My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for July, 2010

No, I’m Not Going Soft on Religion

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/04/2010

So in the wee hours of the morning on July 1, I was whisked away from home by ambulance. Although I was half out of it when the emergency medical people arrived, they did ask me which hospital I wanted to go to. I had enough presence of mind to say, “any one that isn’t religious,” but that narrowed my choices down quite a bit—and would have left my wife with a longer drive to and from my temporary accommodations than if I’d just blurted out the name of the Catholic hospital closest to my house.

After giving the matter about 15 seconds of thought, I reneged, and told the EMTs to take me to the most convenient facility.

Later, when I thought about it, I realized that many – maybe most – hospitals have some religious reference in their name. Why is that? (I’m in no mood to do research today, but I’m guessing that it goes back to the Middle Ages. Doesn’t everything?)

After spending a few hours being poked and prodded by the emergency staff, I was told that I’d need to stay at least overnight. So at about 4:30 in the morning, I was wheeled into a private room. All the while, I was telling myself that I’d be as negative as I could when the in-house chaplain arrived to bring me some Jesus.

It never happened. I was in that Catholic hospital for nearly 48 hours, and there were only two allusions to religion. One was a small crucifix that looked like a fancy letter-opener, tucked into an unobtrusive corner of the room. Frankly, as something to look at, I found it much more interesting than say, a picture of a cute kitty, or a flower-bedecked landscape. I was shocked at myself for not being offended by it, but I just didn’t care – it was no skin off my nose as long as none of the medical staff prayed to it or crossed themselves. Hell, they didn’t even look at it.

The other religious allusion came from a maid who entered my room to do some minor cleaning touch-ups about an hour after I’d been brought there. (A few drawers, apparently, were not sparkly enough.) When she was done, at about 5:45, she said, on her way out, “Have a blessed night.” I wasn’t in any shape to engage her in a theological debate – nor, I suspect, would it have mattered if I did – so I simply answered, “Thanks.”

That was it for Christ. None of the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, or techies who attended me did any advertising whatsoever for their employer. I may have been a bit disappointed, because I was prepared with any number of devastatingly sarcastic comments to make when they did. But I never had the chance. They all acted professionally and seemed extremely knowledgeable; quite a few were able to banter with me snottily, which was encouraging. One N.A. with a funny voice characterized herself as sounding like Minnie Mouse on crack, which struck me – under the circumstances – as hilarious. A nurse, after asking me to let my leg go limp for a reflex test, said, “ummm … you’re not a guy who’s into relaxing much, are you?” A techie, who was administering a test for which she wasn’t “supposed to” give me the results said, “If I turn pale and run screaming into the hall, you can assume you’re in trouble.” Nobody said, “we’ll pray for you.”

So I’ve had occasion to reexamine my own prejudices about hospitals. Yes, it’s annoying that so many of them have a titular affiliation with a specific religious sect. And it’s also extremely grating to imagine that my insurance payment – and the no-doubt exorbitant percentage of costs I’ll be billed directly – will, perhaps, go to the furtherance of the Catholic message. But, really, I doubt it. There was nothing overtly papal about that hospital other than a dumb piece of wall art and a veiledly Christian offhand remark by a low-level employee (who, I suspect, was not actually a Catholic). In retrospect, my own bias against anything even mildly smacking of religion might have gotten in the way of what was, essentially, a positive – and definitely necessary – experience. And my poor wife had to drive only a short distance to smuggle in my Chocolate Cheerios.

Oh, and I got to take home a lovely quart-sized sippy cup, with a plastic bendy straw. That souvenir will probably show up on my bill as a $700 item, but that’s only a little more than I would have paid for, say, mouse ears at Disney World. Anyway, it’s an attractive purple-topped container, emblazoned with the name of the hospital and the words “The Science of Medicine, The Heart of Compassion.” The second phrase is probably secret Vatican code, but it’s stated in a fairly neutral way. And, seriously, I can’t argue with the first phrase at all.

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Posted in Freedom from Faith | 17 Comments »

The Presidents: A Not-so-scientific Ranking

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/04/2010

I’ve been indisposed for a while (see my next post). So I’m late acknowledging Independence Day, in celebration of which a very good friend of mine sent out this gallery of presidents, listed in order from best to worst. The scientifically derived rankings are explained in great journalistic detail by this article.

That list must be exactly right, because (1) the specific criteria are irrefutable; (2) of the 238 scholars mentioned, there’s not a single person whose name I could argue with; and (3) Siena College is well known as one of the world’s greatest institutions of learning. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t bump everyone down a place to make room for Jesus Christ at the top.

I decided it might be interesting if I did my own ranking, using my own set of scrupulously arrived at criteria. It wouldn’t be fair to my readers to ask them to wade through the entire set of names, but here are a few excerpts:

1. Lincoln (penny, 5-dollar bill)
2. Washington (quarter, 1-dollar bill)
3. Thomas Jefferson (nickel, 2-dollar bill)
4. Tie: The Roosevelts (Teddy, Franklin, Eleanor, Fala)
5. Jesus Christ (Note: in the purely secular, nation-building sense, only)
6. The Eastern Media Elite (aka The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism)
7. Jackie Kennedy
8. Josiah Bartlet
9: Three-way tie: Alexander Hamilton (10-dollar bill), Benjamin Franklin (100-dollar bill), Al Gore (Nobel Prize, Academy Award)
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15. James (“John”) K. (“L.”) Polk
16. Game called on account of rain: Grover Cleveland (1st time), Grover Cleveland (2nd time), Grover Cleveland Alexander (P, PHI-NL/CHI-NL/STL-NL., Lifetime ERA. 2.56)
17. Edith Wilson
18. Garfield
19. Snoopy
20. Phineas T. Barnum
21. No award that year
22. Elvis
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34. Coca-Cola
35. Lexington native George Clooney
36. Tippecanoe
37. Tyler, too
38. General Motors
39. “Silent Cal” Coolidge
40. “Chatty Matty” van Buren
41. Tie: Mother Teresa, Michael Jackson
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52. Chester, Al, an’ Arthur
53. Millard Fillmore East
54. Warren G. Hardly
55. The Andrews: Jackson and Johnson
56. The Andrews Sisters: Patty, Maxene, LaVerne, and Julie (Hits: “The Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Bugle Boy of Company B,” “Bei Mir Bist du Ein Spoonful von Sugar,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else but Do-Re-Mi”)
57. Ronald Reagan (post-Alzheimer’s)
58. Ronald Reagan (pre-Alzheimer’s)
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68. Seventeen-way tie: All other presidents except for George W. Bush
69. Larry King
70. Dick Cheney, acting on behalf of Halliburton

Unlike Siena College, I haven’t included either Barack Obama (because he has served only about 18 months so far) and Sarah Palin (who hasn’t yet been elected).  I also didn’t rank Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, because I couldn’t decide which one should be 32nd and which 33rd.  Sorry.

Posted in It's History, Seriously Silly, Useless Lists | 14 Comments »