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Health & Wellness LGBT Sobriety

Thoughts On Sobriety

REFLECTIONS ON 32 YEARS OF SOBRIETY & HOPE

AA Must Change Or It Will Die

Visiting the throne
I often prayed at the “throne,” although it wasn’t always this clean, nor was I so well-dressed!

Turning 32 years sober recently, I have some thoughts about what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. And I thought I’d share some of those thoughts because I think they just might help someone.

I have been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for the duration of my sobriety. I know, I know…I’m supposed to be anonymous, and I’m breaking the tradition of anonymity. But I think at this point many people hide the faults and errors of AA behind that tradition, and I have no doubt that a fearless and searching moral and practical inventory of AA will provide some gems that will help countless people struggling with addictions and compulsive behaviors, now and for the future.

I know there will be those who think my ego is driving me to think I know better than AA but, as my first sponsor wisely told me, “What other people think of you is none of your fucking business.”

And if, Zeus forbid, I relapse on booze or any other addictive substance, the fault was all mine. The principles of AA, as I understand them, have kept me sober and clean lo these many years.

So…here goes…

NOTE: I use the word “alcoholic” to cover all forms of addiction.

A Daily Decision

When I was an undergraduate at Temple University, I had a professor for an introductory philosophy course by the name of Dr. John Atwell. Of all the teachers I’ve ever had, this one stands out as one of the most profound influences upon my ability to think critically. I credit him with forcing me, with much pain, to learn how to think–or at the very least, to recognize when my thinking is not on par with what ought to pass for critical thinking. (The highest grade I ever got from Atwell was a “C,” which I consider a great honor to this day. And his comment on that paper was “Interesting,” which I continue to cherish as a great compliment!)A daily decision

One of his comments in class that struck me the most, and has lived with me ever since: That each and every day, we must make a decision to… and, well, that applies to anything and everything we decide to do, so finish that thought with whatever decision you have made.

The example Dr. Atwell used was the alcoholic. He said, “Every morning, an alcoholic must make a decision not to drink.” In other words, the alkie didn’t make that decision once, and done. He needed to remake that decision each and every morning. Rededication, if you will.

And guess what? I was taught that same concept in AA.

That has implications for what I’ve learned about my Higher Power.

Sponsor As Higher Power

A sponsor, as I’ve been told, is someone who has what you would like to have, as in a way of life, or way of living. Think of it as a coach–someone who you choose to help you reach a goal or goals.

And as with a coach, if I want to get to the point where I can do what they do with any success, then I must be willing to do what they did to get there.

In other words, I must suspend my beliefs, and try on theirs at least for a reasonable period of time that might get me the same results. They must become my Higher Power.

Just think about it. Even if I am training for some religious order, that believes in a particular way about its “god,” then I must allow my instructor to become that “higher power” that leads me to that particular way of believing in that god.

Whether I’m training for an athletic event, or a particular life strategy, I must discard my old way of thinking, at least temporarily, in order to see how the new way works. And I must be willing to do exactly as I’m coached to do, in order to get the full effects of this new way of doing.

One caveat: If, after following that path I find that it doesn’t hold true for me, then I maintain the right to reject it, ultimately.

The difference between a willing athlete and an alcoholic is, the alcoholic may not be fully honest about the choice that he has made not to drink. Even if he’s fully honest, he may not be prepared for the strength of will that it takes to honor his commitment to himself and to his sobriety, especially while the physical compulsion and mental obsession to drink has hold of him.

If it takes belief in some mythical “god” to get the alcoholic to submit to a new way of doing things, then… do whatever works! As they say in AA, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” If it works, then who can argue with that? 

In my own experience, belief in a Higher Power has evolved from acceptance of a “supreme being” who watched over me and protected me from myself, to several Jewish and Christian concepts of a “god” figure, to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs and, finally, to an agnosticism that embraces any and all wisdom that leads to a better, more moral and giving, way of being.

NOTE: I often call myself an “atheist,” so as not to confuse those who don’t understand that “agnostic” does not mean that I believe in a supreme being, but just haven’t pinned down a particular religion. I take “agnostic” to mean that I see no convincing evidence or argument for a supreme being, but I’m not foolish enough to believe that I can prove that none exists.

The Fellowship

A majority of alcoholics seem to do best in a fellowship of support, with other alcoholics facing, or having faced, the same or similar issues. In my early days of sobriety, my sponsor wasn’t always available (and we didn’t have mobile phones at that time, so nobody was really in easy reach, unless there was a pay phone nearby, and the alkie I was calling happened to be home. I sometimes had to make seven or eight calls before someone answered). I spent many hours in an AA clubhouse, playing cards, talking with other alcoholics, going on 12-Step calls, going bowling, for coffee, you name it. I was always in close proximity to others in recovery. I can’t stress enough the importance of that fellowship to why I stayed sober.Fellowship is the Answer

Looking back, the Fellowship itself was my Higher Power.

What if all I could do was look to the sky and ask “god” for the solutions to my problems, for answers to the questions I had about how to deal with the problems I was having, or even to sit with me in a coffee shop for a couple of hours while the compulsion to drink had its grip on me?

I know there are people who have prayed alone and had the compulsion to drink pass. But I believe that anything I believe with enough force is going to come to fruition–such is the power of the human mind, which I call, among other things, the “law of attraction”–and praying with all my might is just another way of reenforcing the decision I make each morning to stay sober for today.

Under even not-so-careful examination, such an event is not a proof of the existence of a god. If anything, for me it’s evidence of the power of the human mind to create reality.

It’s All About The Steps

The “program of recovery” is all in the Steps. Period.

Not only have I helped many people recover from addictions using the steps, but also have used them for coaching non-addicts as well.

I’ve changed some of the language, or course.

When I suggest that I become someone’s “Higher Power,” it’s not an ego thing. Think about the wisdom of hiring a coach, paying good money for that service…and then saying, “No, I’m not going to do what you tell me.”

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, eh?

And if one of my coaching clients reacted that way, I would give his money back.

The addict/alcoholic objects because he likes to think that he is the Higher Power, and putting a sponsor in that position takes away that power.

I understand it perfectly well.

I’ve witnessed real miracles working Step Four (the personal inventory) with addicts as well as so-called “Earth People” (non-addicts) alike. I never allow a sponsee or client do Step Four on his own–at least not until I know they understand to near-perfection the idea of “rigorous honesty.”

The Steps themselves are an excellent plan for living. It ain’t just for alkies anymore!

Insistence On “God” Is Killing A Lot Of People

When I first got sober, and someone in a meeting would become adamant about his or her “god concept,” or even use the word “god” too strongly, one of the old-timers would caution: Don’t talk about “god” so much in a meeting–it will scare off the newcomers. Their focus was on making AA attractive to those who still suffer, and the suffering alkie is likely to have negative thoughts about the gods that have been forced down their unwilling throats, or hung over their heads in futile attempts to scare or guilt them into submission to the wills of family and friends–often, their very enablers, who often enjoy no better spiritual and emotional health than the alkie himself.

Today, I hear selfish people whose only concern with newcomers seems to be lipservice say, “My higher power is Jesus Christ, and I’m not ashamed to say it,” as though anyone were shaming them for their choice of a higher power. All this is is ego, bravado in the game of “Whose God Is Bigger?”

And this god competition is destroying AA for me.atheist symbol

The insistence on reciting the “Jesus Prayer,” otherwise known as “The Lord’s Prayer” at the end of meetings is anathema to me. That prayer was being recited even while literally hundreds of millions of people were being murdered in the name of the perpetrators’ “lord and savior jesus christ.” 

 I refuse to take part any longer. I have been able to convince a few groups to stop reciting this Christian prayer at the end of meetings, and to substitute the perfectly fitting “Responsibility Pledge” (Whenever anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.), but I’m often met with ugliness when I suggest that reciting a Christian prayer at the end of a meeting is killing people.

What about the Muslims and Jews who feel they “don’t fit in” because they can’t identify with that prayer?

I have also seen LGBT people turned off from AA because of the religious bullshit they encounter in meetings. I knew a guy who, after being a drunken wretch who used to get drunked up and terrorize his neighborhood, turned into a fundamentalist Christian in sobriety, and tried to “change” LGBT people, insisting that the way they expressed love itself was “wrong,” and insisting on his narrow Christian view that human sexuality is binary.

I will always tell the story of the man sitting in the AA clubhouse, eating a ham and cheese sandwich, who felt the need to tell me that “homosexuality is wrong.”

“Oh? And where do you arrive at that gem of wisdom?” I asked him.

He looked at me in disgust. “It’s in the Bible,” he sneered at me.

Knowing him from meetings, and knowing full well that he was not a paragon of biblical virtue, I gently pointed out that the ham and cheese sandwich he was currently enjoying was “against the Bible.”

This time his contempt for me had him shaking in disgust. “I don’t follow the Bible!” he shouted.

TRUE STORY!!!

I can laugh at that, and I did, in his face, at that time. But how many LGBT people, or Black people, Muslim or Jewish people, who haven’t had any kind of healing yet, who haven’t been taught how to develop a backbone in the face of such turds, turn around and walk out the door to die?

I repeat: Insistence on “God,” especially the god of the fundamentalist Christian, in AA is killing people!

Insistence On “Singleness Of Purpose” Is Killing A Lot Of People

But I can’t imagine a “workaholic” being of any use to a heroin addict, especially when the workaholic thinks that singing hymns about Jesus saved him from his addiction. 

I actually experienced this nonsense in a so-called “Jesus-based” recovery program, modeled after AA itself. They had retrofitted the Twelve Steps with their own Jesus language, and meetings began with thirty minutes of hymn singing, led by a guitar-wielding authentic Christian.

I will never forget the poor suffering heroin addict, shaking with withdrawals, sitting listening while the “leader” shared about his battle with workaholism. It was a Friday night, and the addict couldn’t get a bed in a detox until Monday. I don’t [[know whether he made it through the weekend, but I have my doubts.

I don’t know many members of AA who are pure alcoholics any longer. The great majority of folks are alcoholics and drug addicts. I’ve seen many many people shut down in their sharing–sharing that is obviously painful and extremely necessary–and they leave the meeting feeling [rightfully] resentful. Most of the people in that room have problems with both alcohol and drugs! Only a small minority can’t identify with the drug part of the equation, but recovery is recovery–the principles do not change dependent on whether the problem is drugs or alcohol.few pure alcoholics any more

AA is 85 years old. The so-called “Big Book,” the original text called “Alcoholics Anonymous” is 81 years old. In that time, much has been learned about addiction, as well as other topics treated in the text, such as human sexuality and gender roles.

It’s long past time that the literature was updated to reflect new information, new times. And many AA practices, such as the Traditions, should be updated for the 21st Century as well.

For those who can’t handle that kind of change, all I can say is: If it’s working for you, that’s great! Keep things exactly as they are. But many people are dying as the result of the inflexibility of those who think that changing the approach to reflect important new information is a threat, rather than a necessary progression of recovery.

I would also like to point out that three of the most quoted stories in the Big Book–Bill’s Story, Dr. Bob’s Story, and Doctor, Alcoholic, Addictall mention drugs! Any time someone in a meeting tries to censor someone’s share because they mention drugs, my hand goes up and I remind folks about the drugs mentioned in these stories, and ask whether they deserve to be torn out of the Big Book!

Perhaps strict adherence to a “revered past” is yet another form of addiction?

Insistence on AA Is Killing A Lot Of People

A woman I met in AA who helped save my life often said, in helping people to understand the power of AA and why it makes sense to avail yourself of the Fellowship: “You can go to the dentist and have your teeth drilled without Novocaine…but why would you do that to yourself? You can stop drinking without AA, but it’s like getting your teeth drilled without the Novocaine…why would you do that to yourself?”

Today, after decades of research into and experience of recovery from addiction, we know much more than was known in 1939, when the Big Book was written. When I went to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting, I found their literature to be enlightening, and then Overeaters Anonymous (OA) was also refreshing–because both reflected new insights into addiction that couldn’t have been in the AA literature because those concepts were just not known.

Even AA has new literature, although even that must be filtered through those who resist any kind of change as “sacrilege” because it might counter the party line that they read in the Big Book.

Closure

I am not on a “warpath” here. My primary purpose remains to stay sober, and to help other alcoholics and addicts to achieve sobriety.

In over 32 years, I’ve seen what works, and what does not work. I have my own ideas about recovery, and I’ve seen those ideas succeed with people that I sponsor.

Today, AA remains a source of prospects for my own Twelfth Step work–for the uninitiated, Step Twelve tells us that, in order to maintain sobriety, I must help the alcoholic who still suffers. I agree with that principle one-hundred percent.

During the period of seclusion brought on by the COVID pandemic, I’ve turned to online sources to help others. I belong to several FaceBook recovery groups, for example, and have offered help in those.

When I find an AA meeting that is vibrant and full of newcomers, I put up with the praying at the end of the meeting–I simply do not participate. But even with the number of years I’ve piled up, that solution to the problem of christian domination of meetings leaves me feeling like I don’t fit in. That’s not a feeling I care to tolerate.

How many alcoholics and addicts are we failing because of insistence on “doing it our way”?

AA is crumblingI, for one, no longer go to meetings, or rarely. My stated reason for going to meetings prior to the pandemic was to find still-suffering alcoholics, because I know that helping others keeps me sober–and reminds me of where I could end up without my daily decision not to drink and drug.

But I want AA to be there for those who might walk through the door–and I want them to stay for recovery!

For that, I am responsible.

Will AA die? We point to the Oxford Group that preceded AA, which enjoyed a good amount of success, but was well on its way out by the time AA was founded. I doubt that AA will go the way of the Oxford Group, but it might remain simply a smallish, cultish organization, one among a variety of solutions for suffering alcoholics and addicts.

AA must change, or it will become irrelevant.

©Bert Wylen 2021

Categories
Racism LGBT Politics

Dear Black Friends

I am not a racist.

I recognize that, in this politically correct era in which we live, this is not the contrite, apologetic pronouncement expected of a what has become known as “the old white man.” But to say that my white skin automatically qualifies me as a racist–something I hear every day–simply punishes the Truth.

It most certainly does not describe who I am.  

I hearken back to something once said by one of my greatest heroes, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., who clearly stated that we hope for the day when a person is judged by the content of his or her character, and not by the color of his or her skin.

 So why would anyone who claims to follow Dr. King wish to judge me so harshly simply by the color of my skin, without knowing the content of my character?

 Such a judgement belies ignorance of what it was like growing up as a white boy in a society where racism was everywhere, and hard even for someone with a pure heart to defy.

 Now, what I am willing to own is that, by virtue of this white skin I’m wearing, completely by accident of fate, I’ve benefited from “white privilege.” Where many doors undoubtedly would have slammed shut on a black man or woman, I’ve found opportunities aplenty simply because of my good fortune at having been born white.

 Am I going to feel guilty about that? Should I somehow find some way to “return to sender”? Absolutely not! What would be the sense, what would be the value in that?

 I think it makes far more sense to extend those benefits to everyone, no matter their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or whatever other labels are used to divide us. I would venture to say that, under any circumstances, enjoying a measure of good fortune should dictate that I share at least some part of that fortune to help others get a leg up. That is simple human kindness and decency.

 I think it behooves any of us who are interested in ending systemic racism, as well as reforming our government so that it fulfills its promise to ensure, defend, and protect the unalienable rights of all citizens, to understand the challenges posed by racism for those of us with white skin in a racist world, living among racist family and friends.

dear black friends So let me begin by describing my own journey through the racist society in which I was raised. Nobody can judge my perspective on race until they know the challenges I’ve faced due to racism.

 When I was a child, I don’t remember my age exactly, but it must have been in single digits, I used the “n-word”–not because I knew what it meant…I remember that much…but because I was egged on to use it by some friends. I happened to be within earshot of my mother and, before I knew what was happening, a hand came around from behind me and slapped my face. I was hurt, humiliated, and crying, and all I remember was my mother’s anger and disappointment in my use of that ugly word. My mother taught me from an early age, years before MLK gave his famous speech, that I was to judge a person by their character, and that skin color meant nothing.

 That lesson was not to be underscored by my experience with other family members and friends. Let me give a few examples:

 I loved my grandmother. I don’t think anyone could fault me for that. Yet my grandmother held some typical racist attitudes for the times in which she lived. I remember well when she told my father that “the schwartzes (a Yiddish word equivalent to the “n-word”) are within six blocks of here” meaning that they had moved in and were living close to her North Philadelphia neighborhood, which also meant that the resale value of her house was dropping, due to what became known as white flight. Next I remember that “they” were living within two blocks of her home, and she had to get out.

 This, to me, was grossly unfair and bigoted. As a kid of maybe 16 or 17 years old, I tried to explain how unfair and bigoted she was being. But she verbally slapped me down and warned me not to be disrespectful. What could I say after that, without disrespecting my own grandmother?

 I will also mention that, some years after my grandmother sold her house, our neighbor’s grandparents moved out of their South Philadelphia home after black teenagers pelted the grandmother with eggs as she walked home from the grocery store. She no longer felt safe in the neighborhood in which they had raised their family after immigrating there from Italy. Maybe kids will be kids, but that incident–one of several–did nothing to allay the racist attitudes that those two elderly Italians held, and shared with anyone who would listen.

 And their daughter, my neighbor, who was like another mother to me, spoke about her own experiences with the black girls who went to high school with her at South Philadelphia High School. Those experiences did not reflect well on black folks. I, of course, knew by then some of the horrific bigotry that those black girls suffered, the deprivations and humiliations of being under the thumb of the white supremacy and systemic racism of the Philadelphia of the 1940s, when they were in high school together. But again, when I protested my “other mother’s” racist attitudes, I was warned about being disrespectful.

 Generally, if you came to the defense of black people, and were known to be an admirer of King, or Malcolm, or Eldridge Cleaver, or Rosa Parks, or Angela Davis, or any of the other great black leaders of that era, you were dismissed–no, “dismissed” is too weak of a word–”despised,” spit upon–as an “n-word lover.” And that could get you beaten up, or worse, especially if you were an adolescent, and an unpopular one at that, as I was at the time.

 There are complexities to the racial problem in the USA that I don’t see being taken into consideration, that are far from simply black and white. And accusing someone of racism into perpetuity, based simply upon the color of his skin, does not take any of those complexities into account.

 As a Jew, I can tell you that I’m well-equipped to empathize with the black experience here in the United States. Knowledge of the history of Jew hating in the European and American Christian worlds should convince a reasonable person of that.

 When they were able, Jews fled countries where they were, in just about every respect, the “niggers” of Europe. Jews were often forced to live in isolation from the “good Christian” population. In fact, the word “ghetto” is an Italian word for the sectors where Jews were forced to live, before Italy just went ahead and expelled all the Jews from within their borders.

 Jews could not work as professionals, were barred from the universities, as well as from many of the most lucrative trades. Even when they fished, they couldn’t take the best fish–in some jurisdictions, Jews could only take the bottom feeders, which is why we make such good use of carp. In fact, many of the typical “black” delicacies, such as chitterlings, have Jewish equivalents–we call it kishke, and it’s made from cow intestine, rather than pork.

 In Russia, Poland, the Ukraine, and some other Eastern European countries, Jews were often attacked in the middle of the night, by military units and private citizens alike, the men and children murdered, women raped and murdered, houses burned, livestock killed or stolen, often in the dead of bitter winters that killed off whomever might have survived because they had no shelter.

Expulsion of the Jews
Jews were impoverished by expulsions from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Britain, and even Brazil, forced to leave without payment for properties, without possessions, and certainly without any hope for alleviation of their sufferings through refugee organizations.

 Sounds an awful lot like a Ku Klux Klan attack on black citizens, eh? This, among other reasons, might be why Jews empathized with the black American civil rights movement, and why we participated sometimes right up front with MLK and other leaders.* In fact, two of the three students murdered in Mississippi while registering black voters in June of 1964 were Jews.**

Let me also point out that, while my experience with bigotry in this country can’t compare with what black folks endured during the Jim Crow years and beyond, I know what it’s like to endure being kicked, spat upon, beaten up, and humiliated by a gang of Christian kids looking to bully a Jew.

I would also offer my experience as a gay man. Homosexuals also suffered unwarranted beatings and murders at the hands of Christians–both black and white–as well as others, for many hundreds of years. While being gay is not evident from the color of my skin–I’ve been told I “can hide it,” so somehow the hatred-inspired violence I’ve suffered doesn’t count–I did, in fact, hide it for many years because I was terrified to be found out and then subjected to the same horrific treatment of other gay people that I saw all around me.

This isn’t a contest, but what do you think is worse? Experiencing actual hatred and bigotry with the support of parents, friends, and relatives who can commiserate and even help you know how to navigate the bigotry, or living every minute, awake or asleep, with the lonely nightmare of discovery and subsequent ruin, fearing that family and friends will abandon and abhor you?

Anti-LGBT Christian Hate
The sheer ugliness we endured while we cared for our sick and dying could hardly be defined as “Christian”–or could it?

I would also point out the abject hatred experienced by gay men as we suffered with an unknown sickness now known as HIV. While we tended to the sick and dying, instead of help from our neighbors and our government, we suffered further from condemnation and outright curses from self-righteous religious folks, instead of receiving the help that we desperately needed.

 So yes, I’ve known enough suffering in my life, and among the various people with whom I identify, to be able to empathize with the plight of my black brothers and sisters.

 And trust me: I’ve encountered people who want to quietly be supportive of me, but who don’t want to be up-front about that support, lest they be identified with one or more of the groups to which I belong. Like the “n-word lovers” of earlier times, they don’t want to arouse suspicion about their own sexual orientation. They certainly don’t want to attract unwanted attention. They’re perfectly willing to have the government find a way to make things right, so that they don’t need to make a stand.

 And that raises the question: What stand are you unwilling to take yourself, that you prefer that government take for you, so that you don’t need to stand up and be counted as opposing those close to you who may disagree with that stand?

 As I’m watching cities burn from the rioting, I’m reminded of a time when I was just coming up, when we saw the same images of destruction on the televisions and plastered on the front pages of newspapers. I think it’s important for everyone involved to understand that racism is not simply a “black problem,” but one that infects each and every one of us living in this society.

 I honestly don’t think that many black folks understand the impact that racism had on a white adolescent coming of age in the Sixties. I remember seeing the police dogs being loosed on peaceful protesters at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I remember the fire hoses turned on human beings, and Governor Wallace in the schoolhouse door, and the marches and speeches of Martin Luther King.

 And I also remember the reactions of white family and friends, some grudgingly favorable to the demands of the marchers, but most of them openly hostile.

If I’ve raised awareness about the conflicts of allegiance faced by a white child coming of age and realizing that his own family stands on the wrong side of justice, then I’ve accomplished my goal here.

 What do you do when those whom you have been taught to love and respect express something so vile and disgusting?

 And to be sure, I am not saying that, growing up as I did, I never harbored a single racist attitude. How could I help not picking some of that up from those who surrounded me?

 But I was ever vigilant to examine my own motives, my own attitudes and, where I saw any hint of racism (or any -ism, for that matter) cropping up in my interactions with other people, I recognized them for what they were, and quickly swept them clear from my mind, as well as my interactions with other people.

white racismWe all need to learn to work together as a team if we are going to prevail against bigotry that has been so ingrained into our culture and all of the institutions of our government and society. We cannot do that when we handicap others from the get-go by dubious accusations that have no basis in reality. I would venture to say that many of us harbor prejudices that need to be, and have been, cleared by the fresh air of the facts. Nobody should be despised ad infinitum for that.

 Let’s begin from that premise, and make the world a better place for all of us, as equals.

*Even in the US, Jews suffered blatant discrimination. Universities had quotas for Jewish students, and many medical schools would not accept Jewish students. In fact, because most hospitals would not allow Jewish doctors to affiliate, Jews built their own hospitals, and created their own medical schools. Many “Jewish Hospitals” have since been renamed.

Also, the highly influential Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King himself, in a show of solidarity with American Jews and the black civil rights movement.

**Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, both Jews, were murdered along with African American student James Chaney in Neshoba County, Mississippi, during what was known as “Freedom Summer.”

©2020 Bert Wylen

Categories
LGBT Conservatism Politics

Toward A New Gay-Inclusive American Conservatism

The emotional and spiritual destruction that falls upon the shoulders of those of us who must bear the crushing tyranny of a minority’s religious beliefs would be unconscionable to the Founders, who well knew the destructiveness of religion to decent society.

American Conservatism Must Embrace LGBT Citizens Or Die

I hold this truth to be self-evident: that America desperately needs a new conservative movement. The American Conservative Movement will not thrive until it embraces unqualified civil rights for LGBT citizens.

Any semblance of American conservatism that existed since the founding of this nation has been co-opted by Christian nationalists who want nothing more than to establish a theocracy. One of the biggest, although not the only, reasons I see for this emergency is the failure of true conservatives to embrace the LGBT civil rights movement. It’s long past time that we see sexual minorities as deserving of the same unalienable rights as all other citizens. So-called “democratic socialists” (aka, liberals) have gained the upper hand because they freely define “conservatism” with fascism and Dominionism, and no true conservatives seem to be neither able nor willing to surmount that lie.

An example: I was recently on a gay dating app where I met an interesting man who seemed to take an interest in me. We sent a few messages back and forth, we shared a few interests together, and his profile indicated that he is active in some community organizations. I somewhat jokingly warned him that I am a conservative, and was shocked by his angry response: He told me that I am “what is wrong with the world,” and he immediately stopped communicating. He wasn’t interested to know what I meant by “conservative,” being perfectly content, apparently, with his prejudiced, preconceived notions.

I’ve had similar interactions with supposed conservatives when they find out that I am gay.

We need to remedy this dire situation because the Conservative Movement in America has been hijacked by Christian nationalists whose only allegiance appears to be the establishment of a Christian theocracy in America rivaling any ugly extremism seen in the Muslim world.

The takeover of the conservative movement in America by Christian nationalists offers an opportunity to re-create true conservatism for a modern age by those willing to see past old, unworkable, non-fact-based paradigms. The relationship that American conservatism has had with sexual minorities has not been based upon scientific fact about human sexuality, but upon religious extremism that is anything but conservative–or humane.

Typical display by anti-gay Christians, who show up at virtually every community event to express their virulent brand of hate, even drowning out music and speeches by blaring their hate through megaphones.

We should begin by defining American conservatism itself. Conservatism is unique to the founding principles of this grand American experiment for producing and maintaining a modern democratic republic. Those who do not share this broad set of values, and who insist upon a narrow, ecumenical brand that mimics the fascism that destroyed the conservative movement in America over the past four decades, by definition exclude themselves from this fellowship.

