Visits to Hospital


Sacred Heart Medical Center

What I’m about to share represents my memories and beliefs. Peggy’s memories and beliefs might differ.

Two weeks ago to the hour, I was at Eugene’s Sacred Heart Medical Center where a pretty Hong Kong surgeon was blowing me up with carbon dioxide, driving rods into my abdomen, and using a robot to repair three hernias.

Today, I drove Peggy to Sacred Heart for an endoscopy and colonoscopy. Two hours were allotted for the procedure, so I knew that if the phone rang in less than two hours, the news would be bad. I spent those hours strolling about the hospital’s 181-acre grounds and reflecting upon the long history that Peggy and I have had in—and around—hospitals. For her, this meant a 25-year career as a BSRN (a registered nurse with a four year degree). For me it meant working as a respiratory therapy technician, a phlebotomist, an ambulance driver, and a funeral director.

Peggy’s career took her to Mississippi, California, Minnesota, and Oregon, but she mostly worked here in Eugene at Sacred Heart Medical Center where the hospital’s greed, dishonesty, hypocrisy, and callousness, caused it to be deemed Sacred Dollar, and resulted in Peggy becoming so anguished, outraged, and disillusioned that she retired early. Today, my feelings toward Sacred Heart led me to mouth the word bullshit every time I came across a
wall-size rendering of the hospital’s mission statement: “We carry on the healing mission of Jesus Christ by promoting personal and community health, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person in a loving and caring way.”

Despite its Catholic ownership, I doubt that there’s a higher percentage of Catholic employees at SHMC than in the local population (the habit-clad nuns left before Peggy’s arrival in ’86). The most common modern reminder of SHMC’s ownership is a bronze cross in every room (Peggy caught a man energetically ripping one from his wife’s wall), and there used to be a large outdoor statue of the Virgin Mary
from which the mother of one of Peggy’s L&D patients hung herselfbut I couldn’t find it today.

During our fifty-years together, Peggy has twice been hospitalized overnight, and I was in four times—for food poisoning, a knee replacement, and two shoulder surgeries. Prior to marriage, I was hospitalized three times. Is seven a lot? Perhaps, but with rising costs, laparoscopic advancements, and the growing threat of untreatable infections, people used to be hospitalized far more often. For example, in the old days, triple hernia repair would have necessitated cutting the patient open, so no one would be sent home the same day. This represents a change for the better, at least for those who have help at home. Without Peggy, I don’t know how I could manage right now. I take immense comfort in knowing that, no matter what is going on in her
life or mine, we will be there if the other needs us. 

During our long marriage, I’ve gone from believing that sex was the primary expression of emotional intimacy to realizing that a great many things outrank sex. For instance, adding someone’s name to your savings account; helping him or her bathe after surgery; holding hands while browsing old photos; sharing the anniversary of that first sacred night as “husband and wife”* ; or, if it should come to that, wiping a butt that you once considered too angelic to need wiping.

Peggy often came home from her first hospital
job—at the 105-bed King’s Daughters Hospital in rural Mississippiwith funny stories. For instance, one night at KDH, Peggy was working on second when the first floor nurse phoned to say that someone had fallen past room 108. Sure enough, Peggy looked out the window of 208 to find her patient lying on the ground. She called for an ambulance—the ambulance shed was just around the corner—and in no time at all, the ambulance came flying. Unfortunately, there was a heavy dew, so when the driver slammed on brakes, the huge vehicle kept right on going, barely missing the patient.

The patient later explained that he had wanted to go home without the usual formality—i.e. paying his bill
—so he did what you or I would have done, which was to pack-up his few clothes, urinal, bedpan, and water pitcher. After dropping his suitcase out the window, he mustered-up his optimism and took a flying leap in the direction of a limb on a loblolly pine. To his dismay, three unfortunate events then occurred: (1) the limb broke; (2) he hit the ground; (3) the limb hit him.

