Sunday 12 June 2005

Adversity can bring out the very best! (Thoughts about dealing with cancer)

Last Sunday afternoon Sam Donaldson, the veteran newsman from ABC and a survivor of lymphoma, was here to help our health system colleagues, patients, and friends from the community celebrate with 155 cancer survivors (my own mother among them) all of whom have survived cancer for at least five years -- and all treated by our new Center for Cancer Care here in Goshen. The CCC program was established only approximately six years ago, but has already brought us national attention and, fortunately for us, attracted some "world class" cancer doctors, and some very special accreditation, as well. (See the news release summarizing these developments at: )

Mr. Donaldson predicted that what we have here in Goshen may very well become the next "Mayo Clinic" -- starting in a very small town but growing rapidly because of the quality of care and cutting edge approaches to treatment. I don't know about that -- time will tell. What I do know is that I feel privileged to work here in this capacity and to be a real part of what's happening. However, what stood out in my mind was something else Sam said that earlier today really "struck home."

Mr. Donaldson affirmed a fact -- that there has NEVER been a cancer that someone hasn't survived. This profound thought figured prominently in his own story and in the type of attitude and relationship he had with his own cancer doctor -- it is a message of hope, indeed.

Then a few days later I encountered the story that truly grabbed my attention -- an unfolding autobiographical account by 23 year-old Alicia Parlette in a 7-part series in the San Francisco Chronicle. When I came across it at first, midweek, I thought I was too busy to read it because of the length, but she drew me in after the first page. It's a story of her own fight with a very rare form of cancer, a certain type of sarcoma, which was discovered while she was working as a copy editor at the SFC. Her self-disclosure is a poignant witness to the importance that family, friends and faith have become -- especially when the news is bad.

I absorbed the first four installments right away, and have kept up daily ever since. Her journal surveys the emotional and spiritual map of a young cancer patient like nothing I've ever quite read before -- and is extremely relevant to my own work in spiritual care here with the Goshen Health System

Not only is it a powerful read, but what really was the kicker for me on Wednesday was to hear, in her own voice, her reflections and responses regarding the new directions her life has taken over the past three months -- during an interview with Alex Chadwick, which originally aired Tuesday on NPR's program "Day to Day." You can listen to her yourself at NPR's archive of programs online; they also have a link to Alicia's journal installments the SF Chronicle is publishing daily and which are stored on their own online archives. Find that link to the series in the upper left corner of NPR's website at:

or you can read them directly at . On Thursday, after being duly inspired by what I had just read in that day's installment, I sent Alicia an e-mail link to a special card I created for her to see --at least I hope she'll see it-- in response that emotionally and spiritually-charged section of her saga. Anyone reading as far as the end of installment #5 will understand this card's significance:

By the way, you can copy this link and send it along to anyone else you wish at any time, as a word of encouragement or reassurance, since I intentionally created the card for that purpose. I deliberately didn't personalize" the card itself with Alicia's name. I created it with my
personal subscription to the artist Jacquie Lawson's website, so it will last pretty much "in perpetuity" * housed indefinitely at a certain section of the internet, even if my subscription eventually runs out. In other words, this link will always "work" when clicked upon, and without ANY associated advertisements (unlike most cards you get or see nowadays...)

Today, Saturday, I see that ABC News has made Alicia Parlette the "Person of the Week!" Wow. Read their summary here:


- Clair

Saturday 11 June 2005

This could well be another "tipping point" in American history

"The Downing Street Memo" case is FINALLY building up a head of steam. I watched President Bush's attempts to wriggle away from the truth it reveals (an impeachable offence, actually) in the June 7 press conference with Tony Blair. Williams Rivers Pitt is spot on as he traces this case, and its implications, in an eloquent yet factual fashion at:

As the pressure on the US media moguls has finally bubbled up strong enough to force their cooperation in prying open this issue, it would seem that an excellent strategy would now be to take some of GWB's advice-in his own words: "See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

