Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the home front. Two stories really jumped out at me this week.

-A Florida man was arrested for bank robbery. He robbed the bank because he was so desperate for health care for a serious problem he wanted to go back to prison where he would be treated by the state. He handed the teller a note explaining that he would give the money back when he was arrested outside the bank. He was tried, convicted and sent to prison.

-Friends and family of James Smith, when arriving at the funeral home for his wake, found him propped up in his favorite armchair in black and gold pajamas, a beer and a pack of cigarettes at his side in front of a large screen TV playing a loop of highlights of his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers football team. "I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steelers blanket in his lap," said Smith's sister Mary-Ann. "It was just like he was at home.

I am endlessly fascinated by the strange and unpredictable twists and turns culture and society in America take.

There is something in these two stories that speaks to a very deep part of the American psyche, American culture and American society.

I wonder if the unfortunate Mr. Smith died from either the cigarettes or beer at his side. I wonder if his wake is only the tip of the iceberg and there is a whole culture of themed wakes and funerals sweeping the country. I am always amazed at how mass movements and tastes develop under my nose and I only find out about them much later.

I wonder what kind of health care the Florida man gets in prison. I wonder how desperate the 40 million uninsured Americans are.