On another night at KDH, Peggy was working in the emergency room when an ambulance arrived with two shooting victims. The ER doctor decided to transfer them an hour’s drive north to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, so they were duly loaded—or rather re-loaded—into the ambulance, and Peggy was told to go with them. 

One man was unconscious, and although a bullet in his jaw made it impossible for the other to talk, he proved to be a voluble grunter, fist-shaker, and pantomimer, who was soon able to make Peggy understand that he and the other man had shot one another. She then became inordinately curious as to whether the doctor who had ordered her into the ambulance (where there was no place for her to sit except between the two men) had been privy to this information, but he later proved reticent on the topic.

Why did Peggy never come home with funny stories from SHMC? Maybe the fact that she worked in intensive care—that is until her back gave out from turning unconscious patients—followed by labor and delivery had something to do with it, as did the unhappy work environment, but I
’ve also wondered if small town informality might simply be a better vehicle for humor than city impersonality. Another relevant factor might be the grim, merciless, and spontaneity destroying political correctness that characterizes liberal institutions.

I only attended one “celebratory” get-together for the nurses who worked on Peggy
’s unit, and although I was well aware of what Peggy told me about her work situation, it was the first time that I got to see for myself how angry and miserable her fellow nurses were. As they wolfed their food, I reflected that I had seen more cheerful people at wakes, and that the absence of liquor appeared to be the only thing between them and a hair-yanking, eye-gouging brawl. 

Despite my contempt for Sacred Heart, I like knowing that the largest medical center between Portland and San Francisco (a distance of 650-miles) is just across town, and that there are thousands of people who have to drive for hours over icy mountain roads (all four grandparents of a newborn baby on Peggys unit died when their car slid from such a road) to reach a place that I can get to in fifteen minutes. If the surveys are right, SHMC’s patients feel as badly treated as its employees, yet SHMC still offers a variety of medical specialties, diagnostic tools, and advanced treatments, and the older I get, the more such things matter. Besides, the day might come when the Dollar trades its corporate indifference for a commitment to treat its patients and staff in a “...loving and caring way.” 


* Or, in the U.S. anyway, wife and wife or husband and husband,” at least until the Trumpian Supreme Court again allows conservative religious values to dominate marriage.

The Thinking Behind White Southern Racism during the Civil Rights Movement and Even Today

r/HistoryPorn - Mississippi sheriff Lawrence Rainey (right) and deputy Cecil Ray Price on trial in 1967 for the murder of three civil rights workers [1090x732]
Mississippi Deputy and Sheriff Being Indicted for Murdering Civil Rights Workers

During my Mississippi childhood and adolescence, the following justifications for segregation were expressed by teachers, preachers, at social gatherings, and in newspaper editorials. The state’s most influential newspaperman was Jimmy Ward, whose segregationist column “Covering the Crossroads with Jimmy Ward” appeared daily on the front page of Mississippi’s two largest newspapers—the Clarion Ledger and the Jackson Daily News. Although I mostly avoid use quotation marks in the following arguments, I reproduce them as I heard them, and I heard them a lot.

(1) If God had wanted the races to mix, He would not have separated them geographically. T
o support integration is to oppose God.

 (2) Race mixing leads to the sin of interracial marriage, and interracial marriage leads to mongrel children.

(3) Black people are the children of Ham, and Ham’s father, Noah, cursed Ham’s descendants with eternal servitude after Ham displayed Noah’s nakedness when Noah was passed-out drunk. (Genesis 9: 20-27).

(4) The inferiority of the colored race is beyond question.

(5) Black people are subhuman, and therefore lack the legal rights of white people. (I bought a deceased black preacher’s library, and found in it a racist work entitled The Negro: a Beast or in the Image of God?)

(6) Before outside agitators stirred them up, Southern Negroes were happy with their lives. 

(7) Those who support integration are knowingly or unknowingly acting at the behest of Soviet Communism, the goal of which is to destroy America.

