Surviving In This Very Moment…

My Personal Battle with Prostate Cancer … And Life!

Archive for the category “Cancer”

Weathering the Storm…Nine Months Later but Who is Counting

Weathering the Storm...Nine Months Later but Who is Counting

Weathering the Storm…Nine Months Later but Who is Counting

At six-o’clock in the morning on Sunday I am sitting in my hotel room in Kansas City, Missouri listening to the thunder as the tail end of a violent Spring storm passes by. Looking at the weather radar I can see another small cell approaching from the southwest. Last night the weatherman reported that there was a 60% probability that one would be exposed to a violent storm, possibly a tornado during the afternoon hours when I will be in Denver. Lucky me.

All this got me to thinking that I was and always have been lucky. Most recently, when I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in September of 2012. What could be lucky about hearing the words, “You have cancer,” you ask? At the time, I didn’t think it so lucky either but then, after all the testing, the poking and prodding, I learned that the tumors were likely (but not positively) encapsulated in my prostate and that surgery would be the most aggressive ‘cure.’ The decision to operate took place in October but, because of the swelling of the prostate due to the needle biopsy, surgery had to wait until late November. That thirty day run-up to surgery was a nervous time, a time in which I thought a lot about my own mortality.

As long time readers know, the surgery was successful, the tumors were, in fact, contained within the prostate; it became clear that life would go on. Of course, I was left with two significant side-effects of prostate surgery. I suffered significant incontinence requiring me to wear diapers for the next five months. As I write this today, I am confident that the incontinence will not be a problem much longer if at all.  This, of course, answered a significant question I had for many years, namely, “Just who would wear Depends for Men anyway?” The surgical procedure was said to be nerve sparing so that sexual functioning would not suffer. Oops, that side-effect remains intact. I think of this as a small price to pay for a long life expectancy; who knows, I’m told this is likely not permanent either.

Since the surgery, however, I have suffered two major setbacks. First, I had a significant urinary tract infection, one that was resistant to many antibiotics, requiring that a permanent line be attached to a vein in my arm for daily injections of some potent antibiotic. While this seemed to do the trick (the infection is gone) I was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure with a kidney function of under 20%. While the reason for this seems to baffle both my internist as well as a kidney specialist I am seeing, the last kidney function test showed a marked improvement in kidney function. The worst seems to be over. Lucky again.

Good, because on Wednesday I will arrive in Las Vegas to play a little poker. While I don’t think of poker as a game of chance, winning always involves a bit of luck as well as a great deal of skill. So, as I go to Las Vegas, I’ll wear the cloak of luck I seem to have been wearing for the past 70 years, one that has allowed me to weather most every storm I have encountered. 

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No More Roman Numerals

No More Roman Numerals

No More Roman Numerals

I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I started the “Thinking in Jewish” series of posts by numbering each post with a Roman numeral. This numbering system is antiquated and cumbersome and I am, quite frankly, tired of the whole mess. So from this day forward I will number the “Thinking in Jewish” posts using Arabic numbering system which means that the next post will be labeled 32.

There is a question I want to answer for the readers of this blog. It comes up from time to time in the comments which makes it a worthy topic to blog about. It centers on what on earth my atheism and the posts in the series “Thinking in Jewish” has to do with my prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. Along the same lines I have seen a strange undertone that seems to be asking what is an atheist like myself doing commenting on Jewish thinking in the first place.  So here goes…my best effort at talking about these issues as I blog away.

Begin at the beginning. When I heard the words no one ever wants to hear, the words that may indeed harken the beginning of the end of life, the words “YOU HAVE CANCER” it has a sobering effect on the way one chooses to look at the world. In my professional life I was a Professor of Language and Literacy at a Midwestern state university. My professional interests gravitated toward the study of the teaching of writing so that middle school and secondary school teachers could better teach their students the skill of writing without effort. Blogging, then, seemed like the most natural thing I could do to both help me focus on the fact that I now have a disease that may contribute to my demise. Kubler-Ross was wrong in my case. I grieved over the possibility that my life was coming to an end but I quickly accepted that as a fact that may or may not be true. My job now was to come to grips with how I intended to live the remaining years (or months whatever the case may be) of my life.

