Health News from Florida Bay

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, July 15, 2014 No Comment(s)

Our position on entitlements has always been consistent. We are totally against them, unless we happen to be the entitlee. Thus, we opposed some of the outrageous perks Congressional staffers enjoy, until our daughter worked in Congress and got to enjoy them. Then, after she left that job, we opposed them again.

We are similarly conflicted on the new government affordable care program. We wonder why Republicans seem to despise what they call Obamacare, as if the president alone is responsible for a program that developed over seven administrations. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who made a career of advocating for national health care, was buried as something of a hero to the cause, even though he never managed to get it passed.

In general, we had no opinion on the subject, until we noticed that one of our entitlements, known as Social Security, took a noticeable hit this year. We are told it relates to paying for health care. And it bothers us that after working out regularly for 40 years, keeping to a generally healthy diet, unless you count gin, getting regular checkups, etc., we find we are paying for some fat slob who never did anything healthy and gets sick because of it. Or, in the immortal words of former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, "some schlock lying on a couch drinking beer all day." He probably meant "schmuck," but you get the point.

On the other hand, who can object to some public help for people who can't afford even the basic screening for easily diagnosed conditions such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure and no blood pressure?

At this point, we must interrupt this rant to admit that the sun just came up, observed from this porch in a rented place in Tavernier. We look beyond the free form pool, with a bubbling hot tub, richly landscaped and surrounded by lush vegetation, including palms and sea grapes which are utterly motionless, toward Florida Bay. The bay is a soft Virgin Mary blue, with streaks of silver glinting with the wonder of a new day. And far out, just visible on the skyline, the rising sun has lent an olive ridge to the islands in the distance. It is beautiful, but a different beauty from last night when we watched the sun set on the same water, then a fading rose, with the islands a smudge of dusky gray. Last night there were kids all over the place, in the pool and gathering near small boats, which brought neighbors to the event. Some were even fishing, and the water is so clear you can see the fish. The water this morning is utterly empty and so flat you could almost think of walking on it. In fact, most of the bay is so shallow you can walk safely across it.

It was not always this way. In 1935 a terrible storm swept over this place, which at the time only the railroad could reach. It was Henry Flagler's masterpiece, extending his Florida East Coast rails all the way to Key West. The special cement for the railroad's abutments came from Germany, a country known for its excellence in things scientific, which it showed again yesterday in winning the World Cup. For 20 years, the railroad crossing miles of sea was considered a wonder of the world. But in a few hours the storm took out 40 miles of track, which has never been rebuilt. A train filled with workers trying to flee was knocked off the track as a tidal wave submerged this place. The bodies of more than 400 people, and some people still alive, were found as far away as those islands across the bay. Those people had no health insurance; didn't even know what it was. They were workers, who otherwise might have been homeless, enjoying the entitlement of one of Franklin Roosevelt's depression era make-work projects. Amazingly some lived to tell about it, and Ernest Hemingway, living in Key West at the time, wrote bitterly about the tragedy.

Thinking about that awful history, contrasted with the pleasure of this day, could affect one's health, which brings us vaguely back on topic. Why should we have to pay, from our hard-earned entitlement of Social Security, for people who make consensual sex a health issue, but give nothing to those of us who despite years of healthy living, and countless miles of jogging in Holiday Park, and occasionally get the gout and other ailments for which nobody pays us a dime, not even for the three million cherries we eat this time of year to prevent such distractions, or the workout clothes we buy every 10 years to make sure we look pretty while preserving our health. For that effort, we get charged.

Contemplating such unfair socially engineered absurdities of our time, when contraception is a women’s health issue, becomes a separate health issue. Men ruin their health worrying about Social Security checks, requiring the universal medication known as martinis. It is an awful burden to bear, even as small early birds flit among the palms, now starting a slow dance in the wind, and ripples appear in the bay, assuring there is peace in our times.

At least until the morning paper returns us to reality.

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