Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Hat tip: bigel
There is an old political saw that far right and far left aren't extreme ends of a spectrum but the point were a circle meets. Nowhere is that more apparent or dangerous than in Germany. And if that wasn't enough of a cause for concern, Jew-hatred is the gasoline being poured on the fire.
Here is a history of this phenomenon on the German Left:
Anti-Semitism was never exclusive to the Right; Communism, for its part, often vilified Jews as capitalists. Communism in East Germany, as elsewhere, denied the right to practice the Jewish religion and sought to eradicate religion in general, including Judaism. East Germany's anti-Semitic policies first became evident in January 1953 when the Stasi - the state security service - confiscated documents of the Jewish communities, searched the homes of Jewish leaders, and spoke of a "Zionist conspiracy." After the Six Day War, East Germany officially adopted an anti-Zionist stance. However, no serious data on East German anti-Semitism is available before the reunification in 1989.
Although West German left-wing anti-Semitism also increased steadily after the Six Day War, before then the West German Left supported Israel generally, and specifically the Wiedergutmachung (Reparations Agreement of 1953) and the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1965. This friendliness was, however, based on an idealization of Israel, kibbutzim, and pioneering and was not on genuinely firm ground.4 Opposition to the conservative government of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer also played a role in this left-wing philo-Semitism.
During the 1960s, the West German Left divided into a more "conservative" wing and a New Left trend. Whereas Chancellor Willy Brandt was said to be a true and unwavering friend of Israel,5 many young leftists took radical positions and opposed Brandt's "establishment" Social Democratic Party. In 1966 they founded the Nonparliamentary Opposition (APO), a popular movement that sought to "renew" German politics from the outside. Many of its members and supporters later showed sympathy for the RAF, a leftist terrorist movement that had ties to the PLO and whose cadres trained in terrorist camps in Lebanon.
During the Six Day War, the New Left definitively transformed its hitherto moderate pro-Arab positions into full support for Arab states and the Palestinians, and its fragile pro-Israeli attitudes dissolved into anti-Semitic slogans thinly disguised as "anti-imperialist" criticism of a "fascist state."
After 1967, however, not only the radicals but large parts of the German Left turned their backs on Israel. This went hand in hand with protests against the Vietnam War, against the conservative mainstream in Adenauer's Germany and afterward the "Great Coalition" that was headed from 1966 by Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, a former member of the Nazi Party.6 The New Left also idealized Communist China and Ho Chi Minh, despite their involvement in mass murder against their own people.7
Well-known intellectuals who were more moderate leftists tried to dissuade the New Left from its extreme positions. Ernst Bloch, Jean Amery, Herbert Marcuse, Iring Fetscher, and Jean-Paul Sartre argued with the radicals and discouraged blind solidarity with the PLO, as opposed to legitimate criticism of Israeli policies. They warned that notions of Israel's annihilation were intolerable and linked to National Socialist ideology. However, they were not heeded by the radicals.8
The publisher Axel Caesar Springer, whose press group included the tabloid daily BILD and the daily Die Welt, as well as many other newspapers and journals, was, according to the Israeli diplomat Asher Ben-Natan, a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people:
He expressed opinions I haven't often heard in Germany.... As the demands mounted to draw a "bottom line" under the German past, Springer thought there could never be Wiedergutmachung for the crimes Germans had committed against the Jews. He himself neither suppressed nor forgot the past and did not expect the Jewish people to forgive what had happened....Neither his moral values nor historical insights nor close relations with Jews and Israel involved benefit for him. It came from honest belief....During our conversations he never disguised his hatred for every kind of totalitarian dictatorship, including Communism....After the Six Day War Springer promulgated four guidelines for his employees and his newspapers that are still binding for the journalists and editors working for Springer publications. One was "Fostering reconciliation between Jews and Germany and supporting Israel's right to exist."
Springer was, however, a major target of the New Left, one reason being that he and his newspapers were clearly pro-Israeli and condemned the anti-Israeli stream in the New Left. Many in this movement decided: "If Springer is pro-Israeli, we have to be against the state of Israel."
