Out and About (Sort of): Tubman Museum Captures Relentless Determination by Howard Freedlander

For 45 minutes I felt transfixed by a museum exhibit focused entirely on a simple, driven black woman who refused to accept the scourge of slavery as an impenetrable part of American life in the mid-19th century. Through guile and gumption, in the 1850s, she helped 70 people flee the Eastern Shore for freedom in the north.

By now, many of us have learned how “Tubman ensconced herself in the anti-slavery networks in Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, where she found respect and the financial support she needed to pursue her private war against slavery on the Eastern Shore,” according to Dr. Kate Clifford Larsen, author of Bound for the Promised Land, a biography about Harriet Tubman.

In her shrewd use of Underground Railroad; this extraordinary woman used disguises; depended on reliable people who hid her; walked, rode horses and used wagons; sailed on boats and rode on trains; used certain songs to mark danger or safety; used letters written for her by others to send to trusted allies as well as personal communication; bribed people; followed rivers coursing their way north; used the stars and other natural means to lead her north and had faith in her instincts and God to support her crusade.

For me, the museum bore similarities to the much larger and more complex United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I’ll explain.

For several minutes, I sat on a bench at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek in Dorchester County. Seated with me was a bronze statue of Harriet Tubman, as I listened to people like the Civil Rights-era icon and United States Congressman, John Lewis, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and others commend Tubman. It was funny, but I kept looking at the statue, engrossed in the moment, moved by the inanimate object on the bench.

Strange emotions can overcome you, unexpectedly.

As I sat on the bench, I remembered visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum, sitting in an unadorned room and listening to the “voices of Auschwitz.” I was equally moved by the power of the moment. I didn’t expect to be so utterly engaged.

The Holocaust Museum chronicles horrendous mental and physical slavery, unprecedented depravity and enormous, senseless death. American slaves died too, often at the hands of their merciless masters, or from malnutrition. Deaths of slaves didn’t matter, except to their families.

The voices that emanated from a small video at the Tubman Visitor Center—and the beautifully designed and somber exhibits– portrayed steel-like courage—and described a person who refused to be shackled by an inhumane system prevalent in our young country. Harriet Tubman set an example with no intention to do so.

Still fixated on the nexus between the slavery that stained our freedom-loving nation and Hitler’s systematic campaign to eradicate Jews, I believe that plantations too were work camps that forcibly and cruelly employed and repressed untold numbers of African-Americans. Life on plantations stilled spirits and deterred dreams.

While plantations may not have had prison-like barbed wire fences, the barriers for escape were invisible and insidious. Those who escaped faced death and persecution. They were considered mere chattel.

Harriet Tubman had incalculable willpower. Once her days as an invaluable conductor for the Underground Railroad ended, she served as a nurse, scout, cook and spy for the Union forces during the Civil War. She even participated with 150 black Union soldiers of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment in the Combahee River operation to destroy several estates owned by leading secessionists and free roughly 750 people. One of the more powerful exhibits captures this dangerous mission.

Living eventually in Auburn, NY, Tubman became involved in suffrage and civil rights activism.

Often an impatient visitor to museums, I found the Tubman visitors center soul-searchingly absorbing. I highly recommend it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Self-Righteous? You Judge by Howard Freedlander

In recent weeks, I read about the reprimand of Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County for ethical misjudgment.

Then, I read about bribery charges brought against former Delegate Michael Vaughn of Prince George’s for actions during his stint in the Maryland General Assembly.

And, of course, I constantly read about ethics concerns raised about President Trump and his business interests.

And, as a former deputy treasurer for Maryland, I recoil with disgust. I question the behavior by some to the obligations of public service. I wonder why good people do stupid things. Just human nature? I guess those two words cover a wide range of misdeeds.

Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County

Delegate Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County

While I certainly don’t ascribe to the frequent refrain that politicians are just crooks—in fact, the comment is patently untrue—I do understand why this conclusion may seem apt in light of disturbing headlines.

I will focus my ire at Del. Morhaim, whom I knew as a serious, conscientious legislator and one of the few medical doctors in the Maryland General Assembly. I worked with him a bit on procurement matters, which typically were remarkable for their dryness and lack of attention paid them by most legislators.