American conservatism is born of the beginning paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and, specifically, that sentence that makes the daring claim that human beings “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.*” The Constitution of the United States of America protects these unalienable rights.**

Period.

Our founding documents make no mention of Christianity, nor of any religious notion. The only reference to a deity are the words “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” which appear in the first paragraph. We find no mention of the god of the Hebrew Bible, nor any other known so-called “sacred literature.” Many of the most influential among the Founders were, in fact, Deists, which was as close as they dared come to being atheists as was possible for men of their stature at that time. So much for the claims by Christian nationalists that the Founders were Christian extremists like themselves.

“Nature, and nature’s God” is left undefined and vague…purposely, I believe, by a man who knew that those who first arrived on the shores of North America seeking religious freedom quickly denied that same freedom to anyone whose conscience led them in a different direction, as evidenced by the need of Roger Williams to leave the Massachusetts colony to found his own community in Rhode Island.

If someone does not believe this, and wants to insist that the USA was founded as a Christian nation, then they do not belong in this new American Conservative Movement. Those Christian extremists who hijacked the Republican Party, formerly the bastion of conservatism in America, for themselves are well on their way to implementing a fascist state, based upon a Christian theocracy that would deny basic rights to gays, women, those of other religions, or anyone who does not embrace their niggardly concept of their god.  

We must wrest control back from these authoritarians and, as George Will states in his book, “create a blueprint for finding our way out of the morass” that the fascists have created for us.

What will that blueprint look like?  

The current situation of Christian nationalists hijacking the conservative movement in America supplies us with the standing we need to justify the first major principle of the First Amendment to the Constitution: Separation of church and state. The Founders believed this to be important because they knew that the soils of Europe had been soaked with human blood from centuries of religious disputes between various sects of Christians over such “earth-shattering” arguments as to whether the elements of the Eucharist were representations of the blood and body of their messiah, or the actual blood and body as transformed through ritual. Religious wars were not mere history–they were being fought even as the Founding Fathers met to hammer out the Constitution.

With Christian nationalists calling for the death penalty for homosexuality, it would seem that their taste for blood has not been satisfied.

Make no mistake: The Founders wisely wanted to keep religion from influence over civic matters. But religion is not needed to have a civil society.  I propose that the guiding principle of the new American Conservative Movement be, simply, what is known as “The Golden Rule.” The mythical Jesus of Nazareth, who did have some valuable teachings, sins of his later followers aside, put it this way: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Put another way, first, by the great Jewish sage, Hillel, who operated a school around the time when Jesus was purported to have existed: Do not do unto others as you would have them not do unto you. Take your pick. Either would serve us well.

American Conservatism
Another biblical concept seemingly forgotten by rabid Christians.

I don’t know of any situation where the Golden Rule would not suffice to prevent behavior that would impinge upon the rights of anybody.

Next come the basic founding principles that guide our interpretation of what should be our constitutional rights. In writing the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson kept to a minimal portrayal of what those are, sticking to John Locke’s definition of “unalienable rights,” those rights that accrue simply to the fact of the existence of a human being. In the Declaration, Jefferson states that governments are instituted to guarantee these unalienable rights and, that among them–meaning that these are not the only ones, but he lists what we might assume are the most important among them–are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as we stated above.

Let’s assume for now that Life and Liberty are self-explanatory. Once born, no other human being has the right to take our life from us unless our existence threatens the life of someone else. This is why, when one human being murders another, we wish to prevent them from murdering anyone else and, even then, we hesitate to murder them to keep them from doing so.

Liberty should also, at this point in history, not require anything more than a rudimentary explanation. No human being, or collection of human beings, has the right to impinge upon the liberty of anyone else. That means, in modern context, that one human being cannot own another human being, and nobody can infringe upon the free movement of anyone else.

That brings us to the pursuit of happiness. Here some folks are prone to get hung up, especially those who wish to impinge upon the pursuit of happiness of those who disagree with their religious principles. Some of the greatest dissonance in the public arena comes when one person’s pursuit of happiness might be another person’s “sinfulness,” which they would like to prohibit through legal sanctions. Throughout history, this has been an area of great contention. The Puritans under Oliver Cromwell, for example, prohibited the celebration of Christmas, because their peculiar interpretation of Christianity regarded Christmas as pagan.

Cromwell didn’t last too long.

No single issue illustrates the stranglehold of present-day Christian nationalists in betrayal of conservative principles better than that of homosexuality. Any objection to homosexuality itself is rooted in interpretations of the Bible that are not shared by all parties who believe in that Bible. Yet Christian nationalists insist that their interpretation should be the only one, and that their deadly interpretation–they require the death penalty for homosexuality–should dictate civil law under the Constitution of the United States of America.

Christian estremists murdered women accused of being witches based upon their own narrow interpretation of their Bible.

Christian nationalists would have us believe that the god of their Bible destroys any society that tolerates homosexuals. Yet there are other Christians who, reading that same Bible, not only tolerate homosexuals, but embrace homosexual love and marriage. At the heart of it, this religious argument is no different from any other religious strife over which countless lives were lost in wars that the Founders hoped to avoid by excluding such religious conflicts from the civic square.

So it would seem that we have an argument over belief akin to the one over the meaning of the Eucharist–one that has no place being fought in the civic square, nor being decided by civil government.

At the heart of it, homosexual love is one aspect of the pursuit of happiness–nothing more, nothing less. While at one time, homosexuality was seen as equal to criminality, we know today, through both experience and scientific study, that homosexuality is as benign as heterosexuality: nothing other than sexual attraction can be extrapolated from either orientation. At one time, homosexuality was equated with all kinds of criminality, including rape and child molestation, not based on any empirical data, but to satisfy the need of religious extremists’ to demonize. 

Lynchings of African Americans were celebrated rather than condemned by many Christians, justified, again, by their own interpretation of their Bible.

One of the earliest scientific studies of homosexuality was published by Dr. Evelyn Hooker at UCLA, in 1957. The purpose of the study was to find out whether homosexuals were any more criminally inclined than their heterosexual counterparts. Hooker’s scientific study found that there was no correlation whatsoever between homosexuality and criminality. Many scientific, duplicatable, peer-reviewed studies have been done in the decades since that original study to prove that homosexuality is a benign characteristic of human beings.

This should lead us to the conclusion that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a benign, a priori characteristic of being human, and not a predictor of the moral and ethical behavior of the individual person. As the mythical Jesus says, judge the person by the fruit he produces.

It’s simply about mutual, consensual love between human beings. Love. Period.

On the other hand, Christian nationalists, as well as others insisting upon a biblical or even emotional rather than scientifically sound approach to human sexuality, would like us to believe that homosexuals in general are a monolithic group of hedonists and sexual perverts. They point to a subset of homosexuals, people who flout extraordinary sexual behavior–kind of like surveying heterosexual kids at Spring Break and extrapolating from their behaviors that they represent all of heterosexuality. True Conservatives will understand why this view cannot be held with any kind of seriousness.

Now let’s look at the other side of this coin, at what happens when people who happen to be homosexual suffer the degradations and humiliations of laws passed by those who wish to force their religious beliefs on all of us, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which impinge upon the unalienable right of homosexuals to pursue happiness.

Under our constitutional government, with a First Amendment prohibiting the establishment of an official religion, the purpose of which is to guarantee that any and all belief systems would have freedom to exist, a biblical view of homosexuality cannot be established as the official one. In fact, not all people who follow that Bible believe the same way about homosexuality, as stated above, and some Christians and Jews performed marriage ceremonies–unsanctioned by the state, of course–between same-sex couples prior to the Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage between people of the same gender. Sadly, the government established marriage laws based upon religious prejudices for many years, in clear violation of the First Amendment’s anti-establishment clause. Happily, that has been remedied.

What I find curious is that I haven’t seen anyone argue the fact that denying homosexuals their unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness clearly violates the fundamental principle under which the USA was established. Let’s look at the consequences of this violation of principle.

At the time of the so-called “Stonewall Rebellion,” when a group of drag queens ignited the gay civil rights movement when they rebelled against the cops who had come to shake them down and shame the patrons of what was a known gay bar in New York City, it was actually illegal to serve alcohol to homosexuals in New York State (such laws were common in other jurisdictions as well). Homosexuals couldn’t hold professional licenses–that’s why so many who fit stereotypes of effeminacy held jobs as waiters and other stereotypical livelihoods.

These laws barring homosexuals from their pursuit of happiness were based upon a biblical prohibition–period–and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Let’s take a look at some of the effects upon the personalities and quality of life that such societal and economic prohibitions would have upon a human being–any human being, not just a homosexual human being.

Chronic, acute depression would certainly be among the worst factors faced by a person suffering from such treatment. Imagine a child, growing into puberty, discovering that he is what his church, his family, everyone who is important to him, calls an “abomination to god,” that the god of his childhood hates him and wants him dead. I can remember seeing many instances where the word “homosexual” was grouped with “murders, child molesters, and rapists.” Not exactly fertile ground for building healthy self-esteem.

Chronic depression is rampant among LGBT people, because of the widespread messages of hate from religious leaders and the politicians who suck up to them. The suicide rate is also much higher than among heterosexuals.

And what kind of coping skills grow out of such a self-image? I think we can expect a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction, which are true of the LGBT community, which is statistically five times more likely to suffer from those afflictions. LGBT people also suffer a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. 

When a human being is psychologically brutalized in this way from sexual self-discovery onward, what else would we expect? And since this horrific treatment arises purely out of an established religious context, why is it happening in a society where the pursuit of happiness, without the prejudice of an established religion, is supposed to be the fundamental principle?

Many lives have been destroyed by the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of others.  How does a “conservative” interested in defending and preserving the unalienable right to pursuit of happiness jibe that outcome with something so constitutionally indefensible?

Just how does anyone, particularly someone who identifies as a Conservative, justify such torment of another human being simply because of whom they love? How does a supposed Conservative justify denying that loving citizen the right to pursue happiness?

How, for example, does someone dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal in the eyes of the law look at someone like former Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a decent, law-abiding citizen who risked his life for his country in honorable military service, who now lives in a loving relationship with his lawfully-wedded husband, in dedicated service to his community–as misguided as he might be about the role of government–and reasonably think that all of those fine qualities and contributions are canceled out by the mere fact of his homosexuality?

Science and experience tell us that this faulty belief causes immense harm to the pursuit of happiness of homosexual citizens. The belief is based upon religious writings from thousands of years ago, long before the science of human sexuality proved that sexuality is not binary, and one flavor need not be forced on every single one of us.

The emotional and spiritual destruction that falls upon the shoulders of those of us who must bear the crushing tyranny of a minority’s religious beliefs would be unconscionable to the Founders, who well knew the destructiveness of religion to decent society.

Such unAmerican injustice is both poisonous and counter-productive to the free society envisioned by the Declaration of Independence itself, which singled out protection of the pursuit of happiness as being one of the primary purposes of government. And nothing creates an impetus to seek justice so powerful, for me as an individual, as coming to adulthood and realizing how damaging to my own pursuit of happiness were the lies I was told about who I am and how I love, and the wholly unnecessary damage to my heart and psyche caused by those lies. Lies all based upon religious nonsense. 

Gay American Conservatism
The Puritans forbade the celebration of Christmas. What other “laws” will religious extremists dictate?

As American Conservatives, we must realize that religious fundamentalists have destroyed the movement and taken over the machinery of the political party that once championed conservative principles, so that they can advance a program of religious fanaticism and fascism. They cannot be permitted to define “conservatism” in America. Their agenda not only undermines the fundamental principles by which our democratic republic was established, but many of them shamelessly announce their intention to replace the Constitution of the United States with a biblical theocracy.

Allowing them to take the reins of power by giving in to their flouting of the First Amendment anti-establishment clause has enabled them to hijack the conservative movement, and made them the poster children of the dark, evil image that other Americans see the word “conservative” to mean.

 We must take back the American Conservative Movement, and re-establish it as the defender of the founding principles. That means taking a good, hard look at what those principles mean, and rescuing the movement from the religious fanatics who regard the Constitution not as the protector of the unalienable rights of all citizens, but as an inconvenience that will soon be out of their way.

To this end I pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor. I hope that other true American conservatives will join me.

*John Locke wrote “pursuit of property”--Thomas Jefferson broadened the concept to “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

**For further discussion of this concept, see George Will’s excellent book, The Conservative Sensibility.

©2020 Bert Wylen

Categories
Economics Capitalism

Price Gouging Saves Lives

for Crystal

I just read a friend’s diatribe against the pharmaceutical industry for “price gouging” in the insulin market. “Corporate greed” once again gets the blame for a problem caused instead by government “regulation,” which has given insulin manufacturers a monopoly in the USA.

The solution to the problem is simple: Good old-fashioned competition, based upon price signals coming from insulin users themselves.

In Europe, several companies compete for the insulin business of diabetics. In Europe, prices for insulin are substantially lower than for the same product in the USA. Thank you, competition.

And thank price itself for signaling entrepreneurial types that folks needed such a product. Price is the most important signal in a successful capitalist economy. And lack of price signals is the single biggest reason that “regulated” and “command” (i.e., socialist) economies do not work.

Price is the most important signal in a successful capitalist economy. And lack of price signals is the single biggest reason that “regulated” and “command” (i.e., socialist) economies do not work.

