I tried to find out where this picture comes from and did find it all over the internet, but failed to get to its origination. I love this picture and its message. It has varied abstract meanings. What it says to me is to dare to be what you are and dare to do what you should, whether the status quo does or not. I’m 54 and had started smoking at 11 years old. My father started smoking when he was 9. He smoked four packs of non filter Camel cigarettes a day. I will always remember the sound of his Zippo lighter making, “Kaching” sounds repeatedly. His fingers were brown where he held his constantly lit cigarette. My father worked two full time jobs, one as a manager of the laundry department of a State Hospital and the other as a highly accomplished accordion player in an Italian wedding band. He had a touch of narcolepsy (tested and confirmed), often he would fall asleep with lit cigarettes, long burn strips on the bureau beside his bed, or his cigarette still in his hand, lit, with a two inch strip of ash where the cigarette burned down almost to the nub, in his fingers! And he was still sleeping. We were always knocking the ashes off his cigarettes. No surprise, these days, that he died from Emphysema at 62 years of age in 1995 after 15 years of sickness and disability. As I’ve said in other blogs, I quit twice. In 1996 (year my father died) for 9 years, picking up again in 2004 (year I was diagnosed with this illness), quitting the second time in 2008, smoke free ever since.
Back in his day and my early days, even in the 70’s, it was the norm to smoke. Everywhere you went were ash trays. Non smokers were rare. When you did come across a non smoker who complained about the smoke, they were ostracized terribly. They were outnumbered 100 to 1. It wasn’t unusual to see Doctors working with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. We smoked everywhere, I worked on a locked psych unit as a Mental Health Technician, and behind the nurses station, we smoked. We smoked in grocery stores, in the malls, everywhere. Everyone’s house you went to had ashtrays filled with butts. Even non smokers had ashtrays for their guests.
It was the mid 80’s that there began an inkling of change and a stand against smoking. The first public place I ever saw ban smoking was a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream Parlor in Western Massachusetts. Ben and Jerry’s was new and so was their stand on smoking. I refused to go in, I was so disgusted with this rule. It flew in my face and tried to take away my God given right to smoke! I saw a documentary ten years ago about the iconic Marlboro Man. Marlboro’s were what I smoked. The Marlboro Man was a tough modern day cowboy, handsome with his cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He appeared in every Marlboro ad. Rugged, tough, handsome, every man wanted to be him.
In a documentary, years later about Wayne McLaren (September 12, 1940 – July 22, 1992) who was an American stuntman, model, actor, and rodeo performer and was one of the Marlboro men. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer he became a spokesman against smoking. In the documentary that I saw, he told about how he was supplied with cigarettes, but noted that none of the executives for Marlboro smoked themselves.
So, why all this about smoking, which this blog is not about? Because, it is the same situation. All over the world, in western societies is an epidemic of grand proportions of autoimmune diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Type I Diabetes (which I just learned is also an autoimmune disease), heart disease and a hundred different forms of cancer. I spoke to an Access Calgary Driver from Afghanistan who explained that he spends five months a year in his homeland with his family there. He said, “You never hear anyone say that they know anyone with cancer.” On the subject of dairy, he said, “We do drink cow’s milk, but it is right from the cow that day.” Why couldn’t these diseases be caused by what we eat? Why is this such a strange notion to so many. It makes sense to me.
Well, Ben and Jerry dared to be Batmen, I guess I’m going to choose to be Batman to.