In 1969, on the date marking Kristallnacht, an anarchist-leftist group painted graffiti on Jewish memorials saying "Shalom and Napalm" or "El Fatah." A firebomb was also placed in the Jewish community center in Berlin. The leftist groups' common perception was: "Jews who were expelled by fascism developed themselves into fascists, who in collaboration with American capitalism want to annihilate the Palestinian people."
For the New Left, nothing could discredit anti-Zionism. Even after Israeli athletes were taken hostage and murdered during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, the leftists strengthened their solidarity with the Palestinian terror organizations.
West German New Leftists participated in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda, where Jewish and Israeli passengers were singled out from the others by a German terrorist. The German Left ignored the hijacking and subsequent rescue operation by Israeli forces, and the German Communist Party in West Germany published a solidarity letter addressed to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
In 1982, after Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and the massacres in Sabra and Shatila were publicized, the whole German Left, moderate and radical, united for the first time in comparing Israel with the Third Reich and the Nazis. Thus, 1982 saw the launching of a new demonization, throughout the German public, of Israel and Jews in which they were frequently equated with Nazis.
The pathological need to compare Israel and Nazi Germany seems linked to the wish to discard the guilt and responsibility for the Holocaust. Also in 1982, the leftist newspaper taz called the Palestinians "the new Jews" and accused Israel of a "reverse Holocaust" in seeking to carry out the "final solution of the Palestinian question."
With Leftists and Neo-Nazis uniting, this spells disaster for all of Europe and the center will not hold. In the US the extreme right has no popular appeal, but the same agenda of the destruction of Israel is being pursued by Leftists in the media, on college campuses and even among unelected officials. Recent events in our relationship with Israel seem to indicate that this Leftist agenda will soon negate popular support for the Jewish State in the US.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Doctors will debate whether the law should be relaxed to allow terminally ill patients the right to die.
Pressure for change has grown since the introduction of a private member's bill in the last parliament calling for the right to die to be allowed.
The British Medical Association will debate a series of motions, including one backing Lord Joffe's bill.
The bill ran out of time when the election was called, but the peer has promised to reintroduce it.
Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's ethics committee, said it was right that doctors discussed the issue.
He said they would explore whether there was a difference between assisted suicide, whereby medics provide the means for a patient to kill themselves, and voluntary euthanasia, when a patient is too ill to administer the lethal medication, but consents to someone else doing it.
So far the BMA has held the line on PAS and euthanasia. With Holland and Oregon as case studies, Dr Wilks strategy to encourage debate seems like a good one:
Dr Wilks said: "The BMA has always maintained there is no difference and has remained opposed to a change in the law.
"But there are some suggestions that there are mixed opinions within the profession.
"Talking about it and re-examining the issue is the responsible thing to do."
Here's a disturbing set of figures that has already come out:
In Holland, assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia are responsible for one in 40 deaths.
Whereas, one in 700 deaths in the US state of Oregon are from assisted suicide - voluntary euthanasia is not allowed.
Based on studies that show that only a fraction of PAS/euthanasia deaths in Holland are reported, we can safely assume the Dutch figure is twice as high at least. The Brits would do well to consider how the Dutch experiment has careened down the slippery slope.
Despite his stature in contemporary literature, the cultural mandarins have not honored Helprin. He is indifferent to awards, he says, but can volunteer a theory to explain their absence from his walls. “I try to determine the truth of a question and am not deterred by the damage that will be done to me by moving out of the herd,” he says. “I get into lots of trouble all the time.”
In 1983, for example, he published a piece in the New York Times Magazine arguing for the deployment of short-range nuclear missiles in Europe. This was a hot issue during the Reagan administration’s military buildup, amid calls for a nuclear freeze. “I was pilloried for that [article],” Helprin says. “People refused to talk to me. My agent told me, ‘You’ll never get another award in your life.’ And I never did—I’ve never even been nominated. [Prior to that, Ellis Island & Other Stories won the Prix de Rome and was nominated for a National Book Award.] Around political movements, if you go off the reservation, so many people want to punish you.”
