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All Points West: Suffering from American-itis:
March 25, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Iím not sure, but this is probably my third installment of columns about nothing. I give you fair warning to turn back.

This morning, eyeing four amber medicine containers sitting on the breakfast table staring back at me, I weighed the meaning of life. Lining up the little white tablets, tasteless if you allow them to hit the back of your throat using the proper wrist and head motion. Otherwise, be prepared for the chalky bitter taste to linger.

Following doctorís orders has never been my forte, because Iím always wondering if the body, left to its devices, could ever recover the old fashioned way. I suppose it beats a damp towel on my forehead to fight a 104-degree fever, or better yet, the careful placement of leaches to draw out wretched mysterious poisons.

Though, I have also considered that what we put into our bodies Ė mass amounts of fast food meats and sugary drinks Ė counteracts anything remotely good for our health, and leads me to believe in a complex conspiracy to promote capitalism instead. What good is a smart and healthy populous? It would drive McDonaldís and most pharmaceutical companies to mediocre profits at best, and would have a ripple effects across our nationís economy, nay, our world economy. However, such a state of affairs would greatly reduce the gap between the 2 percent of our countryís mega wealthy and the ever shriveling middle class, leaving most of us without the hope of ever winning the lottery to solve all our problems. You do realize most of this country lives paycheck to paycheck? Obamacare, not nearly perfect, remains a weak solution but more importantly, a wakeup call.

Ask American citizens why they are angry, feeling the need to show their lack of maturity at political campaigns, and if they blame their predicament on a pack of lazy blood-sucking immigrants or the massive corporations preying on our inability to think critically. My staunch belief is that the solution lies in the potential to help each other, as a community, if that still means anything to us, versus pummeling each other in the name of democracy, while we decide if who we vote into government office (any government office) will make any real difference. Let me put it bluntly: We need each other more than we need any fabled great leader Ė Democrat, Republican, or polka-dotted, itís all the same.

Three weeks ago, I was told that an infection in my bowels was causing frequent headaches and this lingering feeling of tiredness. After the diagnosis, and a serious discussion with the doctor about how if this condition, left unattended, could lead to surgery Ė costly surgery. Instantly, my mind kicked into overdrive about what insurance would cover, or better yet, what it wouldnít cover. Given the option between Tri-Care and the Veterans Administrationís brand of healthcare, I was disappointed more than surprised or shocked about the extent of benefits. As a veteran who has committed a fair amount of my life to serving (protecting) my country, I think Iíd rather be spat upon than lied to. I signed up to take a bullet, if need be, for my fellow Americans. Sounds dramatic, but thatís literally what it boils down to.

Yet, what it amounts to in repayment are token discounts here and there. Cursory evaluations at a V.A. clinic could have resulted in further serious complications. Although, my symptoms warranted immediate attention, I was told it would be weeks before I could be seen. My mind wandered Ö What if my condition had gotten worse or deadly? Rather than being a victim of our broken health care system, a proud soldier, I would rather be felled on some faraway battlefield. Thankfully, Regional Westís P.A. Joe Jeter saw me and made the right call.

Sitting on my kitchen table, next to the medicine, was a check made out to the hospital to pay for nearly half the amount of the doctor visit. Another thought occurred to me. Would I be better off an out-of-work bum eligible for Medicaid?

Just a few days ago, I returned from South Korea, there for two weeks of training for the National Guard. In my short look around, my view hadnít changed. I was reminded of two things since my last visits to southeast Asia. One, the mostly homogenous population works a little more harmoniously than a mutt infested country such as ours. Two, taken from my three and half years in Japan during the early 1990s, a country that was beaten into submission in WWII, I observed that a janitor who scrubs toilets is just as important as the prime minister because he has a job, taking into account, both serve a vital need. And considering personal respect, both deserve it. South Korea, albeit a wealthy nation now, has suffered from multiple wars Ė humiliation at the hands of its closest neighbors China and Japan.
The solution to recovering they found, was to work together as a people. Americans caught a glimpse of that after 9-11. Getting Americans on the same page was something to admire. Our enemies had stirred a sleeping giant, we mobilized to invade both Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. In both Japan and South Korea, the United States remains an occupying force. And, we are still in Afghanistan.

My ills have been remedied. Iíll recover, not only from the holes in my gut, but the dent in my wallet. Money is money, and you canít take it into afterlife, which leaves me bemused and bewildered about why we hold so tightly to it. What concerns me more than my predicament is how my brothers and sisters in arms continue to receive second-rate treatment. In that, there is no honor or thanks.

If you get a chance, just ask Japan or South Korea how it is to work together. Both recovered nicely after being pushed to the brink. We are nearly there.
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