(8) There are few black people in the North, and those few have been forced into ghettos. Northern whites are hypocrites who don’t understand black people or the necessity of Southern race relations.

(9) Negroes have the mentality of children, and must be kept under control for the good of themselves and others.

(10) America has fallen so deeply into sin that God would abandon our nation entirely if not for Southern piety and patriotism.

(11) To submit to integration would be to betray God, our ancestors, and the 258,000 Southerners who died in the Civil War.


Why did the South cling to such baseless arguments?

(a) They were all that most Southerners had ever known, and few people even thought to question them. Others were afraid to do so because it could be a life-wrecking experience

(b) Friends, family, neighbors, and authority figures were all adamantly opposed to integration.

Seemingly overnight, the white South went from being largely ignored in popular culture to being viciously criticized in political speeches, Northern newspapers, Northern news magazines, and the enormously popular Life Magazine. Its religion, values, and speech, were mocked, belittled, and condemned, by the rest of the nation and even the world. Incest jokes abounded. White Southerners were presented as ignorant buffoons, psychopathic rednecks, and toothless hillbillies. The white South felt besieged, and most people responded by clinging ever more tenaciously to traditional beliefs and values.

Northern companies canceled plans for Southern factories, and this caused the already impoverished region to sink even deeper. Thousands of Southerners canceled their subscriptions to Life. Klan membership increased, and there was talk of a second Civil War. Frequent church burnings, the assassination of Medgar Evers—the state’s NAACP director—and the brutal murders of Freedom Riders Micky Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were looked upon by many with approval.

(d) White Southerners who supported integration were seen as traitors to God and to their own people, and were therefore hated above all other integrationists. Their children were harassed at school, and they themselves were subject to job loss, hate mail, vandalism, social ostracism, physical assault, loss of friendship, credit cancellation, having their pets poisoned, obscene and threatening phone calls, bullets through their windows, cross burnings in their yards (I personally witnessed this). The well-liked and influential couple in Hodding Carter’s So the Hefners Left McComb (McComb is twenty miles from where I lived) were parents to that year’s Miss Mississippi when their harassment started, but they still fled the South in fear for their lives.

(e) I will end this segment with some personal examples of Southern white anger. Klan literature was sometimes deposited in my family’s driveway. One night while driving home, I came upon a cross burning in a neighbor’s yard—no one was in sight.

School was in progress when John Kennedy was killed, and most students cheered. When one girl (whose parents favored integration) asked to be excused on the day of his funeral, her request was denied, and when she stayed home anyway, she was given failing grades in every class. I remained publicly silent about his death, although I wrote a note of sympathy to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated after school hours, but I was attending play practice at a Methodist college when King died. As most of my fellow students cheered, I reflected upon how odd it was for those who were preparing for the ministry and the mission fields to celebrate a man’s murder.

My high school’s Spanish teacher took her class to Monterey, Mexico, each year. In 1966, an English class from Monterey visited my school. As they got off the bus, many students cursed them, flipped them the bird, called them niggers (because of their dark skin), and demanded that they get back on the bus and go home. The Mexicans clearly didn’t anticipate such behavior, and their ignorance of what some of the words meant surely left them even more confused

Also in ’66, four black students (three girls and a boy) integrated my high school. To my knowledge, none were assaulted, although they were treated with unremitting contempt. Again, I remained silent. I suspect that a great many white students were like I in that they either secretly favored integration or were secretly appalled by what they witnessed.

When a rumor circulated that black people might visit our church en masse, my father was asked to stand at the door with several other men to keep them out. He said to the men who asked him: “This is God’s house, and if God doesn’t want them here, then let God keep them out.” 

