Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Big C

Cancer has a way of getting into people’s lives, literally and figuratively.  One of my beloved sisters received her diagnosis in the spring of 2011 and before long the entire family was plunged in anything and everything cancer.  The disease consumed us.  We talked about it over meals, during walks, while doing chores.  Cancer hung in the air.  It loomed over us even in moments of silence.  But the worst for those of us in the periphery was the feeling of utter uselessness and helplessness.

Most cancer patients ask the same questions at the time of diagnosis: why me; why now; am I going to die.  But truly, the honest answers are: why not; now is as good a time as any; yes.  Those answers may read insensitive but many doctors give it to patients straight.  My sister is a clinician so she had medical insights that proved helpful to her but left most of us, particularly me, isolated.  Rather than pelt her with questions that could prove annoying as she concentrated on her treatment, I buried myself in cancer research.  I ate up every written material, attended lectures, participated in research discussions, and raised funds for the cure by walking 41 miles.  No, I do not profess to be an expert on the subject any more now than before, but I learned things that could be helpful in the future to me (hopefully not) or perhaps to others whom I love.

The plethora of cancer information available can be good or bad, depending on how you use the information.  You can absorb everything to the point that you feel you have letters of the alphabet after your name.  At the same time, it can leave you paranoid, self-diagnosing every little quirk and tic and ache.  But the real advantage of readily-available data, I feel, is the empowerment it gives patients – to ask the right questions, to actively participate in clinical dialogues, to accept the ultimate responsibility of treatment options.

My sister is a slight woman, and watching from the sidelines as she battled her disease, I saw a woman with the strength of someone four times her size.  Her resolve was steadfast and defeat was never an option.  She is doing quite well right now but she is realistic enough to accept that cancer can once again rear its ugly head.  So why she?  Because she has the limitless capacity to sustain all of us even as she fought the fight of her life.  Why now?  Because the therapies available now allowed her to make the best moves and decisions.  Is she going to die?  Yes, but not right now, and not for a very long time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Civil Wrong Righted

On August 4, 2010, Vaughn R. Walker, Federal Judge of the US District for the Northern District of California, invalidated Proposition 8, a voter-supported initiative banning same-sex marriage in California. With the stroke of a pen, Judge Walker effectively erased the line that differentiated same-sex couples from traditional couples. His decision, as written, was based on a thoughtful analysis that banished fear from the homosexual debate and gave same-sex couples equal footing with the rest of humanity. This decision certainly puts California on the road to redemption. As Judge Walker puts it very simply, “… California has no interest in discriminating against gays and lesbians”. Below are excerpts from his ruling.

In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 7 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.

The evidence shows that Proposition 8 was a hard-fought campaign and that the majority of California voters supported the initiative. The arguments surrounding Proposition 8 raise a question similar to that addressed in Lawrence, when the Court asked a majority of citizens could use the power of the state to enforce “profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and more principles” through the criminal code. The question here is whether California voters can enforce those same principles through regulation of marriage licenses. They cannot. California’s obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to “mandate [its] own moral code. “Moral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest,” has never been a rational basis for legislation. Tradition alone cannot support legislation. Proponents’ purported rationales are nothing more than post-hoc justifications. While the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit post-hoc rationales, they must connect to the classification drawn. Here, the purported state interests fit so poorly with Proposition 8 that they are irrational, as explained above. What is left is evidence that Proposition 8 enacts a moral view that there is something “wrong” with same-sex couples. The evidence at trial regarding the campaign to pass Proposition 8 uncloaks the most likely explanation for its passage: a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex couples. The campaign relied heavily on negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians and focused on protecting children from inchoate threats vaguely associate with gays and lesbians.

At trial, proponents’ counsel at attempted through cross-examination to show that the campaign wanted to protect children from learning about same-sex marriage in school. The evidence shows, however, that Proposition 8 played on a fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual.

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferred to opposite-sex couples. Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitution obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Google (goo-gle) v. - to search for information on the Internet especially using the Google search engine

I was surveying the remains of the night when I was asked about this blog that I started years ago to record my streams of consciousness; and to write about places, people, events, and even the quotidian in my life. The fact that I blog is no secret, although it is something that I rarely talk about. What startled me about the question was not that my blog was discovered, but rather how it was discovered. I was Googled! Frankly, a small part of me was flattered by that admission; however, a bigger part of me became reflective. The Internet has certainly become a boon because of its almost bottomless pit of information that is beneficial to most. Why else would millions, at any given minute, be on it doing searches.

But it also has become the vehicle to satisfy the voyeur in each of us.  Why else would a person, who may be swamped with simultaneous projects and numerous deadlines, put all those aside and focus on a name he or she enters in Google’s search box. By and large, I believe man is hard-wired to be curious.  I too, do Internet searches for a myriad of reasons: researches relative to my projects, shopping, travel arrangements. I have searched people from my past, and have to admit that the prospect of discovery – how high they have succeeded or how low they failed, are they still alive, have they spent time in prison, are they worth the effort of reconnecting – can be exciting. But the operative word here is reconnecting. I have not been inclined to Google people who are active in my current life. The fact that they are presently in my life fulfills my own vetting process, if there ever was one. My interests lie in what they contribute to my present and, hopefully, future life. But now I am conflicted. Should I start doing searches on the people who are active participants in my current life? Are these people, most of whom I consider very close friends, living alternate lives that are held in the cocoon of the Internet? It is truly oxymoronic that tightly-guarded secrets may be floating in the World Wide Web.

To say that having been Googled is startling is to be very na├»ve. After all, we concur that this is an activity shared by all. What was startling for me in this case was the fact that I was Googled by a man who has shared my bed for many years. He knows my activities and even my proclivities. Did he think Googling me would lead to some revelations that will topple me from grace? Or force me to spend the rest of my years living a life of shame? I had periods of lunacy in my younger days (actually I still have those from time to time), some episodes of which I may not remember clearly due to the many brain cells that I have killed through the years. I have done a search on myself years ago and found nothing. Perhaps I have truly succeeded in dispatching everyone who may compromise my present stature. Or maybe, just maybe, it is my co-conspirators who have more to worry and thus have buried all traces of our trangressions and once intemperate lives. But now, my curiosity is piqued. Should I do another search on myself? Will I find secrets that even I don’t know about? Am I prepared to see what might be revealed? I entered my name in the search box. Here we go.