So what did Morhaim do that drew a reprimand by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics? While promoting legislation and then regulations concerning the medical use of marijuana, he signed a consulting contract with one of the vendors seeking a license to sell cannabis in Maryland. He failed to disclose his consulting contract to the very commission responsible for establishing regulations for a new statewide industry.

The ethics committee’s wording, though cumbersome, stated that “his belief that he could keep his role as a legislator, advocating for the implementation of policy and regulations for the use of medical cannabis, separate from his position as a paid consultant for a company seeking to entire the medical cannabis business, reflects poor judgment to the detriment of the broader interests of the public and other government officials who work with legislators, bringing disrepute and dishonor to the General Assembly.”

Morhaim issued a three-page apology. His defense was that while he followed the letter, he failed to follow the spirit of the law He wrote, “I did not recognize the public perception that might be associated by my speaking before the Cannabis Commission on regulatory issues, even if they were detrimental to my client’s interests. For this, I apologize.”

I find his comment lame and unsettling.

What bothers me is Del. Morhaim’s belated recognition that perception is reality, particularly in politics. The appearance of an ethical transgression or poor judgment can be just as destructive as the act itself. That’s a well-known fact.

In my opinion, the responsibility to develop and retain the public’s trust in the conduct of public business supersedes all else. You lose that trust; you lose the opportunity to be an effective public servant. You operate under a cloud. Your peers know if you are ethically flawed. Your constituents eventually discover your fallibility and choose to entrust someone else with their faith.

What bothers me also is the willingness of a public official to delegate common sense to the ethics counsel. Yes, I fully understand that the ethics office exists to counsel and advise. But it shouldn’t provide a cover for questionable behavior. I believe that responsible legislators, whether on the local or state or federal level, instinctively know or sense when an action or decision bumps up against acceptable and trustworthy behavior.

My dictum as a public servant: if in doubt, don’t.

A caveat is necessary. Citizen-legislators as we have in Maryland, as opposed to their full time contemporaries in Congress, face frequent conflicts and conundrums. As a citizen-doctor, Morhaim had pushed hard for 15 years for the medical use of marijuana. He believed in its need, as do others.

Delegate Morhaim, however, crossed the line. He besmirched his excellent reputation. He damaged his credibility.

Further, he propagated an unfair but prevalent image of public officials. Democracy suffers when the public believes the worst.

Perception is a tough, unrelenting judge.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of):Three Days at the Ballpark by Howard Freedlander

My bucket list diminished by one as I spent three days last week with an Oxford friend at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, FL

It was surreal as I chose to do little else but spend several hours every day watching baseball at a spanking new ballpark shared by the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals. For years, I’ve often thought about being a spring training spectator.

And so I did, with great enjoyment and pure delight.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 7.23.15 AMThis ballpark opened on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, one day before our arrival. Surrounded by 12 practice diamonds, six for each team, the 6,500-seat main stadium is the centerpiece of a $150 million venue. I could only marvel at an impressive sports complex established to do one thing: train major- and minor leaguers to perform at the highest level possible in a first-class facility.

Sports dominate our American culture. My three-day immersion in spring training confirmed that commentary. Athleticism and entertainment draw fans galore.

We watched quality baseball played by the Miami Marlins, the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. Despite my Baltimore roots, I’ve grown to like the Nationals, perhaps because a college friend is a principal owner.

One day we had field access before a game and watched batting practice just 10-to-15 feet away. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I watched major league ball players, including stars like Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, smack a little ball around the field and sometimes beyond.

Prior to our field visit, we toured the Nationals offices and fitness center. We were allowed to look but not walk into the locker room. I’ve never seen the off-field facilities of any professional sports team.

What I didn’t see during my three-day excursion to spring training was a relaxed atmosphere, where players would mingle with the fans. That surprised me based on stories I’ve heard over the years. What I didn’t see was idle chatter among the athletes, or even a flash of lackadaisical play.

Young players seeking scarce spots on a major league team are constantly trying to impress their coaches and managers. Veterans, looking over their shoulders at up and coming ballplayers, are trying to keep their jobs. Shoddy performance is discouraged.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.52.24 AM

Bryce Harper

Notwithstanding the smaller size of the building itself—though the size of the field is comparable to Major League parks–the level of the baseball play was highly professional. This would be no surprise; spring training is work for all involved. Opening Day is a month away.