My father treated black people with respect, but my mother treated them coldly and with condescension. One day, she chastened me for addressing a black lady as “Ma’am, and she repeatedly warned me to avoid getting near black people lest their germs land on me. The commonly held belief that black people were “unclean” hearkened back the ancient Jews’ attitude toward gentiles


Thankfully, my father didn’t cancel his subscription to Life Magazine, and I well remember the 1967 issue that contained the photo at the top of this post. That photo did more than words to impress upon the rest of the nation the fact that, a hundred years after the Civil War, Southern whites still regarded the very lives of black people as disposable. Now, the white South is once again using racism as the basis for discriminatory laws.

Because moral advancement in the South is invariably contingent upon outside force, the advancement is lost when the force is withdrawn. So it is that when a conservative Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act in 2013, white governors and legislators went back to denying the vote to black people. How can it do such a thing? In numerous ways. For example, Texas now requires that heavily populated black precincts have the same number of voting machines as sparsely populated white precincts. Meanwhile, over in Georgia, black voters aren’t only being made to stand in line for six hours (there being many more white precincts, white voters tend to be spared this indignity), anyone who offers them food or water is subject to a year in jail. 

So it is that Red State officials who are charge of insuring election fairness first determine when, where, and how, black peopleand other Democratsvote, and then they do their utmost to make voting so odious that voters stop trying. In rare cases where this tactic fails, they look for an excuse, however lame, to declare votes invalid. Now that Trump has packed the Supreme Court with minority-hating religious conservatives, appeals to that court for fairness are doomed (according to the conservative justices, the federal government simply has no business telling states how to run their elections).

In 1861, the South’s insistence that it be allowed to enslave black people resulted a war that cost 620,000 lives, a war from which the  South learned nothing except that it had to be sneaky in describing its abuse of black people (instead of calling them slaves, it referred to them as convict laborers or as people who were working off their just debts. Even today, the state of Mississippi (along with other Southern states) is such a moral and economic morass that many of its citizens would starve without federal assistance (Mississippi opposes federal aid simply because it can’t bear the thought of putting food on the tables of black people). By all measures of health, happiness, and prosperity, the states of the Deep South are in constant competition for last place in everything that is good and first place in everything that is bad. Despite this, Mississippi—the most religious state in the Union—regards itself as so beloved by God that the existence of the entire nation rests upon its singular status in divine eyes. As the Bible says, the ways of God are but foolishness in the eyes of men.

Ahimsa, Feline Ethics, The Value of a Life


For better and worse, I have, over the years, held views that are anathema to most people, particularly when it comes to the rights of nonhumans. For example, I consider the following self-evident:

(1) Human life and nonhuman life are of equal intrinsic value. 

(2) Human rights and nonhuman rights are of equal moral importance. 

Such beliefs make moral consistency impossible because humans must kill to live. Even if a person so reveres life that he only eats those parts of plants that don’t require the destruction of the whole, other plants must die and other creatures be driven from their homes in order to make space for agriculture. Some members of the Jain religion become so aggrieved by this that they starve themselves to death.

My cats are so extraordinarily sensitive and loving that I address them with such endearments as Doll, Angel, Heaven, Ecstasy, Lady Girl, All in All, His Holiness, King of my Heart, Most Worshipful Master, He Whom My Love Doth Devour, Most Beautiful Cat in the World, and Patriarch of the Cat Side of the Family. Even so, it bothers me that a cat’s beauty and virtue rest upon a foundation of corpses. Sometimes, I talk to them about this. Yesterday, I brought it up to Ollie during our nightly cuddle, and because he requires that our talks be conducted with the door closed, I learned more from him than I had from others:

Me: “Ollie it troubles me that you just jumped from my lap, killed a spider, and then returned to my lap to tell me of your love with a thousand purrs. Have you no remorse, no consideration for the rights of the little creature whose life you ended?”

Ollie: “Do you mean to say that I am a hypocrite or simply that my behavior is paradoxical?”

