Friday, May 1, 2015

I'm Gonna Ride On

How we deal with death is at least as
important as how we deal with life.
Maturing and becoming an author with aspirations towards it being a full time gig has really changed
out how interact with folks online, especially social media.  It used to be that I was always up for a good debate.  But not everyone understand that a debate is vastly different from yelling, “You’re wrong!  You’re wrong!  You’re wrong!”  As a consequence, I’ve grown more circumspect in how I approach topics of strong emotion.

But not always.  Not every day.

Today, for example, a buddy of mine posted up a comment equating freedom of choice to his decision not to wear a helmet when he bikes.  His bike doesn't have an engine, and neither does mine, but I still wear a helmet every time I go out.  I don’t even know if it’s the law around here, but my perspective on this particular choice doesn't take that into account.

Now, I don't fault my friend his choice.  Not at all.  I disagree with him (and he with me) on a lot of issues, but I have a great deal of respect for the man.  But it occurred to me that wearing a helmet isn't a personal choice at all.

Let me offer a bit of perspective here on how I arrived at this conclusion.  Way back in 1997, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a nasty version of IBS that causes the intestinal tract to inflame and potentially cause partial or full restriction.  The result of this is, at the outset, incredibly painful cramps, and can, if untreated, lead to a rupture.  That is, as they say in the medical field, like being nuked from orbit.  There is no cure for Crohn’s and most patients end up in the hospital at one point or another, some of us get to have surgery—bowel retraction.  That’s a fancy way of saying they cut out a chunk or your intestine.  In my case, I lost a foot or large and a foot of small intestine and I now get to live in a state of constant, but generally low-level, pain.  It also means I’m on medication and under the care of a couple of doctors for the rest of my life.
Melt your face off—WITH PAIN!

I could, of course, say “Eff off, bro!” and not take my meds (which can have some fun side-effects) and not go to my medical appointments, and not be probed liked a cow on an alien mother ship once a year.

What does that have to do with bike helmets?  The same logic applies.

Unless you're a hermit that lives in a cave, if you go down and are injured or killed because you weren’t wearing a helmet that impacts every person around you. Worse, if you're in a vegetative state don't you leave your friends and family in a medical limbo of horrible choices—maintain your body on life support indefinitely to increasing medical costs, or make the hard, hard, hard decision to terminate your life? Thankfully, in my 40-mphlmrphl years, I haven't ever had to make that kind of decision. But I assume, for those who have that kind of choice has a deep, resounding and guilt-ridden repercussions, yes? You and yours may forever question whether or not they made the right decision.

It would seem like your choice to wear a helmet and my choice to follow my doctor’s recommendations are personal choices.  Your head and my gut are owned by no one else.  On the face of it, that’s true.  Your body, your rules.  Unless you’re a woman who wants to take control of her own reproductive system in the United Sates . . . but I digress.

Me, personally, I have family and (supposedly) friends.  I have a wife and three beautiful little boys.
If you bleed, you should wear a helmet!
  In short, I have responsibility.  My life is not wholly my own, and I’m thankful for that.  It would be a very boring existence otherwise.  But if I want to claim that I care about and love any or all of my friends and family, then I need to do the things my doctors tell me in order to stay upright, reasonably health, and long-lived while still suffering my condition.

What about you?  Do you still think it’s a groovy expression of independence and “stickin’ it to the Man”?  Do you really feel that not doing the very least in safety is somehow making you a stronger, better, and more righteous dude?

It seems wholly irresponsible, not to mention fashion-backwards, to make this about "personal choice" when the impact goes way beyond the individual.

Also, there's this helmet you could be wearing!

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