I loved the experience. No longer will I wonder about spring training in sunny Florida. While the crowd had its share of retirees and vacationers, it also drew parents and children eager to enjoy the American pastime, an abundant share of team jerseys and shirts and a prevalence of good feelings.

I noticed something else. Baseball is far more relaxing than pro football; it’s a subtler, more nuanced sport that generates subdued appreciation. Embodying controlled violence, pro football elicits rawer emotions from its spectators than does baseball. Post-game reactions to these two sports are vastly different.

After more than 520 words, I have said little about the wonderful weather. For the most part, it was pleasantly warm, mostly sunny and sometimes cloudy. I almost felt like a long-term snowbird who hears about terrible weather in the north and takes pride in enjoying warm and inviting Florida.

I suspect my bucket list experience will not be one and done. I just may watch the Orioles play next winter in Sarasota, FL–to be true to my roots.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Squirrels Redux by Howard Freedlander

Sometimes in this business of writing weekly columns you’re surprised by reactions, or even the lack of them. Your writing sticks out there in cyberspace, in this case, as fair game for engagement or inattention.

After last week’s column about mischievous squirrels in my Easton neighborhood, I was amazed by the response. A neighbor emailed me with his story, which his wife later amplified. Then, my British friend, who subscribes to The Talbot Spy, wrote me twice about his rodent story.

I’ve learned since the summer of 2014 that columns related to politics and animals draw the most comments, either online or by personal email. Even a phone call once and awhile. Because everyone seems to run across a squirrel or vice versa, these omnipresent animals have created a persona of their own—with stories by frustrated humans in large supply.

So, worthy readers, I feel compelled to bring forward two more stories, one belonging to Homeowner #9, and the other to a gentleman in Dorset, England.

Tara’s public enemy no. one hard at work in Dorset, England

Tara’s public enemy no. one hard at work in Dorset, England

Homeowner #9: This (the column) just reminded me of an incident from about 8 or 9 years ago. Our daughter (perhaps 3 or 4 at the time) was sitting on our living room sofa, facing the fireplace. All day long my wife had heard noises in our chimney. Having long experience with starlings falling down chimneys and coming into buildings, I coached my wife (from my safe distance at work) to put a blanket over the fireplace screen so that when the bird reached the bottom, it would not see daylight, and perhaps would rest for a moment, making it easier to capture and return to the great outdoors. If a bird is still, you can throw a blanket or towel over it, scoop it up, and carry it to the door. Again, I have repeated experience with this from a building with an uncapped chimney where my office was formerly located.

Our toddler daughter walked out to the kitchen, found her mama, and said, rather matter-of-factly,”a little face was peeking out of the fireplace.” My wife came running back, but too late. The squirrel–not a bird–had pushed past the fireplace screen and was on the loose inside the house. The volume of my wife reaction, in retrospect, may have further heightened the furry rodent’s sense of panic in these unfamiliar environs. But she (my wife)) had the presence of mind to close as many interior doors as possible, then propped the front door open. Our tree-dwelling neighbor soon found his (her? My wife didn’t have the opportunity to ascertain) way back into its customary environment.

We have a new chimney cap that, so far, has prevented recurrences of such uninvited visits.

Wife’s turn:

I feel the need to fill in a few more details that my husband didn’t include, since when the incident below took place, he was happily participating in a local meeting…

The incident was actually about 6 years ago, and my daughter (6 at the time) was sitting in the living room reading a book to her little brother (1 and a half). We also had a brand-new-to-us 2-year-old cat in the house.

I sequestered the cat, and my children into the kitchen and stood on the steps, wildly waving my hands to show the squirrel that the front door was open. However, before the squirrel noticed the front door was open, he/she could see shrubs through the glass panes on the top half of our side screen porch door, and in a move somewhat akin to that of the squirrel in the Christmas Tree in “National Lampoons Christmas Vacation,” leapt over and across the dining room table only to splat against the glass. Undeterred, it did a 180-degree turn and ran back towards the living room, but thankfully ran out the front door instead. Slamming the front door shut, I breathed, then found my phone and sent my husband one text message: “It was NOT a bird. It was a SQUIRREL.”

Even my son, who was relatively young, remembers the incident.

