Monday, March 21, 2005

Persistent Vegetative Thinking

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan says "We ought to err on the side of life in a case like this."

The case to which he refers is the one about the severely brain damaged Terri Schiavo, the woman whose husband is struggling to be granted the right to allow her to die.

Despite the fact that most medical authorities and 10 court rulings have already determined that she is in a "persistent vegetative state" and incapable of even the most rudimentary human functioning, Congress voted on Sunday 203-58 (and at an estimated cost of between 4 and 5 million dollars) to interfere and grant an emergency injunction to Ms. Schiavo's parents to reinsert a feeding tube.

Even the Vatican felt obliged to offer an opinion in support of what Republicans and others euphemistically call the "culture of life".

I can understand disagreement and ambivalence on this issue. Certainly when it came to my own grandmother, I had mixed feelings about using extraordinary means to prolong her life.

But what really boggles my mind is the cognitive dissonance of a country whose politicians are quite willing to interfere with the courts and the woman's next of kin at a cost of millions of dollars, but who cannot do anything significant about 45 million Americans who have no health insurance. The United States appears to be a country of grand gestures and extravagance with little sense of proportionality.

How many people do you think have died in the United States because of the failure of its government to provide even elementary healthcare to ALL its citizens?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Dresden - So It Goes

I have been reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut recently. It is available from Rosetta Books in MS Reader format ( Some of you may remember the movie of the same name from 1972.

Needless to say, this first-time reading of the novel is making a major impression, especially coming as it does on the 60th anniversary of the Allied fire bombing of the German city of Dresden on 13-14 of February 1945.

As I am reading the novel, I keep wondering, "Why do we hear so little about one of the worst war crimes of the 20th century?" "Why is it that nobody talks about the totally needless holocaust of innocents perpetrated by up to 1,200 American and British bombers on a city declared a safe zone by the Red Cross and to which hundreds of thousands of people were fleeing from the atrocities of the Russians in eastern Europe?" In fact, if you did happen to read about the anniversary in Dresden at all, what you got was the genuflecting of German leaders decrying the neo-Nazis in Dresden and loudly proclaiming how the lives lost in the Jewish holocaust can never be compared to the loss of life in Dresden. It's all more than a little sickening.

Every year at this time, we celebrate/commemorate Easter and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Some people even see crosses in pine trees as a sign that God would have us remember the sacrifice of God's Son at this time of year. I guess there's nothing wrong with that. But I have to wonder. Would it not also be useful to remember how we obliterated an entire city with no military value whatsoever? But that won't happen, will it? As Billy Pilgrim would say in Slaughterhouse-Five, "So it goes."