What the Hell, Dr. Phil???

My mom told me I should watch The Dr. Phil Show when it first came on the air, and I have been a faithful viewer ever since.  In fact, I often use Dr. Philisms when I write and speak, with my favorite and most used one being “When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.”  When Libby (my cat) and I took our cross-country trip in 2018, I was excited to go to the show in LA, where I sat about ten feet away from Dr. Phil’s wife Robin during the taping of two separate episodes.  The studio has flat screen TV’s on the knee walls between sections of the audience, and I found myself watching the show on the TV in front of me instead of looking up at the stage where the show actually was.  It was surreal.  I’ve enjoyed watching him because he usually dispenses common-sense advice (given that common sense isn’t so common anymore) to people willing to air their dysfunctional lives and families on national television.

Dr. Phil has mostly managed to keep his political opinions and affiliation separate from the show, as he should.  Honestly, knowing for sure that he’s a died-in-the-wool Republican who supports Trump will forever taint my view of him and make it harder for me to see past that knowledge.  Yesterday, Dr. Phil went on Fox ‘News’ and said things that force me to re-evaluate my high opinion of this man from Texas.

Here’s the rub, though.  If Dr. Phil, a 69-year-old male and a known diabetic who is a member of the demographic group most at risk of a fatal outcome from Covid-19, really believes that he’s being harmed by sheltering in his 5-bedroom, 6-bath, 6,170 square-foot home with an in-ground pool, more art than the Met, an entire wall of guns on a half-acre of property (my house is on more than an acre), then he should walk outside and mingle with the little people out in the rest of the world, sans PPE.

Phil McGraw is a psychologist, and, although given the title of ‘doctor’, he is not a physician.  Psychologists do have to obtain a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s and doctoral programs, which Wikipedia shows Phil did, graduating in 1979, but he is not a medical doctor.  In fact, he is no longer a licensed psychologist, having voluntarily surrendered his Texas license to practice in 2006.  He has not hidden his unlicensed status from his viewers, and most of the guests on the show are offered actual mental health services with licensed personnel throughout the country paid for by the show.

His “I’m just an old Texas boy” character is a big part of his appeal, at least for me, and his show has occasionally aired subjects that seemed to reflect a right-wing perspective.  He doesn’t hesitate to let us know that he’s a Christian, although I would prefer he keep his personal faith, well, personal.  To those of us who have recovered from religion, there is no benefit to his talking about how he’s got a personal savior in Jesus.  In fact, I find it offensive when celebrities like Phil McGraw think we care one way or the other about their religious choices. If he doesn’t want to hear about my atheism, then he shouldn’t tell me about his god.

All those things were of no significance to my devotion to his show.  My DVR has been set to record every new episode for years – in fact, it’s the first show on my list – and I’ve watched them all, usually the same day they air.  It’s been frustrating during this pandemic, because the Philadelphia station that carries his syndicated show has been pre-empting portions for local Covid-19 news conferences, so his filmed-from-his-house shows haven’t been available in their entirety.  I find myself distracted by the stuff in the room behind him (what is that red thing in the corner of the counter over his shoulder???) and keep wondering how much countertop you have when you can cover so much counter with stuff.  Then I think about how much time someone has to spend dusting all the stuff in the kitchen alone.  Having seen photos of his eclectically decorated home, I also question his insistence that Robin is keeping that house clean.  There’s no way in hell that Robin is the one cleaning that stuff – she’d never have the time to do anything else, and would never be able to leave the house.  My mom used to tell me the way you know that a house is more than you can afford is when the first thing you think about is how long it will take you to keep it clean!  Those with money don’t have to worry about cleaning – they just pay someone else to do the work for them.  It must be nice.

Yesterday Dr. Phil revealed both his political ideology and his ignorance, two things that now force me to reconsider my devotion to his show.  I saw a clip of his Fox appearance on MSNBC last night, and today my daughter Anna made sure I didn’t miss him making an ass of himself.  At first, I tried to convince myself that maybe it was from a few months ago, before the fecal matter hit the air-moving device, but reality’s a bitch, so I was forced to acknowledge that Phil has revealed a part of himself by both appearing on Fox ‘News’ in the first place and then saying things that clearly have nothing to do with anything as it regards this highly contagious virus we are trying to keep from killing hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.

For someone who purports to be wise and knowledgeable, his comparison of the Covid-19 pandemic to pool drownings, cancer or car accidents was beyond dangerous.  I’m not sure how Phil concluded that the loss of life from Covid-19, which has taken more than 33,000 Americans to date, can be equated to those lost by non-contagious illness and accident.  Surely, even though he never went to medical school, Phil McGraw can intellectually understand that a highly contagious virus with a significant mortality rate (especially among older men with comorbidities) that has no effective treatment or vaccine cannot be allowed to just spread unchecked throughout the population, overwhelming the healthcare system and leading to even more deaths because of a lack of ventilators and ICU beds in the interest of getting back to business as usual, right?  RIGHT?