My Dorset, England friend: We were amused by your article about squirrels in the Talbot Spy on Tuesday. We are at war with a pesky grey rodent who has been baiting Tara (their dog) by running along the electricity cable suspended above our garden & has now descended to ground level to feast itself on our supposedly squirrel-proof bird feeder.

The squirrel has a head start & has so far outrun Tara to escape up the apple tree, but it is only a matter of time before she makes contact & the rodent loses its tail as did Squirrel Nutkin in Beatrix Potter’s book of the same name.

For the benefit of your readers, perhaps you should mention that Tara is a Jack Russell (I believe that her female counterpart in the US is known as a Jane Russell). She is also known as Tara Longbody as she has a long body & short legs & is built for comfort – not for speed. My wife is going to apply grease to the pole we use to hang the bird food containers – something to do with discouraging squirrels from climbing the greasy pole of life. Much to our irritation, our athletic rodent has this morning been joined by a chum, so word is getting round the squirrel community in Milton on Stour that there are free lunches available chez nous.

As a rather benign columnist, I deliberately have avoided using names. It’s just the custom I have followed, unless I specifically have sought permission to identify my sources.

The squirrels don’t care about their victims’ names or personal histories. They are indiscriminate in their mischief-making.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Editor’s Note: For another look at squirrel battles, please go here

Out and About (Sort of): Hostile Takeover by Squirrels by Howard Freedlander

For years I would hear stories about the annoying damage done by deer to crops and gardens throughout Talbot County. I would listen and then gloat to myself that no such thing could happen in Easton.

While I may be right, we have other destructive animals. Squirrels have asserted themselves in my neighborhood, as I learned during a hearty email exchange among my neighbors. The chatter amused me, but then my life has been unafflicted similarly by the ever-present rodents.

As a local columnist, I was intensely interested in this riveting neighborhood news. I couldn’t ignore it, though it was far from earthshaking, albeit obviously irritating to those feeling the effect of the squirrels’ attack. Our neighborhood was under siege—or so it seemed from the animated email thread.

In deference to my neighbors, I will not identify them by name. Instead, I will refer to them in the innocuous fashion of Homeowner #1, etc. They deserve their privacy in the face of non-discriminating rodents that roam our wonderful neighborhood, unafraid of public censure.

Let’s begin on this exciting journey of in-town inconvenience:

Homeowner #1: Dear friends and neighbors,

I took my car to Hertrich yesterday since a red light warned me that my air bag was malfunctioning. The mechanic showed me that rodents (probably squirrels) had chewed through wiring, which made it seem like there was a malfunction. They also had chewed on covering inside of hood. The mechanic suggested that I put mothballs in recesses of the engine, which I have done. I purchased the kind that come in little packets. It was an expensive lesson- $300 +.
Free moth ball placement lessons upon request!

Homeowner #2 Thanks a lot. Interesting information. However, now, the squirrels will be after our cars. They’ve already eaten through two of our propane hoses to our grill.

Homeowner #3: They chew up our plastic watering cans and hose handles too! And, eat my tomatoes. I have a BB gun, but can’t use it very well, and besides, it would only add a little excitement to the squirrels’ lives, not deter them from their evil activities.

Homeowner #4: I gave up on growing tomatoes. They picked the vines clean.

Homeowner #5: Yikes! I would happily participate in a moth ball placement seminar. They chewed on our phone lines. The one year we grew tomatoes, they would eat half, leave the other half on our mailbox, and would then laugh at us….

Homeowner #6: All I know is that every October when they sit on our finely carved Halloween jack-o-lanterns snacking freely, they are looking me directly in the eye and mocking my very existence. Curse you, squirrels!

Homeowner #7: Hi neighbors, It seems we all have something in common! SQUIRRELS! I actually have quite a few stories similar to what have already been shared … including wires severed, tomato plants being carried away right before my eyes, and the like. But I’ll share the story when a few years back a squirrel/squirrels managed to eat a hole right into the front roof closed-off space above my porch. They were pretty sneaky and quiet at first … then as “love” hit the air, the noisy and wild chasing began. Or maybe I have it wrong, and the screeching, romping and carrying on was fighting for territorial rights. All I knew was it had to STOP! And I needed to fix/shut that little squirrel door! So a live trap was arranged with an open face peanut butter sandwich each day for 13 days … 13 squirrels were carefully caught and given a home far, far away :~)

Homeowner #8: We have had a horrible time with those darn squirrels. There is a picture up at Easton ford because they found the largest squirrel nest they have ever seen. It was under the hood of my car behind the headlight. We drove all the way to Hilton Head with a family of stowaway squirrels. They had pulled old paint rags, twigs, leaves, and newspaper into the engine of my car. Who knew squirrels like to read the newspaper.? Anyway I feel for you ours was also an expensive repair. They are such a nuisance!

