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Painful sights, distressing sounds

By SHEILA STOLL
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 28, 2003

I may be old, but so far I can still see and hear. Sometimes I wish that were not the case. If I were deaf and blind, I wouldn't be able to hear or read about what's going on in our beloved country. I would be blissfully ignorant. For instance, I wouldn't know that before the midterm elections, no one mentioned that state governments would be unable to fulfill their part of Medicare and Medicaid obligations.

I wouldn't know that government employees will not get their legally entitled 3 percent pay raise but political appointees will get bonuses up to $10,000. We're all supposed to suck it in for the war effort, except for those who get political paybacks from a grateful government.

If I didn't hear or see, I would be blissfully unaware that the federal government wants to relax environmental rules that protect national forests. I wouldn't know that many federal workers would be "privatized," which means that they will no longer have certain civil service protections.

I am not blind and therefore can see that HMOs are among the most profitable enterprises in many states. Those profits have not prevented the same Medicare HMOs from raising their co-pays and eliminating the subsidies for nongeneric prescription medications.

I have heard about the potentially devastating effect on our economy a war against Iraq would bring. I have also heard NATO allies try to explain why war would be counterproductive. I read in the newspapers that people between 18 and 29 favor this war. It seems that we old fogies are less enthusiastic. Maybe it's because we are the ones who know war's devastation, not as a theory or policy, but as a reality. We remember the body bags.

The holiday season was supposed to fill us with joy. Unfortunately, for those who lost their jobs or who didn't get raises, or who found out they could no longer afford medications, the holidays were not a joyous time.

It was a time when our president had a mandate to change as many rules as possible for the benefit of his wealthy, socially conservative constituency.

Wars over oil are good for oil producers. Oil must remain the centerpiece of foreign and domestic policy. The producers' profits must remain unsullied by capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and oh, yes -- if they've moved their operations offshore, they should still be able to contract with the government, in the name of Homeland Security.

If I could no longer read, I wouldn't know that John Ashcroft and his buddies are successfully chipping away the rights and freedoms that my ancestors fought and died for.

When my husband and I discuss this stuff, I tell him I'm glad I'm old. I won't have to see the consequences of all this folly. I won't have to live through the willful tanking of the economy through war and foolish tax cuts. I won't have to live in a world in which everyone who isn't an American will hate me for being one. I feel sorry for my children and grandchildren. They will pay the price for what we have done.

I say "we" because we, the voting public, are responsible for this mess. Those of us who are voluntarily deaf and blind, who don't understand consequences, who view declaring war on a nonaggressor as a national duty, those who don't bother to inform themselves have given us this mess. Do I sound angry? No surprise there. It's better than being depressed, and so far, I think it's better than ignorance. Bliss is out of the question.

- Write to Sheila Stoll, c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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