Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Zero Years

It is time to consider the past decade. What should it be called? The “zeros” as in zero one through zero nine? The last one was the nineties, and the next will be the teens, so from now on I will refer to it as the zeros.

Personally, it has been a very interesting decade: one of new growth and adventures, and of loss and some bewilderment. I think that the sneak attack on the Twin Towers in zero one was the middle of the end of the America in which I was born and have grown up. The end of the sixties, and early seventies was the beginning of that end.

In October of zero one, as a result of nine one one, as I think it will always be called, George Bush directed the invasion of Afghanistan with less than 2,000 troops. That is approximately a thousand less troops than American casualties of the nine one one attacks. In March, 2003, George Bush directed American troops to invade Iraq, regardless of the fact that Iraq was neither responsible for, nor involved in, the nine one one attacks. On May 1, Bush gave a speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln stating “mission accomplished” in Iraq. On that day there had been approximately sixty-five American troop deaths as a result of Bush's invasion. In the six and a half plus years since Bush accomplished his mission, there have been an additional 4,200 American troop deaths. About 90,000 American troops were in Iraq in March, 2003. In Afghanistan US troops numbered about 6,500. Presently the US troop level in Iraq is 141,000; in Afghanistan the present level is 68,000. The number of troops involved in the two wars is equivalent to the population of Boise, Idaho, America's 100th largest city.

Another major consequence of the nine one one attacks, and the Bush regime, has been the systematic erosion/suspension of the Bill Of Rights, and our civil liberties. During the “Cold War” with the communists, Americans were taught that citizens in communist countries were forced to always carry and prove their identity. Here, now, it is impossible to travel on a train or plane without your pictured I.D. Although not unprecedented in the time of war, the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus means that Americans can be arrested and detained indefinitely without cause. Will the wars ever end; will our rights ever be restored? Intrinsically, I feel the loss on a daily basis, and worry that never again will we be as free as we once were, and I am bewildered by my feelings and I am bewildered by the government.

In the zeros decade I have experienced growth of a positive nature, as well. In mid December, 2001, I and my nurse colleagues at Oregon Health Science University were forced to go on strike by what many perceived as a corrupt nursing administration. As a child raised in a labor union family, I witnessed the effects of my father being on strike, times of no wages unless he traveled across state, or out of state to find work. I had always hoped I could go through my professional life without having to go on strike. However, the fifty six days of our nurse's strike were some of the most rewarding of my life. While walking on picket lines with other dedicated nurses, I met some of the most amazing people that I probably would have never met. I worked a night as a longshoreman with a dozen other nurses. We were assigned to “lash cans” on a giant freighter, one of the hardest and most dangerous tasks of longshore work. Lashing cans is securing big containers seven deep in the holds, and five high on the decks of the ships. The rods and turnbuckles used to secure the cans must weigh about sixty pounds, and the wrench used to tighten them must weigh thirty pounds. On a night that began in a raging rainy, windy storm, soon morphed into a moonlit clear night with eerie ground fog among the trees of the island across the channel from the ship. It was the most psychedelic night I have ever experienced without the ingestion of a drug. The friends I met have become what I hope will always be friends; a solid posse that we have begun to call ourselves.

This is the decade that I have radically changed my life style. I quit drinking alcohol with the AA program and its twelve steps. I will have been sober for five years on January 11, 2010. One of the most incredible things I have learned in sobriety is how blessed I am to be married to Madelon Lewis, how blessed I am to have my family, and blessed I am to have my wonderful friends. Sobriety has also caused me to become estranged with one of my oldest friends. An alcoholic in recovery, at least in my case, can become very intolerant of acquaintances that continue to imbibe. I began to realize that the bond we had was the years of drink and drugs that we had shared together. It was a very strong link which I no longer cared to share nor discuss.

It is the decade that I retired, twice. I left OHSU in March, 2004, and worked very part-time at Providence Milwaukie; and I fully retired in August, 2009. I love being retired. This is the decade that I had to confront health problems, primarily cardiac artery disease. I had a triple bypass in April, 2007. I had to have a coronary artery stent placement in July, 2008, because I had not taken seriously the exercise program I will need to continue the rest of my life.

With the time that retirement allows, I now have time to fly fish, fly tie, and camp along rivers and streams where I fish. I have time to try new hobbies, such as the etching in stones, modern petroglyphs if you please. I am able to help friends with projects. I no longer feel guilty about lazing about for a day and reading a book. And I have time to write this blog.

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