The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of the Astonishing FartMan chronicles the amusing escapades
of the lovable, stinky, and obnoxious Cape & Tights Super Hero, and his maudlin Alter Ego, W____,
as they learn to cope with Stage IV colon cancer, each other, and their annoying fellow human beings.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bathing in Tears

From: W____
Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2011 9:10 PM
To: Gl____
Subject: Re: Xeloda/Clinical Trials

Dear Gl_____,

(This turned out to be an awfully long email, so don’t feel obliged to read it all at once, or to hurry to reply.)

I hope you and G____ are coping okay. I know this time is so very hard for you two—harder than anything anyone should have to suffer through.

Somehow it seems we find just enough strength to do what we have to do.

Looking backwards on what we’ve been through, we say, “How did we ever make it through that?”

And looking ahead to what’s coming at us, we say, “How will we ever get though this?”

We hang on to each other for dear life, and then do what we have to do, which usually means putting up with things that we have not much choice but to put up with . . . and trying to make the best of things, even though “the best we can make of it” is not all that great sometimes.

I could not imagine going through this without my wife. Sometime we just cling to each other and cry silently for a good long while, and then try to kiss away each other’s tears. Her tears are a salve for my soul. I do love the way they taste. Is it selfish to want her to cry over me so I can bathe my spirit in her tears? Well, if she is going to cry over me, she should do it while I’m around to enjoy it, rather wasting her tears after I'm gone. Whenever that happens, she should quickly finish crying and get on with living a happy life.

Yes, I will try to remember to email you my new blog posts. However, after having been pretty idle at work for the last few months, this week I’ve started on a big new project, and it might keep me too busy to be able to write new entries very often. Also, after I post a new blog entry, for a few days I’ll continue to fiddle and fool with it until it seems like something close to acceptable, so I might not email a new post to you until it's been worked into good shape. For me, writing is an ongoing never-ending process of revision. How silly of me to take this blogging so seriously!

Gl___, I happened to run across something on the internet that might be helpful to you if you haven’t seen it already. There’s a series of videos that a woman at John Hopkins recorded to help caregivers cope with taking care of a sick family member. It’s called “Walking on Eggshells” and you can view the videos here:

I’ve watched a few of the videos, and some of what’s in them is so obvious that it doesn’t hardly need to be said, but even though it’s mostly just common sense, it still might be helpful and reassuring to hear. Although the videos were intended for family caregivers, as the “caregivee,” I found the videos reassuring. Perhaps they might be helpful for you as you attend to G___'s needs.

To turn on a dime with a change of subject: How interesting that politically you are to the left of Obama!

Even though I’ve been sick almost for the whole last year, I still do care about and pay attention to politics. I’ve always been a politics junkie. But I guess I’ve always practiced my politics in an abstracted way, which means that, if someone is a good person, for friendship’s sake I don’t care a whit what his politics might be. There are good people with a variety of different political views. And you can conclude that you live in a decent political system if people don’t have to worry about politics in their personal relationships. In a good system, political power keeps its nose out of things that are best left to be decided among individuals, friends, families, churches, customers, businessmen, etc. In a bad system, politics demands to be involved in everything. Of course, tyrannical governments' excuse for intervening in every facet of life is that those being tyrannized just aren't healthy enough, wealthy enough, smart enough, or powerful enough, to look out for themselves without the regular daily assistance of a caring big daddy government

But I'm surprised you consider Obama a DINO. To me, he's the perfect example of a contemporary Washington Democrat:

--overeducated, but underworked (shall we golf or shoot hoops today?);

--ungrateful for the wealth and other good things that our good free-market system has delivered into his grubbing hands (his wife "coincidentally" got her paper-pushing salary at the UofC Hospital substantially increased when hubby entered the Senate, yet she considers this a "downright mean" country; you have to wonder how many babies might have been helped at that hospital with the money that was thrown away on her--$317K in 2005; cruelly slashed to barely over $100k when she cut back to part-time! If you think her job important enough to be worth the hundreds of thousands she was paid each year, consider the fact that when she left to go to Washington, her old job was eliminated);

--contemptuous of those unwashed masses who can't speak "Austrian" or some other foreign language (although Obama himself is perfectly monolingual, while I speak fluent Australian, mate);

--too arrogant about his own brilliance to take a even a little time to learn the simplest basic details about the subjects on which he expostulates with such rhetorical ease (e.g., the "profits/earnings ratio"?!?!);

--condescending in his prevailing assumption that so very few of us plebes can get along without his and his lib friends' help.

So you see, you must forgive me that I’m probably just as far to the right as you are to the left.

But in this circular political universe, I’ve travelled far enough to the right to start bumping into people on the left.

You could call me an Constitutional Conservative, which means I want:

a central government that is limited and restrained;

individual freedom and responsibility;

free markets (with appropriate but limited government regulation);

vibrant strong local government with lots of citizen involvement at the local level;

respect for private property, which is an absolutely necessary condition of freedom (How valuable is your freedom of speech, for example, if you aren't allowed to own your own pencil and paper, but must ask the government if you "qualify" to receive some? And who exaxtly decides who qualifies?)

