Monthly Archives: August 2013

Wasi’chu Promises

“‘Wasi’chu’ is a Lakota word that means ‘non-Indian,’ but another version of this word means ‘the one who takes the best meat for himself…It means greedy.”- Aaron Huey

What good are promises made to a stigmatized people? Stigmas are created to enable discrimination against a group of people. Once the discrimination is effective enough, the next step, the easy and “justified” disposal of those stigmatized can begin. The end game is the absolute control of a race’s or discriminated group’s livelihood, well-being and destiny. In many instances this has ultimately lead to historical and current events of genocide: Wasi’chu Power: A True Look at Genocide. In other instances, it leads to the complete and systematic disempowerment of groups who have no route out of poverty.

Step rungs of opportunity on the ladder to success such as an intact and high quality public education system, affordable and comprehensive access to health care, the prospect of constructive and fulfilling employment have been systematically destroyed or weakened to the point of useless futility. What has taken the place of the mythological ladder to success in America is a vicious monopoly board game where one’s chance of upward mobility has been diminished to a roll of the dice coupled with monstrously hard work, vision and/or talent.

In a more equitable environment where not possessing either of the afore-mentioned attributes would not guarantee you a room in an asylum, an appointment with your social worker or Family Services Division case manager, a date with your dealer, a cell in prison or prematurely on a refrigerator tray in a morgue, one could more easily accept the differences in income distribution. This, however, is not the case in America and it is not limited to large urban centers where bigger populations of minorities and “recent” immigrants live. The same is true in the furthest reaches of our nation, whether on reservations or in rural towns and counties as evidenced by high rates of military enrollment, incarceration, violence, drug & alcohol abuse and the need for federal assistance programs. The location may be different, the skin color may be different and the drug of choice may be different but the odds are similar and poverty is omnipresent.

These facts are what propelled Dr. Martin Luther King to expand the reach of the Civil Rights Movement to not only address poverty but to radically fight it with all of the peaceful means of protest that had proven successful in fighting racism. I firmly believe that this focus on the deadly systemic effects of our poverty paradigm on all people who were disempowered is what cost him his life for it called into question the very principles of our socio-economic model of capitalism. As many should now be able to clearly see, poverty and its subsequently deep and broad injustices are flourishing in our country. And like Dr. King, I know that it is essential for all of our well-being that America invest in eradicating poverty. I, however, know that it will take more than billions. It will require a modern day Marshall Plan to rebuild this nation. And in order to provide all citizens with their basic human rights, a new social compact based upon The Universal Declaration of Human Rights & The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and committed to guaranteeing these fundamental rights must supersede our present one.

Currently, we are paying highly hypocritical lip service to these and associated declarations as exemplified by our malignant education system, our lack of universal health coverage and other tragic demographic statistics while other industrialized nations are determinedly striving to ensure the rights set forth in these treaties. We allow this because huge cross sections of people in this country have been stigmatized. We enable this because we have been convinced and convince each other that the stigmatized should be deservedly disempowered. And as long as we keep these convictions, empty promises will continue to be made to improve the situation of the impoverished while everyone’s future is whittled away.

Please click on the following links for more information on The Poor People’s Campaign:


The Poor People’s Campaign: A Dream Unfulfilled

For up-to-date information on the ravaging effects of poverty on our future, our children, as well as to learn about your potential to help, please visit The Children’s Defense Fund.


A Framework for Understanding Poverty

The Price of Inequality

The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto

Also, please watch Tavis Smiley tonight on PBS to see Marian Wright Edelman & Dr. Mary Francis Berry on the work being done to make our dream a reality (please check your local listings).

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Wasi’chu Power At Work Against Our Most Vulnerable

aaa public charter

“‘Wasi’chu’ is a Lakota word that means ‘non-Indian,’ but another version of this word means ‘the one who takes the best meat for himself…It means greedy.”- Aaron Huey

In my mind, this term is applicable to all people whose greed overrides the well-being of any group of people that does not have the resources to defend itself against an unjust system or group of individuals or entities. They use their power to marginalize and limit the opportunity of groups of people to lead dignified and constructive lives filled with opportunity while often capitalizing on the inequalities created. Is the large-scale privatization of K-12 public education to be the next big investment scheme?

