't vote for Obama in the first place.They wouldn't be happy with anything he tried to do because they were unhappy he got voted in. Maybe some of their fear is based on actual health care but I suspect at the root of the issue, they just don't like him. It's personal and that leads to irrational crazy talk.

This leads me to the common myths about Obama's vision for the health of the US. The following list is the best summary I've yet to come across.(Please feel free to follow the links at the bottom of the page for further reference!) The truth shall set you free dear readers!

Lie #1: President Obama wants to euthanize your grandma!!!

The truth: These accusations—of "death panels" and forced euthanasia—are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: "No 'death panel' in health care bill."4 What's the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.5

Lie #2: Democrats are going to outlaw private insurance and force you into a government plan!!!

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. Obama's reform plans will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options.6 Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option—a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers—that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.7
If you're happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them.8 But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can't afford health care now.

Lie #3: President Obama wants to implement Soviet-style rationing!!!

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that.

Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage.9 And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation.

Lie #4: Obama is secretly plotting to cut senior citizens' Medicare benefits!!!

The truth: Health care reform plans will not reduce Medicare benefits.10 Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care—in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.11

Lie #5: Obama's health care plan will bankrupt America!!!

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy—to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.
Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care.12 The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade13—and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses.14 Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama's reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit.15

P.S. Want more? Check out this great new White House "Reality Check" website or this excellent piece from Health Care for America Now on some of the most outrageous lies.

1. "More 'Town Halls Gone Wild': Angry Far Right Protesters Disrupt Events With 'Incomprehensible' Yelling," Think Progress, August 4, 2009.
2. "Fight the smears," Health Care for America NOW, accessed August 10, 2009.
3. "Palin Paints Picture of 'Obama Death Panel' Giving Thumbs Down to Trig," ABC News, August 7, 2009.
4. "No 'death panel' in health care bill," The Associated Press, August 10, 2009.
5. "Stop Distorting the Truth about End of Life Care," The Huffington Post, July 24, 2009.
6. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 11, 2009.
7. "Why We Need a Public Health-Care Plan," The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2009.
8. "Obama: 'If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor,'" The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2009.
9. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
10. "Obama: No reduced Medicare benefits in health care reform," CNN, July 28, 2009.
11. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
12. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.
13. "Premiums Run Amok," Center for American Progress, July 24, 2009. 14. "Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies," CNN, June 5, 2009.
15. "Reality Check FAQs,", accessed August 10, 2009.

Sources for the Five Lies:
#1: "A euthanasia mandate," The Washington Times, July 29, 2009.
#2: "It's Not An Option," Investor's Business Daily, July 15, 2009.
#3: "Rationing Health Care," The Washington Times, April 21, 2009.
#4: "60 Plus Ad Is Chock Full Of Misinformation," Media Matters for America, August 8, 2009.
#5: "Obama's 'Public' Health Plan Will Bankrupt the Nation," The National Review, May 13, 2009.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enough Guilt to Start My Own Religion

Due to the religious environment that was an integral part of my upbringing, I’ve always felt like a bit of a prude. I curse infrequently, avoid spending large amounts of time without clothes and dislike “oversharing” about one’s sex life. However, given all the indications to the contrary, I’ve recently come to realize that I harbor little to no sex-related feelings of guilt! Why didn’t this happen to me when so many suffer from this?

When I began to experience things I never felt bad about doing it and felt it was a good way to relieve stress. I was actually grateful to God that I had a body that could feel such emotions. I wouldn’t talk openly about it (obviously uncomfortable even defining IT even now!) but as it didn’t hurt anyone, I didn’t feel that it was bad in the very least. My family didn’t mention this subject at all and if there was in increase in trash or laundry, it was never noted, at least not to me!

Now as far as sex with another person was concerned, this topic was actually mentioned from time to time. Generally referring to those that did not follow the rule (that sex was only permitted within the context of marriage), these morality lessons inevitably came to a “bad end.” And yet, when I first shared an experience with another person, I didn’t feel guilty or that I had sinned against God. Perhaps I justified it by saying it simply wasn’t possible to marry another man and so the rule didn’t apply to my situation. I will admit to feeling guilty later but it was because I felt like I should be in a relationship with someone I was in love with and who loved me back.

