I am not going to write about the way we celebrate our country every year.

And I am certainly not going to suggest that maybe getting slobbering drunk while using products made in China to litter our streets and keep children and pussies early risers like me awake until 3 a.m. might not be the best way to show our appreciation for those honorable men and women who have given everything for our freedom.

Because apparently, according to those with whom I’ve shared these concerns, not wanting to trash our lovely country and wishing that people could be reasonable makes me un-American.

Despite the fact that my great-grandfather, after whom my only son is named, fought in WWII, and despite the fact that my biological father was in Vietnam when I was born, somehow, simply because I care about the environment, I am completely unaware of the sacrifices made by our military members.

(Damned hippie.)

I am definitely not going to talk about how I’ve been told that I don’t appreciate my country properly because I think people should be considerate of others and stop shooting off loud things by midnight on the 4th of July. And on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th of July, if you live in my neighborhood.

(Boy, my neighbors sure do love their country. They don’t give two shits about the people trying to live in it with them, but man, whatta bunch of patriots. Hats off to you, you Budweiser-clutching defenders of democracy. I’m sure all of the soldiers who have actually been in battle and suffer from PTSD really appreciate the way you honor their service by shooting bottle rockets at their cars and houses for a week every summer.)

So that’s not what I’m going to write about today either. Because I don’t think the fireworks have anything to do with it. And because hey, guess what? I’m not made of stone, people. I think fireworks are fucking pretty. I am a sucker for shimmering lights and bright colors, and fireworks give me both of these things. It’s a win-win.

I won’t share my fond, nostalgic memories of watching the adults light fireworks in the driveway the second we achieved dusk. And I won’t remember the excitement of running in terror from the Catherine wheels that spun around furiously, making our little-kid hearts race with the thrill of escaping certain death, or at least a stinging sensation to the ass cheek. I also won’t share that I still have a Pavlovian response of, “Oh shit. RUN!” when I hear that high-pitched spinning, whirring sound they make, even if it’s houses away. I won’t admit that I love the sulphuric smell of smoke bombs, or that the burned coal tar stench of black snakes heaped in ashy piles on the sidewalk will make me swoon with olfactory reminiscence. There will be no shameful confessions that I’m still a little bit afraid to hold a sparkler, or that I manically scream, “FEUERWERK!” and laugh hysterically along with the rest of my wacky German family every year.

(You had to be there.)

I promise not to babble on with fond recollections of sitting on the roof of my house in Phoenix as a youngster to watch the fireworks, when we would climb up next to our swamp cooler to look around and marvel at the incredible displays of color and light exploding in every direction across the dark desert skies. I won’t share that I even wrote and recorded a song in my band The Glitter Kicks about how every year on the 4th of July we all forget about boring grown-up stuff to feel giddy anticipation again like children. I won’t share my namby-pamby, touchy-feely thoughts about how it’s important to stay in touch with the kids we once were because they remain a big part of who we’ve become as adults.

Rest assured that with my appreciation for the neat parts of the holiday firmly established, I am not going to write some sort of anti-Independence Day diatribe. Because I think my issues with humanity go beyond one day a year. And I’ve realized that my problem with the holiday has nothing to do with the holiday at all. It’s a fabulous holiday.

What is truly bothering me is the lack of respect for others. The narcissistic sense of entitlement held by so many thoughtless pricks among us. The lack of awareness that there are other people in this country, nay, on this planet, with whom we are sharing it.

What’s bothering me is that one day a year, people use the 4th of July holiday to act like a bunch of oblivious-to-everyone-else-in-the-world dickweeds.

What’s bothering me even more is that people are starting to act like this on the other 364 days of the year as well.

What’s bothering me the most is that the global stereotype of an American has become that of a rude, fat, loudmouthed, inconsiderate moron, and I am unable to escape or refute that stereotype every time I go out in public these days.