Well, folks, you can’t make up these stories, as the saying goes. While we should be happy that deer don’t roam the streets of Easton, squirrels more than punch their weight. My neighbors’ comments can vouch for that.

After reading these squirrelly tales, I suspect my attitude will change toward these ubiquitous rodents. I simply won’t trust them again.

As one neighbor wrote, “They are looking me directly in the eye and mocking my very existence.” Good-humored hyperbole? Maybe not.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Togetherness amid Tragedy by Howard Freedlander

On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, I escaped the pre-game hoopla for a memorial service at American Legion Post #70 in Easton to pay homage to the “Four Chaplains” who died as the U.S.A.T. Dorchester sunk in the frigid North Atlantic waters off the coast of Greenland.

The story about the Four Chaplains, though well known, poignantly underscores cherished values of faith, unity, courage and selflessness. Little wonder that this touching tale continues to resonate.

Carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers, the 5,649-ton vessel, once a luxury coast liner converted into an Army transport ship, the Dorchester was steaming from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. Officers knew that German U-boats were a constant threat; several ships had already been struck and sunk by German torpedoes.

And so that too was the Dorchester’s unfortunate fate.

Hit about 1 a.m. on the starboard side, amid ship, far below the waterline, this packed transport ship took on water, rapidly sinking in less than 20 minutes. The icy seas became a grave for 672 men in the wee hours of Feb. 3, 1943.

Panic consumed the ship as men jumped from the ship into rafts, some capsizing due to overcrowding. Death was a stark reality.

Lt. George L, Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic) and Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed) became heroes by offering prayers, a sense of calm and help for those seeking the safety of lifeboats. They distributed life jackets to men trying to escape a doomed ship.

At this point, the chaplains did something remarkable: they removed their own life jackets and gave them to the men. Then, as the ship went down, the four chaplains linked arms, according to survivors, and offered prayers

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 7.52.56 AMA prayer read in the stillness of the American Legion spoke beautifully about the “unity that transcends all our differences and makes us one in loyalty to our country and our fellow men and to you, our God…may we remain faithful to the spirit of our Four Chaplains who, having learned to live and serve together, in death were not divided.”

This story has many overriding themes, all tied to the best in us. Crises have a way of doing that. Tragedy begets goodness, in most instances.

The four chaplains cared nothing about the religious preferences of the men whom they helped. Differences in liturgy and faith were irrelevant. What did matter to them were their faith in God; their lives belonged to a higher power, one that superseded the calamities and tragedies imposed by war.

Their arms linked in unity on a rapidly sinking ship, Reverend Fox, Rabbi Goode, Father Washington and Reverend Poling exemplified ultimate selflessness and uncommon courage amid chaos and certain death. They remained loyal to each other—and their devotion to the desperate men fighting for their lives on a dark, freezing night.

As the U.S.A.T. Dorchester sank, these four young clergymen raised themselves in the eyes and hearts of the survivors who watched in disbelief and admiration from their lifeboats.

Were this a thankfully short sermon, instead of a weekly column, I would tie the overarching themes of sacrifice, faith, unity and courage to our everyday lives. I would stand on my imaginary soapbox and plead for the application of these enduring values to our body politic.

But I won’t. It’s not necessary. It would seem preachy, maybe even a bit pompous.

The “Four Chaplains” story stands on its own human and spiritual foundation. Its lessons are clear to any of us who believe that goodness and grace mark our lives. In a communal tragedy—such as 9/11—we pull together and amass our collective strength and empathy, at least briefly.

As organized mayhem and tasty nachos awaited me, during our national paean to sports and physical dominance called the Super Bowl, I took a welcome, early afternoon respite to pay tribute to four men who died 74 years ago in the icy North
Atlantic waters during World War II. They were heroes of the highest order.

