A Typical Day

It started off as a typical autumn Saturday morning for a middle-aged suburban white man. I was sleeping in my nice house on a quiet cul-de-sac. My wife and daughters were asleep, but the dog was awake and asking to go outside. I got up, let the dog out. The air was crisp, and the first fallen leaves had been blown into the kitchen. As Wesley romped outside, I checked the news and mail.

These days, checking the news and the mail is a little different than it was a generation ago. I fired up the laptop computer and checked the news online. Instead of opening paper envelopes, I clicked on links in the email program.

I had been out of town the weekend before and had not mown the grass or gone to the transfer station, this generation's name for the town dump. Could I get these tasks completed before I needed to head out on the special tasks of the day?

Like many people these days, my work doesn't end on Friday afternoon. My job, my work, continues through the weekend. For my job, I'm the social media manager for a Federally Qualified Community Health Center. I am always looking for ways to improve communities' health through the use of social media.

As the old labor union chant goes, "Our life is more than our work, and our work is more than on job" and my job of improving communities' health through the use of social media is also part of my work, which might simply be named improving communities. This has led me to run for State Representative which has added a lot to the tasks for each weekend.

My eldest daughter is studying at UConn and she stayed with us for the weekend. She was the second person up and we talked about her school work. She is reading about post-modernism and I thought about post-modernism and political campaigns. We talked about Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. Should I add a muted trumpet to my campaign literature? Should I talk about the postal system and the efforts to eliminate W.A.S.T.E.? Could I get an endorsement from Oedipa Maas? This led to a discussion of fan fiction and the idea of trying to get fan fic writers to write endorsements of my campaign from the perspective of their favorite characters. Can a political campaign have literary value? Can we hermeneutically study the intent of the candidate and how it relates to the experience of the voter?

Saturday morning, a bunch of people were going door to door urging people to support Chris Murphy for U.S. Senate. I went to join in. I offered a brief version of one of my favorite talking points about Chris Murphy's opponent to the crowd of young volunteers. Linda McMahon says we have the best health care system in the world. If you can afford to spend $50 million every other year, trying to buy the office of U.S. Senate, you can also probably afford to buy the best health care in the world. If you have a decent job, with decent employer offered health insurance, you can probably get decent health care, but not necessarily world class health care. However, if you are struggling to get by in this country. If you work for a company that doesn't provide health insurance for its employees, if you're between jobs, are poor, or have pre-existing conditions, getting good health care is also a struggle. Chris Murphy has worked hard to make quality health care accessible to more of us.

It wasn't time for speeches, so I saved the stories of patients at the Community Health Center who had benefited from Chris Murphy's work and from the Affordable Care Act.

All of this was a precursor to Saturday afternoon. A patient at CHC had lost her two year old son to brain cancer; neuroblastoma. She lived close to the Community Health Center, and would sometimes visit our community garden. Her son loved the garden, and soon after he had died, I ran into her at an event in the garden. She spoke about how much it would mean to be able to have a memorial for him in the garden and I offered to help make it happen. Saturday afternoon was the memorial.

As I drove up to Middletown, I listened to Snap Judgement on NPR. It was edgy stories about people confronting big parts of their lives; spiritual issues. How do we understand a greater being or things that are bigger than our own lives? How do take the age old craft of storytelling and make it relevant to our current age, cutting through all the noise of our daily lives?

It brought me back to the discussion with my eldest daughter about post modernism and my campaign. It took me back to the National Association of Community Health Centers conference in Florida last week, where one of the keynote speakers was Anna Deavere Smith. She did one woman documentary style performances about health care. They were powerful and moving, talking about a woman with diabetes who didn't want to go on dialysis because of her daughter's experience when she was dying of AIDS, or of a rodeo rider who ended up in the hospital after getting kicked by a bull in his kidneys.

What would I encounter at the memorial for Junaid?

The memorial got off to a slow start. Things still needed to be organized and it was a community effort. Junaid's mother still had a lot of work to do to be able to say goodbye to her son. After a couple hours of helping get various tasks completed and milling around, Junaid's mother invited all of us into a circle on the sidewalk. She spoke about having a black father and a white mother back in the seventies when it was less common. She spoke about being brought up by her mother in poverty in the slums of Patterson NJ. This was a very different Patterson than William Carlos Williams wrote about in his epic poem about the city, yet the reference brought the poem to my mind.

She spoke of becoming pregnant at aged fourteen, of giving up her daughter and disappearing into a world of drugs. She spoke about becoming clean, of a new life, and then becoming a victim of domestic violence. She spoke about the shelter for battered women that CHC runs and the friends she had met there. She spoke about caring for her son as he was dying of cancer. She thanked everyone there, often personally, talking about how they had helped her in her journey.

It was a two hour special episode Anna Deavere Smith on Snap Judgement doing a campaign to build community, end domestic violence and fight against childhood cancer.

On my drive home, I thought a little bit about the political side of this; Junaid's mother and Linda McMahon. Linda McMahon has made her fortune promoting sexually ladened violence in the guise of 'family entertainment' and is now using her millions from that to try and buy a seat in Congress to get more tax benefits for herself at the expense of people like you and I, and Junaid's mother. Chris Murphy has fought hard to craft legislation that would help Junaid's family. For me the choice is clear, and it is a moral choice.

It was probably close to eight in the evening by the time I got home, exhausted. I am a middle aged suburban white man, who went through an intense journey seeing parts of our country in our own backyard that too many of us never see.

Today, I write about it. I'll go to church and pray for Junaid and his mom. I'll go to campaign events and seek to represent American's, not just those that are most like me. Saturday; it was a typical day.

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