But this time it's a whole lot more than propaganda. A massive coalition of activist groups have come together to form the "After Downing Street Coalition" which seeks coverage of this issue in the media and accountability from Congress and the administration. Their website contains the original source document together with excellent analysis; especially noteworthy is a freshly posted chapter from Ray McGovern's forthcoming book, "Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President." (For more on Mr. McGovern, see my note below. *)

Rep. John Conyers and 88 other House members have delivered a letter to Bush demanding answers, and nearly 200,000 Americans have already signed their support for this letter. The signatures list is growing by leaps and bounds; according to John Conyers website, lately at the rate of approximately ten signatures per minute.

Some historians of the Vietnam War era deem that a major "tipping point" for America then was the magazine cover showing the 75 people who had died in Vietnam the previous week -- because it finally brought the face of the war home to the people. 911 was an attack on our own soil and many people are still worried stiff that something may happen to them and their children; that they need THIS president and his administration to protect them. Otherwise why would so many smart women vote for Bush against their own self interest except out of fear for their families?

The truth is most Americans still don't read blogs; in fact, sadly, most people today don't even pay much attention anymore to newspapers. They simply don't want to take the time. So they digest whatever is fed to them on their favorite television channel or talk radio station. It's also likely that the phrase "The Downing Street Memo" doesn't really communicate to listeners very well as to what it is all about -- it just sounds like something that only concerns the British, and it, like other "smoking guns" that we have all seen come and go along the way, hasn't interested the general public very much, allowing the major media outlets to keep the lid on it -- thus far. But no more.

When key media sources start to screw up enough courage and independence from their parent company owners to do a full scale review of the time frame of this memo and the other pre-Iraq invasion set-ups (including a reminder to the American people about Richard Clarke's story about Bush coming to him right after 9/11 and asking how they could tie the attack to Iraq) then something substantial might happen.

So, my friends, this could very well be "the moment!" We now all have the opportunity to help keep those Minutes in the forefront. I think June of 2005 could well go down in history as "the tipping point" in this Iraq War and the demise of the administration of GWB.

If you want to sign the "Downing Street Memo" letter calling for straightforward answers from the President, and be kept up to date with a coordinated strategy keep in touch with this website:

As Mr. Pitt says in his last paragraph: "Large majorities of Americans, in every poll, believe the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and the casualties thus far inflicted to be unacceptable. For the first time, the poll numbers show that a clear majority of the American people no longer believe that George W. Bush is keeping them safe. Bi-partisan coalitions are forming in Congress to demand that the US withdraw from Iraq and give that nation back to the people who live there, and those coalitions are edging towards majority-sized numbers. Legislation has been presented demanding withdrawal and more is in the offing."


* Ray McGovern’s 27-year career as a CIA analyst spanned administrations from John F. Kennedy to George H. W. Bush. Ray is now co-director of the Servant Leadership School, which provides training and other support for those seeking ways to be in relationship with the marginalized poor. The School is one of ten Jubilee Ministries, not-for-profit organizations inspired by the ecumenical Church of the Saviour and established in an inner-city neighborhood in Washington, DC.

At his CIA retirement ceremony, Ray received the Intelligence Commendation Medal and a letter from then-president George H. W. Bush wishing him well in his transition to non-profit work in inner-city Washington. Ray served on the board of Bread for the City from 1989-94, the latter two years as president, before becoming co-director of the Servant Leadership School.

Friday afternoon this week an advance chapter entitled "Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President" from Ray McGovern's forthcoming two-volume set on the Iraq war, "Neo-CONNED!" and "Neo-CONNED! Again", published by Light in the Darkness Publications, was posted at This comprehensive two-volume work deals with the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war containing groundbreaking and uncompromising analysis from 84 different contributors. Read this key chapter (a PDF version is also available) at:

The substance of this book, as it becomes more widely read, will make it increasingly difficult for President Bush to wriggle away from probing reporters' questions regarding the "Downing Street Minutes" issue, as he did Tuesday this week.

--Clair Hochstetler