As an atheist, I rejected the idea that there is a creator God that is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. My own observations of the world and my deepening understanding of Jewish religious texts, however, caused me not to reject my own Jewish roots. I am a Jew, I have a Jewish understanding of the world, of time and space, of ethics and morality. I simply don’t attribute any of this to a creator God. one that is angry, demanding and punishing. As a post-Shoah (or post Holocaust although Shoah is a better word choice) Jew, where 6 million of my nation perished at the hands of Germans in an unspeakably horrible genocide (perhaps religicide is a more apt descriptor) for no other reason than they were Jews in Europe, made the very concept of a benevolent and omniscient God improbable and the very idea than an omnipotent God would not put a stop to the horrors of the camps, gas-chambers and crematory ovens would make this God either a sadist or rather than omnipotent, simply impotent and unworthy of worship. The other possibility to consider is that there is no God to be omnipotent, omniscient or benevolent, a possibility I find more convincing than any that includes God or religion at the center of the a discourse.

While sick and waiting for testing to be completed to determine what course of treatment for my prostate cancer would be recommended, I decided that learning how to ‘think in Jewish’ would be a good way to think about the potential end of life. It was a clear choice. The Christian story makes absolutely no sense to me. The same can be said for the story of Islam although that one is easier to swallow perhaps because it was formed in the same region as the Jewish story while the Christian story, while originating in Palestine, is essentially a European take on the very idea of monotheism. That being said, I thought it best to stick with what I know and simply become better at understanding where and how the religion of my people developed. The story, especially when told in the light of the ultimate schism of Jewish and Christian thinking and the response of both to the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, is fascinating. I do not intend to go into that schism here but the response of the triumphal Christians and the defeated Jews of the first three centuries CE paints a picture of quite different approaches to the self-same problem.

What I found as I studied and read more deeply was that the ethics of Judaism played a great role in the way I had been living my life for years. There was embedded in the literature constant reminders of obligations to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger, for those less fortunate than we might be and there is always someone less fortunate than yourself no matter what your current situation might be. I don’t recall who said this but it is appropriate here. It goes something like this, “I cried out because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Sure I had cancer, but I still had hope and that hope lay in the hands of skilled physicians, men of science, who would do everything possible to make the remainder of my life one filled with the absolute joy of living. In the end, the men of science told me that surgery would cure my cancer and while there are some unpleasant side effects of the surgery, my life will not be disrupted to any great extent. I am now writing as a cancer survivor, one experiencing the unpleasant side effects and it is truly a small price to pay for many more years of life.

That being said, I decided to continue this blog because my personal struggle with ethics and evil in this world has become an important part of my life. Sure, it didn’t begin when I was diagnosed with cancer but that diagnosis brought it to the forefront of my being-in-the-world. That is why I continue to blog about my encounter with life in general and sometimes about health related issues that seems to arise as a result of my experience with cancer.

So no more Roman numerals and I’ll continue to make my thinking visible to me (and to you) on this blog.

Infusions, Doctors and Life Generally

Infusions, Doctors and Life Generally

Infusions, Doctors and Life Generally

As I was sitting in the very comfortable reclining chair getting hooked up for my sixth infusion of antibiotics to deal with the  resistant echoli strain that has seen fit to invade my body, I was struck by the idea that since my cancer diagnosis, surgery, and recovery period, I have slowed down. Now slowing down is a good thing. It began when I took off my watch forcing me to be less concerned with time in general. While the act of refusal to recognize time as a constraint was difficult at first, it has become a blessing. To not feel the urgency of time makes the time I have more precious; something akin to a gift from myself to myself. At the same time, I have not lost my appetite for punctuality. This may seem a contradiction but I think it is not. When everything is run by the clock then punctuality is an obsession but when I take the time to just take in what is there, punctuality becomes an ethical act; an act of respect for the other whether the other is driven by the clock or not.

So sitting in that chair, talking to Cynthia, the nurse administering the antibiotic, I noticed all of the surroundings, the pictures on the wall, the clock with the broken second hand, the smell and taste of the antibiotic as it drips into my veins. In the moment of that half hour of dripping solutions I was at one with the universe.