I have long thought that many of our urban centers have begun to function as de facto prisons or prisoner of war camps due to the lack of real freedom and opportunity, extreme violence and lower life expectancy. For decades, conditions have been created and allowed to fester which have lead to economic and political disempowerment and social volatility which, in turn, leads to increased violence and mental distress/illness. Many have become war zones where parents and grandparents are struggling to raise empowered children who will not become a statistic in the penal system, at a morgue or at the Division of Family Services.

Education is an essential means of empowerment. The theory behind public education was to create a system which gave everyone a strong educational foundation in order to thrive in this country, irrespective of their background. Over the course of my lifetime, I have seen national and local public education initiatives being used as tools to systematically defund and dismantle schools and their interlinked programs. Federal and local governments and legislatures have been either ignorant or simply diabolic in paying lip service to one of the founding principles of a democracy while wiping away educational opportunity with draconian and misguided measures.  Please read “Indescribably Insane”: A public school system from hell as a case in point.

What is it in us that makes us prefer a privatized school setting over a public one? I distinctly remember that when the charter school movement began to pick up steam it was to offer rightly concerned parents an immediate option for their children to avoid poorly performing schools. I do not believe that the majority of people envisioned that entire school districts would be dissolved and dismantled permanently and supplanted with privatized schools.

The dialogue which has arisen during our education crisis has turned the truth on its head in urban centers. The real crisis – the lack of resources through our antiquated and inequality-based school funding model and the war against teachers unions through the push for charter schools and the lethal No Child Left Behind national mandates- has been obscured by a debate on whether charter schools are better than public schools. Those who want to completely privatize have found a ripe public to misinform, take advantage of and control. If there are no good public school options, their goals become an easy fait accompli.

The sad thing is, is that the answer is already known in the suburbs. The public school option is the overwhelming option of true choice in America’s best school districts which without question are found in school districts with high income per capita. Parents want their children to enjoy the benefits of going to inexpensive and “safe” public schools with their neighbors’ children who attend the same schools. Teachers and the Teachers Union are respected and appreciated in the suburbs for the outstanding preparation they give their students. They support these schools in their well-researched decisions to integrate cutting edge technologies, methods and techniques to the core curricula by asking a teacher as I did, “What do you think would be best? Should he bring his smartphone, an ipad or small laptop to facilitate his coursework?” Parents of children in suburban public schools willingly donate to technological and arts funding drives because we know the long-term benefits of having SMART boards in every classroom or additional (graphic) arts and supplies and we can afford to fund them.

Every developed nation but ours puts emphasis on improving their public schools. They realize that the stronger their public education system is, the more opportunities are created for everyone. In those countries, education, like health care, is viewed as a basic right and not as a luxury good to be enjoyed by those who already have great opportunity or limited to the lucky ones.

I am looking forward to watching Soledad O’ Brien’s Black In America: The Education Gap which will be airing on CNN Friday on August 30th. I hope you are, too.

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Wasi’chu Power: A True Look At Genocide

“The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, ‘My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They’re killing each other. They’re killing themselves while we watch them die.’ This is how we came to own these United States. This is the legacy of manifest destiny.” – Aaron Huey

Please see Honor The Treaties which will you give more insight into the issues being faced on the Pine Ridge Reservation and reservations throughout the nation.

The first people who lived on the northern plains of what today is the United States called themselves “Lakota,” meaning “the people,” a word which provides the semantic basis for Dakota. The first European people to meet the Lakota called them “Sioux,” a contraction of Nadowessioux, a now-archaic French-Canadian word meaning “snake” or enemy.
The Lakota also used the metaphor to describe the newcomers. It was Wasi’chu, which means “takes the fat,” or “greedy person.” Within the modern Indian movement, Wasi’chu has come to mean those corporations and individuals, with their governmental accomplices, which continue to covet Indian lives, land, and resources for private profit. 
Wasi’chu does not describe a race; it describes a state of mind.
Wasi’chu is also a human condition based on inhumanity, racism, and exploitation. It is a sickness, a seemingly incurable and contagious disease which begot the ever advancing society of the West. If we do not control it, this disease will surely be the basis for what may be the last of the continuing wars against all people that believe in a better way! – excerpt from Wasi’chu, The Continuing Indian Wars by Bruce Johansen and Robert Maestas with an introduction by John Redhouse

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Lessons From a 4-Year Old

a medicaid

Please read the following and watch the video in 4 Year-Old Hits Insurance Hurdle. Do any physicians still believe in the Hippocratic Oath they take upon completion of medical school? Our entire system is broken. The dysfunction is not limited to our for-profit private insurance system but also includes those who are already enrolled in Medicaid. With a truly universal health insurance system, there should be comprehensive and continuous coverage.

