Monday, August 31, 2009

Passing in Silence

Passing in Silence, originally uploaded by Carolyn Branch.

What wonders will our future hold?

From the Fulton Telegraph, April 24, 1874

A marvelous century. A hundred years ago there were no railroads, steamboats, telegraph lines, gas-burners, furnaces, sewing machines, photographs, friction matches, revolvers, percussion caps, india-rubber shoes, and above all, no free schools.

I found this "marvelous century" quote while doing research for my book on the history of Fulton. It was basically a "filler", used by Editor John Williams to fill leftover space at the end of a column. Imagine what Mr. Williams would think of all the wonders of this marvelous century! He would not believe how much the world has changed since he wrote those lines 135 years ago. What do we take for granted today that was undreamed of in 1874? I tried to make a list, but soon realized it would be much too long to be used as a filler.

It's almost easier to turn the idea around and ask what has not changed. What would Mr. Williams recognize as familiar and relatively unchanged? I picture him walking through the streets of Fulton, looking around at our town. Perhaps only the natural world would reassure him. Grass is still green and growing, trees still shade the streets, an occasional squirrel still chatters from an overhead limb. People on the street would still be basically the same human creatures, although he might be startled by our clothing and speech.

But if he looked overhead at the wide blue sky he would see long vapor trails of jets passing through the heavens.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do you have insurance? No? Go ahead and kill yourself.

A friend of mine has been struggling with depression for months. Last week she wrote a suicide note and tried to kill herself. Pulled back from the edge, she agreed to get some help. Her mother started making telephone calls to try to get that help for her. Everywhere she called, the first questions were the same: "Does she have insurance? What policy? Can you pay the deductible today?"

After three days of calls and trips to hospitals, she was accepted into a program more than 150 miles away. Her mother borrowed $1500 to pay the deductible required by the mental illness clause in her insurance policy. The program administrator made it clear she would not have been accepted without the insurance policy and the $1500.

What happens to mentally unbalanced people who don't have insurance? The attitude of our health care system seems to be: "Just go ahead and kill yourself." Or kill your kids, or your neighbors, or strangers on the street.