Since taking off the watch six or so months ago the world seems to spin at a slower pace. Of course it isn’t the case but the fact that I take the time to notice things I didn’t have the time to notice before is a bonus that was totally unexpected. I hear the voices of doctors as they try to figure out what is going on with me and find the urgency of one doc countered by the patience of another as they look at the results of the data. One doc looks at a number and nearly panics while the other looking at the same numbers takes the approach of waiting to see how the whole picture develops before striking out with a treatment plan. I think that one should never treat a number, rather one should look at the whole picture and treat the cause of the abnormal data that emerges over time. Jumping in without all the facts is as dangerous as denial of the emerging data. While one cannot be absolutely certain when incomplete data is present, one cannot allow oneself to be driven by the presence of a single abnormal number either. That too is an insight I learned after taking off my watch and allowed myself the luxury of observation.

As an aside, I found it interesting that even with the PICC line inserted I had to be stuck to draw blood in my internist’s office. What a waste of a good PICC line. When in the infusion center blood was also drawn and the same blood numbers will be analyzed. Why twice? Could it be profits are involved?

 

PICC Lines and Emergency Rooms

PICC Lines and Emergency Rooms

PICC Lines and Emergency Rooms

What appeared to be a simple urinary tract infection, likely due to the fact that the prostatectomy left me with a bit of incontinence which continues with varying degrees of severity, turns out to be a highly resistent strain of echoli, one requiring a fourteen day course of iv infusion therapy with the one antibiotic to which I am not allergic. This meant that I spent the bulk of yesterday morning having a PICC line inserted in my left arm. When the PICC was inserted and the first round of antibiotic was administered, a blood draw was done right before the line was bandaged. I thought I was done but that would be too much to expect at this point. I was home for about an hour when I got an urgent call from the infectious disease doc overseeing the treatment of the echoli infection. “Hurry,” she said, “go to the ER immediately. Your potassium levels are alarmingly high and your kidney function numbers are way out of whack.”

And so it was that I wound up in the Emergency Room where I was treated with a drug to help reduce the potassium in my system and was administered fluids to drive my kidney function back to normal levels before I was discharged from the hospital just in time to see the Blackhawks lose for only the second time to their closest rival, the Anaheim Ducks.

I had the second dose of the antibiotic this morning. When I arrived at the office for my appointment the receptionist told me that my doc wanted to see me earlier than Friday when I was already scheduled to see her. By next Monday she will have the results of the ultrasound of my kidneys and bladder and we’ll see what the next step will be. Of course, the ER doc handed me a sheet describing End Stage Kidney Failure but told me it was just a precaution and that the problem I was suffering was likely due to the echoli infection I was already being treated for. ESRF looks a lot like the effects of the particular antibiotic I am being infused with and it should clear up as the treatment kills off the bacteria in my system.

Still, as a cancer survivor, it is a bit disconcerting to learn that I might be sicker than I ever imagined. I mean, seriously, beating one disease only to have a second potentially life threatening illness take its place is simply not what I had in mind. Of course, looking on the good side, if I do require kidney dialysis, at least I have a central line already installed in my arm, making the whole process easier to deal with.

By the Numbers

The most important number I saw yesterday was a PSA of less than 0.01, essentially no prostate cancer remaining six months post surgery. That was very good news but not unexpected. Everything else was normal or bordering on normal with a few slight adjustments. More to come later

 

Yes, A Week for Medical Concerns: Dealing with the Aftermath of Cancer and More

Yes, A Week for Medical Concerns: Dealing with the Aftermath of Cancer and More

Yes, A Week for Medical Concerns: Dealing with the Aftermath of Cancer and More

In the next ten days, starting today when I visit my internist and oncologist back to back, I begin a ten-day period of rather intense medical review. While I expect to find things right on schedule, one never knows. My internist drew blood last week in preparation for this morning’s visit. Leaving his office, right around the corner from Starbucks, I went to read and enjoy a cup of coffee. While sitting in Starbucks, I began to notice some significant back pain along with gripping groin pain. It took a few moments, but it soon became clear that I was passing a kidney stone. As if I didn’t have enough urological problems, I then noticed that I was running a fever of around 101 degrees. Yikes, now I am getting sick as well. Just what I needed. Since the symptoms weren’t getting any better, last Friday I went to my internist complaining of cloudy urine and this on again off again fever. He prescribed an antibiotic, one I had never taken before and said I should keep the Monday appointment as a follow-up as well as one in which we would address any number of issues. By Saturday, I couldn’t stay away from the bathroom and I had developed a bright red, blotchy rash all over my body. I stopped taking the antibiotic on Sunday. It is now Monday morning and I still have bowel trouble but at least it is not constant and urgent.

Soon after I post this I will be on my way to Starbucks once again in preparation for my trip to the internist’s office. As soon as I finish with him I must go to the oncologist for an infusion of iron as my system simply refuses to ingest iron from any source whatsoever. This means a bag of the dirtiest looking rust water (I know it is not but that is exactly what it looks like) will be introduced into my veins and allowed to course through my system adding iron to my blood stream.

Finally, I get to see the urologist who replaces the urologist who treated me for the past fifteen years. He took a new position and so I am left to see if I like his understudy or not. I am actually feeling a bit uncomfortable about this change but my old urologist swears that this new doc is even more affable than he is and that he would send his own brother to him which, I suppose, is a strong recommendation. Time will tell whether I like this new guy and whether he will become my urologist of choice or will I have to shop for someone else? Tick tock tick tock!

Other than that, not much is new on my medical front. The kidney stone pain has subsided which may only mean that the stone is not moving about or it could be that the stone has passed. My fever is gone but there again, on only two days of antibiotic it may return. I think I’ll suggest to my internest that he stick with antibiotics that we know I have absolutely no allergic response to and take it from there. I nervously await the PSA results of my blood test, he also tested for testosterone levels but I don’t know why. I think I’ll ask. May post later with some news about the test results. If not, I’ll surely post tomorrow.

To the Pain…

To the Pain...

To the Pain…

At the end of June, 2012, I had a total knee replacement performed on my left knee. For three months I was in so much pain, a pain that simply didn’t seem to be getting any better, that I regretted having undergone this surgery. I was shocked and, frankly, surprised that the pain was so intense. After all, I have two total hip replacements and a titanium back from a laminectomy to deal with a stenosis caused by my severe osteoarthritis. I expected recovery to mirror my prior orthopedic surgeries. Then, one day about three months after surgery, the pain simply disappeared; while I was left with some discomfort, it was getting better from my commitment to physical therapy. But my healthcare nightmare of 2012 was not quite over. In October I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and, because of the biopsy, the bone and CAT scans, it was decided that surgery was the most appropriate option. So in late November I underwent a radical prostatectomy. So far, this is nothing new for those following this blog. Here is where it gets a bit dicy. Because of the surgery and the post-operative restriction on lifting, I was unable to continue the exercise program that my PT laid out for me. Three weeks ago I was granted a lifting of all restrictions on lifting and exercise. Ten days later I was in my orthopedic surgeon’s office for my six month evaluation. I was complaining about a stiffness developing in my left knee. He suggested that I go to physical therapy just to make sure that I didn’t do any serious damage to the knee as I worked my way back into some kind of shape.

Yesterday was my first serious day in physical therapy and man do I hurt today. There isn’t a muscle in my lower body that is not feeling the effects of having been sedentary for the past two months. Things that I did with ease prior to the prostate surgery were not only difficult, they were painful as well. When I rolled out of bed this morning I could feel the pain everywhere. I have a whole regimin of exercises to do at home and I will not return to PT until Tuesday. With enough effort on my part, perhaps I will rejoin the ranks of the reasonably fit but right at this very moment that doesn’t seem like a reasonable outcome. What I’ll have to do is shelve my pessimism and visualize the end result as I go down to my basement to push myself harder but within the limits laid out by my PT.

Okay, I know this is a short post, but I am out of the house to meet with the orthopod about another issue, nothing I am terribly worried about, and then to see Zero Dark Thirty. Exercise will wait until I return.

Always Already Being In The Material World

Always Already Being In The Material World

Always Already Being In The Material World

To borrow a phrase from Martin Heidegger without necessarily committing to its meaning, being-in-the-world adequately represents the notion of the existential moment. If I could phrase it differently than Heidegger I would strip it of its ontological references while incorporating the notion of representing an illusory phantom of the trace of memory and a projection into the future. In Levinas’ terms, this is represented better by the notion of hypostasis, the question of the infinitely brief moment of existential time while merging the idea of the trace remembered and the future desired, both of which are measured by ever fading memory or ever more fantastic dreamt of futures. In brief, existential time is a simulacrum of the conjoining of past/future, while cleverly disguising both within a true sense of security of past events and a desired sense of future certainty. Nothing, however, exists outside of this very moment of existential time; all the rest is merely a ghost or a projection on a screen of hope; something like Plato’s images on the cave wall without the reference to forms.

Going beyond the ontic nature of Heidegger’s being-in-the-world, Levinas focuses on the idea that hypostasis focuses on the interiority of solitude in which one experiences existential time; the trace of memory and those projections for the future are clearly personal, not able to be shared with any other human being. If left to its own resources, Heidegger insists, the self would be so consumed with its own interiority that it could not relate to the exterior world other than to evaluate the entirety of that world as objects of the self with being incorporated in the objective relationship with the objects, including the human objects, in the world. Levinas is critical of this position arguing that one can only understand being by and through the social interaction with the other, by responding to the call of the other without reservation or expectation of reciprocation; to make oneself present in the world in order to be responsible for the welfare of the other without reservation or expectation of reciprocation. In this sense, being-in-the-world turns Heidegger on his head by proclaiming that ethics trumps ontology; that response-ability, the ability to respond to the call of the other from wherever it originates is a fundamental obligation of the ethical human being, denying the interiority of the self as more important than the self existing as a social being evidenced by its commitment to the exteriority of the world one encounters in this very moment of existential time.

I exist in this world in order to be of service to the other, to extend my hand whenever and wherever I hear the call of the other asking for help. Must I answer each and every call from the other? No, but I must answer the calls for which I am best equipped. For me, as a personal being existing in the world, I have two major callings. I will answer the call of anyone with a desire to stop drinking by extending my hand and offering the support I can and must offer. I do this because I am a recovering alcoholic with over two decades of not drinking. Recently, because of my diagnosis of prostate cancer I announced my presense to any and all who have the same or similar diagnosis; I will answer the call of anyone with prostate cancer by extending my hand and sharing my experience, strength and hope. The choice of these two ‘causes’ does not preclude my being responsible in other situations; it simply means that I have chosen to priortize my personal sense of responsibility in these two arenas at this very moment. It seems that I recognize my existence within the bounds of the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous and the community of men diagnosed with prostate cancer as well as those men who desire to end prostate cancer as the second leading killer of men in the United States.

 

Reflections on Life and Death or Living with Prostate Cancer

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
Mark Twain

Reflections on Life and Death or Living with Prostate Cancer

Reflections on Life and Death or Living with Prostate Cancer

I agree with Mark Twain’s assessment with one exception, that he was dead before he was born, but I understand the inference quite well. One cannot be ‘dead’ prior to birth; one can merely be said to not exist. The transition to death is only a function of having been alive in the first place. But this is a minor quibble and doesn’t take anything away from the idea that life itself is a transitory journey that exists between the bookends of infinity. If I could only remember the infinity prior to birth, the non-existence of nothingness, I could accurately predict what the transition to death might be. In truth, however, as an existing sentient being, imagining that transition is impossible albeit many have tried to do just that. From reincarnation to heaven and hell, and all things in between, images of the ‘afterlife’ abound both culturally and in religious dogma. I choose to deny all of these mythological answers to the question of “What is next,” and concentrate on this very moment of existence.

There is no reason to believe that there is something other than the material world in which I reside at this very moment. In the past several months I have been placed in a situation in which I had to contemplate my own mortality, a fragile and precious thing. Given the choice between life and death I choose life. But that is not unlike the choice between good and evil, to chose anything but good is outrageous. What I came to realize was that, in the final analysis, at some time in the future, later than sooner I hope, I will be presented with no choice at all; that the only choice is the intimacy of the transition from life to death, a journey only I can take, there are no substitutes, no proxies from which to choose. Just as there are no substitutes, there are no coaches, no guides; the transition from life to death, from finite existence to infinity, is mine and mine alone.

Yet, my personal mark on this material world does not die when I die. Throughout my life I have listened to the platitude voiced at services of mourning that, “The good men do lives after them,” a stunning sentiment indeed since it fails to mention evil in the same sentence. Designed to placate that profound sadness attached to the loss of a friend or loved one, it is, I suppose, a compromise for the sake of those in mourning. That platitude, however, never rang true until I was forced to contemplate my own death. Then I began to assess my contributions to this world, the only world I know. To my surprise, those contributions were many. As a teacher I touched lives, and through my students that became teachers themselves, my influence continues to be felt a hundred fold every single day. I raised two interesting children, so different from each other it is surprising that they were products of the same parents, and they now have children of their own, and that is a continuing presence on this earth that cannot be denied by death.

The fact of the matter is simply this; I am very much alive and doing well. My cancer is in remission with a 15% probability of recurrence. The side effect of incontinence shows signs of being under control most of the time. Life is adjusting back to a sense of normalcy that I have not known for the past six or seven months. Clearly, however, cancer is a life altering experience; one that forces one to assess the quality of one’s lived-experience while adjusting one’s approach to future events not yet anticipated. Cancer forded me to face my own mortality, lifted the threat with early detection and radical treatment, yet, even with the threat lifted I have come to understand that life itself is a terminal disease so I should make the most of the only one I will ever know.

The Hegemony of the Homogeneous

The monlingualism imposed by the other operates by relying upon…a sovereignty whose essence is always colonial, which tends, repressively and irrepressibly to reduce language to the One, that is, to the hegemony of the homogeneous.

Jacques Derrida, The Monlingualism of the Other

The Hegemony of the Homogeneous

The Hegemony of the Homogeneous

Let me suppose that Derrida is concerned with much the same thing that Levinas bemoans, the reduction of the self into the same. It is this very hegemony, this sovereign reduction, that creates the conditions for the blind acceptance of the many taken-for-granted ideas and feelings that promote an apathy that, in turn, leads to notions of self-protection and the exclusion of the other from the social order. While Derrida is concentrating on the language imposed by a governing authority, say the English only laws that infect several States of the United States, language is only a jumping off point, one that is, in fact, repressive and an irrepressive reduction.

Other places where the governing authority plays the hegemonic game of excluding those for whom belonging is placed in question are the repressive immigration laws that are cropping up in states like Arizona; laws that the defeated Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, called models for America. Aimed at excluding any undocumented foreign national, these laws repressively restrict access to the body politic acting as a lever to define who belongs and who must be eliminated at any cost.

English only and a rampant and repressive xenophobia are but two examples of the overt attempt to homogenize an outwardly diverse America. It is an attempt at embracing an ideal rather than allowing the self to embrace the diversity, the absolute uniqueness of the other, thereby validating the uniqueness of the self. By proclaiming the exclusion of the other, the governing authority defines that which is acceptable and that which is not; it is defining the qualifications for belonging at the expense of large slices of the population.

Let me personalize this idea. I am a member of a unique group of males in the United States in the fact that I have prostate cancer. Let us say, for example, that the State of Illinois where I live were to pass a law establishing that all men with prostate cancer must report to a camp where they will be isolated from the rest of the population and where they may receive treatment provided by the state aimed at reducing the effects of the cancer but not working toward a cure. Far fetched? Perhaps, but precisely the same thing was done to lepers, isolating them in colonies far away from the rest of the population so as to exclude them from participation in the affairs of the body politic.

There is no reason to believe, given the right set of circumstances, that this could not happen to any one of us for any reason. Those conditions were clearly fulfilled in Germany as argued by Zygmunt Bauman in his brilliant book Modernity and the Holocaust. It is this very drive to isolate and exclude that is a product of the amoral, perhaps immoral, function of bureaucracy in a modern democratic society.

The postmodern response to the drive to hegemonic reduction is to encourage that human beings do two things. First, unpack the taken-for-granteds that stand in the way of embracing the absolute uniqueness of the other, to understand that uniqueness as a positive force for building bridges of accommodation between the self and the other. Secondly, to not tolerate attempts toward hegemonic reduction simply because it is the easier path to survival of the self; surely this is the path toward self-destruction, or in the words of Bob Dylan, “The loser now will be later to win.” Times change, allegiances change, governments change and definitions of belonging promulgated by governing authorities change as well. No one is safe unless we all are safe; safety does not reside in a modern democracy run by bureaucrats nor does it reside in a state of chaos where governing authority is absent and brute force prevails, nor does it reside in autocratic dictatorships. Safety is a product of breaking down the walls of fear and hate by learning to create face-to-face encounters with those for whom fear is most felt. Embrace the diversity of your neighbor as you embrace the dignity of your own uniqueness and perhaps humanity finally has a chance to survive its own prejudices.

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