The article included some details of his life with which I wasn't familiar:
Although his family has historically been Hasidic, Helprin’s parents were not. (“They were Democrats,” he deadpans.) His mother, stage actress Eleanor Lynn, was a 1930s-era Communist whom Ayn Rand ultimately convinced to leave the Party. The teenaged Helprin became a “sophomoric leftist” who opposed the Vietnam War and dodged the draft with 4-F status, a choice he later publicly regretted in a speech to the cadets at West Point: “primarily for allowing someone else to go in my place, someone who may not have returned.” During college, Helprin, an English concentrator, was also a “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” he says, adding, “When the Democrats lost the nerve to confront the Soviet Union, I became a Republican. I began to read history and strategic assessment, and the more I read, the more conservative I became.”
I'm tempted to quote the whole piece because it's packed with the same dazzling vistas and insights one finds in Helprin's work. At the risk of sounding like a gushing fan, every aspect of Mark Helprin's existence in supremely interesting at worst. I think this can be attributed to the demonstrable fact that he himself is so interested in everything. As John Gardner said of him, he “moves from character to character and from culture to culture as if he’d been born and raised everywhere."
Monday, June 27, 2005
But until they see the error of their ways (if ever), there is something you can do about this grossly unfair policy:
On July 1, 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC), founded in 1957 as the union of several Christian traditions, convenes its General Synod, in Atlanta, Georgia. On the agenda are resolutions calling for the dismantling of Israel’s security barrier, and divestment from companies doing business with Israel.
This comes at a time when Israel is removing all Jewish settlements from Gaza, when she has released 900-plus Palestinians held for abetting terrorism, and as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet face-to-face in pursuit of an equitable peace.
The Wiesenthal Center has directly urged the head of the UCC to defeat these unfair and dangerous initiatives. We have also asked United States Congressmen who are members of the UCC to raise their voices against these resolutions. And, finally, we have asked that we be allowed to address the conclave directly to ensure that the voice of the victims of Palestinian terrorism are heard. To date, the Church has been silent to our pleas.
Get thee hence to the Simon Weisenthal site and let the UCC know what you think of this initiative.
Let the people of Israel, the only democracy and true ally we have in the Middle East, know you support them. And God will bless you for it.
Who's funding the insurgents in Iraq? The list of suspects is long: ex-Baathists, foreign jihadists, and angry Sunnis, to name a few. Now add to that roster hard-core Euroleftists.
Turns out that far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government. In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq) , the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti. The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. "It's the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd," says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. "The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism." The groups are working on an October conference to further support "the Iraqi Resistance." A key goal is to expand backing for the insurgents from the fringe left to the broader antiwar and antiglobalization movements.
One conference sponsor, Campo Antiimperialista (the Anti-Imperialist Camp), credits the 10-euro campaign for buying 2 tons of medicine for Al Anbar province, a hotbed of resistance, to be distributed "completely independent from both the occupiers as well as their local puppets."
But some funds may be buying more deadly stuff; one leader boasted to Vidino that the campaign will send "everything it takes" for the resistance to win, including weaponry. Neither Iraq Libero nor Campo Antiimperialista responded to questions from U.S. News about where their funds end up. The groups' impact, though, may ultimately be limited. "They have a pretty big following, but we're not talking about big money," says Vidino. At one conference, he notes, many militants looked so ragged he doubted they even had 10 euros in their pockets.
I question that last comment about limited funds. They didn't buy 2 tons of medicine with chump change, and I'm sure they have decent stable of trustifarians to rely on.
Friday, June 24, 2005
People who use the internet to incite others to commit suicide or teach them how to kill themselves face fines of up to $550,000 under tough new laws.
Using the internet to counsel or incite others to commit suicide or to promote and provide instruction on ways to do it has been outlawed but the new laws were not designed to stifle debate about euthanasia, Justice Minister Chris Ellison said.
"These offences are designed to protect the young and the vulnerable, those at greatest risk of suicide, from people who use the internet with destructive intent to counsel or incite others to kill themselves," Senator Ellison said in a statement. Individuals convicted of such offences face a fine of up to $110,000, while corporations face a fine of up to $550,000.