Just a quick thought about my insistence on respect for private property as a necessary condition of freedom: The true definition of a slave is "a competent adult person who is not allowed to receive, keep, and dispose of the fruit of his own labor." The fruit of each of our own labor which we each produce and amass is what is called our individual private property. Thus, the right to keep and manage one's own private property is the right not to be enslaved. Yes, in theory (communist theory) a government that takes away the fruit of our labor can take very good care of us, using the fruit of our own labor and the fruit of our neighbor’s labor. But if the government takes the fruit of our labor and uses it to take care of us, we are still slaves--well-kept slaves perhaps, but slaves nonetheless.

Freedom-loving men and women prefer the dignity and independence of taking care of themselves using the fruit of their own labor, rather than having to depend on the uncertain beneficence of government to return to them what they themselves earned. Does any reasonably competent person really think that a government ruling over 300 million others will attend to his very particular wishes and needs more closely than he can attend to them for himself?

People who think it is a good idea to put a big centralized government in charge of all sorts of things need to remember that it is just as likely that a George W. Bush will be running that government as it is that a Barack Obama or a Bernie Sanders will be in charge. They might love a Bernie Sanders, but when was he ever running the show? More likely a Dubya will be in charge, and do they really want to risk putting their lives and fortunes into the hands of a Dubya? Isn't it better and safer and freer not to give government all that power in the first place?

“Power to the People,” is what I say. But “Power to the People” is contrary to a system in which a few hundred political elites in Washington oversee the details of the lives of the other 300 million people. It is important to have a diversity of political environments in this big land, so that the lefties can have places like Berkeley CA (and California generally), where they can go to live and run things and try out their pet theories, and the righties can have places like Tomball TX (and Texas in general), where they can live and be happy and test out their favorite political theories. Personally, I would not be happy living long in either Berkeley or Tomball, but I’m glad they both exist. Imagine how bad things would become if every place were run like Berkeley or every place were run like Tomball. Without the Berkeleyites to keep them in line, the Tomballers would quickly become tyrannical, and vice versa. (But I can't resist pointing out that while California, with all its natural advantages but with its bloated public sector, sinks down the tubes, Texas is hanging in there quite nicely, with 37% of all new jobs now being created in our great state.)

Political diversity is a great virtue. Our founders understood that to create political diversity you have to allow lots of power at the local level so all different kinds of communities can develop, where different views can grow and flourish, as opposed to having a totally uniform system run from the top down by a handful of arrogant elites in an over-spending self-seeking federal government. (If I weren’t so opposed to federal mandates, I might say that every citezen should be required to purchase and to read the Federalist Papers as a precondition to receiving the franchise.)

Aristotle wrote that to be a true citizen, and to be truly free, a person must both “rule and be ruled, in turn.” This means we must all take turns being in charge and letting others be in charge. To know how to rule, we have to know how to be ruled, and to know how to be ruled, we also have to know how to rule. But if most power is concentrated into the federal government, very few of us will get to participate in the ruling, and instead the vast vast majority of us would simply be ruled by those 600 elites in Washington DC.

To give everyone a fair opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in ruling and being ruled, it is necessary as a matter of numbers that the political system allow most power to be exercised at the local level where there are more offices to be filled. And this local power must not merely be that of administrative functionaires of a federal system; for the local power to be meaningful, it must be decision-making power. That is just one more of the many reasons why the federal government should involve itself to decide only those things that cannot be addressed locally. That's what the Framers wanted, a federal government limited to exercising only the necessary national powers expressly granted to it in the Constitution.

It's never been revealed publicly before, but The Astonishing FartMan is actually my True Indian Name. As a Certifried Class A Minority (viz. rare and indigenous), a Native American, whose people have been devastated, first by federal violence, and then even more by federal do-gooderism, I want to tell all the limo liberals out there that perhaps the best thing they can do now for poor dumbass Injuns like me is not to assume that we is too stupid and pathetic to take care of ourselves, but just to leave us alone to make our own way, as they will find we are capable of doing, just as we did for numberless hundreds of years before their arrival on our shores--if they will not tax us into poverty or destroy our dignity and self-respect by teaching us to depend on government handouts generation after generation after generation. Yes, it makes rich liberals feel all warm and fuzzy to think that they are helping us poor dumb barefoot outhouse redskins, but please, they can help me more by just leaving me alone.

A satirical website, titled "Stuff White People Like," is the second funniest website on the internet (the one you're now reading being the first funniest), but its list of Stuff White People Like is missing an one obvious entry:

Indigenous Peoples

Yes, white people do seem to love us indigenous peoples, us noble savages, who they seem to think have, or damn well oughta have, some kind of mystical connection with the earth, nature, the land, streams, plants, animals (especially wolves and bears), birds (especially hawks and eagles), rocks, crystals, whatever. (If you'll meet me at McDonalds and treat me to a cup of coffee and a sausage biscuit with egg, we can chat about my Ingenious Indigenous Powers until your heart is content, or until the coffee makes me have to go sit on the john, whichever occurs first.) I do wish white people loved indigenous people a little less, because they have almost loved all of us to death.