Their story is a powerful one. Their story touches your soul.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Wary Waiting by Howard Freedlander

Last week I wrote about a Talbot County retiree who’s led an active, working retirement. I only barely alluded to physical problems that plague advancing age. The trick as a senior citizen is not to talk about one’s health status constantly and annoyingly.

Saying that, I spend a lot of time, usually not concentrated but nonetheless time-consuming, in antiseptic medical offices. The chairs and furnishings are equally pleasant and unnoteworthy. The magazines are usually old. The cliché “same old, same old” applies. Boring might be better.

During my retirement, I have become a frequent visitor to at least seven medical offices in Easton and St. Michaels and several others in Queen Anne’s County, Annapolis and Baltimore. I have become a reluctant habitué. No points are given for my loyal service to the medical community.

In most cases, the front-desk folks are courteous and efficient. They even smile every once in awhile. Sometimes they seem overwhelmed by the constant phone calls and the inevitable haranguing with distant insurance companies.

In most cases, the doctors are friendly and solicitous. Heartless, technically sound treatment is not the norm these days. Concern and compassion, expressed quickly and efficiently in accordance with insurance-driven patient count, is a welcomed aspect of medical office visits. The documented evidence that one’s health improves with considerate treatment, is becoming more acceptable to good doctors. Thank goodness.

Bedside manner counts.

Speaking of age–referred to at the outset–I find that my senior status enables me to push doctors and technicians for answers, to be unafraid to ask questions, even stupid ones. This sort of interrogation has another purpose: it’s usually necessary to answer your spouse’s searching questions.

Often this post-visit inquisition is more taxing than the exam.

I feel fortunate, as do others, to live in a town offering excellent medical and convenient care. At the same time, it’s unquestionably advantageous to live so close to world-class medical care and research in Baltimore and Washington. And Annapolis offers top-notch care, too.

I wrote most of this column while sitting in a waiting room; long rest periods (filled by sitting in a comfortable chair tethered to my IPhone) were part of the Cardiolite heart stress test process. It was bearable, but tiresome.

The waiting room is quiet, interrupted by summons for patients to step forward for further tests and phone chatter by the front-desk staff. Time passes slowly. The real world—and food and beverage–awaits me once I’m released from medical prison.

As I drove to the three-hour medical exam, I felt thankful I had the time and medical insurance to attend to my physical challenges (more elegant than “problems”). Note that the prior sentence contained “I” twice and “my” once. That, folks, reflects to some degree on retirement and its inherent invitation to be self-absorbed with medical “issues,” another overused, currently stylish and sometimes empty word.

After I returned home from last week’s visit to a medical emporium, I explained the exam in some detail to my patient wife. I think I did so to ensure myself I could understand and then describe the process. She was interested–until she wasn’t.

I go back to my favorite bugaboo: self-absorption is a terrible thing. It demands effort from the speaker and more so from the semi-interested listener. It can border on the obsessive.

Retirement is a wonderful state of being, particularly if you are healthy and happy. It offers a tableau of opportunities to do for others as well as yourself. It’s good for the soul.

Visits to medical offices are unavoidable, in moderation.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Day 1 -Trump Undone by Howard Freedlander

On my way to writing a different column, I learned again on Day 1 of the Trump Administration that truth is a terrible distraction to the spanking new President. Nothing new, really.

Our new President takes narcissism and insecurity to new heights. If held accountable to facts, he feels insulted and disrespected. The real world is an unpleasant circumstance. Nothing new, really.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, his first full day as leader of the Free World, Mr. Trump disputed the number of attendees at his inauguration the day before, despite visual evidence, and claimed that his feud with the nation’s intelligence community was a creation of the “dishonest” media, despite evidence of his tweets during the transition period damning the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At a January 2017 news conference, he even charged U.S. intelligence officials with conducting a Nazi-like smear against him

What was sorely lacking on Day 1 was even a scintilla of substance.

Instead, our new President appeared before the CIA’s Memorial Wall of heroes and said nothing about the brave people whose names are listed on this hallowed wall. As is his annoying and self-serving custom, Mr. Trump demeaned the audience by citing his war with the media over the number of people who attended his swearing-in. While he expressed strong support of CIA employees—and that was commendable—he failed again to focus entirely on the subject at hand.

It was during his remarks that Mr. Trump ascribed the ill will between him and the intelligence community to the hateful media.

So, what we saw during the Presidential campaign and the tweet-filled transition will be a mind-boggling staple of the Trump reign of power. The “you, “the American people, whom he addressed repeatedly during his inaugural speech, was merely a rhetorical device. His self-preoccupation underscores his being. Nothing new, really.

The first of 1,460 days of occupancy of the White House by the highly-flawed Donald J. Trump was actually an incredible and historic one not only in Washington, DC and throughout the world. The Women’s March the past Saturday illustrated the power of peaceful protest in a strong democracy.
Family members and friends descended on the nation’s Capital to proclaim their objections to Mr. Trump’s documented behavior toward, and comments about women.

Crowds exceeded expectations in Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Juneau, Alaska, London, Paris, Melbourne, Australia and other cities.
Maybe that’s why Mr. Trump was mad. His words and behavior possibly have spurred a movement. That would be ironic. He constantly boasts of the movement that his candidacy spawned.

It’s because I have to accept the truth—that Donald Trump’s boorish behavior, his paper-thin skin, his incessant self-glorification and his alarming lack of personal and intellectual depth will most likely not yield to Presidential growth—that I write this column. It’s human to expect the best.

Some might ask: what did you expect? Some might assert: he never indicated he would change his garish stripes. Some might say: this authenticity is what got him elected. He’s a change agent, some might argue, and you better accept that reality.

Further, some might suggest that I and others should give the billionaire businessman a chance. After all, he just was sworn in. He needs time to adjust to the demands and laser-like scrutiny that accompanies his exalted position.

If past is precedent, our 70-year-old President sees little need to change. He won the election, and that’s all that matters.

I suspect that impeachment will shadow, if not end the presidency of Donald Trump. Bound by his own rules and standards of conduct, he likely will step over the legal and ethical lines. He will find that utter service to himself does not translate into service to his fellow Americans.

Day I brought out the worst in Mr. Trump. We can only hope for the best—whatever that is.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): 90 Days Matter by Howard Freedlander

Some years ago, former Congressman Bob Bauman, a Talbot County resident who once represented the First Congressional District, quipped that the American people were always in trouble when Congress was in session. The sharp-tongued United States representative used self-deprecation to describe democracy and the oft-criticized actions of our 535 federal legislators.

Rep. Bauman used humor to portray himself as a fiscal conservative who might not be as dangerous in budgetary matters as his associates.
I’ve often thought about Bauman’s crowd-pleasing comment when the Maryland General Assembly meets for its annual 90-day session. The 2017 session began last Wednesday, Jan. 11 and adjourns at midnight on Monday, April 10. Then, the 188 state legislators leave their “mischief” and return home.

Having worked with our state legislature for a large part of my career, I view our delegates and senators as public servants seriously conscientious about enacting legislation helpful to their constituents. I well understand that some disagree with me and question the value and motives of our state legislators.

I don’t. In fact, I would urge all citizens to watch what happens in Annapolis for three months.

Why do 90 days matter in our state capital?

Budget decisions affect the money going to our public school system. That’s critically important. New school construction and renovations only happen with state funds.

Non-profit capital projects in Talbot County and the Mid-Shore receive dollars due to the largesse of state legislators and the governor.

Money for new roads and bridges result from budget decisions made in Annapolis.

In this session, the General Assembly will decide whether to fund a study of a third Chesapeake Bay span. That’s unquestionably important decision for those who favor as well oppose expansion.

New rules and regulations concerning environmental matters and the health of the Chesapeake Bay are directly tied to legislative actions.

Funding for Program Open Space affects the preservation of farms and forests on the Eastern Shore.

There are so many issues that I haven’t mentioned, such as law enforcement, economic development, health care, higher education and workplace conditions, that fall under the purview of the Maryland General Assembly.

Does politics, both local, regional and state, play a role in the final products of an often divisive legislative session? Of course it does. It always has and always will. It’s the nature of the process.

Though our national epidemic of political polarization has infected deliberations in Annapolis, I believe it’s a little less pronounced, a little less poisonous. That’s my take, perhaps a bit naively.

We are now in the third year of the Hogan Administration. Typically, the Republicans and Democrats begin to position themselves for the 2018 gubernatorial and legislative elections. At times, deliberations over bills and policies resemble a slugfest.

The political environment will likely become toxic at times. Gov. Hogan will face off against Senate President Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Mike Busch. The public will watch either with interest and glee or despair and disgust.