I’ll give you an example–bottled water, taken from the image above:

Let’s pretend that Corpus Christi, Texas, gets hit by a massive hurricane. In the aftermath, the system that delivers fresh, clean, drinkable water is non-functional. Only bottled water can be used safely for drinking. And humans, among other animals, need regular refills of water to stay alive.

price gouging saves lives
Bottled water intended for hurricane victims sits on a landing strip in Puerto Rico–perhaps awaiting a politician’s misuse for illicit profit, rather than efficiently distributed, for legal profit, where most needed.

That same hurricane blasted away supplies of bottled water. Cases of the stuff disappeared in the wind and the storm surge. Bottled water is hard to find, and the survival of people depends on the little bit of water that can be found.

That limited supply needs to be rationed until more supply can be delivered.

But how can it be effectively rationed?

Simply by raising the price.

A typical seven-dollar case of water now sells for upwards of $50. Folks are beside themselves with anger! How dare anyone capitalize on someone else’s suffering?!

But what would happen if that seven dollar case of water remained at seven dollars? Would the supply be enough for everyone to get what they need? Or would panicked survivors come in and buy up all the water for themselves? What would be left for those who came after them?

As the drought of bottled water eased for some, it might still be a problem for others, neighborhood by neighborhood. How would we know which neighborhoods still need bottled water?

If you guessed “prices,” then you win the prize! Those where people are complaining about “price gouging” for bottled water are still in need of supplies of water.

“Price gouging” is our friend!

The Law of Supply and Demand is simple: If supplies of a commodity are plentiful, and the demand is low, then the price is low. If supplies decrease, or can’t meet increased demand, then prices go higher.

This is a perfect example of the Law of Supply and Demand functioning in a market, with the added bonus of showing how it can protect consumers from scarcity. The Law is simple: If supplies of a commodity are plentiful, and the demand is low, then the price is low. If supplies decrease, or can’t meet increased demand, then prices go higher. This phenomenon works to signal that the market of a particular commodity is being satisfied, or not.

Price literally makes the economic world go ‘round.

And let me also mention this: Those who object to the free functioning of price often make the leap to being sure that the vendor selling the bottled water for $50 a case will allow someone to die of thirst right in front of them rather than lose any “illegitimate profit” from their so-called “price gouging.” What a dim view of humanity! Those who live by free market forces are often accused by those ignorant of economic science of being “miserly” and “cruel.”

Law of Supply and Demand
The Law of Supply & Demand efficiently serves the needs of any market–unless government “regulation” interferes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you understand how free markets work, you also understand that they can save lives. And faith in the efficiency of the law of supply and demand has nothing to do with an individual’s philanthropic tendencies.

So let me tell you how else this so-called “price gouging” functions in a free market:

Word soon gets out that “they’re getting $50 a case for bottled water down in Corpus Christi!” Enterprising capitalists say, “Let’s load up a truck with cases of bottled water and go sell it!”

Do I need to explain what happens? Quickly, truckloads of bottled water show up in Corpus Christi. The supply goes up, and the price comes down.

That is the law, and it functions naturally, without any “help” from government!

Shortly after word gets out about the so-called “price gouging,” Corpus Christi’ans once again can buy bottled water for reasonable, but maybe slightly elevated prices. And, when the fresh water system begins pumping clean, fresh, safe water into people’s homes, the bottom falls out of the bottled water market, and some parts of those truckloads will incur a loss for their owners, because now supply exceeds demand, and they may just want to sell off the surplus at a much lower profit, or even a loss, so they can leave town and go home.

Price gouging rationing
Without such “price gouging,” supplies would quickly dry up, and only a lucky first few would have water to drink in an emergency.

Now let’s look at what would happen if government prohibited that same “price gouging” that saved so much potential suffering in Corpus Christi.

Now a government agency most likely controls the flow of goods to stricken areas. No doubt potable (i.e., drinkable) water is at the top of the list of goods…let’s hope.

The bureaucrats in charge of the operation now wait for reports to come in to their central location, so that they can begin to allocate supplies. They are inundated with reports of shortages coming in from every town, city, and hamlet along a wide swath of the coast, because the hurricane was just that enormous.

regulation wastes resources
Thousands of house trailers purchased for hurricane victims by FEMA rot in the sun, wasting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars–because the market did not want them!

 

Other bureaucrats are scouring the stricken areas, interviewing folks to learn what they need. Meanwhile, everyone in these areas are forbidden from selling the one commodity that everyone needs at anything but the pre-storm price.

Those supplies evaporate quickly, to the first in line, who buy up all they can in a panic. Now there’s nothing left for those behind them, where “price gouging” once would have rationed those supplies effectively.

The assigned bureaucrats are getting their data into the system as quickly as they can, but they are understaffed, and they just can’t get the job done fast enough. They know they’ve got thirsty people out there, but they don’t know exactly where until they get the information into the computer.

Meanwhile, people are hoarding what limited supplies of water they have left, because they don’t know when more supplies will show up.

And very few truckloads of water are on the way, because…well, what’s the motive? And where would they go, anyway? There is nothing to signal the locations of those most in need, where “price gouging” once would have been that signal.

If anyone thought they might be able to make a small profit by trucking in bottled water, they wouldn’t know where to find those most in need. The likelihood of their arriving in a neighborhood where the warehouse holding adequate bottled water supplies was still intact is highly likely. Now we have a truck full of bottled water with no way of knowing where to go.

Those overworked bureaucrats would eventually get supplies of bottled water to where they are needed, but that might come coincidentally with the return of the fresh water delivery system functionality. We see this over and over again when warehouses full of supplies collected by government agencies sit wasted because they came too late to be effective for those most in need.

Government bureaucrats can’t possibly compete with the efficiency of price signals.

And this goes for the insulin market, and any other market for a commodity that people need–even desperately needed medications.

The lesson?

Let the markets work! Free markets save lives!

Suggested Reading

(simply click on the photo or text for more information)

© 2020 BTW Productions, LLC

Categories
Politics

Democratic Socialism Lies

RULE #1: Socialism leads to economic ruin and serfdom.

RULE #2: No amount of lying changes RULE #1.

The lie called “democratic socialism is all the rage”–again.

Listen to the Democratic candidates, and they’ve all created some brand of socialism, of varying degrees of execution.

Do not, of course, try branding them as socialists. They’re too smart for that. They all seem to know that folks like me, well-versed in the history of socialism–its path to economic ruin, and its deadliness–so they re-brand the beast as so-called Democratic Socialism (evidence that this sleight-of-hand re-naming doesn’t mask the failure of socialism in the often-cited Nordic countries here, nor does is it new–the moniker has been around since the 1800s), hoping to mislead those who don’t know the game.

They are succeeding.

Masses of young people, especially, jump on-board this future train wreck. Socialism means free education! Socialism means everyone has healthcare! Socialism means police and fire protection, and roads to drive on! Socialism means everyone has a home to live in, and nutritious food to eat!Democratic Socialism Lies

Democratic Socialism means we take care of each other!

Who but the most evil, selfish, nasty people would oppose such a Shang-Ri-La?

Only those who have bothered to do the hard work of becoming educated about economics, and know the deadly consequences of socialism.

As my momma used to say: No matter what kind of shine you try to put on shit, it’s still shit!

“But we need to take care of people!” you shout at me. “What kind of monster wants to see people go without medical care, or without housing, or without food? Don’t you know that people are starving?”

So I point to Venezuela, and Cuba, and the Soviet Union, and anywhere that socialism has been tried, and failed horribly. In Venezuela, voters democratically elected Hugo Chavez on promises of “free stuff for everyone!” Now, twenty years later, inflation is expected to reach 8,000,000 percent (not a typo! That’s eight-million-percent!). People eat their pets while the president, Nicolas Maduro, tells them to eat rabbits (see here), people work overtime at multiple jobs and can’t feed their families, the electrical grid is failing everywhere, and so are municipal water systems. What passes as Venezuelan government has become nothing more than an organized crime enterprise. 

How many millions of people need to suffer and die before socialism loses its appeal?

democratic socialism liesI can probably answer that question: Many millions more because, once folks who don’t prosper start to imagine an abundant life without the trouble of working, and failing, and trying again, and failing again, and learning and searching for solutions while starving and then…finally…making it, the way it has always been done where all of humankind has prospered, achieving levels of wealth and leisure unimagined even 300 years ago for the majority of human beings on the face of the earth. Those for whom the easy way out holds the most appeal will lunge toward socialism like a starving dog toward a chunk of maggot-covered meat.

But who wants to go to all that trouble of finding a source of income that makes sense, given the skill set and the enterprise of the person who needs that income? Who wants to try building something, or trading something in exchange for money, and find that nobody wants to buy it? Or, they can buy something better, perhaps at a lower price.

Now that person in need of income must come up with another idea. And maybe that idea fails, too.

And so it goes: Come up with an idea, test to see whether a market for that idea even exists, Fail. Come up with a new idea. Test. Fail again. But each time I do that, I refine my knowledge of what doesn’t work, as well as what might work. Or, I abandon that market altogether, and look for a new one. All the while educating myself, and refining my skills (if I’m wise) so that I increase my chances for success each time.

“But starving, homeless people can’t do this,” you whine. “Those who are less fortunate need some help. They deserve to be treated like human beings, not animals. Where is your heart?”

So yes, I do agree that human beings should not suffer the degradation of having inadequate shelter,and lack of nutritious food to eat. And many people give substantial amounts of money to charity to solve such problems. 

I disagree, however, with the contention that all human beings deserve to be handed those basic necessities of life. I believe that those who are unable, for various reasons, to take care of themselves should be furnished with at least the basic necessities of life–the elderly come to mind, as do children whose parents can’t or won’t provide for them. Those who are mentally or physically disabled also come under that umbrella.

For those competent folks who face only the problem called “find your way or starve,” and no other obstacle but their own lack of industry or creativity, sometimes hunger and embarrassment are the best motivators.

It is not the role of government, however, to solve those problems. In fact, it has been proven over and over again that government is the very worst vehicle by which to help people. (For an excellent article about government waste of taxpayer dollars, click here.)Thomas Jefferson on socialism

Those who tout socialism as the solution to every social and economic ill seem to think that government holds the magic formula for solving all of life’s problems. (For a rundown on how Venezuelan “socialist” strongman Hugo Chavez broke his promises, click here.) Somehow, individual people pursuing their own interests in a free market (aka, capitalism) don’t possess the wherewithal to solve our most pressing social problems. But one genius, or a group of well-meaning geniuses, climbing by cunning to the top of the sociaist heap, will know all the answers, and be able to direct resources ably and efficiently (and unselfishly) so that all of us will live in, if not abundance, then with enough so that everyone is happy.

Even if that wholesome, holy, super-intelligent person were to magically appear–and s/he never does–what happens when they die? What guarantees that the vast government machinery required to make this all work will be able to hire an entire workforce of similarly able, intelligent, prescient, and honest people to staff the bureaucracy?

Corruption is the Number Two killer of socialism.

So what is the Number One killer of socialism?

Short answer: The lack of market signals.

And here all the eyes roll. We’ve heard all this folderol about markets before–it’s just another ploy by greedy capitalists to convince us to give them all our money to hoard. Capitalism is dead, they claim (without evidence). It may have been a solution at one time, but now it’s a tool of greedy people who want all the wealth for themselves. So say the would-be socialists.

First, let’s try to find some agreement that the economy we experience today is not capitalism. At its base, it might be. But if capitalism is free markets functioning freely, without government interference, then we do not have a capitalist economy, and have not had such a thing since FDR, and even before that, when Hoover was interfering with tariffs and interest rates, and before that when Woodrow Wilson was pulling the strings that he was able to pull. Some economic historians pin the blame all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt.

But FDR, in the interest of an “emergency,” was able to pull off the biggest heist up until possibly today, when the criminal Donald Trump was able to manipulate his way into the Oval Office. (For an overview of how executive orders and “emergencies” have been abused by past and present Presidents, here is an excellent overview.)

It’s beyond my purview to lay out the history of the interference of governments in the United States of America with markets at every level, municipal, state, and federal. You’ll find many excellent books on the subject.

My purpose here is to show how well-intentioned government interference in a market makes that market worse, not better.

And that so-called Democratic Socialism lies.

Destroying The Health Insurance Market

Let’s take the health insurance market. This market is fraught with government interference that made that market wholly dysfunctional for many years. Health insurance companies have been abusive and unresponsive to market demands, due wholly to the protection afforded those companies by government regulatory bodies.

To understand this, let’s examine what happens when Company A in a free market no longer responds to that which the market demands.

In a healthy market, Company A finds competition from Company B. Company A didn’t hire enough customer service reps to answer the many phone calls coming in from customers, who waited for long, time-wasting minutes for help with a problem, and then encountered rude reps. Company B came into the market promising, and delivering, fast and courteous service to customers calling with inquiries.

Eventually, Companies A and B, both now bloated with success and run by greedy bosses who skimp on customer service budgets to maximize profits and pay themselves bloated salaries and bonuses, ignore complaints from customers about lousy customer service.

Along comes Company C, eager to take a share of the health insurance market away from Companies A and B, offering better customer service than the two current players in the market.

Companies A and B, seeing the threat from a new player threatening to take away market share, appeal to friendly government officeholders to find some way to keep Company C from entering the market. Up until that point, nobody had seen fit to regulate this market, because it had been functioning well on its own, with few complaints.

