Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Sore Throat Vs. the Case of Omar Khadr

After a fine evening on Tuesday watching Rich Hope and His Blue Rich Rangers at the Railway - a sincere and very fun appreciation of great country music, of a rather gentler form than his rock/blues Evil Doers, but still featuring "Sir Adrian Mack" (as Rich introduced him) on drums - I woke up Wednesday morning feeling not so fine at all. By the time I got into my pre-work bath to clean up for the day, I was determined to get my throat checked, and maybe get some antibiotics, because it was sore in a new and awful way; but then, as the bathwater was draining away, I coughed up a bright red ball of bloody phlegm. The shock of it sent me even quicker to seek out a clinic. I thought one around the corner might be open early (since it's open late), but it wasn't; so it was thence to the emergency room at St. Paul's, over an hour before my day as Mr. Teacher was scheduled to start.

The emergency room at St. Paul's is not my idea of a fun place to hang out. There's usually always a few of our addicts begging to be given pain meds, and a high concentration of homeless, mentally ill, and generally miserable and damaged people, packed into the waiting room alongside "normal" folks who are bleeding or wounded or seriously ill, either visibly or not. And with the exception of hospital staff zipping about or the odd talkative and mobile drunk who wants to tell you about his problems, there's not much to do but sit around together, contemplating with some distaste and reluctance your common humanity, as the institution does things in its own very institutional way, at a very institutional pace. If you can walk, you're left to follow this line or that painted on the floor to get from one area to the next, never quite sure if you've arrived at the right place. There's not even a window at the Fast Track section where you can talk to people; you're expected to just slip your forms through a slot and sit down and shut up like everyone else, until someone is ready to see you. Which is what I did, half-asleep, mind altered by illness, and the pain in my throat gradually subsiding of its own accord.

At least the TV in the waiting room was set to the CBC. After getting past the delirious hideousness of watching a couple of TV commercials, the falsity and malignity of which, as someone without cable, I am generally spared from, I perked up to hear about the case of Omar Khadr, a child soldier with a Canadian Al Qaida father, who was caught in Afghanistan during the war there at age 15, and shipped to Guantanamo Bay, where he awaits... whatever one waits for at Guantanamo. A trial? A session of waterboarding? A quiet repatriation? His 21st birthday, then his 22nd, then 23rd...? It's a pretty interesting case. He likely never had any choice at all,
given his family's commitment to their cause and the sort of indoctrination he was subject to, about whether he would participate in terrorism; there is no evidence, or so I've read, showing that he has actually killed US soldiers; he was - no one says this part - defending himself and his country's government, however hideous, against a foreign attack, which seems, even though that particular invasion was sanctioned by the world courts, to make it somewhat questionable that he is guilty of "war crimes," as charged; and of course, at Gitmo, he has been subject to torture (though one gathers he has also been given Mickey Mouse comic books. Only in America, you say?). And he's been held for five years illegally, which is a far bigger crime than anything he has actually done, regardless of what he knows or who his family is. CSIS and Canadian investigators have questioned him, and his defense team are currently petitioning to get ahold of those documents, which the Canadian government is unwilling to part with. It becomes very complicated, because our elected leaders have to decide whether to co-operate with clear human rights violations, which they probably realize will be bad for them in the long run, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, possibly end them (and win the wrath of the Yankees). Khadr is the only westerner still held at Gitmo, we are repeatedly reminded; assumedly, once he's repatriated, the other darkies can be left to rot there.

Well, who knows what Omar's morning was like yesterday, but I got out of St. Pauls at 10 AM, having been Xrayed and prodded and told - despite the bloody gob of phlegm - that there was nothing wrong with me. Not even a scrip for antibiotics was forthcoming. Relieved to no longer feel myself in the same boat with the various people sleeping in bundles on the street - because to St. Paul, we're all equal - I walked first to school, to make sure my substitute had what she needed, and then home, to take a long nap. Waking, I allowed myself a restful evening, went to bed early, not feeling that bad - and woke up at 2:30 AM, pretty much the same as I did yesterday morning. My nasal passages are completely plugged - my CPAP machine is useless, if no air can get through; and my throat, again, is sore as heck and phlegmy. There is still blood in my spit as I cough in the sink - alternating the thin pink liquid with dark green/gray gobs - but it isn't as concentrated or colourful as yesterday's little explosion, and not as worrying ("just a burst capillary," as the doctor who examined me said.) I've stayed awake long enough to gargle with hot salt water, pop some Advil, and spit up what I could. Now it's back to bed, to face work come 9 AM, I guess... least I don't have US soldiers threatening to rape me...


ammacinn said...

