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You can call me Skeptical Sally or even Scrooge but I rarely, if ever, donate to organizations that are set up to combat diseases.  Of course, in light of Susan G. Komen recent Planned Parenthood funding/de-funding/re-funding debacle, it’s easier to make that assertion.  No matter where you stand in the abortion debate, you’ve probably been outraged at some point this week.  Following the money trail in politics is stinky but important business.

As a person who was seemingly born being easily motivated (my husband would call it easily guilted) into supporting organizations or people that were helping cure disease, end poverty, make peace…well really anyone doing almost anything that could be construed as “good”…it took me some advanced coursework at the School of Hard Knocks to build-up some pretty stiff callouses on this issue.  But now, I’m admittedly dogmatic about not blindly supporting an issue or an organization without asking myself some questions.  Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems. There are often hidden agendas, tricky methodology, landmines buried in between the lines of any campaign.

From my personal experience, here are a few things I think about before I throw my name on a petition or donate a buck to even the most obviously “good” of causes:

1)  The “Good Guys” are sometimes more like Goodfellas.  Just because an organization is FOR something that you (and almost any sane person would) support wholeheartedly, doesn’t mean their methods are always pure and right.  In fact, these organizations often have a lot to gain exactly because their cause is so widely accepted as being a “good cause.”  I mean, who doesn’t support a cure for cancer/heart disease/diabetes or an end to child trafficking/torture/abuse?  And which Senator wants to face an ad campaign accusing them of not supporting any of these good causes?  The truth is, it is exactly BECAUSE these causes are so very popular and seemingly unquestionable that there’s a lot of fame and fortune to be gained from driving the bandwagon.

Example: When I was working on the Hill, a very well-known anti-disease organization used to send constituents into our office to support a particular piece of legislation.  These patients and survivors and their families had incredibly compelling stories.  There was absolutely no person with even half a heart who wanted to tell them that we wouldn’t support their efforts.  Unfortunately, the organization they were representing had taken advantage of their hunger for a cure by feeding them false hope regarding the research prospects.   I found that the supporting documents provided to these constituents for their Hill visits contained misleading information.  Waving a potential cure in front of their faces was a great way to get people to take out their wallets to donate to the campaign to promote the legislation in question.

2) Sometimes the more shadows you cast and the less light and truth you shed, the bigger and badder the monster looms in the dark of people’s imaginations.  Hinting and using vague but strongly-worded warnings can be more powerful than actually telling the whole story.  Stirring up fear is a great way to gain publicity.

Example:  I’ve become very engaged with a group of people who care deeply about a particular cause. Information, some old and some new, tends to get tossed around from person to person and blog to blog very easily without maintaining the integrity of the story.  Like a giant game of “Telephone,” it’s hard to determine what was the original narrative.  When a blog covers the controversy and alludes that certain things are occurring without sharing all the facts, we can’t be sure if the story they are telling is new, slightly re-warmed leftovers from a past incident or even just simply exaggerated.  We don’t know if it happened 2 times or 200 times, involved the plumber or the president, happened on every block in town or was localized to one or two, was confirmed or just suspected.  The whole community is again stirred up into a frenzy as they imagine all the possibilities.   Blog traffic increases, calls for television appearances come in and the storytellers gain an audience as concerned advocates try to gather all the possible information they can.  Suddenly someone’s Jr. High locker buddy becomes famous because she’s willing to share some obscure bit, any wee morsel, of information to “clarify” a story.  Yes, it is important to educate and inform.  But it’s also important to realize that deliberately inviting imaginations to run wild can be an easy way to gain valuable public attention.

3)  Gurus aren’t all Ghandi.  Some individuals and/or organizations have built considerable fame and fortune by being “the” expert for a particular cause.  Even if that issue deserves legitimate attention, it’s important to realize that the higher they are, the harder the potential fall when it’s found that their concern no longer is one. The more there is to lose, the stronger the motivation to protect it, the greater the lengths to which one will go.

Example:  When it became widely-accepted within the scientific community that action A did not cause disease B, those who had built their identities around that particular issue came out punching and flailing with renewed effort to invigorate a dying cause.  In what seemed a lot like cadaveric spasms, we witnessed a sudden flurry of press releases reasserting their position, re-dressing their (now totally debunked) research and sharing passionate personal (but not scientific) anecdotes supporting their work all across the blogosphere and news sources.  What everyone involved in this cause was realizing was that if this issue went away so did their hobby, their identity, their way of life, perhaps even the source of their fame and fortune.

All this to say, the term “special interest group” has very bad connotations in the world of politics, but the truth is EVERY group is a special interest group.  Every. single. one.  Everyone with a cause has something to gain and something to lose.  In order to be informed supporters, it becomes important to determine what exactly that is and how it bears on the way they conduct their business.

But just because there are pitfalls involved in getting political doesn’t mean we shouldn’t add our voice or our dollars to a cause.  We must never use that as an excuse to get apathetic, just a reason to get smart.

So this time around, because we’ve all sucked down some sour fruits in the political world when sweetened by the right sugar, I’ll share my recipe for homemade limeade.  Ok, maybe it’s really just because limes were on sale. And because I decided I wanted to try to make a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches a little more exciting by theming it out for my family as “Summer in January.”

I served the pulled pork BBQ-style on a bun, with strawberry spinach salad and limeade on the side.  Also, I didn’t include recipes for the food because I hadn’t taken photos of it before it was consumed in a rather un-photogenic way by our 3 children aged 3 and under.  Additionally, though I know this is a sad excuse for a recipe, I just wanted to get a post up before I lost the little momentum I had.

Limeade/Lemonade

1 C. freshly-squeezed lime juice (or lemon if you prefer lemonade).  This usually seems to involve 5-6 limes.
5-6 C. Water
1 C. Raw Sugar (I’ve also used regular sugar or honey or a combination of these with varying results.  Admittedly, my family prefers regular sugar, but I enjoy the depth of flavor honey or raw sugar offer.)

Over medium heat, stir together 1 C. of sugar and 1 C. of water to make a simple syrup (when the sugar has dissolved in the water, a simple syrup is achieved.  This happens very quickly.)  While the syrup cools, squeeze the limes.  Depending on the size of your limes, the juiciness of the fruit and the strength of your squeeze, more or less fruit may be required.  Slightly warming your fruit makes it easier to extract more juice.

Add the cooled simple syrup to the lime juice and to an additional 4-5 C. of cold water.  I prefer less water but it’s really a matter of personal taste.  Add some ice and some lime wedges and you have a refreshing beverage!

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