I’m absolutely not going to bore you by expounding on this thought and discussing the different forms of self-centered behavior I see on a daily basis. I won’t give examples, like when someone yapping or texting on a cell phone swerves into my driving lane, or can’t be bothered to undertake the arduous, wrist-straining task of using a turn signal.  When some lazy piece of shit takes up two parking spaces because backing up their car and pulling into the space properly would have been thirty seconds of their life spent thinking about someone besides themselves. Or when my neighbors play their music so loudly coming and going in their cars at 2 a.m. that it rattles my house windows, waking me up. Or when they let their dogs take huge dumps all over my yard and don’t pick it up. Or when they sit in their open garages, talking so loudly on the phone that I can hear the conversation clearly through my closed front office window. Or when they mow their lawns in the dark, at nearly 10 p.m. like this is a normal thing to do. As if everyone around them deserves to be kept awake because they can’t manage their time like responsible humans.

A perfect example of what is actually bothering me would be the fact that I had to stop writing this because my neighbors across the street decided that 6 a.m. would be an acceptable time to scream and curse so loudly in their front yard that it woke up my five-year-old son, effectively ending my early morning writing time.

But I am not going to share that example either, because I don’t want to seem like a spoilsport or curmudgeon. I wouldn’t want to tread on the rights of another American to wake up the entire neighborhood because they need to screech expletives at their teenaged son and then throw things around the garage in a blind rage for a few minutes. Because I’m not some kind of pinko commie, goddammit.

I won’t propose to anyone here today that when some people call America a free country, what they really mean is a country free of self-control and free of self-awareness. That when they call it a free country, they mean a country full of people free to be inconsiderate fuckheads who will disturb the peace and quality of life of the people around them without a moment’s thought or consideration to consider the effect they’re having on the world. I certainly will not suggest that America is becoming the land of the free to have one’s head firmly up one’s ass at all times. And I won’t harp on about the Declaration of Independence and the idea on which our country is supposed to be founded – that all men are created equal – because apparently men making really important cell phone calls who swerve into my lane, nearly hitting my son’s side of the car are more equal than my child and I.

I will not declare that pride in one’s country should start with pride in one’s self. That good people are what make a good country good. And that good people do not shit on each other. Because that would seem too obvious.

I’m not going to mention that the problem actually isn’t the 4th of July holiday, while griping about how some people who don’t care about anyone but themselves use the holiday as a ruse to display their complete lack of respect for plants, animals, and humans – the very things that make up the country they are “celebrating.” I won’t imply that some consider July 4th an excuse to crank their inner asshole knobs up to eleven, and have the nerve to call it a display of patriotic pride. Or worse: have the nerve to call me un-American because I dare suggest it might better honor our country to show some consideration for its inhabitants.

I’m definitely not going to write anything assuming that this Independence Day, Lady Liberty will most likely be beaten down, as usual, by imbeciles who equate being proud Americans with drunkenly shooting imported Roman candles at each other and leaving trash in the streets for the rest of us to either pick up or trip over for months afterward. And even though I still believe that under that pile of firework debris and empty beer cans stands an elegant torch-holding gal in a toga, I am not going to discuss the way I refuse to give up and let the jerks ruin a really cool holiday for the decent people who choose to celebrate it responsibly.

I am especially not going to ramble on about how I think we can be better than this. Or that I believe we can show respect for our fellow humans by ceasing to be loud at a reasonable hour every day of the year, and remembering that we’re all in this together. I wouldn’t dare suggest that we can pick up our litter and show real respect for our beautiful country by keeping it clean and taking care of it.

To make my point, I am not going to show you pictures of my suburban neighborhood street that is already covered with firework and alcohol detritus from two days of “celebrating our freedom” with at least two more days of “appreciating America” to go before it’s over, depending on how many foreign-made fireworks Bubba and Billy Bob down the street buy this year. I won’t complain that we’ve had to call the police already this week to get our neighbors to stop hollering, “WHOOOOO! ‘MERICA!” while making things explode until well past midnight.

I will never, ever write about how our citizens should be collectively intelligent enough to celebrate the birth of a great nation without destruction of property and oblivion to common courtesy.

