Apology to Voices of Central Pennsylvania

Apologies should be short and to the point. Sadly, my won’t be. There are times when anger gets the better of me.

Anger is never useful. I see a future where my teeth will fall out because of neglect and radiation treatment. My course in life did not lead me to money. “The difference between the rich and poor,” an apocryphal comment attributed to Ernest Hemingway, was his response to F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Yes, they have more money.”

Twenty five percent of adults age 65 and older have no teeth. The number of dentists graduating is less than those retiring. The countless (a word deliberately used) figure of children suffering from dental pain con not be calculated.

The founders of Voices believed in a progressive America. I have no cause for fingering you for contributions for my rotten teeth. My rotten teeth are among other things a casualty of my generation, the largest, best educated (if money spent on education is a reasonable yardstick) in U.S. and indeed world history.

My generation supported our parents in their old age. I remember the day my stroke-ridden father entered the Miami Home for the Aged and the day with the help of my toddler daughter and my former wife took the long drive we could little afford to Florida to clear out his papers. At the Home, four-year old Joanna was intrigued by the cups next to the water fountain. She filled each cup and handed them to the residents. A long line ensued. One resident asked, “Why is there such a long line for water?” Before he could receive an answer, Joanna handed him a cup. He cried. “It has been decades since I saw a child so young.”

Later, when I was a paraplegic, I begged my mother in North Carolina to give me and my sister the power of attorney that made it possible for her to leave the hell hole to which a physician with too many credentials and too little sense had her committed. She was able, as a consequence, to die 10 years later in a facility that would put Center Crest to shame.

With two young children to support, I did everything I could to pay the mortgage and put bread on the table. On one sad occasion, I even worked briefly for the liquor lobby in Washington, for a company in North Carolina which went bankrupt because it did not believe in the Internet. I worked in the Silicon Valley of California writing documentation for start-up companies which had no software to sell. I did what I could.

Pension plans, in such instances were a joke for which I paid excessive penalties to support two generations. Now, I live on my monthly social security check which arrives too late and lasts not nearly long enough.


Today, it is the rich who can afford to fix their teeth.

The term “income inequality” seems a joke to me coming from the mouth of a President I had hoped would be a progressive, but whose leadership is sadly lacking.

The most recent news–not really news given the way the media cycle turns–is that Obama has abandoned the last shred of dignity to those Americans whose insurance policies do not meet the minimal requirements of his own paltry Affordable Act minimum requirements.

The excuse is that the President is concerned that when midterm elections take place, holders of substandard policies will take revenge on Democratic members of Congress too [expletive deleted] to stand up for what is right.

I would be remiss in NOT denouncing the cuts in Medicare durable medical equipment which the President (I am told from the Oval Office) decided are a luxury those of us on mobility devices, such as the one on which I am sitting. Most appalling are cuts in home medical oxygen which make residents prisoners in their own homes unable to exercise their Constitutional right to travel to other states.


The difference between the wealthy and the poor is that the wealthy can afford care and the poor cannot.

The only credible answer is universal, socialized medicine for all residents in the U.S.

Consider, for example, the President’s limp refusal to denounce the Supreme Court decision which would have mandated equality between Medicare and Medicaid and the consequences it has had in this once progressive Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In keeping with this conclusion, in less than ten years dental coverage must be available to everyone who lives in the U.S. It may be too late for me. Recognizing that the pain I will have to endure I will have to endure with grace, but I have had to learn harder lessons in my life.

That socialized medicine and socialized medical care will come in my lifetime is clear. My Baby Boom generation will insist on it and vote into office someone who understands and who will use the bully pulpit to convince dentists and primary care physicians to go to school.


The understanding required is that Baby Boomers have talent the country cannot afford to waste. We cannot afford to waste it on unnecessary pain, on infections that can be prevented, on medical procedures that will restore us to productivity.

The sin we face is that the elderly and disabled DO have the talent, when judiciously developed, to achieve the productivity to develop the wealth required to rid America of its economic distress.


I am angry. Anger is a crippler.

My hero Martin Luther King, Jr. preached the virtue of love. “You can bomb our homes and spit on our children,” he said “and we will still love you.”  I have not yet learned to integrate love into the daily problems that confront me.

Please forgive me Voices.

–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2014 by Joel Solkoff. All right reserved.












4 replies on “Apology to Voices of Central Pennsylvania”

I’m done with love, and I mourn its passing. Love is for people with money. Try keeping your friends and family close without money. You can’t. Not these days. Not by today’s values. You certainly can’t have a home or a car or a wardrobe without money. You can’t keep a marriage afloat. You can’t sustain any healthy relationship, nor a healthy body. Without money, you can’t even have a pet — a thing you must feed every day by spending MONEY. So money is all, and everything else is bullshit, just added-on niceties, features of the good life that only money might allow. This isn’t how I wanted it, but somebody must have wanted it this way (people with money), because this is what life is in 21st-century America. I can’t fight it. It’s too big for me.

Oh, I remember a time when I did have money. Not a lot of money, but enough that I didn’t lie awake nights worried about paying the rent. Thoughts of love, or at least the potential for love, came easier then. Love seemed a more natural and universally attainable condition, almost a default state we could take for granted. No longer. As vulgar as this may sound, the fact is that love costs money. Which is why I am done with love. Like reliable transportation in my driveway, or fresh bread and salad each day in my kitchen, or dental care when I need it, love is a luxury; and I have been priced out of its market.

Joel, you have blown me away with your passion and your argument. What you wrote was so true, no one can argue with it. You have spoken for so many of us. some of us are so fortunate, while others are not through no fault of their own. How can I put a “like” on the facebook page when I don’t like what you have said, even if you had to say it? but i do “like” that you speak for us.


I can’t speak for others, but I knew where you were coming from, because I live there too.

I enjoyed your writing, as I always do – but, I don’t think you are focusing and targeting your message as well as you could, or should, and i doubt that if I were to explain my perspective, that you would get what I was saying, and pretty strongly doubt you would be able to use the ideas if you did get them.

At some point we will run into each other and talk, and I will fill you in on some backstory. This is a tough tough town, you know, the beast on the hill takes frequent sacrifices, victims first humiliated, then slowly crushed in public display. Everything here reeks of fear, if you know how to smell. You can see all eyes watching everyone else, looking for signs of the prisoner’s dilemma endgame, if you know how to look. And not everyone who looks like they have money does.

I’ve known some significant number of millionaires who are living at the limit of their means, skating the thinnest edge of cash flow, because not to put on the display would mean their scalps. Ironic, i always thought. (significant = more than ten, less than a gross.)


Now, the interesting question is: Now that you are entering a new stage of the Enlightenment of Poverty, and perfecting the practice of Asceticism of the Dismissed – what will you do with this new freedom? How will you touch the dismissing?

You need a better plan. And – maybe the dismissed need a better platform.

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