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  • Reverend James Squire

The Debate Between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz




One of the pivotal points influencing my life is my father’s stroke when I was in tenth grade. You know that because I write about it so much. I approached the debate between Fetterman and Oz with some degree of fear and trepidation. Although strokes occur with a different degree of severity, there are some things that are universal.


One of the things that happens to a stroke victim is the inability to process information and to respond to others in an articulate fashion. Fetterman could have read the phone book, and I would have pronounced that he won because I have an existential experience of that illness that changed my life. You could only read my father’s writing in his early days with his stroke by holding his words to a mirror where they made sense. You and I couldn’t do it. It’s referred to as mirror writing. It shows the complex nature of what it is like to have a stroke before hospital intervention. My father never went to a hospital or rehab. That was a foreign approach in my blue-collar world. Doctor Hargraves just came to the house with his little black bag of everything necessary for any illness.


It took one year for him to physically drag one leg behind him to work as a meatcutter. His goal was to get physically stronger which he did by sweat producing workouts. It took longer for his mental acuity to advance. It never did reach the level that he had pre stroke. He never wrote another simple note to someone. Whenever someone comments on my high tolerance for pain, I think of him, smile, and keep moving on.


The debate was difficult for me to watch. It was unfair. I know where that feeling has its origin. If people whose friends or relatives have had a stroke, I believe that they would have seen the debate in the same way I did. You see stroke victims cannot tell a lie because it is so difficult for them to find the language to express their ideas in the first place. It makes them feel lost and stumbling in their use of language.


What I saw last night was Fetterman doing what I saw my dad do. He took more time than usual because he wanted to get it right. His responses were simple and one dimensional, but they were the truth.


Mehmet Oz was a slick as he was in creating his wealth by being a TV snake oil salesman. His responses which never directly addressed the questions asked always included a final part of his response that would turn on what Fetterman, not him, was doing or not doing about the issue presented. He was slick. Although it is clear that Oz made one crucial mistake that pointed to a truth he was avoiding. He said that in his view of women seeking an abortion would check with “their doctor and with their local politician” before getting an abortion. WHAT? I prefer to be with people in politics who have gone through something. Fetterman’s life has demonstrated his commitment to helping others particularly the common man and woman. Oz has looked for terrain where he could achieve another level of success in another field. He also acted as a Trump want to be by running over in his answers in a cavalier fashion and not paying attention to the rules of the debate.


The important question is why does Mehmet Oz seek a senate seat in Pennsylvania. I think that it is something caused by the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.” People wonder why someone would want to go through a campaign and be a senator when he has more wealth than one could imagine and homes galore all over the world coupled with a healthy family. Isn’t that the American dream? I think not for Oz. People may think that I would like to spend time on a south sea island with a paperback book in my hand. That would be hell for me!


There have been many studies about the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation” that have been done by many including Dr. Sanjiv Chopra at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Martin Seligman at Penn. It is a concept that refers to people’s general tendency to return to the same level of happiness as they had before such experiences as winning the lottery or being paralyzed in an automobile accident. The “treadmill” is important for our survival as human beings where 50% of our happiness is based on genetics and 50% is determined by our will.


There are three levels to consider in the research on happiness. The first level is pure pleasure like what is seen in Hollywood. The second level is engagement when we feel we are connected to others. The third level is doing good for others without any strings attached where you will get something in return. THIS THIRD LEVEL IS WHAT OFTEN IS NOT REACHED. I believe that Oz has made it to the second level and feels empty and there must be more. He may be bored. He is “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Fetterman has been living out level three for most of his life. Oz has been a surgeon and famous TV personality, but that has not been without strings attached with the motivation to only help another? Hence, he has made a fortune with the string of fame and money as reciprocal in his life. He has gotten fame and fortune, but finds himself not fulfilled. His life has been one of transactions where I will do this for you if you will do something for me.


I have written recently about my excitement about the Phillies winning the National League title. I am viewing the games with a different lens and memory than others. After my father’s stroke, the only activity that he could engage in without highlighting his limitations was to have his small transistor radio glued to his ear listening to the Phillies games. I don’t think he missed a one. I had no interest in following them.


However, one day i decided to take him to a Phillies game. I parked as close to the entrance as I could and told him to wait until I returned. It was a challenge to get to the upper level, the cheap seats, but he had a new quickness and energy to his steps. Something good happened on a play by the Phillies. Everyone around us stood and clapped and shouted as though there was no tomorrow. He stood with the cheering crowd. He forgot his limitations. His stroke caused him to clap in a spastic manner with his hands missing one another. He cheered at the top of his lungs. He forgot who he was and his limitations. He always supported me asking nothing in return. He was a level three guy. I still cannot write about that moment where he was totally free without choking up. I know that nothing that money could buy could make him happier than he was in that moment in time.


On the way home he never talked about it and I didn’t either. When asked by my family how it went, I simply said, “We had a great time!” To say otherwise would have made it a less sacred moment! I don’t know if they have accommodations for transistor radios in heaven for the World Series, but I know someone who would be listening.

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