...and midway through the day, I got a migraine, around the same time that I lost my voice.

All 'round, it's been a perfectly consistent day.

jonathan said...

christ, man- hope you get to feelin' better. i'm glad i'm blessed with the best immune system ever, seeing as how i don't have medical insurance. is canadian medicine really as bad as conservative talk radio makes it out to be (long lines and wait periods, all that shit)? i'd much rather have to wait a little longer or deal with a rude, tired doctor than not be able to afford to go at all, but maybe that's just me.

as for omar khadr, considering i myself might be facing jailtime (my court date is next week) over some ridiculus bullshit (his takes the cake, no doubt...don't think i think we are in the same boat at all), i feel the plight of him and the vast majority of those my government has imprisoned and tortured. this is not the exception in this country, but the rule.

the more i think about things, the more i really want to move, perhaps to vancouver or something. it's close enough to family i have in washington. i'm sure it's more expensive...definitely something to consider once i graduate school...and only really an option if i get a deferred entry of judgement and my drug case is dismissed in the next 18 months. i'm sure canada is no paradise and has her own problems, but weed being practically legally and some good experiences the few times i've visited (except when i stayed with my friend's parents in toronto for a couple of weeks...who do those people think they are?!)(and yes, i mean the entire whole of toronto) and a love of chicks saying "i'm soe-ree i can't come over two-moe-row" i developed over a childhood of watching degrassi...i dunno. at the very least, i want out of where i live now. ugh.

what are the pros and cons of vancouver as a place of semi-permanent residence?

ammacinn said...

The Canadian health care system is good in some ways. You don't have to shell out money very often, for one, and you can be secure that you'll get seen to eventually, even in an Emergency Ward. But there are some problems, for sure. If you need surgery done, it can take forever. I can tell you stories of someone being told by the doctor to fake a heart attack, for instance, so they could get seen to for heart surgery more quickly, or someone with symptoms that could have been (and in fact were) the result of a tumour having to wait months to even see a specialis, while the tumour grew inside. (Once it was diagnosed, surgery followed fast on, mind you). My own impression of the American health care system is largely the horrific one offered by Michael Moore, but the rosy picture he paints of Canadian health care overlooks so many things, it makes me wonder if his view of the US system isn't highly skewed, as well... He also completely misrepresented the situation with guns in Canada in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, since we DO have very strict gun control laws

Pros and cons of Vancouver:


- a fairly rich arts scene if you dig around - there's just enough to keep the soul fed, especially in the summer and fall

- abundant weed

- pretty mountains & opportunities to be close to nature

- some fairly counterculture-friendly neighborhoods and pluralistic attitudes, agreeable to liberal types: there's a leftist-friendly political consensus in no way reflected by our government; a thriving queer community; and people of many different cultures and lifestyles(tho' there are invisible barriers, too - more on that below)

- a pleasant spring/summer - not too hot, not too humid, quite sunny and lovely


- a dark, rainy, long fall-winter-early spring that leaves everyone depressed

- a spreading bedbug problem at the moment, and mice, silverfish, and even roaches in some buildings

And there are a too many people in the following categories:

a) unambitious stoned slackers, lazy bastards, people who have no drive

b) fit, plastic rollerbladers and pod people, who are driven but cold and Me-Firstish

...and then there's our huge homeless population, often either addicts or mentally ill folks, sleeping in every second doorway and asking you for money around each corner. The increasingly neoliberal provincial government and the gentrification of poor areas in the development rush up to the 2010 Olympics mean that these numbers will doubtlessly get worse. I've also been told (by Nels Cline, in fact) that, compared to LA, there's a very different VIBE to our poor and homeless - that there's a lot more obvious drug damage visible.

- and speaking of 2010, it's expensive to live here, getting moreso, and the architecture just keeps getting more ugly.

Finally: I'm not sure what you found "wrong" with Torontonians, but in my experience, they were pretty friendly, open people. People here seem a bit cliquish and wary of strangers - it takes a long time to build a social network, and I think a lot of people feel isolated here. I've heard that this is a singularly difficult city to meet women in, and I've known people from other cities who came to live here who found Vancouverites rather hung-up and uncommunicative, and found it very difficult (compared to Toronto, explicitly) to make social connections.

And on that topic, there was a transplanted BC'er who relocated to Toronto trying to provoke a west-east regional feud with me last month - see the comments for the post entitled, I think, "Japanese land leeches," for his views.