Use of the internet to organise suicide pacts emerged as a grim problem for Japan last year, with dozens of Japanese killing themselves in internet-linked group suicides.
Helping someone to commit suicide is illegal in Australia but there has been a long-simmering debate about euthanasia.
Dr Philip Nitschke shot to fame in 1997 when he helped four people die in the Northern Territory, where the practice was briefly legal before the federal Government stepped in to overturn Territory laws.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Ron Panzer of the Hospice Patients Alliance is one of the heroes of the anti-euthanasia movement. In this exchange with hospice nurse and assisted suicide advocate Douglas Aberg, the crux of the whole debate is captured.
From Douglas Aberg, hospice nurse and founder of Hospice for Choices (edited):
"I am the founder of Hospice for Choices, which Ron Panzer tries to slander in your article 'Hospice nurse: I don't kill!" Hospice for Choices is a group of hospice professionals (nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers and certified home health aides) who believe that hospice patients with full decision-making capacity have the right to choose a hastened death and to have their hospice team continue to love and support them in the process. Hospice for Choices does not advocate murder or involuntary euthanasia in any way.
"I am a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse and a strong right to die advocate. With your consent, I would like to respond in writing to Mr. Panzer's assertion that Hospice for Choices 'specifically entered into the end-of-life arena working hard to influence hospice as an industry to make it the place to commit euthanasia (imposing death) or 'assisting' patients to death.'
"As a hospice nurse for 11 years, I have experienced the care for the suffering. Although the hospice community does not like to admit it, we can not eliminate the sufferings of all hospice patients. In fact, studies show, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has agreed, that we (the medical community) can control pain greater than 95 percent of the time. While we in hospice think this is a wonderful accomplishment (and it is), there are still a few percent of the dying who suffering severe pain despite our greatest efforts.
"My concern has always been: What about them? Who will support and advocate for those few percent who die in severe pain? If we can not control their pain and sufferings, will we support the dying if they wish to end their suffering? Should we love and support them if their pain can not be eliminated?
"In hospice, we love and support our patients using a team approach. We have nurses who manage the physician sufferings, social workers/volunteers to manage the psychosocial sufferings and spiritual counselors who manage the spiritual sufferings. We, the hospice team, visit and love our patients and help them live until they die. Sounds amazing — and it is. I love my work and wish to state that I am a supporter of hospice care and believe in my heart that hospices nationwide do their very best to ensure that patients die peacefully; and that the patient's family receive the very best support and bereavement possible.
"However, if and when we have a patient who verbalizes his or her desire to hasten his or her death because we can not minimize their suffering (those patients in the few percent discussed earlier), we abandon them. We call 911, we report them to the authorities, we discharge them, we minimize their sufferings, etc. There are few hospice nurses out there who will openly and publicly stand up and say, 'No matter what, I will be with you to love you no matter what.'
"The right to die is here to stay. Whether or not we choose to acknowledge this, there are hospices and hospice professionals out in the field who are supporting these few percent (which are in the thousands when calculated) and loving them even though they choose to hasten their death. When we as hospice professionals make a commitment to love and support the dying, this support and love should not stop because a person who is dying and is suffering with uncontrolled pain (physical/emotional/psychosocial/spiritual) chose to end their suffering via a hastened death.
"Suffering need not be an option for those who do not choose to suffer."
Ron Panzer, president of Hospice Patients Alliance, responds to Aberg as follows (edited):
"Mr. Aberg likes to throw terms around like 'slander' and then cleverly disguise the reality of what he and others like are doing when they pervert the original hospice mission to suit their deadly philosophy. He states that 'hospice patients with full decision-making capacity have the right to choose a hastened death, and to have their hospice team continue to love and support them in the process. Hospice for Choices does not advocate murder or involuntary euthanasia in any way.'
"Well, who says they have a 'right' to choose a hastened death? Mr. Aberg needs to be reminded that assisted suicide is illegal in every state except Oregon, yet he practices in California. His admission that he and others in his group 'love and support' patients by helping them kill themselves ('end their lives') is evidence that he and they are committing the crime of assisting suicide in California. Love and support is not assisting patients to death. What Mr. Aberg does not say is that he or Hospice for Choices is against voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide. Why? Because they clearly support assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia; that's what he calls 'supporting' patients.