And I’m definitely not going to write a piece bitching about the thoughtless, ruining-good-things-for-the-rest-of-us, worthless, waste-of-oxygen douchebags who once a year choose to celebrate everything great we’re supposed to be as citizens of an amazing country by instead acting like a bunch of rude, littering, noisy, inbred idiot motherfuckers.

Nope. Not gonna do it.

Because I think that all I really want to write here is happy birthday. Yes. That’s exactly what I want to say.

Happy birthday, America.

Stay classy.





I wrote this back in August, 2009. At the time, Palin was making her big splash about death panels, and the health care debate was lost in the fracas. By December, Palin and her death panels won the Lie of the Year Award from PolitiFact, but the damage had been done: the sound and fury was too loud, even though it signified nothing.

We remain mired in health care debate. Though the smoke from the death panels has cleared, new ridiculous problems have arisen to take its place. The seed of the piece remains as true as it did when I wrote it, though the death panels have fallen to the level of satire.

Plus, my father really wanted me to post this. I have to make Dad happy once in a while.


This health care debate–I admit I haven’t been following it all that closely. I suppose that my reasoning is somewhat lazy, as is my response to it, but not my feeling about health care. That isn’t lazy at all.

I haven’t been following because as soon as there’s the kind of vitriol and spew in the media that has been involved in this so-called “debate” the issues are lost to us. There are no more examples of what would help, how it might work, who it would effect; instead it becomes about who is the most inflammatory, who can come up with the most hysterical argument, and how we can continue to be mired in the crap unchanged and unchallenged to think in new ways.

But this is about me and my life, and I would like someone to recognize that.

For example, since we are self-employed around these parts, we also have to pick up the tab on our health insurance. Do you know what it costs? Close to 600 bones a month. Do you know what our co-pay is? Thirty bucks every time we set foot in an office, no matter if it’s to take a temperature or get a splinter out. And forget our deductible: we actually had to make the choice between 2,500 dollars per year or 10,000. I think we could call this level of insurance “catastrophic.”

What about eye care? Non-existent. For us, that means that every year, though our 5-year-old son needs glasses for something considered “medical,” his glasses are not covered by our insurance. Do you know how many glasses a kid goes through? Hundreds of dollars a year spent on specs. And my husband and I who merely have age-deficient eyeballs cough up hundreds of dollars to keep the words from blurring on the page and the traffic signs in focus.

Dental: Non-existent. This despite all the studies that have shown that good dental care is one sure-fire way to keep health costs down because of all the attendant ailments that accompany crappy teeth and gums. But that aside, let’s just talk about dollars: two hundred+ bucks apiece to get our teeth cleaned and tuned up every six months. Why do we go that often? So we can avoid the much more painful thousands of dollars that result from crummy gummies. I had to pay close to two thousand dollars a few years ago for a root canal and all its attendant horrors; I would like to avoid that again if possible, so I go to the dentist.

Of course, we have other mouth woes that we both keep ignoring; my husband’s teeth have become so crunched together they’re wearing down and I’ve been missing a tooth in back since my twenties. As a result, my teeth are wearing unevenly and flopping over. But maybe we would have those things fixed if we weren’t hemorrhaging so much money down the other medical rat holes.

Back problems? Forget it; out of pocket. I have chiro coverage, but never once has my chiropractor been paid through my insurance plan because he’s not a member of their tribe or something. Mental health issues? Better to be healthy but crazy, I suppose.

And we’ve got good health. What happens if one of us gets really sick? God help us. Individual health plans are notoriously skint on their lifetime limit–we’ve got two million bucks of coverage and then–buh-bye. Talk about a “death panel.”  Seriously, what happens if they have to fix a liver or kidney, or my heart? Do we run up to the two million and then the insurance adjuster says, “I’m sorry–we were just about to plug in that heart of yours but you’ve reached your limit.”

We’re the lucky ones. Whether by fiat or hard work we’ve been fortunate to have enough money to buy our own health insurance. Many don’t. Many of our friends, who are completely and solidly middle class, cannot afford to spend the extra money each month on their own medical insurance.

