A week ago I got my shiny new glucometer and a lesson from the Kaiser dietician on how to use it after getting my shiny new diabetes diagnosis a few weeks earlier. I’ve been on a collision course with diabetes for several years. Then I found a possible change of course this past year, learning and embracing plant-based eating. I was eating better AND I upped my walking exercise by a lot. After several months I’d lost 18 pounds and was almost into a normal blood sugar range.
Then, in April, out of the blue my polio-weakened left leg suddenly got a lot weaker. Baffled, I consulted my doctor and a couple of physical therapists. Consensus was I’d injured the peroneal nerve (already in bad shape from years of pressure from a leg brace) by all the walking I’d been doing. They said if I gave it a rest for six to eight months, it might recover. I walked less. I started snacking more (not part of the plan). Instead of one date and a tiny handful of nuts, I’d eat maybe 5 dates and a big handful (or two) of nuts. Several times a day. Very gradually the pounds re-appeared in my belly region. Uh-oh I thought. This can’t be good. And sure enough, the end of October my HgbA1c had reached 6.5, the magic number which western medicine calls Diabetes. The imbalance was clear. Too much food, perhaps also of the wrong kind, and too little exercise.
I doubled down. Eliminated cheese and eggs. Found ways to get around my exercise limitations.
A month later, I stabbed my finger with the lancet (newsflash!! the latest technology means this is not nearly as painful as it used to be), and put the test strip into my brand new glucometer. Lo and behold, my fasting blood sugar was 99! TOTALLY NORMAL! Man! I couldn’t stop smiling all day. Ten months of hard work, and a victory as sweet as that of any gold-winning marathon runner. I kvelled (yiddish for swelling with pride). I pumped my arms like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. I was pleased as punch. You name the cliche. I was it.
But then the next morning in the moment between sleep and wakefulness, a nightmare thought arrived like a sucker punch.
Before I tell you what it was, I first need to tell you I have never been arrested. I’m good with that. I marched in my fair share of civil rights and anti-war demonstrations in the 60s and 70s. I almost had my head cracked open by a police officer’s baton which shattered the wooden stick of my picket sign inches above my head. But I wasn’t arrested. At 26, I went to Cuba for a year, broadcast for Radio Havana and Radio Hanoi’s Voice of Vietnam. I considered the possibility that I might be arrested on return to the United States, even the possibility of execution (like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg) for our actions. At JFK, immigration borrowed Lincoln’s passport for half an hour while we waited, but the guy inspecting our bags didn’t seem to care about the two bottles of North Korean ginseng wine, another two from North Vietnam and two bottles of lovely Cuban rum from… yeah, Cuba. Plus pictures of Che and all manner of solidarity trinkets. The guy checking our bags was like, wow, all this stuff, so cool. The passport was returned. We left JFK with our 6 bottles of forbidden alcohol and trinkets intact. No arrest.
I guess you could say I’ve been lucky. Some of it dumb luck. So many people, especially people of color have gone to prison for SO MUCH LESS. Or like Muslims held indefinitely in secret prisons without charges, perhaps tortured without access to legal help or family, totally innocent. Maybe not all of them. But you know a lot were, because they were scooped up in a wide net, or because of racial/ethnic/religious profiling. Or refugees, held in detention camps that look strangely prison-like for months or years.
Also on my mind has been the House Un-American Activities Committee from the 1950s, which destroyed lives for purely evil political intent.
So, last week. The morning after I had all that happiness for having achieved a normal blood sugar, I woke to this visiting thought.
Shit. I could get arrested by a Trump regime.
Immediately I saw the impact of being sent to prison. It would be the end of my plant-based approach to not having a chronic, debilitating, life-threatening illness. It wasn’t hard to imagine the kind of food I’d be served in prison. It would be similar to (or maybe a little worse than) what we serve kids (with their now high rates of Type 2 diabetes) in public schools. My sugar would be out of control within a month. I’d be sick and medication dependent.
I had been so happy about reversing my diabetes with a healthy diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, tofu, seeds, whole grains. It is an entirely do-able change to make. But it’s only a do-able change if you have the freedom to choose. There is an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in our country. Not everyone who is free chooses to change their diet and reverse their disease, but at least they have the choice.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about Trump and his cabal on Facebook. Thankfully I haven’t been trolled by Trump supporters for being one of many things they hate — liberals, women, Jews, a critic of Trump. In any case, I have decided that silence is not something I can afford. The Germans who “afforded” it in the 1930s helped the Holocaust to happen. I won’t be part of something like that. I promise you.
We have SO MUCH work to do. Our first clear task is to keep Trump from his hostile takeover. I hope you will be joining me in working to avert this nightmare scenario. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we can be victorious, especially in the realms where our personal and political lives are not separate.
I went to hear Rebecca Solnit speak a few nights ago. She spoke of the importance of the personal and political. She said “It’s not about what will happen; it’s about what we will make happen.” This is the position I am adopting.
As long as I have the freedom to choose, I’m choosing the healthiest possible path for my body and my country. As Rebecca Solnit wrote: “Assume nothing. Do your best. Don’t give up before it’s over.” It’s political and personal! WE CAN DO THIS!