Saturday, August 27, 2016

Key West Life

On Tuesday Florida holds its primary election and I have to confess I suffer this election season rather than feel energized by it. Florida has become the poster child for gerrymandering with a majority of people registering as Democrats and both houses returning veto proof majorities of Republicans. The Democrat primaries are things of ugliness as the state party falls into disarray over the possibility of candidates actually facing the chance of election in the year Donald Trump weakens the national Republican Party. I guess we none of us are at our best when confronting the grim possibility of success. I am in two minds about voting at all, the first time casual corruption and social indifference has brought me this low. 
But I live in the Florida Keys and in this happy place elections mean not very much if like me you live in the county. Lots of names pop up, none of them too familiar and incumbents rule the roost so things will continue bumbling forward vision-free for a few more years I suppose. However two things stand out this year that cause me some heartburn locally. One is the hospital and the other is Mosquito Control. And both are producing some deeply weird and disturbing public stances. 
The newspaper reported on August 24th that a woman doctor at Lower Keys Medical Center filed a lawsuit against a male doctor who yelled and grabbed her one day in March while disagreeing over treatment options for a patient. She apparently decided to try to get him arrested for battery but responding officers declined in the grounds that four months had passed since the alleged neck grabbing incident. The newspaper reports she called police after her complaints to hospital authorities failed to yield results. And now this fiasco has gone public. Timing as they say is everything. 
 The reason I find this story of a workplace disagreement so compelling is because this dormant incident has been re-awakened at the exact same time that the hospital is in huge disarray and may see its contract with local authorities canceled. The CEO of the place was fired after it was revealed she notched profits up to an unheard of 32% of income a feat that merited abject praise from her for-profit bosses, but got her fired instead after local patients started a boycott of the hospital for its inhumane  treatment and billing practices. So in the news pages we learn of ineffective support of female staff while on the back page the hospital seeks understanding just as elections approach. 
Influential citizens want the contract with the Tennessee based health treatment system rescinded and they want a return to a locally owned community hospital. Which means elected leaders are shitting themselves as they face unremitting demands that they do something real. I've read quotations from local victims of this third world hospital expressing outrage that profit comes before patient welfare. A sentiment I have felt all my life and never expected to see it on everyone's lips suddenly, but when half the patient roster seems to be in court with instant final demands for payment from the Gauleiter of Lower Keys profit starts to look ugly. Wait long enough and every shade of human behavior will parade in front of you in this astonishing community. 
While the hospital's future may take a couple of election cycles to sort out Mosquito Control may face changes very soon.  A British company called Oxitec has a plan to release genetically modified mosquitoes on the secluded island of Key Haven just outside Key West as part of the struggle to contain Zika world wide. Unfortunately Key Haven is packed with wealthy white influential citizens who resent their opportunity to take one for the team and help eradicate the non-native disease bearing aedes egypti mosquito. It turns out the ranks of the wealthy on Key Haven are also loaded with conspiracy theorists of the sort who know that climate change is rubbish and everything they know about genetic engineering they learned at the movies. Check out this Facebook conversation by Never Again. 
Oh yes, bumper sticker politics will be making a return. Personally I'd be happy to see Oxitec loose the mutant mosquitoes in my neighborhood not least because after wondering what was going on it became apparent to me the opponents of Oxitec are a bunch of nutters. These are people who will happily pay thousands of dollars for dogs bred to exasperation but fear mosquitoes bred for impotence. Some of them worry impotent mosquitoes may one day bite their children rendering them impotent and the Zika outbreak in Brazil is the product of scientists tampering with nature for profit! Meanwhile they forget these same scientists eliminated yellow fever and polio and smallpox and gave us middle class First Worlders lives of ease and free from the permanent anxiety of sickness borne by insects. There's gratitude! Whooping cough anyone? Got plague? Need measles? Fear vaccinations?
I was listening to the radio in a recent drive to the mainland and the scientist interviewed said human brains are wired to see patterns and historically our Neanderthal ancestors were predisposed to believe the rustling in the underbrush was a threat because that was how the smart members of the tribe survived. Which has led us to be gullible in the modern era and to seek patterns where none exist. We like our universe to be well ordered, not chaotic. I find myself suddenly slipping further and further out of the norm in old age, like a space walking astronaut letting go of the tether preferring to spin off into outer space alone and unsupported. It's where my reluctance to vote is taking me. 
The line between seeking order in the universe and swallowing a conspiracy theory is suddenly razor thin in my view and thus it becomes easy to assume a hospital lawsuit is a way to pile pressure on our leaders to make difficult changes. But that theory at least carries no determine the outcome for the public at large. It may or may not be a coincidence and leave it at that. 
On the other hand some theories carry very real consequences. It's easy to assume Mosquito Control wants to wreck our white middle class DNA by offering lab space to a company that seeks to eradicate disease. So action is better than inaction, myth trumps facts, ignorance is no longer bliss it is a call to action. The entirely wrong action no doubt but action nonetheless. And I can't swallow that. I just can't. Next time you eat a hamburger you are eating cow DNA and that no more makes you a cow than getting bitten by a mosquito makes you a mosquito. But the planet is overburdened with people so I suppose selective self destruction may well be worthwhile. My only wish is that the idiots who deny climate change be the first to drown, that those who prefer chemical mosquito control to DNA mutants be the first to get yellow fever and let none of them be elected to office next Tuesday as so many primaries are essentially uncontested. Fat chance. So expect continued environmental degradation more diseases spreading and less rational discussion about how to deal with it. None of this is new, Shakespeare wrote about it centuries ago: