At a recent press briefing held during the National Conference of the American Society On Aging and the National Council on Aging, I posed a question asking how we could reconcile the disparities between the $269 billion dollars caregivers are saving the government by keeping loved ones home and out of facilities, vs. the $250 billion Congress has approved for the military.
The panel was made up of five representatives of MEDICARE. Like clockwork, the male respondents turned their heads away from me like robots, ignoring my question. The one woman on the panel simply nodded and smiled as if I was hitting the nail on the head.
I was unnerved by their evasion, and told them so. I pointed out that their salaries came from our tax dollars, and I wanted to know why weren’t they bringing the voice of the public, of the entire nation, back to the President so that these inequities could be corrected.
One of the male panelists replied with ³It’s up to you journalists to write about it!” Before I could contain myself, I countered that even if we did write about it, the mainstream media wouldn’t publish it because they only print and broadcast what they are told to by the vested interests of the corporations and the government. Needless to say, more than a few jaws around the room dropped….
Later that afternoon in another press event, I asked Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, Josefina Carbonell the same question, who spent about 7 minutes responding to just about everything but my specific query.
When I went up to her after the briefing, she told me that the question was excellent. I looked her straight in the eye and asked her, “So why didn’t you answer it?” There was no response. I said, “You know Ms. Carbonell, if I have learned one thing here today at these two press conferences, it is that I have a voice. And I am going to make sure my voice will be heard from now on!” I actually walked away thinking to myself, “I’ve got a new attitude!” Within seconds, I was singing Patti LaBelle’s song, “I’ve Got A New Attitude.” And, I haven’t stopped singing…
As I found myself battling my own inner war with our President, I realized that I had to let go of that struggle, because it was not under my control, and I didn’t feel good putting this man down. What I do have control over are my own emotions, and although I had to dig very, very deeply to muster up the energy, I did resolve to send him love. I do so in hopes that by sending love, Mr. Bush might find the resolve to shift some of his own energies into more peaceful, loving ones.
It has been an immense challenge for me to transcend the disharmony that has descended upon us recently. Immediately following 9/11, it seemed that most of the world supported us and our own nation was healing.
The complexity of our situation holds no easy answers. On the one hand, my life¹s work is about addressing the pain and suffering of others, so does it make me less than patriotic to want peace? Am I wrong for wanting caregivers to receive some of the funding that is being wasted on war? Just to recall the thought that over 500 bombs were dropped in less than two hours, to the tune of $1 million per bomb, makes me almost physically ill.
I can¹t help but wonder why congress not only approved previous levels of military spending, but is now said to be ready to grant the President another $75 billion or more. When will this insanity end? When can we count on the government to give the same priority to caring for its own- for helping to rebuild, to feed, and possibly to even insure its citizens¹ health through new programs?
Many of us have mixed feelings about all of this, and our reactions are valid, real and important. We all need to know that what we are feeling as individuals is important, whether or not we are in favor of the war.
Does the stress you are feeling impact your life, your daily routines? Do you feel like you are reacting to the stress more than those around you?
If you are feeling this way, simply take a moment to recall another time in your life when you were unable to control something that caused you pain? Past losses such as a job, friend, etc. may begin to surface as a result of what you are feeling now. How did you deal with this issue then? What are the similarities or differences compared to how you feel now? This feeling of being out of control can consume any one of us who may be dealing with unresolved past issues.
The most important thing to remember is to talk about the feelings you are experiencing with someone who will really listen to you. Also try to write and journal all these feelings on a daily basis so that you no longer carry them with you, for holding them in will cause more harm than good.
Empowering Caregivers has created a special area at the web site to address such issues as the war, on posttraumatic stress disorder and more. See below for links.
I have come away from my experiences at the Conference on Aging feeling even more empowered, for what I did at both briefings was something I would never have done before. My mission has been, and will continue to be, to help caregivers and I will do what ever I am capable of to advocate for your needs. I have learned that I must allow my passion to speak out on behalf of all of us, so that we all have choices, opportunities for healing, for expressing ourselves, and opening to love.
As someone who is dedicated to caregivers, I encourage all of us to take a stand. By doing so, we can help to get legislation passed, and it doesn’t take much time or effort. It just takes a few moments here and there to sign emails, and petitions. We will be sure to keep you posted on upcoming campaigns.
Spring has arrived and it is wonderful to feel the warmth on our bodies here in the Northeast. Let it be a time not only to clean our homes, but to cleanse our minds from negative, petty, angry thoughts. Let it be a time to sow new seeds to renew and heal from within and out.
Let us pray for peace for everyone…all over the world.
Copyrighted by Gail R. Mitchell April 2 2003