But the leaders of Companies A and B mount costly public relations campaigns, cooking up non-existent but self-serving “threats” from insurance malpractice, because they are the only players in that market so far, and consumers are easily manipulated, as proven by Madison Avenue.

Let’s say they cook up a scheme to require health insurance companies to maintain exaggerated reserves of cash, necessary ostensibly to pay settlements in case of some future catastrophic loss. The existing insurance companies have no trouble meeting this artificial requirement for entry into the market. 

socialism is hellNew players such as Company C will find it difficult if not impossible to overcome this barrier to entry into the market for health insurance. And this, quite simply, is how government regulation is born, and used to the advantage of existing players in a market to keep new players and the lower prices and innovations that competition brings out of that market, much to the detriment of customers.

Let’s take an example from real history.

When Obamacare was being debated, one of the key features of this non-solution to the health insurance market problems was the ability to keep your children on your policy up to age 26, with some exclusions. This made it possible to cover your children for as long as they were continuing their educations. It was a popular feature of Obamacare.

That very same feature could have been offered by any insurance company that found through market research that such coverage would be popular with customers, and, if offered, would capture a significant portion of the health insurance market.

But the nature of the regulatory environment in health insurance in the country pretty much guaranteed that no upstart would be able to enter the market to offer that feature to those who would buy it. I don’t know whether regulators would have prevented a company from offering that, but I’m betting they did–or, at the least, going through the regulatory process to add that benefit to a policy offering would have been prohibitive.

The pity of Obamacare, the reason its implementation infuriated so many free market adherents, is that it prevented any real solutions to the problems in the health insurance and healthcare markets. Instead of removing barriers to the entry of competition, which always solves the problems encountered by customers in any given market, the interference of government in these markets only put off the Day of Reckoning.

And that Day of Reckoning will surely come, because Obamacare is socialized medicine and, in the long-term, socialism kills markets.

To illustrate how socialized medicine kills markets, let’s take another example.

As a preface, let’s look at the single biggest deficit of socialism: The inability to decide the price of a product or service. (For an excellent explanation of the importance of price, see here.)

If the market isn’t signaling price, how do you know how much to charge?

And if you aren’t getting any price signals, how do you know what the market demands?

The Shirt Off My Back

An example:

I sell t-shirts in five colors: red, blue, yellow, green, and orange.

When I begin selling the shirts, I make an equal amount of them in each color. But I find that the red shirts are selling better than all other colors, and I run out of them quickly. My capital–that is, the money I use to make t-shirts–is limited, so I can’t afford to make more red shirts and keep all of the colors, so I drop the orange, which didn’t sell well, and I make more red shirts. The other three colors sell enough to justify continuing to sell them.

The next time I go out to sell shirts, I sell out of the red shirts once again. So the next time I make shirts, I make an extra amount of red, because my profits are such that I now have the capital to make a few more, but I take another step as well: I begin charging more for the red shirts than for the other three colors.

I don’t sell quite as many red shirts, but they still sell better than the other three colors combined. I find that I can raise the price of the red shirts even more, until I reach a price point where the demand for red shirts drops below a comfortable margin, and the blue shirts begin to increase in popularity.

If the increase in the demand for blue shirts increases to the point where I am making the same profit as before they became more popular, then I can maintain pricing as is. If I want to recapture the part of the red shirt market that I lost, I can simply reduce the price on them again, and profits rise.Law of Supply and Demand

This is simply the Law of Supply and Demand.

Raise the price of red shirts until demand drops, then back it down until demand increases to previous levels: I have found the ideal price point.

The same simple principle works in the healthcare market.

A Better Image

Let’s look at the market for medical imaging technology.

When I was a kid, we had x-rays for looking inside the body to see what had broken. The imaging was limited–it couldn’t see soft tissue. If nothing could be detected by the x-ray, then a surgeon had to cut you open to look inside and see whether s/he could find something.

X-rays were expensive.

Today, x-rays are surprisingly cheap. When my doctor orders imaging, it’s either a CAT-scan or an MRI, and even CAT-scans are coming down in price because they’re no longer the cutting-edge of imaging technology.

The lack of demand means that an x-ray can be had for around $35, whereas an MRI can cost anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars.

Here the market becomes a bit more complicated than mere t-shirts, but the principles work the same, namely, the Law of Supply and Demand.

A healthcare facility, as with any operation, operates according to its Profit and Loss (P&L). If losses overtake profits, the facility becomes unviable, and must close. Earn enough profits, and the facility can afford to use some of that profit as capital, to buy new equipment and upgrade facilities and, if it’s a for-profit facility, distribute the remaining profit to stakeholders.

NOTE: Because of severe regulatory restraints, healthcare facilities cannot operate freely to respond to market conditions–which is why the healthcare market has suffered from ill-health for so many years. (For an excellent explanation of damage done to healthcare by government regulation, click here.) Because they were forced to take indigent patients who couldn’t pay for care, they were forced to make up the difference by overcharging paying customers, usually insurance companies–completely distorting the market, and destroying the effectiveness of price signals to the market.

So let’s assume that the socialists have won control of the government, and they are now directing all healthcare resources bureaucratically. healthcare is free for everyone: Those who pay taxes get the same healthcare as those who do not pay taxes. The more successful you are in earning money and creating wealth, the more you are going to pay for the government bureaucracy that provides healthcare.

With no price barriers to use, everyone who once opted for a cheap x-ray now opts for “the very best.” There may not be a good reason to get a more costly-to-create CAT-scan or MRI, but the patient gets one anyway–because he can.

Fewer people are opting for x-rays, while the demand for the more costly (costly to produce, that is) has skyrocketed. Wait times for those services reflect the increase demands. X-ray machines stay pretty much idle.

Margaret Thatcher on socialism

Because all healthcare now has no cost at point-of-purchase, there’s no reason for anyone to opt for the less costly option. The cost of operation of CAT-Scan and MRI machines is draining the available funding from the healthcare system. Because people have no reason to avoid using the system–there are no co-pays, and nobody ever sees a bill–folks rush to the doctor for every little ache, and doctors themselves don’t hesitate to order the most expensive test because they don’t care about over-taxing the resources, or they don’t want to argue with a patient intent on wasting those resources with unnecessary imaging, or some combination of both.

So the healthcare system becomes over-used–demand increases beyond capacity. People who wouldn’t have thought to go to the doctor or the Emergency Room when it cost them money directly now go for the smallest scratch, and demand the most expensive care. Without a personal cost at point-of-purchase to force them to be prudent, why should they care?

Under a private ownership/profitability model, healthcare would command the price that the market is willing to pay. Owners of an MRI machine don’t want to lose money on their investment–the objective is to earn a profit, while also serving the noble purpose of keeping their fellow citizens healthy. Many socialists I know presume that every capitalist with a profit motive is a horrible human being who cares nothing for their fellow human beings. That’s all it is: a presumption. They need no proof that this presumption is wrong. Belief is enough to justify their ruinous thinking.

Under the profitability model, the money required for the service does not all become profit. The owner pays for overhead: The cost and upkeep of the facility where the MRI is located, for example, is called “operating cost.” Each use of the machine brings it that much closer to the end of its life–every equipment requires maintenance to keep it running. That is called “maintenance cost.” And every machine has a finite life, so that money must be set aside as capital to be invested in a new machine when that time comes. That is called “capital investment.”

When all other monies are paid or set aside, that which is left over is called “profit.”

All of those money uses go toward determining the ideal price of the service.

Man exploits ManIf lots of customers use the service at a given price, and that price can satisfy the operating, capital, and profit requirements to keep the facility open and thriving, then the owner must have hit on a good price. Now that owner will experiment with price, raising it to see where usage drops off to the point of harming one or another or all of the financial requirements to keep the doors open and thriving.

To underscore that extremely useful market signal called “price,” let’s look closer at the market for x-ray imaging.

An X-ray still serves as a useful tool for some applications. When I see my chiropractor, he from time to time asks for x-rays to see how my spine is lining up. No more sophisticated imaging is required for that. But when my heart is beating erratically, an x-ray won’t show what my cardiologist needs to see–I need a CAT-scan or MRI for that.

So x-rays are no longer in great demand–therefore, the price for them has dropped. Although I have not done the research into it, I would guess that the price for x-ray machines themselves have dropped as well. When people stopped demanding x-rays, machine usage dropped, which lowered the amount of maintenance required to keep them running, as well as the need to replace them as often as when they were the favored process.

Now imagine an imaging center under socialized medicine. Nobody is paying for the service, at least not directly. They fork over taxes to the government, at least under the model proposed by the “Democratic Socialists.” Under the true socialist model, which would eventually become the Democratic Socialist model once the economy collapses inevitably under the less onerous model, the government owns all the means of production and service. It’s inevitable, because the government will eventually justify that happenstance because paying for everything that the government has promised becomes impossible through mere taxation.

And here is why:

As usage of everything becomes unmanageable and unsustainable, and as the equipment (in our imaging model) begins to break down through over-use, the government agency overseeing such imaging facilities will experience cost overruns, and funds will dry up. 

Under the capitalist model, if the price being charged were not keeping up with operating costs, or could not provide that capital necessary to replace the equipment when it had reached the end of its life-cycle, then the price would have been raised in order to keep the facility running.

“But those greedy capitalists wouldn’t think of running the facility without their disgusting profit!” scream the socialists. 

The socialists, of course, have no idea what is, or isn’t, a reasonable profit. To some of these, any profit is unethical. But profit puts food on the table of the capitalists (aka, entrepreneurs) who built the facility in the first place. It pays for clothing, shelter, education, charitable giving, and, yes, material goods. But many of the socialists I know get up in arms because someone has more money, or more material goods, than they do.

The coveters (aka, “socialists”) also get up in arms (sometimes literally) over what they call “obscene” (aka, “unjustified”) profits. If companies paying “obscene” salaries had priced their goods/services out of the range that the market would pay, then they wouldn’t be able to pay those salaries and bonuses, because they would now be priced out of the market, and customers would spend their money elsewhere. Perhaps those executives receiving such high remuneration are being rewarded for interpreting the market correctly? Hmmmmm…

The Bottled Water Scenario

This is one of my favorite illustrations, because it’s actually quite simple, even though it got a liberal friend of mine all afluster because…well, she said, “Bert! We’re talking about human beings here!” She never did quite explain why humans being served so well by market forces might be disturbed over this. But she was quite exasperated with me.

So…at the risk of exasperating my liberal friends–if, in fact, they’ve stuck with me to this point–here goes nuttin’:

Let’s suppose a hurricane. A town on the coast–let’s call it “Potavilla”–has been hit hard, between the storm surge and the winds and rain, not much remains to salvage. But people managed to survive, and now they need…well, everything! But their first priority is fresh water for drinking.

Price gougingSome of those people managed to keep their supplies of bottled water from washing or blowing away. Now this extremely limited supply of fresh water has become extremely valuable. Where it once sold for under one dollar per bottle, sellers find that people are willing to pay five dollars, even seven dollars for a bottle of fresh, drinkable water.

“Price gouging!” my liberal friends scream. And they would be correct.

But do we want to make such pricing illegal?

Absolutely not!

Why not? 

Because it’s that very “gouging” that signals the market that this town desperately needs fresh water, and that there’s an opportunity to make some money if they can get supplies there quickly enough.

And so greedy capitalists eager to make a killing load up trucks and drive as quickly as they can to that thirsty town and…guess what? 

Suddenly, there’s a hell of a lot of drinking water in Potavilla.

If we understand the simple law of supply and demand, while the supply of fresh drinking water was low, and the demand was high, the price followed the demand and rose.

People on the lookout for money-making opportunities heard about those high prices, and rushed to meet the demand with more supply.

But the joke was on them: As the supply rose, and demand stayed the same, the price came tumbling down, and those “killings” morphed into normal profits–until the taps came back on, and demand went…well…into the toilet.

Did anybody die of thirst? Doubtful. Even a greedy capitalist would probably toss a bottle of water to some poor soul who was suffering from severe dehydration. I’m not sure what it is that makes some liberals think that someone out to make a buck suddenly becomes a monster. Maybe such a scenario haunted the childhood of my liberal friend? I don’t know. 

But I’m betting that the beauty of those natural market signals have saved far more lives, and brought more peace of mind, to survivors of disaster than have ever suffered severe harm or death because some heartless capitalist wouldn’t offer a bottle of water to them when they were literally dying of thirst.

And…here’s the irony…how many people will die of thirst, or at least be grossly inconvenienced by the lack of bottled water getting to them quickly after the storm because well-meaning people passed anti-gouging laws that eliminated the very market signals that literally flooded those areas with bottled water that most desperately needed it?

A Broken Milling Machine, A Broken Economy

I will never forget going to El Salvador with a church group composed mostly of people who embraced a vague idea of socialism. They had convinced themselves that they alone knew what “economic justice” should entail. Not one of them knew what “capital creation” or “capital investment” meant. All they saw was people living without all of the amenities that they had back home in the United States, and they thought they knew the solutions.