The result? Treatment for the most severe form of cervical cancer in a free clinic in Los Angeles. Pre-diabetic health monitoring that is so spotty as to be pointless. Out of pocket expenses of many-multiple thousands for a CPAP machine to keep our friend breathing through the night. Amount paid for emergency oral surgery: ten thousand dollars in cash. Two hip replacements for our friend, a young woman in her twenties, which she couldn’t pay for, and then had to claim bankruptcy. Type 1 diabetes with no insurance–a horror my step-sister has navigated partly by ducking back into school to get insured again. Otherwise, her now “pre-existing condition” rules her out of almost all other plans. What happens when she graduates?

These are ailments affecting people in their twenties through their forties. This is not a discussion about how to care for the elderly. This is about people in the prime of their life who would, with proper preventive health care and better access to good medical teams, live a long time. These same people may have their lives dramatically shortened because they cannot afford insurance.

So these discussions are an obfuscation which offend me personally. I take umbrage with these cavalierly hurled arguments because they are playing with the lives of people I love, active members of American society, taxpayers and voters, who may die prematurely because the health care system won’t care for them.

And what about my Dad?* Where is he in the discussion? The death panels apparently have him and his Stage 4 cancer singled out, but I don’t think he feels tremendously threatened by these medical bureaucrats waving their mighty pens of death over his head.

In fact, he’s relieved that his whole medical team understands in black and white terms that he does not want his life prolonged unnecessarily. That he has the choice to say no to being hooked up to machines and medical devices which may hand him a few more days or weeks, but in a manner which would hardly be called “vital.” That he may choose between that and living out his days comfortably, without strident measures, without hysteria or intubation, without medicine that is as potentially toxic as it is prolonging.

Is that last inkling of life so truly desirable, if sculpted by equipment, money, interventions, and resources that give no comfort or solace? Is the mere fact of living enough, no matter what the condition of the life? Is it life for life’s sake, or life for living?

If you ask me, and nobody did, I think this “health debate” is about a country’s unwillingness to step up to care for its citizens in a responsible way. I think it is about companies and industries so mired in bureaucracies of their own making that they cannot envision another way. I think it is about people’s lives being less important than the evolution of the pay-to-play system, and nickel-and-diming by the insurance industry. I think it is about trying to unravel the Gordian knot woven during the horrid evolution of the PPO, where codes of symptoms and ailments became more important than a holistic view of any given patient.**

We are the ones who pay the price of their inflexibility with diseases and easily treated injuries winding up in the least efficient places on earth: the Emergency Room. Or unable to save money for our retirement because we’re too busy spending it on glasses and CPAP machines, claiming bankruptcy for medically imperative operations, and insurance that is so expensive we have little left at the end of the month. So this disingenuous legerdemain being perpetrated to take the issues out of the hands of patients makes me pretty damned angry.

You can call it a death panel if you want, but I’ll take it for what it is: life and living under our own terms.

*Painting by my father Charles Moone, called “Self Portrait,” painted in 1972. His headstone reads: “Where Will You Spend Eternity?”

**Sometimes there are even articles to back up my opinions! A nice article called the “Five Myths About Health Care Around the World” from the Washington Post, which I found on Metafilter after I wrote this. Call it synchronicity.




I nearly choked on my morning oatmeal when I stumbled upon this article from the BBC.

From the article:

Pet Shop Boys reject PETA request

Pop group Pet Shop Boys have revealed they have turned down a request by animal rights group PETA to rename themselves the Rescue Shelter Boys.” PETA Europe has written to Pet Shop Boys with a request they are unable to agree to,” reads a post on the band’s official website. But the band admits the request “raises an issue worth thinking about”.

Now, I’m an amateur semantician at best, but when you first heard who sang West End Girls, did the cognitive assembly of those three words: Pet. Shop. Boys. make you rush right out to the mall and pick up a scrappy pup when you were freshly into your teen years? Did you suddenly think: “I, too, want to be a Pet Shop Boy (or Girl)” and start saving up for your very own Petland franchise? Would it have made a difference if they had been called The (almost certainly career-destroying) Rescue Shelter Boys?

