Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Open Letter to Representative Mo Brooks

I learned this evening that Representative Mo Brooks has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. What follows is my open letter to him, from one cancer patient to another.

Dear Representative Brooks,

First, I want to wish you all the best. Cancer is an horrific disease that I wish nobody had to endure. I hope and pray that you make a full and prompt recovery from your upcoming surgery, attain ‘No Evidence of Disease’ status, and stay cancer free for many years to come. May all your treatments go smoothly, may your insurance cover every mode of treatment you need, and may you experience minimal complications from this disease so that it disrupts your life as little as possible.

Second—in the spirit of full honesty—I must admit that my first thought upon hearing of your diagnosis was to check that you were in fact the same person who infamously implied that those who “lead good lives” don’t have pre-existing conditions. It seems you are. As such, I hope and pray that your diagnosis helps you understand the experiences of cancer patients across this country.

I’m not here to berate you for past comments nor to ask you for your support of universal healthcare. I simply want to ask you to please, please remember how it feels to get a cancer diagnosis. Remember what it’s like to face the uncertainty of upcoming treatments. Remember that there are millions of people just like you carrying these same leaden worries in the pits of their stomachs—and keep in mind that many of us face added uncertainties and fears about our health insurance and treatment costs as well.

My first two years of cancer treatment each totaled over a million dollars in costs, and while my third year wasn’t quite as intense it still would have been unattainably expensive were I uninsured. Currently my life depends on laws prohibiting annual and lifetime limits for coverage, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and Medicare funding as much as it does on treatment. I don’t take that lightly and I trust you don’t either.

So I beg you to be mindful of your fellow cancer patients as you consider legislative measures affecting healthcare and those who most need it. Please, first do no harm. And if you want to talk to someone who has been through whatever treatment looms before you, just let me know. I’ve been through every kind of cancer treatment out there these last three years, and I’m happy to share my experiences and tips for eating when you do NOT want to if you might find that helpful.

All the best,

Morgan J Bolt

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Fear for our National Monuments

This weekend I learned that there are plans in the works to significantly reduce a couple of national monuments in Utah. Today those plans were officially announced. Bears Ears is slated to be downsized by about 85%, while Grand Staircase Escalante will shrink to just half of its current size.

I’m mildly optimistic that none of this will hold up in court, but it still worries me. My wife and I were just in Grand Staircase Escalante in October, and we drove right around Bears Ears too. We could see the namesake buttes from the road we were on. It was just a little too remote even for us though—at least given our time constraints and the fact that we had just come off four consecutive nights without running water. And that is precisely one of the main points of these monuments. They’re remote. They’re wild.

Exploring a Slot Canyon
While in Grand Staircase we talked about how it was an absolutely incredible place, somewhere you wish everyone could experience, yet it wouldn’t be what it is were it any more developed or busy. While part of us would have liked the washboarded, unpaved roads there to be smoother, we were mostly glad they weren’t. It made the place more remote. Part of us wished for better maps and trailmarkers, making it easier to explore the various slot canyons. But we appreciated them as hidden treasures that much more. Part of us wished there had been better signage leading us to the dinosaur footprints, but as it was we had more of an adventure looking for them and we were the only ones in sight. That’s part of the allure of such places. They’re places you can get truly alone and disconnected from everything else going on in the world, at least for a couple days.

Places like Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears are also religiously significant for indigenous peoples, and anyone who professes to care about freedom of religion really has to care about this too. As it is, I find it deeply ironic that the party touting itself as a champion of religious freedom is leading the backlash against preserving a religiously significant site like Bears Ears, but that’s really another matter for another writer, I think. I can really only suggest reading something written by native people for a better perspective on this entire matter, and a good starting point might be here or here. My only connection to this is that my wife and I were just there a little over a month ago.

Grand Staircase was probably our favorite place we visited on our entire road trip—and that’s competing with Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. It was silent, it was empty, it was peaceful, and it was utterly beautiful. Reducing it by half is a disturbing precedent to set, and I shudder to think what will become of the place if fossil fuel companies have their way.