This church group had, at one time, bought a milling machine for the village inhabited by the members of a church in the village that the American churchgoers had adopted as a “sister church.” The mill was a huge deal for the women of the village–without it, they had to walk six kilometers (about 3 miles) each day with the day’s corn in their aprons, to get it milled into flour at a neighboring village. The mill from the Americans made life so much easier.ruined economy

But the church group didn’t make any allowance for entropy–the fact that, with each usage, the mill got closer to breaking down, which it did. And the Americans had provided neither spare parts, nor money to buy spare parts. By the time we visited that village, some years after the mill had been purchased, the women were once again marching the six kilometers to get their corn milled at the neighboring village.

This is what will happen to the imaging facility under socialism–even Democratic Socialism: Eventually, the government will see the need to take over the facility completely, with a committee or some other structure to make healthcare decisions for the users of that facility. Because there is always a cost for using a machine, and this committee will be aware that replacing an MRI machine is far more costly than replacing an x-ray machine, they will force most people to use x-rays.

Who will make that decision? Will it be a radiologist who is most qualified to make that decision, or will it be a government accountant who will be aware only of the need to save money?

What other industries will need to be taken over by the government in order to direct funding to where it is most needed? Because socialism is anathema to entrepreneurship and investment, capital will have fled the country long ago to locales where government doesn’t steal from productive citizens. And because it’s not possible to simply move a factory to a more friendly economic environment, the government will have taken over abandoned production facilities and run them into the ground in the same way that they ruined the imaging facility.

Whenever socialism has been tried on a large scale, mass starvation soon follows. The mass starvation in the Soviet Union under Stalin is legendary. Over forty million people died of starvation. Tens of millions of people died under socialism in communist China. People are dying today in Venezuela, once the wealthiest nation in South America, because socialism, and the criminality that it invites, have destroyed the economy and the means of production.

Socialism is now destroying the healthcare system in America. Let’s hope that folks wake up before they vote to broaden this same destructive path in this country.

socialism

Socialism is always deadly. Socialism always leads to economic ruin, and serfdom for those under its depravity. Socialism is a lie told to people who 

believe that the world owes them something merely for existing–”human rights,” they are told.

No amount of lipstick will make that pig any prettier.

How Do We Prosper?

First, with the recognition that, as many of us were told as children, nothing of value comes easily. We have some hard work ahead of us, no matter which path to success we choose.

  • Task One: Self-Discipline
  • Task Two: Education, which requires and most often happens simultaneously with Task One.
  • Task Three: Learn how capitalism works.
  • Task Four: Begin engaging in commerce–the ideas will begin to flow.
  • Task Five: Invest, so that you own the capital necessary to participate on a grand scale.

Consider this: I offer coaching and training in how to “work the machine” of capitalism. Send an email in the form below if you’re interested in learning more about that.

Here are some books that I recommend highly, in order to speed up the process of participation in the economy--click on either the pics or the descriptions to find out more:

© 2020 BTW Productions, LLC

Categories
LGBT

Perfectly Normal: Same Sex Love Is Love

"We come here each week to discuss and portray homosexuality as a perfectly normal, natural, and healthy way of being, with other human beings."

That’s how I opened my radio show, Gaydreams, each week on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia, back in the early Nineties. I might have shortened that to what we say today: Love is Love.

 Up until recently–maybe the past 15 years–the dominating voice was that of Christian extremists, who wanted to re-enforce the lie that homosexuality isn’t normal, doesn’t occur naturally in nature and, as their “holy scriptures” tell them, is worthy of the death penalty.

Back when I was growing up and becoming sexually aware in the Sixties, I had to believe the lies that were told about me. We heard no other messages. LGBT people, as we are now called, marched at Independence Hall on Independence Day, July Fourth 1964, but I wouldn’t have known about that–I was ten-years-old. Given that homosexuality itself wasn’t mentionable in polite society, I doubt that it got much coverage, and certainly would not have been talked about in my family.

I can’t even remember the first time I knew that I wasn’t alone in the world, that there was nobody like me. My pre-pubescent mind–I knew I was “different” from the time I was eight-years-old, not like the other boys–wasn’t capable of reasoning that, if religion and society had proscribed homosexuality, then certainly other homosexuals existed.

In college, my only exposure to other gay men was an openly gay fraternity brother. Flash, as we called him, was pretty much the stereotypical gay man and, like many of us who internalized the hatreds we experienced every day in a world that openly hated love itself, Flash made me extremely uncomfortable. Of course, I now know that there were others like me, able to hide (somewhat–people always suspected me, because I wasn’t a skirt chaser like the ‘real men”).

With every problem that I’ve encountered in my life, I’ve been able to find reading material to help me solve riddles and get facts to help me through that problem. But back in the Sixties and Seventies, when libraries were the primary source of information, you couldn’t find much on homosexuality, or being gay, or anything related to sex, really.

LBGTA book entitled The Sensuous Woman–subtitled The First How-To Book For The Female Who Wants To Be All Woman–was published in 1969, but the author was known as “J,” gay sexbecause, I assume … well, even at the height of the so-called “sexual revolution” of the Sixties, claiming credit for writing such a book might have been a career killer, at the very least. The equally scandalous The Sensuous Man was published in 1971.

(We now know that the author, “J,” was Joan Theresa “Terry” Garrity, who was also “M,” who co-authored the equally scandalous The Sensuous Man: The First How-To Book For The Man Who Wants To Be a Great Lover, with her husband, John, and another guy, Len Forman. I sought out a copy of the book before a date with a woman in 1976, with whom I was pretty sure I was going to have sex, so that I could learn how to properly perform oral sex on a woman.)

By the time The Joy of Sex came out in 1972, Alex Comfort was able to put his name on the book as editor, but he had a PhD after his name, which gave him some authority as an academic, I suppose. Back then, writing such a book for other than academic or medical purposes marked you as a pervert.gay rights

While I’m on the Dark Ages of human sexuality, let me give you a couple of illustrations of what it was like:

In most places, it was illegal for women to wear pants. That was considered “cross-dressing,” which was a no-no. I remember my mother’s first pants-suit–my mother was always a “fashion plate,” a hot dresser–and most people were scandalized, especially her mother!

When I worked at the local pharmacy when I was seventeen-years-old, condoms were kept behind the counter in the back, along with the controlled drugs, and you needed a doctor’s note letting the pharmacist know it was okay to sell you those shameful things, and the buyer had to prove that he was married.

Back then, all forms of so-called “sodomy” were illegal, even between a man and his wife.

That is the repressive world that Christian extremists in America wish they could revive. That is a huge plank in their political agenda.As one political pundit pretending to be “conservative” (there’s nothing conservative about these fascists) put it, they want to return shame back to sexuality, especially homosexuality. Think hard about that before you cast a vote for a return to The Inquisition.

 If you want an excellent idea of what these people are about, watch Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, one of the best performances ever by Winona Ryder, and a pretty perfect portrayal of the perversions of such people who would control the lives of others based upon their ancient, out-of-touch “holy scriptures.”

Today we can almost take for granted the widespread availability of both written and audio materials about virtually any expression of human sexuality. Back then, I can remember sneaking into my bedroom as a teenager with a pool ad featuring a shirtless male model in the local newspaper’s Sunday magazine section to use as “prurient” material for…well, you can guess.

But some of the books I read as a young gay man emerging from the shame of the closet are still valid today, and should be read by any gay man trying to heal from the damage done by growing up in a society that offers up condemnation of our sexuality at virtually every turn. I can’t speak for women, although I suspect some of these books will help them as well.

gay men sex
This comprehensive volume has a collection of works. Click on the book for more information.

When I first came out, I was fortunate to have a resource in Center City Philadelphia, a gay-owned bookstore called Giovanni’s Room, named after https://amzn.to/2SCqPf2the James Baldwin book of the same name also highly recommended, by the way, although it’s fairly typical of its genre at that time because it ends sadly, which was the prevailing message about homosexuality at the time).

Ed Hermance owned Giovanni’s Room, and I would visit him each week, when I visited the gay shrink who was helping me with my coming out process. My objective was to read some form of non-fiction each week about my budding sexuality–and I was “budding” at the ripe old age of thirty-one! I thank Ed from the bottom of my heart for being my guide at that time.

Some of these books I encountered in my role as host and producer of Gaydreams, which gave me the opportunity to meet and interview the authors of many of the new books about gay life flooding the market at that time. I don’t want to give the impression that these are the most important, but those who come immediately to mind are Patricia Nell Warren, with whom I developed a wonderful friendship (now gone from us), Edmund White, Felice Picano (who wrote The Joy of Gay Sex, and an absolutely delightful man!), Alan Berube, Alan Ginsberg, Armistad Maupin, and too many others to name. I count myself as extremely fortunate to have met them all, and to have read many of their books!

So here, in no particular order except maybe the first one, for reasons that will become obvious, are some of the books I recommend for anyone who would like to undo the damage done by the absolutely horrible messages we receive about ourselves as we discover that we are “one of those,” and maybe don’t know enough, yet, to not believe that those messages are true. I use these in my practice as a life coach for gay men as well.

The Best Little Boy In The World

by John Reid (aka, Andrew Tobias)

same sex love
Click on the book for more information.
same sex love is love
Click on the book for more information.

This book was a staple for anyone hungering for a book that reflected himself as a gay boy/man back in the Seventies and beyond. First published in 1973, TBLBITW describes what went through the minds of most of us who discovered, to our horror, that we were “one of them.” For many of us, being homosexual wasn’t a mere defect of character–it was “the worst sin in the Bible,” an abomination, a terrible shame on the family. Not only did must it be kept secret–which precluded talking with anyone about it–but, in order to compensate for this terrible defect, the afflicted had to be the best at everything and become saintly in all other areas of life.

That’s a lot of pressure on a boy who doesn’t know any better, and can’t find guidance from anyone. And Tobias’s prose illustrates how terrible that kind of life is for anyone subjected to it.

Because he was also a highly-respected and successful financial advisor and celebrity, he wrote under a pseudonym so as not to destroy his career. Later, he reissued the book under his real name, updated with a new title: The Best Little Boy In The World Grows Up, which you’ll find here.

Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development

by Richard Isay

Speaking of ‘being homosexual,” psychiatrist Richard Isay published his book in 1989, and he was one of the first interviews I did on Gaydreams. Isay wrote this book from his experiences in helping gay men to normalize their homosexuality for over twenty years.

For me, he proved that homosexuality is normal, natural…innate…and not proof of some a priori evil that infects those who ‘suffer.” This book takes us through the normal developmental stages of personality development, from the first discovery of our “difference” through the gyrations we go through to compensate, to our eventual (hopefully) acceptance of who we are as full-fledged members of society. He released another title after this one–I recommend this original.

being homosexual
Click on the book for more information.

One of the most valuable insights of this book, for me, was what Isay called “The Gay Oedipus Complex.” We often hear “manly men” say of effeminate men, “Why do they have to act that way, and make it bad for the rest of us?” which assumes that effeminate men “act that way” by choice. The Gay Oedipus Complex (GOC) explains the phenomenon quite nicely.

To understand the Gay Oedipus Complex (GOC), you need to know what the actual Oedipus Complex (OC) is.

The OC is a Freudian invention, taken from the ancient Greek play, Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles and first performed circa 429 B.C.E.

Without going too deeply into the mechanics, in the OC, a little heterosexual boy of between the ages of 4-6, whose natural sexual attraction is for females, desires the affections of his mother, sees that his father successfully woos his mother, and emulates the father’s behavior so that he can win her, too. In the play, Oedipus kills his father–one hopes the little boy doesn’t make it quite that far. But seriously, it is in the imitation of the father’s behaviors that the little boy learns masculine behaviors.

In the GOC, the little gay boy between ages 4-6, whose natural sexual attraction is for males, desires the affections of his father. He sees his mother winning over his father, so he begins to emulate his mother’s behaviors.

This emulation of female behaviors can have at least three results, according to Isay: 1) The little boy develops a wonderful relationship with his dad, he grows into a confident and powerful young man, finds a suitable male mate with whom he has a wonderful relationship because his father nurtured his budding sexuality from its first evidences; or 2) The father has a powerfully negative reaction to his son’s effeminacy, the son gets the message that “acting that way” is wrong, and he learns to act like a “real man”; or 3) The father, who questions his own sexuality (secretly, maybe even subliminally), is horrified to discover that he has a homosexual son, and withdraws from him because he doesn’t know how to cope with him (the anti-gay crowd gets this one wrong: They claim that homosexuality is “caused” by a distant father, but they’ve reversed the causal relationship–the father becomes distant because of his son’s nascent homosexuality).

That’s just one of the many gems you’ll find in this book. I highly recommend it.

Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality

by Andrew Sullivan

I don’t remember why I never got to interview Sullivan. I’m thinking it was because I couldn’t get to New York or DC when he was there. Authors often didn’t come to Philadelphia, so I grabbed my recording equipment and took the train north or south. When I did that, I would make as full a day as possible and interview three or four people for the show. I’m saddened that I missed meeting this brilliant man, who continues to write thoughtful, philosophically sound commentary today.

queer theory
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Sullivan highlights four categories of argument for homosexuality, serving up the inconsistencies of those who oppose normalizing this perfectly normal expression of human sexuality. Those categories are: Prohibitionist, Liberationist, Conservative, and Liberal.

The book was highly controversial when it was published, even among gay rights activists, because Sullivan argued against anti-discrimination laws–a position with which I happen to agree (if someone hates me, I want to know that, and I do not want to risk spending my hard-earned gay money with them, thus enriching them to support efforts against my interests!).

