A Culture Of Life

I haven’t been writing too much about politics here since the election for various reasons, the first and most important one being that I’m not terribly handy with political rhetoric, as my various attempts in that direction will prove. I much prefer to write about what I know about, which is mostly along the lines of “Flowers are pretty and I like octopuses ! and ”I love my friends and I love cake!”. I don’t have the most logical mind and I am not good at arguing my points, being easily intimidated and having a deep need to be liked. Also I am not very good at bringing up new points of view and I tend to mostly react emotionally to upsetting news.

So, that said, I have been thinking a lot about the last couple of days is the horrible Terry Schiavo case that’s apparently been on the news 24 hours a day. Fortunately for me I don’t have TV so I haven’t been bombarded with it but, you know, I do read some news and what I understand about this case is that it’s completely horrible in every way, personal and political…and of course, as they so often do, those two spheres have merged to become the same thing. I cannot BELIEVE that governors and congresspeople and presidents, members of the party that wants to shrink government interference down to the size of something you can drown in a bathtub, the same party that thinks it’s fine for sick old people to bankrupt themselves trying to get their medicines, the same party that is fine with mentally ill homeless folks literally dying in the streets, the same party that wants to do away with medical insurance for poor folks…well, these folks are just in a lather about this poor woman. Bush gets up in the middle of the night to intervene in this woman’s fate when he couldn’t be bothered to leave his vacation to deal with impending terrorist attacks four years ago; his brother wants to take over her custody; Tom DeLay is suddenly a neurologist and diagnoses her by looking at a videotape…I can’t keep up. I’m sad for this family that can’t let her go and I’m sad for all the people who are disenfranchised by various policies of this administration, especially those dealing with major health issues, and I’m sad for myself, too, because maybe one day that will be me, you know, hooked up to the tubes and not allowed to die, and maybe no one will believe my partner about what I would have wanted, and maybe my life and death will be used for political gain.

What I keep thinking about is the phrase “culture of life.” I think about people going off to an unjustified war and dying there and how Bush won’t go to their funerals, and I wonder if that’s part of the culture of life. Or about the school shooting in Minnesota earlier this week and how no one seems to care about that, how there’s been absolutely no outrage the way there was with Columbine and I wonder if that’s part of the culture of life. I think about people dying of AIDS in various places because Bush won’t fund health care programs that advocate birth control, and I wonder if that’s part of the culture of life. I think about former patients of mine whose quality of life was severely impacted by their inability to afford both their insanely expensive drugs AND durable medical equipment that would allow them to maintain body function and participate in their lives most fully, and…you see where I’m going with this…I wonder if that’s part of the culture of life. I think about people starving to death all over the world and, you guessed it, I wonder if that’s part of the culture of life. I think that maybe it’s not such a coincidence that this administration is defining “life” as a persistent vegetative state. It’s a little tinfoil-hatty, I agree, but you have to wonder where it ends?

The other thing I wonder is if the people who voted for Bush in November voted for this, for this whole media circus, for the government to make personal life-or-death decisions about them, personally, and the people they love. If you voted for Bush, either time or both times, is this what you wanted? Are you happy with how things are now? How do you feel about the culture of life, and would you rather define it for yourself or have George W. Bush define it for you by his actions? If you agree with his definitions and actions supporting them, how do you feel about people who don’t agree but live here anyway and expect our laws and society to transcend the changeable face of politics? Do you believe in their sovereignty over their own affairs even if they might choose differently from you? Are you cool with Jeb Bush offering to keep you alive at any cost if multiple courts don’t agree with him about your case? Are you cool with the idea of “activist judges,” whatever that even means? I haven’t always had such luck with asking questions like these on this journal, and possibly I’ll just get more email gently positing that maybe my whole problem is that I’m just not very bright, but I really am curious and I really do want to know if Bush supporters are getting what they bargained for.

Practically speaking, the ABAand Living Will Registry have some good resources to get started with writing up a living will. I’m calling my local hospital today to get mine set up, because I am that upset and angry and paranoid about this whole horrid thing. I’m going to specifically insert language forbidding any branch of government from going against the wishes of me and my family as laid out in my soon-to-be-constructed advance directives. I think this is a good idea even if you are twenty-two and covered and glitter and you think you’ll never be old or sick or disabled or injured. And of course this goes double triple squintilliple for all y’all who live with unmarried long-term partners or who can’t get married because that would force me immediately to marry another woman or who are estranged from various family members. Remember, Tom DeLay said that the sanctity of keeping you on life support in a permanent vegetative state is more important that the sanctity of your relationships with your nearest and dearest, so be careful.

Things are going great for me in general and I am in a good place in my life and I want to write more about that here, definitely. This whole thing is just a reminder to myself that there’s a world outside my life and that part of being fully human, for me, part of participating in a culture of life, is being aware of people who don’t have the same rights and privileges and gifts I do and by doing what I can to advocate for change for those folks. I hope Terry Schiavo and her family find some peace somehow in all of this, and that the rest of us educate ourselves about the various personal and political ramifications of this case, and that we all try to come to good conclusions about what it means to support and work for a culture of life.

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