"The world would be better off without that kind of 'love' because ending the life of the patient, even voluntarily, is a violation of everything health care has stood for for thousands of years; it is a violation of the physicians' Hippocratic Oath, which states that the physician pledges never to give any lethal medication or to do any harm intentionally to a patient.
"When patients fear that their caregiver may be in favor of assisted suicide, they never know whether they will be sedated unnecessarily or not and not be allowed to regain consciousness. While Aberg may say he is against involuntary euthanasia, wherever so-called 'voluntary' euthanasia has been legalized or practiced (the Netherlands, Belgium) there are widespread reports of violations of the 'safeguards' in the law resulting in the involuntary deaths (yes, killings) of patients who not only never gave permission to have their lives ended, they never even were informed they were going to be 'loved' and 'supported' by having their lives ended.
"Mr. Aberg denies that his organization (along with others) 'specifically entered into the end-of-life arena working hard to influence hospice as an industry to make it the place to commit euthanasia (imposing death) or 'assisting' patients to death.' Yet, in his own writing he admits that the support and love he offers is to hasten the death of the willing patient. What is that except 'assisting patients to death,' or assisted suicide?
"Hospice has for decades educated the public about all the important work that is done emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as the dying process unfolds. They talk about the unfinished business that may occur at any moment, up to and including the very moment of death. When a patient chooses to die sooner, eliminating suffering by eliminating the life given to him, there is no opportunity for the 'work' and growth emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually that hospice has supported for decades. If Mr. Aberg gets his way, then why not fire all the thousands of hospice social workers, spiritual counselors and any other counselors they have working to help patients and their families with this work?
"Mr. Aberg's final solution is to allow any patient to choose an assisted suicide at any time if they enter hospice, whether they are actually dying at that time or not. He fails to recognize the emotional, psychological and spiritual benefit to the patient and family as the unfinished business is accomplished through the dying process. He elevates suffering itself to the status of a supreme 'evil' in his philosophical universe, yet glibly fails to recognize that ending the life of a person is itself an evil, a destruction of the life given a person, a denial of any sanctity of life, and a transgression of the original hospice mission which has always been: to relieve suffering to the best of our ability, to support the patient and family and allow a death to occur in its own natural timing, without hastening death. That has been the repeated mission stated by hospices all across the land for decades....
"Real hospice is about relieving suffering as best we can, being with thepatient, supporting them through the process, and working with the patient and family till the end comes naturally. I have witnessed patients who had spiritual visions in their last dying moments. Many hospice nurses have also seen these things. Of course, the materialists would label all such experiences as 'hallucinations,' but for those of us who believe in God, death is not the end; there is more to life than just this life, and there is a blessing to be had even though there may be suffering.
In concluding Ron Panzer discerns clearly the essence of he right-to-die fallacy:
"Most hospice physicians and palliative care and pain management specialists agree that every patient can have their pain relieved to a very great degree, and if not completely eliminated, made bearable. Those who request the 'assisted' death and 'love' of Mr. Aberg (or those like him) do so not because of pain management issues. And the research consistently bears that out over and over!
"Mr. Aberg is quite deceptive when he brings the pain management argument forward. Most requests for assisted dying are because the patient does not wish to go through the dying process itself, does not wish to be humbled by the loss of bodily control at the end and does not wish to be helpless in any way.
"Those who choose a hastened death (which Aberg will readily help make a reality) almost universally want to remain in control, and that is the real issue. It is not about pain control and Aberg knows it. It's about patient 'choice,' control and an unwillingness to be in a vulnerable position through the dying process. There is a complete lack of humility in the approach Mr. Aberg promotes. There is a complete denial of the sanctity of life, even the patient's own life.
"Similar to the argument for abortion, Aberg asserts that patients should have the right to choose to kill their own life. They refuse to call abortion 'killing' the baby, yet if the baby were wanted, and unintentionally killed, it would be a 'killing.' When the baby is killed at the insistence of the mother, then it is not 'killing.' How does this make sense?