None other than the conservative National Review said that Sullivan “had done for homosexuality what John Stuart Mill did for freedom,” and that only those familiar with the history of political philosophy would “recognize the scale of his achievement.” The NR disagreed with Sullivan’s arguments for gays in the military, as well as gay marriage, and expressed concern that what we now know as bisexual people, but who were at that time (and now, by some) as “confused,” might be convinced to go homo instead of opting for the more “wholesome choice” of hetero.

Read reviews and find a sampling here.

The Church and the Homosexual

by John McNeill

I had to look up McNeill’s title, because I know him as Father John McNeill, but the Roman Catholic Church defrocked him after this beautiful defense of homosexuality through a favorable interpretation of the Bible passages–all seven of them–that are traditionally used to condemn us in a religious context.

I include this book because some may still be what I call “begging the church to forgive them and let them back in,” which is where I was when I first read it. Many of us come to this point trying to be “the best little boy in the world” so that God will love us. McNeill’s soulful, loving work will set you free!

gay christians
Click on the book for more information.

The history of the book is about as interesting as the meat of the book itself. When Father McNeill first proposed the book, the church hierarchy thought it was going to be a typical condemnation of homosexuality–the church calls homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil,” which means that it is inescapably interwoven into the very fabric of our being, making our situation hopeless–so they gave the book the church’s imprimatur, or official blessing.

Once the book had been completed, it became obvious that McNeill had written the exact opposite of what the church preached. Not only was the imprimatur withdrawn, but McNeill was kicked out of the priesthood, or “defrocked,” as they put it. I’ve always been amused that the church defrocks someone for what it considers “sexual sins.” Wouldn’t defrocking actually titillate the perverted victim of the defrocking?

McNeill found a way to publish the book anyway in 1976.

Anyway, however that question is decided, McNeill’s book will only be available used or new from select sellers. But I want you to know that it exists. Other similar books have been published, but this one’s history makes it special.

McNeill also became a lifelong friend, and was a delight to interview. Writing this, I just found out that he passed away in 2015. Rest in Peace.

The church, by the way, continues to tell gay kids that they are infected with an intrinsic evil. My heart hurts for them.

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming The Pain Of Growing Up Gay In A Straight Man’s World

by Alan Downs

This is the only book in the list that does not come from my Gaydreams period, sicne it was published in 2005, and I left the show in 1996, so I would not have had the opportunity to interview the author. In fact, several attempts to contact him have failed.

gay toxic shame
Click on the book for more information.

But the book has been extremely valuable, especially in my gay life coaching practice. The scope is similar to Being Homosexual, by Isay, but more relevant in a practical sense. It offers methods by which to heal, whereas Isay’s book is more about case studies. Both are important and relevant to the growth and development of a healthy gay sensibility.

The most important contribution Downs makes to the effort to heal is the idea of “toxic shame.” He illustrates how toxic shame infects our lives, our psyches, and influences our behaviors.

I think he gets into the weeds as the book progresses, and he can’t be blamed for not being able to tell us exactly how to heal from the deep wounds of growing up gay in a society infected by such toxicity.

But identifying the problem takes us more than halfway to a happy ending. And this book gives us an excellent picture of what causes our suffering.

The New Joy Of Gay Sex

by Felice Picano

gay sex
Click the book for more information.

It just wouldn’t do to deal with all this “gay theory” if we didn’t also get into the practicum. Felice was one of the most delightful men I’ve ever encountered. He flirted with me from the moment he came into my recording studio at the radio station. He was a devilishly handsome man–still is! He has written something like 30 books, and I very much enjoyed Like People In History.

I seem to remember that, at the time of our interview, Felice, a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, was moving to Los Angeles. Maybe memory fails me today, but he was an absolutely delightful man!

But if I were going to trust anyone to show me how to have highly enjoyable sex, it would be Felice Picano!

States Of Desire: Travels In Gay America

by Edmund White

gay sex
Click on the book for more information.
gay sex
Click on the book for more information.

This sexual travelogue, written before the plague decimated our numbers and changed the way that gay men view sex maybe forever, records Whites travels through America, and an examination of how each community of gay men he encountered dealt with sexual identity as well as sex itself.

If you’re at all curious about the culture of gay bars, backrooms, and bathhouses functioned pre-epidemic, then this features a cultural classic. Published in 1980, just prior to the first case of what was then called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) by a medical establishment that thought of gay men as beasts who could carry some weird disease that “normal” people couldn’t get, States of Desire: Travels In Gay America represents an anthropological record of how a repressed group suddenly freed of that repression can release sexual, political, and social energy in an explosion that can probably be likened to the Big Bang.

I was surprised to find a new version, States of Desire, Revisited: Travels In Gay America published in 2014. Looks like I’ve got something new to read!

© 2020 BTW Productions, LLC

Categories
Keto

Hey Ho! Hey Ho! I Say Keto’s The Way To Go!

How I Reversed Type 2 Diabetes, Cleared Brain Fog, and Got My Life Back!

So all the crying, the hair-pulling, the gnashing of teeth had been over a few months. I had sat outside my doctor’s office, crying in the front seat of the car, utterly defeated, thinking about what life would be like with mysterious infections and amputations and loss of eyesight.

The doctor had given me a death sentence: Diabetes Two.

“Lose weight,” he had been telling me for a few years. “You’re pre-diabetic,” he said.

And I had tried everything I knew to lose that weight, having had lots of experience with weight loss schemes throughout my life. I estimate that, with all the yo-yo dieting I’ve done, I’ve probably gained and lost about a ton–literally–of weight.

But now, all the tricks I knew, some of them healthy, some of them not, couldn’t get the scale to budge…not at all!

Insulin Resistance

So I started doing my own research, and found that I was suffering the effects of insulin resistance (IR). Type Two Diabetes (t2d) is merely a dramatic form of insulin resistance. IR was the reason that I couldn’t lose weight: The human body needs insulin to be reacting with the cells properly in order to access the fat that the insulin helped put there in the first place.

NOTE: I am not going to go too deeply into the science here, because there are many places for you to find that where experts do a much better job of explaining it. I will provide some of those resources at the end.

The next step for me was to find out whether any methods existed for reversing IR. And the ketogenic diet–keto, for short–seemed like a sure bet.

And The (Keto) Livin' Ain't Easy

My t2d diagnoses was in July 2017. I tried like heck to lose weight for the next several months, all to no avail. Going keto gave me new hope.

And it was not easy!

First of all, I love to cook. I learned much of my cooking skills from my Italian next-door neighbor growing up, a woman who I regarded as “my other mother.” Pasta was a part of every meal, unless it was just some delicious bread (pepper & egg sandwich, anyone?) or, more likely, both (who ever heard of a pasta dinner without bread?).

I had also been a victim of all the low-fat diet fads that have been responsible for making Americas so gosh-darned fat!

So I needed to learn a whole new way to cook.

Second, I am a food addict. Make that a sugar addict. Most of the foods I craved were either heavily laden with sugar, or they turned to sugar once in the digestive tract and bloodstream.

Today I consider sugar to be a toxin, and I would no more put it in my body than I would ingest rat poison. Knowing that processed foods, flours primary among them, turn into sugar in the bloodstream, I view those in much the same way.

I know, I know! What is life like if I can’t “treat” myself to a piece of candy, or a cookie, or a piece of cake or pie? And here’s what I tell myself: Does the momentary thrill of the taste of that make losing my toes, or my leg, or my eyesight worthwhile?

If I need to tell you the answer to that, then you have some serious soul-searching to do!

Keto Shopping

I won’t go into great detail about the particulars of the ketogenic diet. Again, there are sources far superior to what I can tell you–and I will share my resources with you in this post.

I purchased a couple of books to help me understand the science of this way of eating, and one of the best is called, Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet, by Jimmy Moore. Moore also does a podcast called The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show, and I got, and get, a lot of help out of both the book and the podcast.

Ketogenic diet

The whole point of the ketogenic diet is to put the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is the state by which the body is powered by ketones rather than glucose.

The most important part of eating the ketogenic way is to balance the so-called macros. When eating a proper balance of macros, the body goes into a state of ketosis, meaning that it is burning ketones for fuel–rather than glucose. There are three of them: Fats, proteins, and carbs.

You’ll find a number of recommendations for balancing your macros, which should be done according to your own goals, tastes, and capabilities.

Because I live by the maxim, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” I go to the far end of the spectrum: 75% fats, 20% proteins, and 5% carbs. Although it’s not recommended to start out this way, that’s exactly what I did. You will find exhaustive information about macros and how to balance them in the resources below, as well as in Jimmy Moore’s excellent book shown above.

I went shopping for just about everything that I’d avoided over the past two decades at least–anything fatty, especially.

I bought chicken thighs instead of skinless chicken breast. I bought cream cheese, and full-fat yogurt, as well as fatty cheeses instead of the low-fat varieties. I felt absolutely sinful!

This list of foods is not exhaustive, but it will help a great deal to get started:

Keto Grocery List

One of the frustrations I had was finding ready-made snacks that could keep me in keto mode (called ketosis–we’ll get to that a little later). Back then, I had to fend for myself. I found a lot of recipes for what are called “fat-bombs,” but they took time to shop for the ingredients, time to prepare, and they didn’t hold up very well, particularly in the heat of summer in the car.

Now there’s a plethora of snacks and desserts available in stores as well as online. I’ll include a few of my favorites here, but no doubt you will do your own research and find more on your own–which I hope you’ll share here so that I can get in on the fun, too!

Keto Snacks
One of my favorites, and they come in a number of delicious varieties–now brownies, too!
legal keto snacks
Another favorite that quells the hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Good variety of flavors.
Keto Snacks
Pork Rinds are my go-to snack! Beware: the BBQ flavor has sugar! ALWAYS check ingredients!

 

 

Please be aware that balancing the macros is of utmost importance, and it was–and still is–the hardest part of following a strict ketogenic diet. One of the reasons I use snacks is for their high-fat content. To this day I have trouble keeping my protein from overwhelming the fat percentage. If I see that the protein is too high–and if the protein is too high you can end up with too much protein from a process called gluconeogenesis, and then you’re not in ketosis anymore (more on this below)–I’ll grab a high-fat keto snack and !Presto! I’m cool

Custom Keto Diet

Here’s something that I wish had been available when I got started on my keto journey. It would have been far simpler, and I probably would have met with greater success earlier.

As I’ve said, there weren’t a lot of resources available when I first started. I could have used a meal plan all laid out for me, with recipes and even a shopping list.

Today, that is called the Custom Keto Diet.

I’ll let them give you the details, but the overview is this:

Customized Keto Menu

They customize the meal plan to your likes and dislikes, to your particular circumstances and goals, and then furnish you with a shopping list and easy-to-follow recipes for each meal. The pricing seems reasonable to me (I won’t give amounts here, because no doubt prices will change over the time that this blog post is available), but you can get all the information you need here.

They seem to know what they’re doing, and I’ve tried a few dessert recipes that were deeeeee-LISH! (Can you tell that I’m a dessert fiend?)

Keto Flu

Now comes the really hard part: You’re going to feel a little bit (or maybe a lot) sick as your body converts from burning glucose to burning ketones for energy.

Again, I’m not going to delve too deeply into the science here, but I can give you a simple way of understanding why this happens:

The biome–basically, the bacteria–in your gut has been discovered to be of primary importance to your health. Of the many benefits it offers, your immune system is among the most important. I will provide links at the end so that you can study this further.

For our purposes, suffice it to say that, if you are overweight and eating sugar and flour, your biome is surviving on glucose. When you make the conversion to ketones on a ketogenic diet, your existing biome dies off, and a new biome capable of surviving on ketones takes its place.

When the glucose-feeding biome dies off, it produces toxins. Those toxins cause the symptoms, mostly in the digestive tract, that we call “keto flu.”

When I began keto, I probably went too strict from the start, and my keto flu was extremely difficult. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time on the toilet for about ten days. I also had a headache, off and on, for a few days.

From what I’m told, those symptoms could have been mitigated by replacing electrolytes. I can’t verify that from personal experience. I simply suffered. But you’re welcome to try one of the sports drinks for replacing electrolytes (just make sure to get the sugarless kind!) or use an electrolyte supplement.

I address it below, but I think that this product will probably address keto flu while helping you get into ketosis more quickly than I was able as I fumbled around with macros. You can view the product here:

KG4 Ketone Supplement
Be sure to use the one with no sugar, sweetened with stevia and monk fruit extract.

 

Keto Cooking

I learned to cook under what I call The Low-Fat Delusion. I wish there were some way to go back and punish those responsible for leading me down that path! I saw the results of the low-fat regimens I followed every time I looked in the mirror. For a while, I was reminded every time I swallowed a fistful of pills.

For the first couple of weeks on keto, I was extremely nervous every time I put butter in the frying pan, every time I cracked a few eggs into the bowl, and every time I layered cheese into my omelette, or added a whole avocado to a salad, or ate bacon with my high-fat ground beef or deliciously skin-covered chicken or turkey thigh.

But the scale at the end of the week was the proof of the pudding (and yes! I make keto chocolate pudding! I’ll tell you below, I promise!).

I lost six pounds in that first week!

As anyone who has dieted as much as I have knows, weight loss in that first week or two is easy. Change your carb intake, and you lose water weight. The weight continued to come off, however, and I continued to improve my keto knowledge and skills.