Unfortunately, as things currently stand and as evidenced by the above example, my staff and I are constantly trying to get Medicaid services reauthorized throughout the year for seniors and the disabled who clearly need health care services at home and were previously eligible for them. The State of Missouri is making it increasingly difficult for service providers to fulfill our obligations to them and to our clients by instituting policies which allow for 30 – 45 (sometimes 60) day lapses in Medicaid coverage.

This means that the State of Missouri, ultimately, does not care whether or not essential services are delivered to those who need them. They leave that decision up to providers who are not guaranteed payment for any services delivered to clients during periods of ineligibility. Some clients are so ill that they are incapable of performing the smallest personal care or homemaking tasks on their own with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy to rheumatoid arthritis to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to congestive heart failure to stroke to dementia, etc.

The current process for acquiring and maintaining eligibility for Medicaid services frequently leads to a form of rationed care and is predicated upon many clients dropping out of the eligibility loop for a certain period of time.


This is how our system should work: Another Personal Experience from Germany

The very day I delivered my son, my father was admitted to the same hospital for blood clots which he developed as a result of his flight from the U.S. to Germany and his chronic lymphatic lymphoma (CLL). He was treated for 10 days (3 in ICU) and received a full regimen of testing and treatment. During the course of his treatment, his physician who had graduated from a German medical school only a few years prior asked pointed questions of us and my father’s physician. She determined that the chemotherapy that he was receiving “should” be working and was puzzled by the fact that his CLL had progressed to the stage it had while under the correct treatment regimen. After a few days, my father said he couldn’t believe how well he felt. Upon discharge, my father said he hadn’t felt that well in years!

My father’s emergency occurred three years prior to my own life-saving surgery in Germany and proved three very important things to me and my family:

  1. When my father was admitted, one of my mother’s chief concerns was if their insurance would pay for it. If so, how much of the final bill would my parents have to cover on their own? After I spoke with a thoroughly lovely accounts representative in the billing department about our situation, I translated her response to my mother who was certain I had misunderstood. Upon my father’s discharge, my mother was sure that I had told her an untruth (she was scared to pick him up) so as not to unsettle her or my father and expected to be confronted with tons of paperwork and a horrific bill. It never happened. My father was discharged with only a $75.00 fee (for administrative costs) and the billing department refused to take my parent’s insurance card and said everything was, “A -O.K.” with smiles. Not only do German physicians take their Hippocratic Oath seriously but so does everyone involved in the system.
  2. Not only that, my father was released with nearly a month’s supply of medication at no cost. He also returned for a final follow-up the day before he flew home so that they could determine if it was safe for him to fly. His physician also gave my parents exact instructions on how my father’s treatment should proceed and sent explicit written recommendations to my father’s physician.  My mother was astounded and in shock. She remains so to this day! Germany does not ration health care for its citizens nor its tourists -whether they pay or not.
  3. In Germany, we discovered that something was wrong with my father’s chemotherapy and it wasn’t the prescribed treatment that was at fault. It wasn’t until 2001 that we discovered what. Robert Courtney. By then it was too late as my father’s cancer had entered into the last stages and there was little to no chance of remission. This taught us that our for-profit system fosters greed at all levels. And greed will always present an obstacle to quality care and the well-being of Americans.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Weed

a Gupta-Pot

If you get the chance, please try and see Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Presents report on Weed. It is eye opening.

Video Clips: see Legalized Marijuana from Weed.

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Lovely in Every Way: Shakira

a shakira

Find out more about one of my favorite artists who has continuously dedicated her energy and wisdom to changing the world. I am sure you will find Raising Our Voices: How We Can Collaborate to Expand Quality Education as inspiring and informative as I have.

Also, take a few moments to learn about her role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF here and here.

Thank you Shakira!


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Film Review: Remote Area Medical

I am still greatly looking forward to seeing this documentary: Film review: Remote Area Medical

Background article on this documentary: What Attending a Free Clinic Can Teach Every American About Health Care

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