I try to tell my Injun brothers, "the White Man and the Black Man ain't ever gonna give you enough to let you live as well as they do; they're gonna give you only enough to keep you right where you are--so why don't you let the White Man and the Black Man keep their money, and instead go out and earn some of your own!" Forgive me if you think it's racist to say it, but we dumb Injuns is the smartist and most cleverist race of human beans the Great Spirit ever set down on His earth (myself being an excellent example), if we can just keep ourselves sober and off the dole long enough to realize it.

Yes, liberality is a beautiful private virtue, practiced using one's own money, but it is a dangerous political virtue, which, praticed using the money of others, ends up hurting even its putative beneficiaries, as Nicollo Machiavelli presciently pointed out hundreds of years before the actual invention of the limousine: It's just too easy for them limo liberals like the Obamas to be liberal with other people's money and then to take credit for being so concerned and caring for the less fortunate. So when Barry and Michelle, in what would be a fine display of the private virtue of liberality, have given away so much of their own millions and so much of their own property that they are reduced to living on money and property equal to mine, then we can talk about whether my taxes need to be raised. Until then, they should either put up or shut up. The least the Big O could do would be to toss a few bucks his brother's way. The limo liberals will not be happy until they have transformed most of us into "less fortunates" from whose dependence they derive the smug, condescending, superior, self-satisfaction of their political liberality.

So you see, I am a political junkie with some strong opinions.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to talk with a local school board member, Anna Eastman, who is wanting me to support her—again—in her upcoming election. You might have noticed that I'm no fan of Obama, but this Anna Eastman, whom I supported in the last local election cycle, was an Obama precinct chair in 2008. Even though she was, and probably still is, an Obama-momma, I was very happy to support her in her first run for the school board because she understood that parental involvement in a child’s education is the key to educational success, and her platform emphasized encouraging parental involvement. Some Astonishing Family Facts: My grandfather, a swampland Indian, ploughed his boggy fields behind a mule all his life and signed his name with an X; my grandmother probably never spent one day in a school room, but somehow learned to read and write, just barely; her son, my father, graduated college; I graduated from a law school around the corner, as did two of my sibs; my own daughter, who went to Yale, is rumored to have been a Bonesman there, as were John Kerry, both the Bush presidents, and whothehellknowswhoelse. Although all us Astonishing Ones have deep down roots in the dumbass interbred swamp Injun tree, we all paid attention to our kids' educations.

How can anyone not love such a country?!?!? And, yes, I am bragging.

(It is one my favorite theories that, in a properly functioning American polity, locally run schools are the best “school” for the grown up citizens to learn how to involve themselves fruitfully in local politics.)

Well, Gl____, forgive me for the long political digression. Perhaps it might have served at least as a little distraction from the “you know what” that is running roughshod through our lives.

On another subject you mentioned: With what you and G___ are going through right now, I can definitely understand why ZoomberGirl makes you angry. Nonetheless, I do still think she's a good kid. (Am I allowed to call a woman in her late twenties a kid? She’s ten years younger than my own child!) But I think ZoomberGirl is in danger of trapping herself, her real self, alone behind an emotional wall if she feels that she has to keep up the cold fakery of the Rah Rah Cancer Fighting Cheerleader persona. Her recent post titled “Keeping Positive,” for all its rah-rah-rah, fight-fight-fight “positivity” seems to this grumpy old fart to be just terribly sad, especially at the end, when she writes, “I am fighting my cancer battle with the unshakeable certainty that everything is going to work out exactly how I want it to.” Dear Child, When and where on this earth in this life did anything ever work out exactly as anyone wanted it to?

Yes, it is right to see the good in life, to have hope, and to try to stay strong for the struggle. It is good not to mope around too much and make everybody else feel miserable all the time. But ZoomberGirl takes it too far with her noble wish to please everyone else by wearing a Smiley Face mask all the time. It’s a perfectly fine mask to present to certain healthy people who really don’t want to be bummed out by another sad cancer story "thrown up in their face." But someone among those who love ZoomberGirl, and there are obviously many who do love her, should try to let her know gently that it’s okay to admit, and to let those who love her see, her normal healthy human weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities.

Really, I can’t image that many people with cancer, especially those with a crappy prognosis or those who know they are reaching the end of the their days here on earth, would find inspiration or solace in what ZoomberGirl writes. What exactly does ZoomberGirl have to say to the 70+% of Stage IV colon cancer patients who will die of their disease within five years of their diagnosis? "Too bad for you; unlike modest little ol' ZoomberGirl, I guess you just weren't positive enough, and that's your own silly fault." But notwithstanding the brutality of her implicit message, ZoomberGirl is a good person, a very noble soul, a person who wants to please the whole world, even if that requires persistent self-negating self-denial. I do think that eventually she’ll find her way to a more self-acknowledging, true-to-herself way of going about things. Poor ZoomberGirl. I think she’s spent her whole life pleasing others and ignoring her own true self. (Caveat: This armchair internet psychologizing and philosophizing about self-denial and being true-to-oneself comes from an inveterately grumpy guy who has recently contrived himself an alter ego super hero whom he calls The Astonishing FartMan.)

Please give G____ a good long hug for me.

Sending love, hope, and prayers,


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