Valley Voices

Catching up with my old friends about pot and politics

Aaron Butterfield gets ready to pour a container full of blueberries coated with milk chocolate into a panning machine for polishing at Kiva Confections, which makes cannabis chocolates and other edibles in Oakland. Columnist Danielle R. Shapazian wonders, do we really need another method of self-medication?
Aaron Butterfield gets ready to pour a container full of blueberries coated with milk chocolate into a panning machine for polishing at Kiva Confections, which makes cannabis chocolates and other edibles in Oakland. Columnist Danielle R. Shapazian wonders, do we really need another method of self-medication? mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Dear John and Jane Q. Public,

The 2016 general election is over, a good time to rekindle our friendship. Pardon me, but I must ask: what does the “Q” in your name stand for?

Recently, I had to take an online course to ensure I knew how to properly address LGBTQ patients. I always knew that LGBT stood for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, but using the “Q” for queer (and/or questioning) was new to me. I have never liked the word “queer.” It doesn’t roll off my tongue easily. But neither does calling myself a cisgender heterosexual.

The take-home lesson from my training? We should not make assumptions as to how an individual identifies himself or herself. One’s gender identity must be viewed separately from one’s sexual orientation.

During a recent trip to Seattle, a friend and I made the trek from downtown to the Capitol Hill section of town in search of a Jimi Hendrix statue. I can’t name one Hendrix song, but I’ll walk a mile for a friend, which is what I did.

We seemed to be walking forever. After stopping two guys to ask for directions, then seeing two women pass us with a baby stroller, I casually commented that the neighborhood appeared friendly to homosexuals.

My friend looked at me as if I had stepped off Mars. My use of the word “homosexual” threw her off. It threw me off too. I usually use the word “lesbian” or “gay.” For some reason, a quaint description fell from the Doris Day part of my brain.

Labels hold weight. They provoke assumption, but never tell the entire story. The use of hashtags – the Dewey Decimal System of the #millennial crowd – compress ideas even further.

In two months, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. In the interim, might we take a break from dividing ourselves into the scratchy labels of Republican or Democrat, red or blue, right or left? Might we move from campaign bickering to productive dialogue?

I went to the ballot box but didn’t vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Yet I wish our next president every success. As a citizen of this great nation, why would I want it any other way? His success is our success.

Does that mean I will agree with his every decision? Absolutely not. But I can choose to show my respect.

How about local politics? I live on a county island within city boundaries, so I was unable to vote for mayor. Fresno is still my town. Lee Brand is on deck.

Have you ever struggled to balance your household budget or fretted over lack of beds for your holiday guests? Extrapolate those challenges to fiscal constraints and homelessness. I hope our new major will be able to accomplish half as much as Mayor Ashley Swearengin did.

As for passage of Measure X? I was hoping we could build more trust between our school district leaders and local taxpayers before dreaming of new ways to spend.

One worrisome outcome: California passed the recreational marijuana initiative. That breaks my heart. Smoking dope might not be the end of the world, but do we really need to grapple with another troublesome method of self-medication?

Excessive alcohol use is a tremendous public health issue that is generally discounted. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that 7 percent of American adults have an alcohol-use disorder. Alarmingly, 3 percent of youths ages 12-17 suffer the same. More than 10 percent of children in the United States live with a parent with an alcohol problem.

Substance-use disorders are widespread and tragic. Now we’re adding legalized marijuana to the mix. No one aspires to be an impaired driver or a pothead. Unfortunately, the afflicted can’t always see themselves in a cracked mirror.

John and Jane, as Thanksgiving approaches, please give my best to the entire Public family. In 2017, a restored Fulton Street should be ready for business. I never advocated for demolition of the mall – and I miss it already. But if a cool, new restaurant opens downtown, I’d love to treat you for dinner.

I’m hopeful: does the “Q” in your name stand for quick-witted or quirky or quizzical?

Did you know that in Seattle some crosswalks are painted as rainbows?

There are times we need to get out of our own way and let the future unfold.

Danielle R. Shapazian is a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno. She can be reached at Danielle.Shapazian@sbcglobal.net.

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