Your perspective depends on your political bent.

I recommend that citizens closely observe the machinations of our General Assembly. Bills passed and killed all have impact. They matter to individual and interest groups.

This column is not intended to be a clarion call for civic engagement. It’s meant to inform readers that the 90-days session has significant implications for all of us.

Notwithstanding former Congressman Bauman’s admonition, I recommend vigilance—and participation. Even a dash of admiration.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): What’s the Answer? by Howard Freedlander

Four years ago, the son of Dr. Russell Schilling, a primary care physician in Easton, died of a drug overdose.

Within recent months, I noticed an unusually large number of cars parked near Fellows, Helfenbein and Newman Funeral Home in Easton. When I asked one of the employees about who died, thinking it would be someone I might know, I was told a 23-year-old young man had died of a drug overdose. The employee seemed particularly struck by the death of the young man.

A deputy sheriff in a nearby county told me about two heroin overdoses at a county high school.

A longtime state legislator and former educator in Wicomico County, told me this weekend about recent deaths of Salisbury University students from an overdose.

So many friends have a sad story about an untimely death due to drugs. It would be easy to ignore, since these “young people” typically are unknown to me. But I can’t. Our community is suffering. The crisis is overwhelming.

As it has been–and getting worse.

According to a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) report, drug overdose deaths are rising. In Talbot County, overdose deaths have increased in the first three quarters of 2016 by 57 percent in the same time compared with the same time period in 2015. A synthetic opioid, fentanyl, has killed seven in the county, an increase of 83 percent.

The trend is terrifying. While drug and alcohol-related deaths in the state rose 39 percent in 2016 over the same period in 2015, the increase was 63 percent in the Mid-Shore counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Heroin-related overdose deaths rose 43 percent; the increase on the Mid-Shore was 62 percent.

Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble is resolute about addressing this headline-grabbing, heart-rending crisis. I watched him listen mostly and talk little when approached by recovering addicts after a community recovery service a few months ago at Christ Church, Easton. One man was expressing pride in his sobriety. Sheriff Gamble, who’s probably heard scores of stories from recovering addicts who fell back into the abyss of drug abuse, encouraged the young man, simply by listening in a non-judgmental way.

After Matt Schilling died, his father, a well-respected family doctor and my physician, talked compassionately about his son during one of my periodic exams. It was my turn to listen.
I heard a father, not a doctor, talk about his son Matt’s downward journey into drug abuse. He tried mightily to help his son combat this scourge. His love for his son never wavered during Matt’s self-destructive decline.

A recent New York Times article related several stories about addicts. The disease affects all socioeconomic levels. It spares no one.

One young lady from a well-to-do family in a Boston, Mass. suburb was an honors student who developed anorexia. She then embraced alcohol. By age 21, she was addicted to heroin. At age 24, alive despite overdosing five times, she checked herself into detox—on her own self-volition—to reclaim her wrecked life.

A 30-year-old man in central Utah raised in a Mormon family struggled with a heroin addiction in Salt Lake City. He returned to his High Desert community in 2013, only to discover that drugs were as available as they were in the city. After 11 years of addiction and rehab, jail and relapse, he has been sober for more than 300 days. He takes a naltrexone pill on a daily basis, brought to him every day by his mother.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), naloxone is another opioid-fighting drug.

Some think that over-prescription of pain pills is a principal cause of the opioid epidemic. It seems a common refrain. Sheriff Gamble believes that addiction begins with early drinking, progresses into daily marijuana use in high school, gradually moves into prescription opiates and graduates into heroin.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs is a common outlet for young and old alike. Humans self-medicate to cope with physical injury, mental distress and insecurity. Some folks eat to excess. Some work to extremes.

Use of opiates, be they prescriptions or heroin, is deadly, as noted earlier in this column. Parents, professionals, law enforcement, the clergy and the court system are on the front lines.

The battle is fought in every corner of our country. Success is hard to achieve.

I have no answers. It would be too easy to blame parents. Though I know that many family units are dysfunctional, unleashing demons in children, I believe, as do many, that the journey to a drug-free life begins with hard-earned self-motivation.

As it did with the young suburban Boston woman who was arrested in 2015 for prostitution. She needed the money to fuel her habit. After one more failed detoxification, she checked herself in on her own.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.