Hello world! Welcome to Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s Official Blog

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IMG_1493This is the official blog of Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff—Bahá’í, writer, editor, musician, general misfit, child of Ray Bradbury and Star Trek, lover of baseball, magical realism, Dr. Who, the month of October and Jack’o’Lanterns (which make me very, very happy).

This is where I post things that mean something (cue mashed potatoes.)

The Healing of America: Healthcare 101

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I ran this series on my LiveJournal page some time back. I’m bringing it back because it seems somehow appropriate and because no one read my LJ anyway.🙂

Healing-ReidcoverIn his book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Healthcare, journalist T.R. Reid does what I had hoped for some time that our national leaders would do: he undertook to study (through first-hand experience), contrast and compare the healthcare systems of other “first world” nations. (He included a couple of developing countries in his study as well.)

In the book, he details the main features of each system profiled, and shows how the systems compare. He looks at the upsides and downsides of each system and even walks through the process by which the representative countries came by the systems they have. He also profiles how two other countries (Taiwan and Switzerland) made drastic changes to their healthcare in the 1990s—basically redesigning it from the ground up based on a study of what other countries were doing that worked and didn’t work. Mr. Reid lays out his findings clearly in plain English, without polemics or hyperbole. That, in itself, was refreshing.

I’d like to share some of what I learned from his book, but first I want to make something absolutely clear: This is not a political issue to me, it is a moral issue. It is not about capitalism or the free market; it is not about conservatism or liberalism; it is about being human.

I am a Bahá’í. This means I do not belong to a political party and don’t give a rat’s patoot for anybody’s party line. It also means that my feelings about my fellow human beings are informed by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. To wit:

“The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”

Here’s what I learned from The Healing of America:

  • Of all the wealthy nations, the United States is the only one that does not provide medical care for all the people who live its territories.
  • The USA is also the only developed nation with a healthcare system that has, as its purpose, paying dividends to shareholders rather than insuring healthcare to its citizens.
  • The World Health Organization has ranked the nations based on such key indicators as infant mortality, life-expectancy and the number of people who die of preventable or treatable diseases. The US—the richest nation on earth—ranks 37th. That puts us behind the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica and just ahead of Cuba. (You may ignore this appeal to national pride if that’s not what motivates you. If that’s what motivates you, feel free to be appalled.)
  • In the US every year, around 20,000 people die because they do not have access to healthcare and thousands go bankrupt because of medical expenses. That does not happen in any other developed country.
  • Nations that have created universal healthcare systems provide care to ALL of their citizens for far less than we spend to insure only some of ours. To put this into perspective, the USA spends 17% of its Gross Domestic Product on healthcare. Taiwan, which revamped its “out-of-pocket” non-system in 1994-1995, spends 6% of its GDP. To look at a it a different way, France spends a little over $3,000 annually per capita for healthcare; we spend over twice that.
  • Though most universal healthcare systems are struggling with the rising cost of care (as are we), the problems they’re having are less complex than ours because their systems are already doing what they’re designed to do—insuring everybody.  Here’s what this means “on the ground”: My family spends hundreds of dollars per month on insurance premiums, yet still has to cover things out-of-pocket. Last year I paid over $700 for dental work. I almost didn’t get it done because we really couldn’t afford it. Our health plan is considered excellent, but it paid only 50% of the most expensive work. Our co-pays range from $20 for office visits to $60 for prescriptions. With the advent of the ACA/Obamacare, we no longer pay for cleanings and other preventive care. In Taiwan, for example, monthly premiums are $150; co-pays are $7 and there is no other out-of-pocket expense. Taiwan could raise its outlay to 8% of its GDP and double premiums and co-pays to save its admittedly under-funded system and still not come anywhere close to what we spend.
  • Most universal healthcare systems are NOT “socialized” (be that good, bad or indifferent). The German system—whose founder, Otto Von Bismarck (yes, THAT von Bismarck) referred to it as “applied Christianity”—relies on about 200 private “sickness funds” that German citizens can choose from. They compete for those citizens, too, because the more they have the more they earn. The Taiwanese didn’t like the inefficiencies of that—they opted for a single National Health Fund. It’s true, the German system is more expensive—11% of their GDP (reminder: we spend 17%).
  • Not all universal healthcare systems ration healthcare—at least not in any way that compares with the rationing that I’ve experienced: We don’t cover that. Or We only cover 50% of it. Either translates to: I can’t afford it.
  • Not all universal healthcare systems involve long waits for healthcare and none make people wait for urgent care. German citizens, for example, wait no longer for any treatment than US citizens do (that is, those of us who can afford coverage).
  • Malpractice insurance is a major cost in our system. Doctors in the universal systems pay annually for malpractice insurance what our doctors pay in a week. And law suits are vanishingly rare. I have my own theories about why that is.

What’s wrong with this picture?

liberty-weepingThe “wrongest” thing with this picture, in my opinion, is that there are people who think there’s nothing wrong with this picture. I am appalled that there are people who are not morally offended by the idea that people should only receive medical care if they can afford to pay for it.

It’s been suggested by some that one of the impediments to universal healthcare in the US is people like me whose families have healthcare through an employer and who don’t want anything to change. The idea is that we are willing to condemn others to having NO healthcare so we’re sure to get ours. Personally, I find it insulting that my elected representatives assume that Americans are that selfish and short-sighted.

I would love to believe I live in the greatest nation on earth. I think that would be truly wonderful. So, my question is: how do we become that? How do we become not just the richest nation, but the most compassionate, the most responsible, the most truly egalitarian? How do we build a healthcare system that rises to our high ideals?

 

If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee, and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. — Bahá’u’lláh

Cockroaches, Giants, Crying in Baseball and True Love

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COCKROACHES

The image is from the cover of my novel, A Princess of Passyunk, and which seemed perfect for this purpose. Princess, by the way, is a story of magic, baseball and true love that features a fetching cockroach named Svetlana, who has some magic of her own. I’m betting there are going to be cockroach Giant’s t-shirts any day now … hmm, Zazzle…

Sam Harris, Reza Aslan and Hiding the Ball

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Harris

Sam Harris

There’s a new volley in the ongoing feud between Sam Harris and people who question his crusade against Islam. During a discussion at the Harvard Science Center, Harris made the claim that Muslim violence is different than any other religious violence. He maintained that when any other religionists commit violent acts, they are individuals committing violent acts unrelated to their faith’s doctrines and “articles of faith”. Islam’s articles of faith were uniquely different.

He used as an example the brutality perpetrated against Muslims by Zen warrior-monks, and ended up making this argument that their violence wasn’t religious violence:

“Now, the truth is it was never pure Zen. It was Zen mixed with Shinto mixed with a kind of Japanese nationalism and war ethic. So it was a weird brew, but it was not at all a surprise that certain Zen teachings, which do not emphasize compassion to the degree that most Buddhist teachings do, could be spun into this sort of martial ethic.” (italics mine)

If this prompts a “Wait … what?” response, I would not be surprised. That was certainly my reaction.  Though he has just taken pains to acknowledge that Buddhist on Muslim violence is “a weird brew” caused by external influences and artful interpretation of certain teachings, Harris then faults others for making the same argument in the case of Islam. I’ve studied both Buddhist scriptures and the Qur’an and what stands out in both cases (as in examples of Hindu or Jewish or Christian violence) is that given the preponderance of teachings on compassion in all of those faiths, believers feel they have any wiggle room to “spin” certain teachings into a “martial ethic”. Continue reading

O, Columbus …

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pioneerBecause in some parts of our country it’s still Columbus Day and because so few of us really understand what Columbus (Christobal Colonne) did, I offer this fictional re-imagination of the events of his landing on Hispaniola.

This is a novelette of alternate history entitled “O, Pioneer”. It was published in Paradox magazine and short-listed for the Sidewise Alternate History award in 2006.

Click to download: OPioneer

The file is a PDF.

Me-attitudes, Civil Liabilities, and Guns

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grpcClearly visible and viscerally felt at the recent Gun Rights Policy Conference held in Chicago were polarized factions within the Gun Rights movement. There are those within the movement who have been decried as traitors and turncoats for being willing to consider background check legislation, for example, and others who are viewed as being so extreme that they have become “the enemy” because of the harm their violent rhetoric has done to the public perception of gun rights activism. (Something I find strongly reminiscent of the concurrent discourse about ISIS and Islam.)

The article focuses on a riveting bit of onstage debate between GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb (considered a traitor by some of the folks in the auditorium) and activist Jeff Knox, whose father was an influential NRA board member until his death in 2005. Continue reading

Borders Part 2: Wiggle Room

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Kneeling_Prayer_SilhouetteI often find myself asking people how the teachings of Christ can be reconciled with some of the attitudes of more vocal members of our society about immigrants (among other groups). One classic answer I received was: “Well, Jesus said to ‘render unto Caesar what’s Caesar’s’ and these people aren’t rendering.” The unquoted part of Christ’s statement, of course, is “and render unto God what is God’s.”

This raises a question: What do we owe government and what do we owe God?

If Christ and Bahá’u’lláh’s words are to inform our opinion, we owe both obedience, and I suppose the question is: How is that obedience to be demonstrated? Is the argument that in order to show obedience to Caesar, we must shower those whom we deem disobedient with vitriol? That we should, as a people, ignore their wounds, their hunger, their thirst, their calamities?

As I noted before, Christ calls upon us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He makes that law one on which all others depend. Moreover, He is crystal clear that by our neighbor, He does not mean folks we consider to be part of our community.

I submit that there is no wiggle room in the teachings of Christ by which we—as individuals and as a nation made up of individuals—can treat other human beings as if they really were what Emma Lazarus, in her world-famous poem, termed “wretched refuse”. we could either throw out or just allow to accumulate at the border. Continue reading

Sixteen Things

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A while back there was this meme-thingie on the Interwebs in which you tagged someone and asked them to tell 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about themselves.

I came across my list o’ things the other day and thought I’d share. So, without further ado, here are Sixteen Things About Maya You Probably Didn’t Want to Know.

1. I’m a Baha’i.

2. I’m married to a rock star (well, okay, he’s a seriously talented guitarist/songwriter/music producer who looks like a rock star and whose hair was longer than mine when we got married).

Image.aspx3. I love ships—both tall ships and classic ocean liners—and am fascinated by shipwrecks. One of my favorite books of all time is THE ONLY WAY TO CROSS, which is about said classic ocean liners. (I have a favorite ocean liner. She was the Normandie.)

4. I have three mind-bogglingly amazing children who are the best things I’ve ever done. Since I once thought I didn’t want children at all, this is a Big Deal to me. One is in middle school, one teaches middle school and one is in college.

5. My favorite color is the color of fire.

6. I am addicted to archaeology. Mummies rule!

7. I was torn between being a musician, a writer, an artist, and an archaeologist when I was growing up. I’m a musician and a writer and occasionally draw something so I guess I score 2.5 out of 4 ain’t bad.

8. I prefer to drive Volvos. I have owned four of them. Their names were Falda, Kelpie, Serenity and Selkie (who is sitting in my driveway this minute).

9. I was desperate to play the oboe when I was a kid, but they were too expensive, so I played clarinet.

maya_gafilkcloseup10. I play a Taylor guitar — a gorgeous jumbo curly maple named Clancy.

11. I LOVE the process of writing and get depressed when I finish a novel.

12. I LIKE writing Batman and Star Wars novels, so there!

13. The smell of Indian food and basmati rice makes me Snoopy dance.

14. I owned and trained horses when I was a teenager and actually enjoyed mucking out stalls.

15. Desserts I can’t resist: flan, creme brule and pumpkin anything

16. I think Cambridge, England and Hamburg, Germany are the two most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Why sixteen things? Who knows. But there it is—totally random.