No. More than likely, you spent time scratching your head, trying to figure out if it wasn’t a rip-off of One Night in Bangkok.

(It wasn’t. But it’s a good argument. Chess was released in 1984, West End Girls was first released in 1984, but to little notice. So they re-recorded the tune with a new producer and released it a second time in 1985 to wider acclaim, capturing the Number 1 spot in the UK in 1985 and in the US in 1986. But I digress…)

So with this plea, 25 years after The Pet Shop Boys first burst onto the scene and 29 years after PETA was founded, what, exactly does PETA hope to accomplish now? Shouldn’t they have seized the moment when the band first came out, like the initial outrage over Joy Division? Are they suddenly running to the forefront waving long-lost statistics of the influence of a single British technopop band’s one-hit wonder on the spike in demands for puppy mill puppies? A noticeable decline in animals adopted from the pounds across America circa 1986???

Interestingly enough, Pound Puppies also arrived in the early ’80s, and I don’t know about all you other Gen X girls out there, but didn’t you hum “Pound Puppy, you’re my one and only puppy love” almost as much as you hummed the Monchichi song?

If The Pet Shop Boys drove the angsty ’80s teen-traffic to the puppy mills, I’m certain the ‘tween girl set drove equally as much, if not more, traffic to the ASPCA to have a real, live pound puppy of your very own. Why isn’t PETA, instead, focusing on the positive influence of the Pound Puppies? Or eschewing dogs altogether and instead, touting Cabbage Patch Kids for adoption?  I mean, hell, if you want to adopt something, adopt a child – and one that grew out of a VEGETABLE GARDEN to boot, thus keeping right in line with PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s own ‘hippo’-cratic oath: “Therefore [animals] are not ours to use – for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or for any other reason.”

Why does PETA have to be so damn preachy and negative? Ingrid Newkirk lives in Norfolk, Virginia. Didn’t all her time spent living in the South teach her that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? But I suppose that would be inhumane to flies, so nevermind…

Now don’t get me wrong, I love animals and I sympathize with animal advocacy. I do.  I have had four animals adopted from rescue groups. I have worked with rescue groups. Hell, one of my best friends even RAN a rescue group for years and years. And I’ll confess, I like the underlying principles of PETA. I think puppy mills are bad. I think throwing bags filled with litters of kittens into the river is bad.  I think mistreating the animals used for medical advancement is bad. I think we should adopt pets from pounds, rescue shelters and directly from reputable breeders, and I think pet owners should be, above all else,responsible pet owners.

But I also wear my great-grandmother’s mink stole when I go to the Opera and, like Lenore, had a beloved white-rabbit coat when I was a little girl.  I believe that feral and dangerous animals should be humanely euthanized, rather than left to live out their days in a cage. I’m thoroughly enjoying Claire Cameron’s ongoing and highly-entertaining TNB series: A Guide to Thinking About Urban Chickens. I would rather that scientific research be tested on rabbits and chimpanzees than on my nieces. I do.

Oh. And I eat meat. Red meat.  Often. Saignant. I think it’s why we have incisors. And why God made cows and pigs and chickens and fish taste so damn delicious.

Now, I didn’t learn these things from bands’ names. I didn’t learn to eat meatloaf from Meat Loaf, I don’t appreciate fish because of Phish (truth be known, I don’t even like Phish), I don’t love bacon toffee because I also sing along to Pigoletto, and personally speaking, I prefer rotisserie chicken to Electric Chicken.

But it doesn’t mean that, because I’m a meat-eating, fur-wearing, frequent Kittenwar website-visitor and Stupid Pet Tricks-watcher, I’m going to challenge your equal right to be up in arms about leather, orBabe, or lab rats, or Steak tartare.

So give it a rest, Ingrid.  People aren’t so impressionable that we’re going to think anything of a band’s name other than it’s just another stupid band name.

Which most of us had forgotten about.

Until now.

Thanks.