Since then, I have had the gifts of experience and perspective. Even though some were not in the context of a relationship, most contained aspects of love in the sense that they were caring and respectful, filled with joy and kindness. I've realized that there are a lot of lonely people out there who try to connect or communicate through this medium and I believe God understands and, being compassionate, forgives all things. I’ve found the key is to accept this forgiveness and extend it to ourselves and others around us.

Everyday I wake up and try to do my best to be the authentic creation God has intended me to be. Sometimes I mess up. But I was created perfectly imperfect so that’s okay too. Having said that, I see no more reason to feel guilty for enjoying sex than for feeling the sun warming me through my leather jacket or for the chocolate melting in my mouth. In my eyes, these senses are gifts God has given us to enjoy. Granted, when we misuse these gifts, they can become harmful to others and/or ourselves and that’s when our conscience kicks in. It’s merely telling us that we are better than this. And we are!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cuz Ya Gotta Have Faith

Recently, while job-hunting I was amused to discover that one school, in lieu of a philosophy of education, wanted me to submit a statement of faith. Intrigued and always up for a writing challenge, here's what I came up with. Keep in mind, this is the cummulation of years on this (somewhat) green Earth so it may evolve in the future. I'm okay with that.

Danifesto's Statement of Faith

I believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I believe we are compelled to extend the grace, tolerance, and love Christ showed us to others around us. This attitude is our most important and effective witness to the hurting world. I see myself as a bridge between the world and the kingdom of heaven.

I believe in the omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience of God. Each of us has been miraculously and uniquely created. This has helped me personally in my journey in life and walk with Christ.

I believe in not only literally in the stories of the Bible but also the lessons we can learn from them. In the tradition of American Baptists, I have a thorough approach to the teachings of the Bible, taking into account the context of the time, the author’s intent and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I honour and respect other traditions and interpretations that reflect the love of God.

I believe hurting people is counter to God’s love. I am a registered conscientious objector with the US Government and a past member of Amnesty International.

I believe I would not have the faith I have were it not for my father, an American Baptist minister and now hospice chaplain as well as the tradition of my grandfather and namesake, a missionary to the Navajo, Hopi and Comanche people.

I believe God has given us talents and gifts that are meant to be used to help others and change the world for better.

I have been previously a member of American Baptist churches in Beloit, Ottawa and Sedwick, Kansas. Currently I am a member of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and am active in the Children’s Ministry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome Back

So Danifesto has been away from blogging for awhile. But inside his head, he's been writing and ruminating on all sorts of things. Hopefully now is the time to get back to this!

I want to first thank all those who wrote in and asked "WHAT'S GOING ON? WHERE DID YOU GO?"

Good questions! There are a number of reasons I stopped posting. One is that I didn't have anything to say. Another is that Facebook and emails used up all my sparetime.

More significantly in March my "dating around" phase came to a close and I started another relationship. This took up a lot of time and I was barely home, much less able to sit and type things out. There were also numerous parties and get-togethers, a stressful move (his, not mine thank goodness!), a fund-raiser for the 519 Community Centre, book clubs meetings, dance classes (salsa and swing) and a movie festival (which I will blog about!).

I also enjoyed traveling to Oregon to see my family and a really great wedding! That was so great!

Most recently, the language school I was teaching at abruptly closed its doors so I have been given the gift of freetime to enjoy the glorious summer for the first time in a couple of years! I've also been of course looking for work and trying to stay postive and productive.

In a nutshell that kind of tells you where I'm at. Personally I've been lately relishing and revelling in the joy of my own space. I love my apartment which is pretty quiet and has stayed very cool so far! I love getting sufficient sleep (which I hadn't for several months there). Watch some of those movies that have been sitting there in the cabinet. I am able to fall into all these great books without interruption. And hopefully now, that I've begun, write again! Welcome Back!