Once again, Jimmy Moore comes to the rescue with a cookbook of keto recipes that will help you keep on track with your macros. I was able to find just enough recipes out on the InterWebs to keep me going in those early days–here’s a bunch of them from an expert in the field:

Keto Recipes Keto Friendly

As I said earlier, the hardest part has been keeping my fat intake at 75 percent, while maintaining the 20 percent protein. Once I figured out which vegetables are high in carbs, that macro was easy.

But I found that the skinless chicken breast cost me too much protein–skinless thighs, with the skin, keep me in balance. And I also found that adding a nice helping of cream cheese to a snack of celery stalks kept my fat intake at the desired level.

How, you ask, do I track my macros?

Easy. There’s an app for that.

Technology

When I began keto, I was already using an app to track my calorie intake. I had gotten pretty good at entering every morsel that entered my mouth into the calculator. But I was pretty much interested only in calorie intake.

Counting calories continues to be important. After all, it’s elementary physics that, if you ingest more energy than your body needs to fuel its processes, then the excess energy will be stored as fat. Take in fewer calories than you need to fuel those processes, and your body will burn fat for energy.

When I started keto, I weighed in at 327 pounds (one night, I weighed 333, but that was after a significant binge, so I don’t count that). It took quite a lot of calories to maintain that weight, so I could get away with eating a lot more than I can now, 64 pounds slimmer.

Carb Manager Tracking Keto Macros
I can see at a glance where I am, with each meal, or for the entire day. I use it to plan each day’s meals.

I use an app called Carb Manager. It’s not perfect, even with the paid version (which I pay for). I saw another one recommended recently, although I can’t remember the name of it. I won’t go into the specific shortcomings now–I’ll do another post specifically on apps later.

But I can see how my macros balance out every day, which enables me to plan my menus before I begin the day. If I find that my carbs are too high, I can trade broccoli (higher carb) for cauliflower (lower carb).

What I like best, and least, about the app I use is that I can scan the bar code on food packaging, and the app recognizes it and has all the details filled out. What I like least is that, more often than I like, the data is wrong–but the app enables me to correct the data.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

As I said earlier, I hit a plateau after I’d lost around twenty-five pounds. This was after steady weight loss almost every day for a month or two.

I panicked.

But, as always, I turned to my trusty computer to do some research, and I found Intermittent Fasting (IF).

Again, I won’t go into the science here. Both Thomas DeLauer and Dr. Eric Berg (links below) do a far better job than I will in the space I have here (I’m already too wordy!), and I find no need to try to match their level of knowledge.

Simply put, IF means going without food from dinner until lunch the next day. Sixteen or so hours without food, then a six-to-eight-hour window for eating. Some health professionals will tell you that our digestive tract was meant to empty out on a regular basis. Our primitive forbears sometimes went a day or two or more without food when it wasn’t readily available.

I don’t know about you, but my digestive tract was literally stuffed with food, much of it toxic to my body, all the time! I would imagine that, when my innards were in constant use, without rest, and exposed 24/7 to toxic substances, my health suffered. It’s no wonder that cancers and Crohn’s and other chronic illnesses are rampant!

Sorry. Rant over.

You’ll find many benefits touted for IF.

All I needed to know was, once I was able to do IF successfully, the weight started to drop off once again.

But I was not able to do IF successfully when I first tried it. I don’t know whether it was the insulin resistance, or the diabetes, or something else, but I became severely hypoglycemic when I went even six hours without food.

So it was back to the laptop for more research.

And that’s how I found CBD oil.

Ketone Supplements

I tend to be something of a purist but, again, I abhor orthodoxy. Unless you’re willing try something new, how would new discoveries be made?

That’s why I have been willing to try various kinds of ketone drinks. I’ll admit that I have not tried many–probably three or four.

Since I’m very strict with my keto diet, I doubt that I’m ever out of ketosis. I usually drink the product that I’ve decided I like best in the morning, when I’m probably most likely to be in ketosis anyway (I sometimes wonder whether, on a day when I’ve eaten too much protein, I’m out of ketosis because of gluconeogenesis, which is the bodies mechanism for turning protein into glucose.)

But here’s the thing: I wonder whether those drinks might have eased my pain during my bout with keto flu?

Ketone Supplement
Chocolate…again! Could this be an … obsession?

 

In addition to the KG4 product I showed you above, I also use a product called Pruvit. They make a wide variety of flavors, and I can tell you that, when the hunger pangs strike, these drinks certainly take the edge off! You can find the products  here. Let me know whether that helps to abate your pain during your conversion

Enough Of Me

I can see that I’ve written far more than I’d intended for one post–thanks for sticking with me. I’ve given a lot of information, much of it in the form of either reading or viewing materials.

So you’ve got your assignments, should you decide to go along for the ride.

Let me know, in the comments, or by email, how keto is working out for you. I will do my best to answer questions and help in any way I can.

Thanks for reading!

Resources

Helpful Videos:

Thomas DeLauer, an excellent source of information about keto, IF, and even recipes: https://youtu.be/sBw2rdwBfZE

 

Dr. Eric Berg, another great source of information about keto, about IF, and other health concerns. His very basic video on keto is here: https://youtu.be/vMZfyEy_jpI

 

Dr. Eric Berg, again, on the toxicity of sugar: https://youtu.be/HWI1TljBsaw

Keto Chocolate Pudding Recipe

1 ripe avocado

1 oz cream cheese

1 tbsp dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 tbsp sweetner (stevia, xylitol, I use erythritol)

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (excellent source of healthy fat)

1/4 cup walnuts or peanuts

1/4 cup half & half or heavy cream

A drop or two of vanilla extract

Cinnamon to taste (optional)

 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Enjoy

* I am not a health care professional nor am I certified to give medical advice. I merely share those tactics that have worked for me. Your care is between you and your physician.

© 2020 BTW Productions, LLC

Categories
Health & Wellness

The Geezer Health and Wellness Blog

Reverse Diabetes

WHO IS THE GEEZER?

And What, Exactly, Was The Brink?

        Please allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Bert Wylen. I am a 66-year-old gay Jewish atheist man who, through self-experimentation, has brought himself back from the brink of ill-health.

About two-and-a-half years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes (t2d). I had all the attendant complications one might expect. I was morbidly obese at 327 pounds (at 6’1”, my ideal weight seems to be 210 pounds, although the “official” charts put me at a sickly maximum of 188). I had barely-controlled hypertension, and regularly felt like I was going to have a heart attack when I over-exerted myself. Over-exertion included walking too far–I couldn’t go more than two blocks without feeling scared that I was going to drop to the pavement.

I had serious brain fog. I would regularly forget what I was talking about in the middle of a sentence. I couldn’t write, because I couldn’t keep my thoughts in line enough to get my ideas down on paper (or into an electronic mass on the computer).

My vision was blurring as well, especially in the mornings. I didn’t know that this was a symptom of diabetes until after my diagnosis, but every morning I would have trouble focusing, which made catching up on FaceBook extremely difficult. Now that constituted an emergency!

I was also suffering from neuropathy, although I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that, usually after going to bed at night, about a square-inch section of my right foot, to the right of the arch along the part that touches the ground, felt like someone was holding a lit match to it. The burning sensation hurt like absolute hell! I didn’t know about neuropathy until after my t2d diagnosis.

Add to that the digestive issues. My diet consisted of processed foods, sugar in great quantities (I absolutely love cookies and cakes and ice cream and candy) and enormous amounts of lean meats. Like a good boy following the low-fat regimen suggested by folks I now know didn’t know diddly-squat about nutrition, I ate low-fat everything, which meant, I now know, that I was getting added sugar even from those foods!

So? What changed, and why am I here to help you gain back your health? 

The Diagnosis

Sometime in summer of 2017–I think it was July–at my routine checkup with my Primary Physician, the doctor looked up from my chart with an almost disgusted look on his face–probably just my interpretation–and said, “Well, you are now diabetic.”

I don’t know why I was crushed. He had been warning me that I was “pre-diabetic” for probably two years. He told me to lose some weight. He even described what we mean by “insulin resistant,” but he did not tell me–probably because he didn’t know–that insulin resistance actually means that, no matter how hard I tried…and I was trying…my body was no longer capable of losing weight without drastic changes in everything!

When I left the doctor, I sat in my car in the parking lot and cried for a good ten minutes. I viewed this as a life sentence. Sure, I could take a pill every day and pretty much ignore the consequences of my poor habits–or so I thought. But I also knew that t2d brings with it all kinds of health issues that threaten the quality of life.

I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home and filled my prescription for Metformin. And I went to work planning how to modify my diet so that I could lose weight. Which was kinda like deciding which deck chair to sit in on the Titanic as it was sinking.

As it turned out, a friend of mine who worked for the same company as I did had been diagnos

high A1c

ed with t2d just a couple of months before me. Mark seemed to be doing fine on the Metformin, and ate what he wanted, within reason. I would see him eating sandwiches and pasta and rice, all the grains and starches he wanted, but he would usually avoid the desserts…but not always. After all, he took a pill that was supposed to take care of it all for him…right?

Then, just a couple of months after my diagnoses, Mark was walking the boardwalk with his kids at the Jersey shore, got a friction wound on his foot and, a week later, had his leg amputated at the knee. I was horrified.

I began doing research in earnest about exactly what is meant by insulin resistance and, more importantly, how to reverse it. I found quite a bit of information, and some gurus who I will recommend in these pages because their information is extremely helpful.

To continue with my story, by November of that year, I had discovered the ketogenic diet (keto), which was touted as a way to control t2d. I began keto in earnest immediately on November 13th of 2017. I dropped twenty-five pounds within about three months, and then hit a plateau.

More research, and I found out about Intermittent Fasting (IF). I tried it, but because of severe symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), I couldn’t go more than about six hours without food, and IF requires at least 16 hours. Even more research, and I found that CBD oil might help with the blood sugar swings.

And voila! It worked! The weight started to drop off once again.

At my next doctor visit, just seven months after beginning keto, and eleven months after my initial t2d diagnosis, the doctor looked up from my chart and said, “You’re not diabetic any more.”

I was so thrilled, I went out and celebrated with a heaping order of ice cream and cake! J/K!!! (In case you don’t know, that’s how the kids abbreviate Just Kidding!)

I’m not going to say that this wasn’t hard work. It took a great deal of self-control to stop eating foods that were killing me, and to begin treating food like a prescription drug.

And I’ll give you a tool I use regularly that keeps me from putting toxic substances into my body that will destroy all progress: When I see a food I know I can’t eat without dire consequences to my health, I just think: Is the temporary thrill of the taste of that worth losing my leg or my eyesight?

The information was out there. But I could have used a comprehensive guide, and that is the purpose of The Geezer’s Got It! (TGGI) blog. I thought it might be useful to those being diagnosed after me, or even those continuing to suffer with their current diagnosis, to find everything they need in one place.

Therefore, you will find valuable information that I have discerned on my own, along with links to those experts who I trust to give truthful, disinterested information about how to regain our health.

What do I know about all this?

beat diabetes

Back From The Brink

After that terrible day when I got the crushing news that I had t2d, I thought I was doomed to a life of losing limbs and dimming eyesight. I now have hope that I can live another 40 quality years!

Today, my A1c is normal, and so is my blood sugar (bs). The neuropathy in my foot has all but disappeared–I feel a tiny bit of it every few months or so.

And because of my focus on good health, I’ve gotten into the habit of researching how to improve the quality of my life overall. In fact, I’ve had several doctors and health and fitness coaches marvel at how much I know about nutrition, health, and fitness overall.

I will be sharing all of it here in the pages of this blog.

By way of disclaimer, I do earn money on some of the products and services I recommend. I long ago learned to find products I like where I can earn a commission on them. But rest assured, I never recommend any product or service that I have not fully vetted and can vouch for the quality. As I said at the beginning, I am my own guinea pig. I know what anything I recommend has done for me. Otherwise, I would not recommend it.

I also want to be sure to mention that I make no medical claims, nor give out medical advice. I’m merely sharing those methods that have worked for me, and the results I’m enjoying. Your care is between you, your doctor, and your conscience.

And please feel free to comment, especially about progress that you’ve made yourself on the journey back to good health and vitality!

Why The Geezer?

The seed of this whole Health & Wellness concept grew out of my passion for helping LGBT people to free themselves from the enormously toxic messages that they’ve gotten about our brand of love from the larger society. If you visit my Website, www.thegeezersgotit.com, you’ll find a link to The Gay Warrior Quest (GWQ), which is my coaching program focused primarily on gay men.

I will go into detail about this extremely helpful and uplifting program in another blog post, but it’s germane to the story about how I came up with “the geezer.”

LGBT PrideAfter I’d created a Website for GWQ, I created a video to explain the concept. In that video, I found myself “apologizing” for my age. I said something on the order of, “No doubt some of you are wondering exactly what you can possibly learn from an old geezer like me.”

To underscore the artificiality over age, not just in the gay community, but among young people in general, I’d like to share a story about my friend named Jack.

Jack was in his early sixties when I turned forty. I was whining to him one day about how “old” I was getting, and he laughed and said, “Ah! So you’ve joined the Invisible Gay Army!

He went on to explain that, in the gay world, when you turn forty, you become invisible to “The Beautiful People.” I have found this to be true, not just among gay crowds, but wherever young people of whatever sexual orientation are gathered.

And so, because I believe that using a derogatory term takes the power out of it, I am a Geezer…and proud of it!

© 2020 BTW Productions, LLC