A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Archive for February, 2009

Bonnie has her say…

Bonnie wrote this piece last fall before Obama was elected President of the US…

Like many Canadians, I’m fascinated by U.S. elections, and generally disappointed by

the outcome. Having lived in a superb government health care system since the early 1970s,

I wonder why Obama isn’t hammering at this issue. I feel like screaming at the part of McCain’s stump speech where he says, "Do you want a bureaucrat standing between you and your doctor?" – and everybody boos.

Guess what? In the 35-plus years in which Canadians have been blessed with health care, I haven’t encountered one bureaucrat – just a lot of wonderful doctors and nurses and some excellent hospitals. And no, our taxes don’t seem particularly high – or maybe I don’t notice as we don’t have to pay medical insurance. We simply have health cards with our names and photos on them, and show them when we use the system. Every Canadian citizen is eligible, and so are legal immigrants.

Three of the four of us in our household owe our lives to the speed and and efficiency of Canadian medicare, and I wish my American friends could benefit from something similar. My 7-year-old granddaughter was a four-pound preemie. It was terrifying watching this tiny creature, but she blossomed in the loving neo-natal intensive care ward at our local hospital. She’s now the tallest, brightest kid in her class.

In 2004, I was finishing writing a book, and delayed my regular mammogram by seven months. (These are free in our system for all Canadian women over 50.) Just before I set out on a cross-Canada PR tour, I found a tiny lump near my collarbone. My family doctor squeezed me in, and I was quickly in treatment for early breast cancer. I’ve had clean mammograms ever since. Another score for the health system.

Then there is my husband. On his annual checkup in 2006 (paid for by the government), he mentioned to our doctor that he sometimes felt a tightness in his chest after his morning walk. She immediately organized a series of tests and within two weeks he was recuperating from a quadruple bypass. I’ve often wondered if Tim Russert would be alive today if he’d lived in Canada, where even slight chest pains are a signal that a diagnostic process must be followed. As I understand, Russert’s doctor did not persuade him to have an angiogram, which could have found the blocked arteries that cost him his life.

Now it’s my turn again. I’ve been suffering from chest pain all summer, and have undergone a series of tests, the latest one being an angiogram on Sept. 8. I was terrified at the thought of something so invasive – an incision in my femoral artery, then a tube running up to my heart with a mini-camera to take photos. But the nurses in the "cardiac catheter department" were so warm and supportive that I stopped worrying. The procedure took about 20 minutes; they fed me carrot muffins and orange juice afterwards and the doctor told me that my arteries are excellent. We still don’t know what the problem is, but I’m confident we’ll find an answer.

In all of these procedures, our only expense was the parking.

I wish Obama could convince the citizens of the world’s wealthiest nation that they deserve, and can afford, a health system as good as ours. Having universal health care could actually help the U.S. economy and reduce unemployment: many U.S. corporations are moving their operations to Canada because they won’t need to pay their employees’ health care. I also understand that the average lifespan of a Canadian is about three years longer than in the U.S.– despite our miserable winters.

Bonnie Buxton is a Toronto journalist, and author of the book, "Damaged Angels," published in the U.S. by Avalon in 2005. She has written countless magazine and newspaper articles.


What’s your poison… drugs, sex, booze or religion?


Just before this past Christmas, local retired Rabbi Dow Marmur wrote in his Toronto Star column  that, "’Tis not the season for Atheism". Am I the only one who is getting totally bored by the pius bigotry of the religious folk who appear to be so intolerant of those who don’t believe in "god" as described by the various religious cults? Apparently, in the mind of those who profess to be religious, god is the creator and all that entails. I have a somewhat different perspective.

Marmur suggested that some of us might be getting books as presents over the past holiday that would "ferociously attack traditional religion in the guise of common sense and scientific objectivity". In fact I did receive such a book called God is not Great  by Christopher Hitchens, a witty and articulate writer who has often been controversial, particularly for his views in support of the Iraq War. In this book he flails away, not so much as at god but at the venal, corrupt and wicked things done in the name of religion over the centuries. It was a fascinating read and, of course, did not disabuse the reader of all the dreadful things done by non-believers as well.


For me, the most interesting statement in Marmur’s column was this: “Though exponents of dogmas and norms of every faith and denomination may be flawed, and though affirming God doesn’t necessarily solve the vexing question about the persistence of evil in the world , or the mysteries of life and death, no amount of scientific advances can eradicate the fundamental human awareness of a power that’s beyond us and which tradition has often identified as God.”


Thus, the good rabbi seems to be saying that the notion of god comes from a thoughtful human mind … and this kind of thinking is rather universal. So I wrote to Rabbi Marmur this letter:


Thank you for the interesting column in the Star on Dec. 14/08.


Although I have long since discarded the religious myths of my childhood, I no longer consider myself either agnostic or atheist. And I am in support of anyone whose beliefs are benign in the sense that they are not forced on anyone else or result in the death or injury of others who do not subscribe to the same belief system.


Because I have concluded that all the religions I’ve ever become aware of are based on tradition, superstition and mythology, I still have to deal with what you refer to as “feeling close to a supernatural power that may be described as God or identify by another name”.


So, after many thoughtful decades on the subject of God I have also come to the conclusion that “God” has been misidentified. By this I mean that most religions describe God as some kind of person, albeit a super, divine person.   


Thus the term ‘God’ tends to make people think that there is some kind of supernatural person, somewhere ‘on high’ who is monitoring everything each of us says and does. This notion provides the opportunity for faith leaders to create all kinds of fables that are designed to inspire their followers to lead exemplary lives. And, I daresay, these stories and their accompanying rituals sometimes achieve their intended purpose. However, my own spiritual journey has not led me to support this general attitude promulgated by our major religions.


In fact, I have come to believe that ‘God’ is that spiritual essence within each of us that makes us intelligently human. Of course, I am also convinced that some of us have varying degrees of this inherent divinity. We each have an inner higher power that guides us, I trust, for the best that we can achieve.


I don’t know if my personal belief system is original but I’d be pleased to engage in fruitful discussion on this subject.

To date there has been no response from Rabbi Marmur but I would welcome comment from anyone who has found this entry on FASDance.