The financial problems facing the citizens of this country could be addressed by a functional federal government led by a president who gives a damn about someone other than himself. Instead of pointing out how destructive this ‘lockdown’ is on people’s mental health and finances, maybe Dr. Phil could have pointed out how the Trump administration is failing to help out the neediest among us while they give more tax breaks to people in his own income bracket. Or maybe he could use his significant wealth and platform to help those most in need, instead of giving Trump’s state tv another sound bite to support their anti-science platform. Even better, he could use his private plane to fly around the world, gathering PPE for the healthcare workers on the front lines and flying it back to the US for distribution.

Phil McGraw is not a doctor – he’s a retired psychologist without any relevant experience or knowledge about infectious diseases – and he has overstepped his bounds with this Fox appearance.  Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one, and they should keep both of them out of the public eye!  Phil can be unhappy about the situation in which we now find ourselves, but he should not be publicizing his opinions in this atmosphere of political polarization and the demonization of experts.  His appearance last night on Fox has revealed that Phil McGraw’s common sense isn’t so common anymore.  So go on out, Dr. Phil.  Walk amongst the unclean, go to a homeless shelter or maybe an ICU full of Covid-19 patients, and breathe in the air, unmasked.  Then go back home and share what you’ve acquired without washing your hands or changing your clothes with your wife, your sons, and your grandchildren. Which one of them will you sacrifice to restart the economy?  If you’re unwilling to offer up one of your own on the altar of capitalism, shut the fuck up about getting everyone else back to work.  You’ve lost a devoted fan by revealing your callous disregard for your fellow citizens. 

I suspect I’m not alone.

When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.

My Covid-19 Distraction

In 1984, we moved from a 3-bedroom row home in southwest Philadelphia into a 4-bedroom single home in South Jersey, and I thought that there was no way I would ever have enough stuff to fill all the square footage we’d acquired.  Apparently, I didn’t know how much crap I would eventually manage to squeeze into my house over 36 years.

My 6’ x 11’ laundry room seemed small even back in 1984, when laundry appliances were nowhere near the size of the new ones now.  When I had to replace my washer and dryer, I found that the larger ones wouldn’t fit along the six foot wall where the previous ones had been, requiring me to relocate the plumbing for the washer and the sink.  I found that the subfloor under the old washer had essentially disintegrated – I assume from a washer leaking on it – requiring that a portion of the subfloor be replaced before I was able to install a new tile floor.  The renovation took a week, and I think I started to develop claustrophobia while I was doing the work! 

I had to add lots of wire shelving around the walls in the laundry room, because the Rubbermaid closet I’d previously used to store stuff in there was way too big to fit with the new appliances.  I did get a smaller Rubbermaid cabinet that I put in the laundry room, thinking it would be manageable even though it was really too big for the space I had to work with, and I’ve tried unsuccessfully for all these years to declutter the top of it while arranging things inside it.  Last week, I decided that the Covid-19 quarantine was the time to finally and for real tackle the mess that was my laundry room.

Since then, I’ve been amazed at the amount of stuff I managed to shoehorn into that 66 square foot space – and mortified by how much of it I should have gotten out of there years ago!  I remembered why I kept procrastinating about organizing everything I keep in there, but I was determined that this time, no matter what, I was going to finally finish putting everything I had to keep in there in a designated place to help me keep it organized in the future. 

Now it’s almost finished.  I have several boxes of assorted cleaners, insect repellants/attractants, bird feeders and other miscellaneous crap that are being relocated down the basement.  I’m sure that I could probably give away or toss most of that stuff, but not yet.  When I was telling my daughter Anna a few days ago about the facemasks I’m making out of assorted items I have around the house, she actually admitted that my house is a great place to be if there’s an apocalypse!  Covid-19 isn’t exactly the end of the world, but it has made me glad that I take after my grandmother, who also didn’t like to throw out things that were still good. 

Anna has told her friends that I’m a pre-hoarder, but I disagree.  I have no interest in collecting other people’s discards, nor do I see any value in saving trash or other useless, unsanitary items.  When my kids were younger, my house was clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy (to quote a cross-stitch I have hanging in my house!), but that was when there were others here to help with the cleaning, yardwork and general upkeep.  In the years that I’ve been the only one here in this giant house on more than an acre of ground, I’ve had to focus on some things while ignoring others.  My kitchen table becomes a workspace for doing projects, my computer desk, and my place for meals.  It means that I’m the only one who can sit here and eat, but that’s okay since I live here alone (except for Libby my cat and Frankie my bird, neither of whom sit at a table to eat!).  Maybe now that the laundry room is organized, I’ll be inspired to carry it on through other rooms – if I can find the time, now that spring has sprung and the grass is growing. 

I have to get rolling now – the birdcage needs cleaning, and without opposable thumbs, Frankie is of no help – and those boxes from the laundry room aren’t going to take themselves to the basement, so I’m going to see how much more I can accomplish today.  At least doing these things helps distract from the craziness going on around me, like how 2 weeks ago I noticed a $500 charge on my Visa debit card from Wayfair that I knew wasn’t mine.  Since I caught the first bogus charge, I was able to cancel the card before someone not me was able to completely empty my checking account.  You just can’t let your guard down for a minute!  Some people, I have found, are assholes.