Me: “The latter, the fact being that, even when you are dozing, you are but a hair’s breadth from killing. While I too kill spiders, I only do so because they clutter up the house with their webs, and Peggy screams when she sees one. God forbid that a spider should fall on her face while she’s taking a shower or, worse yet, walk across her steering wheel while she’s driving. Decades ago, I caused her to question my devotion to our marriage by announcing that I would no longer kill arachnids. I tried to console her by adding that I would instead ferry them outdoors, but I failed. As it turned out, my plan also failed because, once outside, the spiders went to work building webs under soffits, in front of windows, and on the rear-view mirror of her car. When I observed that they and their offspring were finding their way back in, I returned to killing, often to the accompaniment of Peggy’s screams—screams that scared the dogs as much as the spiders scared Peggy.

“Being a just, loving, and compassionate person, I regret having to kill, whereas you, Ollie, despite your many virtues, take obscene delight in visiting death upon the innocent. If you were human, you would doubtless have a taxidermist mount your victims in fearsome poses and hang them on every wall. Peggy would then scream every time she walked into a room, and you would find yourself in an institution for callous cats. Because of the pleasure you take in killing others, I sometimes wonder if you would kill me if you were big enough.”

Ollie: “Let me get this straight. You knew I was a predator when you adopted me, and that guiltless killing was inherent to my nature. You, on the other hand, are not a predator, yet you find it within your ‘just, loving, and compassionate’ heart to destroy innocent creatures simply because their existence scares your phobic wife and their webs offend your aesthetic sensibilities! You would be better off had you been born a cow or a rabbit, but because you are a peculiar sort of man, you are tormented, and you want me to feel tormented too so I can stand at your feet on your pedestal of moral superiority and proclaim: ‘Oh, what a cruel world it is that loving creatures like ourselves must resort to killing!’ I don’t apologize for being what nature made me. I instead take pride in the fact that I can instantly go from loving to killing and back again because that is how my ancestors survived.”

Because Peggy and I are, for the most part, vegetarians, Ollie doesn’t realize that, like cats, most members of the human species also kill helpless birds and animals, although their killing differs from cats’ killing in that cats are obligate carnivores, whereas meat is so toxic to humans that meat-eaters die eight years younger than vegetarians.*

If the Abrahamic religions are correct in maintaining that humans alone know right from wrong, it is also true that humans alone choose to inflict avoidable suffering, death, and environmental damage simply because we enjoy the taste of corpses. In what way, then, is the only species that knows right from wrong, yet freely embraces wrong, superior to a species that lacks such knowledge and whose existence depends upon meat? We humans—including people like myself who eat eggs, dairy, and the occasional fish—not only tend toward depravity, we run headlong into it. I envy cats their innocence.


A Post in which I Explain America’s Love Affair with Guns


Eight people have thus far died as a result of American’s latest mass shooting, which occurred at a Fed Ex facility in Indiana last night. Prior to Covid, America averaged one mass shooting per day.* Why is it that millions of Americans (nearly all of them Republicans) appear to value owning firearms over ending the violence? These are their arguments:

1) The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of every adult American to own and carry guns: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (This amendment predates the existence of a standing army.)

2) Gun violence is the price one pays for living in a free society.

3) Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. 

4) In the absence of guns, we would be unable to protect ourselves, our families, and others who are in danger.

5) If the government took away our guns, killers would use other lethal methods, and no one would have a gun with which to stop them.

6) Democrats are, in reality, power-mad Communists, who want to take away our guns in order to: (a) Institute a Communist-style dictatorship; (b) Force God-fearing Republicans into labor camps; (c) Raise our children in indoctrination camps. 

7) Americans are God’s Chosen people, but He will only help us to the extent that we are willing to help ourselves. He has given us guns with which to do this.

8) The reason that America has the world’s highest rate of gun violence (outside of actual war zones) is that we own too few guns. If every last adult American was armed, violent crime would be exceedingly rare. As the National Rife Association puts it: The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

9) Every adult is morally obligated to own at least one gun and to know how to use it. States, counties, and municipalities should have the freedom to make gun ownership and training mandatory.


* A mass shooting is an incident in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter.