First World Health Care

Looking at bills from my recent surgery, i have to wonder how so many do it. Manage to take care of themselves without going into bankruptcy.

I work for a hospital. Tho not in any danger of living a life of luxury, i am well compensated enough that i am able to pay my bills without juggling them. (Something i never had til recently.) I have commercial insurance that my employer subsidizes, and truly, my cost per month isn’t terrible. I had a short-term disability benefit to cover my salary while i was recovering. And yet, i am having to engage a payment plan to pay for surgery that was a necessity.

At just under $5,000, my out-of-pocket is manageable over time for me. And i am grateful. But what if it had been my daughter who needed it?

She is an hourly worker. A florist. Works her tail off managing a flower shop at a modest rate of pay that is likely a bit above average in her industry (A testament to her talent and diligence.) But her employer offers no benefits. She makes too much to qualify for a government plan, but not enough to afford a commercial one. She isn’t a slacker – She works hard, tries to live within her budget, pays her taxes – Everything we expect of an upstanding citizen. And yet, if she were injured, she would lose everything. The $25,000 of overall medical costs would break her for more than half a decade, especially considering the amount of work time she would lose during recovery.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if she had a child.

Everyone has an issue with those who are capable, but choose not to work and remain on the dole. But there are millions of people in this country who ARE working. Working their asses off. Doing what they are supposed to do. Not spending money on a bunch of frillies or drugs. Just getting by with the essentials.  And health care is off-limits to them financially. Yes, there are funds available. There are private benefactors who contribute to funding as well. And that is wonderful. But it isn’t enough to cover the gap. We have some government representatives who are fighting for people like my daughter. But not enough of them. We have health care providers who make exceptions and volunteer services on a regular basis. But they can’t cover it all.

We are trying hard, but still failing.

I have heard arguments for and against government healthcare, single-payor plans, pocket-pay and free market systems. None of them is a cure-all.

Yet another instance where we know what doesn’t work, but don’t really know what will. Or at least i don’t.

All i know is, having grown up without the money to have the kind of healthcare i enjoy now… Hell, the kind of life i enjoy now… to know how blessed i am, even as i realize that i am still far closer to the bottom of the food chain than the top… I want to be part of a society that provides help for those who are struggling in spite of their strong efforts. I want to be part of a country that says, “If you are working hard, i’ll help you any way that i can.” A country where children and the elderly receive what they need.

And a country where those of us who are able to manage without help remember that not everyone is as lucky. And we have to help look out for them.

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Exchanging Shoes

Earlier this week, i was listening to a song, White Privilege, that i ended up replaying over and over. There has been a tangled knot of thoughts in my head regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, and this song does a good job of explaining most of them. With each replay, i kept an intent ear, hoping to hear the answers. But they weren’t there – Except to say that asking the questions is the first step.

I knew that already. For any uncomfortable topic, that is always the first step.

In my head, i know that i will never know the answers. None of us is ever truly able to understand the challenges of another. The whole “Walking a mile in their shoes” concept is a good start – But even if i walk in your shoes, that doesn’t make me you.

There is so much i want to understand, and so much that doesn’t make sense to me. Even the terminology – Black Lives. What is black? We can’t even say it’s African descent, because that rules out Maori and other people who appear similar, but are distinctly different. Just as East and West and South African people are different from each other.

But maybe that is the whole point. The people-lumping is based on appearance.

I don’t appear black. (Even tho, one time ages and ages ago, i was approached in a bar by a man who resembled Colonel Sanders and who told me i was the most beautiful black woman he’d ever seen. He must have been crazy drunk, because i don’t appear anything but western European, but i said thank you anyway… Beauty is beauty, and who doesn’t like being called beautiful?) Anyway, my point is, not appearing black, how can i possibly ever know what it’s like to be treated as black?

I know what it is like to be profiled. But being profiled as a white woman, or a New Englander, or a female veteran, or poor, or non-Christian, or any of the other things that i have been in my life is not the same as being profiled as black. Any negative connotation associated with the above means that i have been the victim of people assuming my “place” or taking liberties with my sexuality, etc… but i have never been vilified for it. I have been disregarded, ignored, assumed to be less-than… But never criminalized for what i appear to be. It’s a big distinction.

And so, i wonder, what is my place in the fight for racial equality?

I have no doubt that i am obligated by my convictions to speak out, act out, when i see someone being treated unfairly. That is a given. But when pre-emptively setting a stage, as in a protest, or even just a gathering of friends who fall under the black lives banner, where is my place? Is saying “Black lives matter” arrogant presumption on my part, since i am not a black life? How do i become an advocate for the cause without unjust cultural appropriation? Because even with my best intention, i do benefit from some of what they are fighting.

With all the great strides we have made for equality in the history of our country, there are still areas that need improvement. Even if all the laws have been changed to make everyone equal, people’s minds and mentalities can’t be changed with the flourish of a pen. I have been blessed to know very few in my life who hold such bias that they are incapable of treating others fairly, but i know such people do exist. Just as i know that most of us, myself included, are well-intentioned and hold no ill will, but still do things that are wrong and hurtful just by being unaware of the impact of our actions. (We have all been victims of that – A seemingly harmless statement of another, not intended to be hurtful, but borne of ignorance, that pierces us to our core.) How do we stop it? How do we make things better?

There are some situations in life where, to be more help than hinderance, you need direction. Just as i am asking my family in Texas affected by the hurricane, “What can i do to help?”, i am now asking my black-lived friends the same question. In the same way that i don’t want to be the one who sends mountains of useless clothing to Houston that will only end up in a landfill, i don’t want to be someone who tries to help my black friends and ends up only bringing empty words. And i can’t imagine i am the only one.

As naive as it sounds, i pray each night that humanity learns to be nice to each other. It’s a simple thought, but one that would solve so much. No, it won’t eliminate the issue of ignorant misunderstandings. I, personally, will still say and do things that are unintentionally hurtful. To be honest, i will still say and do things that are downright stupid. I am human to a fault. But maybe, just maybe, if we can all get to a point where we no longer have to question motives, we can learn to address the ignorance – each others’ and our own – with love and compassion. And to that end, if you know me, or know someone like me, and you live the black experience… Please, tell us how to effectively help. Give us guidance. We really do want to be part of the solution, but sometimes we just don’t know how. We might not even be sure of what questions to ask. Invite us for coffee, or a beer, or whatever; and lets start the dialog. I share my experience and you share yours with me. Lets talk about what we can do to help each other.

Yes, black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. Lets see if we can get to a point where all lives matter equally.

Syzygy

There is a solar eclipse tomorrow. It’s kind of a freaky thing. I mean, the trigonometry of it (Technically, syzygy), as complex as it is, is fairly simple when compared to the myths associated with it. And if you understand the trigonometry of it – well, first off, congrats to your teachers, but also, doesn’t it make you feel small? The things we complain and worry about on the day to day seem insignificant when thinking about the paths of planets within our solar system… Our selves not even large enough to be mites in the sight of the Powers of the Universe.

But back to the myths…

Wolves, dragons, dogs, bears, and – in old Vietnamese folklore – even frogs have been blamed as the cause, as they devour the sun for various reasons. Biting some or all of it, depending on the degree of eclipse. There are many cultures who believed that an eclipse was the result of angry gods, and that it could mean apocalypse. Some felt that it was the sun and moon arguing – and the blackness was a reminder for us all to stop quarreling here on Earth. There are scholars that believe the darkness that fell over Jesus’ crucifixion was an eclipse. And many people still continue to see it as a portent for danger. For death. For destruction. For endings. And new beginnings.

And i won’t even go into everything the astrologers have to say about the eclipse.

This event brings with it some serious logistic problems as well. For one, the traffic congestion in the areas that will see totality are expected to be legendary. The roads between here in Chattanooga and Nashville, for example, are expected to be insane as we are in the path. Schools have been closed so that whole families can view this event together. And i’m sure eye doctors are preparing for the worst.

Another logistic nightmare: This will be a real test of our solar power industry. Tho currently, as a country, only about one percent of our commercial power comes from solar energy, there are states who use more. North Carolina, for example, is the third largest solar state, at about three percent, and part of it will fall within the path of the eclipse. The power companies are used to having to accommodate fluctuations in the grid during storms and clouds, but even under cloud cover, we still get solar rays. Monday, for a short period, there will be none. Zip. Zilch. This is going to test their skills.

The first instinct is to think that it’s only two minutes… How bad can it be? But if you were on a respirator and without a backup generator, it would be catastrophic. (To note, hospitals all have backup generators… I was just pointing out that it’s all relative.)

I don’t work in the power industry, but every article i have read says they have been preparing for this, as they realize the outcome will greatly influence the growth or decline of solar power in the commercial marketplace. Can they keep the flow steady, minimal waxing and waning, by pulling from other sources and exporting to extra grids as the sheer number of solar rays drops to zero and then peaks? Bless the men and women who will try. Granted, a lot of it may be moot – like all the prep we did for the turn of the millennium. But maybe not. I guess we will see.

And finally, what does this eclipse mean for us as individuals? For you? For me? Will it be a source of wonder? Awesome, in the truest sense of the word? Will it make you sit later, with your friends and a beer, and discuss our minuteness in the vastness of space? Or will you make merry with it, invoke the old myths, and bang pots and pans to scare off the mythical creatures that are eating our sun? Will you read the astrological predictions, even if just out of curiosity? Will you view those two minutes of darkness as a metaphysical moment of silence? Or are you hoping they will have an effect like a slap for hysteria on this crazy country of ours?

For most of us, the eclipse tomorrow will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I urge you, my friends, to be safe. And i also hope we all will take a moment to think about all that is going on around us, oblivious of us and yet made of us, and consider what kind of energy we are taking from and giving back to the Infinite Source. From a scientific, religious, or social perspective – I hope we all make the most of it.

 

*** To ensure safety when viewing the eclipse, please investigate on websites like NASA  or AAC for different ideas on how to do so properly.

 

Mae West, Annie Oakley, and Momma Hol

While browsing thru some of my favorite websites this morning, i stumbled upon an interesting discussion about feminism. Avital Norman Nathman and Mayim Bialik have opposing views about an Instagram post of Amber Rose that was taken down almost as fast as it was put up. I have not seen the photo, but apparently it featured Amber, bottomless, oiled up, and showing her pubic hair. Amber felt it was a feminist post. Avital agrees. Mayim isn’t so sure. Avital feels it is reclaiming the female body from the patriarchy. Mayim feels it is playing into the patriarchy. It’s a great thing to watch: Two educated and passionately feminist women disagreeing in a respectful and thought-provoking way. (Hey, Washington, pay attention! You might learn something!)

Opposing views of feminism from Grok Nation

In any case, it got me to thinking, what kind of feminist am i?

Nearly 30 years ago now, i was halfway thru my Bachelor’s when i took a class in Feminist Political Theory. There were maybe 20 of us in the class, and only 3 or 4 were men. There were career women, older returning students, and proto-goths who were re-inventing the hippie life. I  was married at the time, to a man, and frequently came to class with my baby in a sling, strapped to my chest. I stood out. And in a very awkward way.

Every class was a discussion about a specific matter of importance to the feminist community: Education, health care, infant mortality, sex crimes… Followed by a discussion on how our foremothers fought for and dealt with these issues throughout history. I didn’t enter into the discussions much. My situation was much different from the others’, and a lot of their fires seemed abstract to me in my situation. Not to mention, i wasn’t sure how i would be taken…

… Until one day, one of my classmates used me as an example of victims of the patriarchy. I did speak up to that. And i continued to speak and share my point until i felt i was making the others think about their hypocrisy. I got married of my own free will. I had a choice with my pregnancy, and i chose to become a mom. And i made my own choice not to leave my daughter in day care when i didn’t have to. Wasn’t that what feminism was supposed to be about? Allowing us to make our own choices in the same way that men do? I mean, i am hardly old-fashioned, and was even less so then. I refused to be painted as a bad guy, and was disappointed that few could see my side.

At the same time i was taking that class, i was working on a thesis about the importance of the Madams of the Old West. How, because they were frequently the only ones with money, they often took on tasks of banker, city advocate, and philanthropist. They knew that what women had, and men did not, was the singular power of sex. And they used it to their advantage. And their pocketbooks. They were businesswomen, and generally feminist women, besides (For the time period, anyway). The sheriff and preacher might rail against the evils of prostitution, but when the city was broke and the children needed medicine, they knew the painted ladies would help. (Then, after the fear and need were gone, they would run those same ladies out on a rail.. But that is another story entirely.)

In later years, you saw some feminists aligning with prohibitionists – Because the evils of alcohol encouraged men to treat women poorly. Then others aligned with the anti-slavery cause – Because women knew what it was like to have no power, and wished that on no one else… Equality for all! (Ok, ok, there were other political motives as well, especially for the top brass of the movements… But i’m talking the bulk of the members here.) There was always more than one side. Always more than one movement. Feminists were never united except in most basic premise, even before the United States was an entity.

So why should it surprise us that we currently have divisions within the feminist movement?  And why should we feel that only one is “right”?

The women who opt to dress modestly to play down the sexualization of women are no less feminist than those who dress provocatively to take ownership of the female form. If you prefer to keep your legs shaved, you shouldn’t be booted out of the cause for your trichophobia. The woman who has always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom is no less than her career sisters simply because of that aspiration. And that’s not even including the color issues, the trans issues, and all the other subsets of feminism. I’m pretty sure there’s room for all of us.

And we are all valid.

Truly, you don’t even have to be female. By definition, all you have to do is believe that women and men deserve equal rights and equal opportunities. And every father i know, if they didn’t believe it before, believed it once he had a daughter. (You may know someone who doesn’t. Heck, you may even be that someone. But i hope someday you change your mind. Subjugating women, or anyone for that matter, is rarely a helpful idea.)

As i read in the news earlier this week, in this day and age, there should be no laws left that start with the phrase “A woman shall not…, ” because if a woman shouldn’t, a man shouldn’t either. And if a man can, why can’t a woman?

For my fellow women, why can’t we accept each others’ choices and expressions of feminism, even if it isn’t ours? I have a daughter who doesn’t shave her pits. It isn’t my gig, and i’m still not used to it… But i respect her choice.

Shaved or not. Reveling in your sexuality, or taking a more modest approach. Lesbian commercial fisherman, or Pioneer Momma wannabe. Avid painter of flowers, or avid painter of labia. Vocally political, or only vocal at your daughter’s rugby games. We all have something to bring to the table. As long as we all stand for equality, we should be able to stand together when it counts. And, hopefully, we will be able to stand with others as well, since we know how hard bucking the establishment can be. Sometimes it takes every available hand. And even then, it may still take a century. Or two. Or more.

So, what kind of feminist am i? Well, that continues to evolve. As i speak with more feminists of color, more feminists with different backgrounds, different experiences, different views, i am forced to confront things that i hadn’t taken into account. And as i talk to more emotive men, i am also forced to confront some of the backwards limitations that we put on our male counterparts. We can’t move forward if we don’t bring them with us.  (Think about how many posts you have seen about body positivity featuring females. Now think of how many you’ve seen featuring men…. Yes, they’ve traditionally had the upper hand, but not all men get all benefits.)

So lets talk about it. Hear what each other has to say. See if we can work together. Consider it practice… For when things really get equal, and we are taking up half of Capitol Hill.

Lets get the discourse going now. There’s a lot to be done, and it’s going to take all of us.

 

As i went thru spell-check on this document, i found it rather ironic that it marked the word “sexualization”, but had no replacement. 

 

Girl Power

When i was a kid, if i had handed an alien my U.S. History book as an insight to our country, they would have thought nearly everyone of importance was a white male.  From Columbus and his male crew meeting the (male) chief of the local tribe, to Captain John Smith, to President George Washington (And every president up til this decade)…  3/4 of the book was white men. Yes, we learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Eleanor Roosevelt. We learned about George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. We learned about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. We learned about Pocahontas and Sacagawea. But that was about it. The only person i remember being called out as specifically Jewish was Einstein. And if there were people of any other ethnic persuasions, i don’t remember any time being spent on them. Sad, really.

Granted, some of it is due to the fact that, until fairly recently, generally speaking, white men held the seats of power. The status quo was a European Christian male as the leader of… well.. pretty much everything. But times, they are a’changing. Every day this country becomes more diverse. And as a result, more groups are getting a chance to partake in the type of history that gets documented in textbooks. I mean, we all have always been a part of history… Just not the part that gets into the popular public record. But even that is starting to come around.

I went to see Hidden Figures  yesterday. To my surprise and delight, my son was eager to see it as well. If you somehow haven’t seen the trailers, it is the story of the “human computers”, specifically, a group of black women, who were responsible for the calculations used to get men into space. Now, i have made it a point to study women’s history for nearly 30 years, but i can honestly say that i didn’t know anything about these women until a few years back when  my daughter and i had the pleasure of hearing Dr Mae Jemison speak, and she talked about some of the women who came before her at NASA. One of the things she said about those women, women like herself, has stuck with me – They were black, they were female, and they were “nerds”; so they had three strikes against them when it came to public impressions. Thankfully, Dr. Jemison’s parents never bought into that. They encouraged her, even knowing how difficult the path would be. Becoming an astonaut is hard for anyone. But at that time, for a black woman, even more so. She did it anyway. And now it is easily conceivable for a woman, of any ethnicity, to go to space.

We need to put women like these into the history books. Important, significant women of all types to help further the aspirations of our weedlings. Lets make it easier for them to spend less time reading about the Kardashians, and more time reading about  Madame C.J. Walker, Wilma Mankiller, Maya Lin, the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to those not in-the-know). And lesser known, but still historically significant women like Deborah Samson, Ann E. Dunwoody, Dr Helen Rodríguez Trías,  and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. By including women like these, we show that it is possible for ALL girls, and by extension, ALL children, to grow to become people of historical significance.

Lets face it, folks, it wasn’t that long ago when independent women were burned at the stake as witches. When black women were thought to be little more than oxen. When intelligent women were thought to be anomalies. When conventionally unattractive women were considered to be hopeless. And on and on. And heaven help you if you had more than one of those strikes against you.

Yes, i am fully aware that i am soap-boxing. But this is important to me.

Also of note, we need to make sure that we don’t go overboard and infringe upon those who take paths society deems “backwards”. The woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom is important, not because of some misogynistic fluff, but because she CHOSE to be that in the face of small-minded feminists who don’t see the value in it. The woman who becomes a Catholic nun or Buddhist monk is important not because she is sheltered from the world, but because she CHOSE to dedicate her life to something she cared deeply about in spite of others finding it old-fashioned. The young woman who attends an all-girls’ school, or an all-black school, or any separatist institution is doing so BY HER OWN CHOICE, and that makes it significant. Even if it is something that others might feel is a step back. In this context, a free choice is a step forward, even if the result is not one that seems progressive to the masses.

My daughters have never felt fettered by notions of what women are “supposed to do”. At least i don’t think they have. I hope they haven’t. I’ve tried to instill in them the belief that society’s notions are not a code that needs to be followed. I try to be the same with my son, as he, too, will find gates and fences that will try to block his path along the way. Teaching our weedlings that there are endless possibilities in life is most important… And should be followed closely by the teaching that “endless” does not mean “easy”. The norms we frequently have to buck against require effort to overcome. Swimming against the tide, literally or figuratively, is much more labor intensive than going with the flow. It is not for everyone.

And that’s ok. We don’t all have to be trailblazers. It takes all kinds of women, of people, to make the world the wonder that it is. Being a “regular Joe” (Or Josephine) is nothing shameful. The important thing is not the life you choose, but that YOU choose it. Yourself. Freely. Knowing that any choice was allowable. President or Preacher. Entertainer or Inventor. Mayor or Mother. Any choice you make freely with the conviction of your own heart is a good choice. But the only way we know that is to read and learn about those who came before us. The choices they made, the goals they set, and what it took to realize them.

These women, they were remarkable.

And so are we.

 

Momma Hol Has Had It

In children’s athletics, the teams greet each other after the game in a show of sportsmanship. No heckling or bashing is allowed. The losers aren’t expected to be happy about losing, but they are expected to be courteous and to concede with grace. The winners, in return, are not allowed to gloat. They congratulate the other team on a game well-played. And then both teams walk away intent on playing better next time.

Since most of us don’t go on to become professional athletes, the lesson of winners and losers is probably the most important thing we learn from playing team sports as kids. And yet, over the last week, a lot of us seem to have forgotten. Social media over the last week has been chock full of hatred. Democrats hating that they lost. Republicans hating because they’re fed up with the half of the nation that has been sitting shiva since election day. Third party voters hating because they just want to move on, and neither side is letting it happen.

Well, newsflash: Democrats, you lost. You are allowed to be disappointed, but no amount of collective weeping is going to change the outcome. You want your candidate to win? Congratulations! You have another chance four years from now. Run a stronger campaign, and you can take the White House. But for now, put on your big-kid panties and give the guy a chance. He may not be as bad as you expect.

Republicans,  you want the Democrats to stop whining? Quit rubbing your opinion of their candidate in their faces. Be the gracious winner, congratulate them on their efforts, and move on. Remember, this isn’t a permanent position. Your candidate may not be all you expected. In four years, you might be in their shoes, so remember the Golden Rule.

Third party voters: We lost. We knew we were going to. I think that makes it easier for us. But we fought well and brought the potential for a third party to enter into the finals up to something approaching reality. Now, lets quit grumbling and build on our momentum, or we’ll be in the same boat four years from now.

And to all my friends from all sides of the political spectrum: I love you all. Really really. But i can’t take the arguing any more. Yes, there is the potential for scary times ahead; but there always is when we elect a new president. Yes, our President-Elect has said more daft, derogatory, and offensive things than Prince Phillip. But that doesn’t likely mean that he will put an end to Democracy as we know it. In fact, it’s unlikely he could. Our government is structured to keep that from happening. (Perhaps you noticed that there were other political positions on your ballot? Yes, those were important. Just as important as the one at the top. Perhaps more so, since they affect your community directly.)  The causes that are dear to your heart, the ones you are worried will go by the wayside over the next four years… Get active with them! And if it appears that our leaders won’t take the stand you want, make your voice heard. That’s how things change…

Which brings us back to the presidential election. Obviously, enough people wanted this change to make it happen. (And before you argue about the Electoral College being unfair, that point is moot. The fact of the matter is, we all knew the Electoral College would apply in this election. It wasn’t a last minute decision.) Whether you voted for him or not, Donald Trump is our new president. Rather than bash each other for being “for” or “against”, remember that both votes are on the same team. The U.S. team. We might scrimmage against each other, but come time for the playoffs, we’d all better be working together. Otherwise, we’re all sure to lose.

And If She Asks You Why, You Can Tell Her That I Told You

You can’t make anyone do anything. In the end we all do what we want. We only have control over our own actions, and sometimes even that is questionable.

Have you ever watched someone about to fall? You see them shift, you watch the tilt, all in slow motion. You know they are in for pain, and you know you can’t stop it. I watched a relationship do that last night. Yes, i was uncomfortable. Yes, i felt awkward. But, mostly, i felt powerless. Even understanding both sides of the argument, able to empathize with how each of them felt, there was no way to make peace. Both friends would suffer, and there wasn’t a damned thing i could do about it.

This morning, it was the global version of that same sensation. As i learned of the shooting in Orlando, which is sad enough in itself, i could see what would happen next: Knee jerk reaction and retaliation of Americans against muslims, savage protests by the masses, the promotion and election of politicians who eat such groups for breakfast, and the escalation of violence and hatred between religions. Again, i am devastated, weeping for the results. And again, i am impotent. Nothing i say or do is going to bring those victims back to life, nor will it stop the vicious aftermath.

I realize that many times in life and history, one lone voice has impacted the vector of time and stopped the descent into whatever circle of hell was gaining ground at that moment; but those voices came from people who already commanded attention. The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Jimmy Carter, Robin Williams… Some people have the gift of influence. You, me, Daniel the bartender, most of the people we know… We could plead til we were blue in the face, but the politicians, the terrorists, the hatemongers… None of them are listening. Even on the small-scale, watching a fight between friends, it is nearly impossible to build a bridge that can bear the weight of the hurt feelings. To our credit, most of us still try, desperately hanging onto the thread of a utopian pipe dream.

Most of the time we are disappointed.

But that last shred of faith, the faint shadow of that castle in the air… They give us the strength for another attempt. Some of us are too stubborn to resolve ourselves to watching havoc play out like a movie. And tho i may never be able to keep terrorists from annihilating a group of bystanders, perhaps i can at least give my friends a white flag to clutch in peace.

I would still consider that a success.