"Aberg and his ilk refuse to acknowledge hastened death as a killing. They routinely misuse, twist, distort, and pervert basic language in order to deceive and mislead others who don't understand what the agenda really is. Patients who don't want to submit to death can 'control' death and embrace it at the time of their own choosing, rather than God's....
"Mr. Aberg confirms in just about every sentence he writes exactly what I wrote earlier: There are many currently working in hospice who zealously support the right to kill patients who choose that death voluntarily (assisted suicide). Though he asserts his opposition to involuntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia will result should Aberg's dark agenda be implemented. Other groups support euthanasia, and yet others support involuntary euthanasia of those deemed unworthy of life, or not 'really' living. Aberg presents one flavor of poison: Do you want arsenic, strychnine or rat poison? If you want death, he will give you 'approved' medications to end your life, and that is 'killing,' however he wishes to redefine it away."
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Garcia-Marquez may never suffer exile from my literary pantheon, but less than 100 pages into his memoirs, I'm exasperated. For one that despises Garcia-Marquez's com'pay Fidel Castro and his protégé Hugo Chavez more than a good Christian should, I've found it difficult to condemn Gabo. My justification had been the Cienaga massacre of '28, that Garcia-Marquez immortalized in One Hundred Years of Solitude. I reflexively accepted the account of the massacre which Garcia-Marquez and historians on the left blamed on the avarice of the United Fruit Company. I could understand how that traumatic event and the subsequent reports of corpses stacked in boxcars like bananas and thrown unceremoniously into a malodorous swamp could imprint young Garcia-Marquez with a perpetual anti-establishment view of life.
The trouble is that like his vivid memories of relatives who died soon after he was born, he himself admits his story is suspect. Reports of the numbers of victims varied so widely that no definitive number has ever been decided on. In the beginning of the second chapter of Living to Tell the Tale he describes how he went back in his role as a reporter and interviewed survivors and finally decided that the truth was unknowable amid the wildly conflicting accounts. Gabo the journalist gave up, but the novelist chose the highest number reported "in order to preserve the epic proportion of the drama" that it had become in his imagination as a child. He then brags about how a moment of silence was observed years later in the Colombian Senate "for the three thousand". Garcia-Marquez's fictional version had been accepted as the party line.
The massacre of the unknown number of strikers by the Colombian troops from Bogotá was a tragedy. The resulting departure of the United Fruit Company that was blamed for the incident was an economic cataclysm for the region as Garcia-Marquez more accurately relates. Magical realism makes for wonderful fiction and I have to admit that in a sense it is reality at least for the Caribbean Coast of Colombian. The ancestral village of my wife's family had healing springs, grottoes of visions, trees that righted themselves supernaturally after being blown down in hurricanes and in which images of the Blessed Virgin appeared.
But as we have seen in the riots over fanciful tales of flushed Korans and genocide justified by blood libels and fraudulent Protocols, bad things happen when magical thinking and fables invade journalism and history. And we would be wise to remember that most of the world is perceived this way.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Terri Schiavo's husband buried her cremated remains in Clearwater on Monday, inscribing on her bronze grave marker: "I kept my promise."
The inscription inflamed Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who had waged a long legal battle to keep their severely brain-damaged daughter alive. They also complained they had not been told about the service beforehand.
Michael Schiavo -- who said he promised his wife he would not keep her alive artificially -- also listed on the grave marker Feb. 25, 1990, as the date his wife "Departed this Earth." On that date, Schiavo collapsed and fell into what most doctors said was an irreversible vegetative state.
The marker lists March 31, the date Schiavo actually died, as when she was "at peace."
David Gibbs, an attorney for the Schindlers, called the inscriptions "another unkind act toward a grieving mom and dad."
Michael Schiavo had said his wife's ashes would be buried at a family plot in Pennsylvania. But his attorney, George Felos, said in a statement Monday that the interment had taken place at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater. The statement did not explain why Michael Schiavo, who lives near Clearwater, decided to keep his wife's remains in Florida, but it did say the Schindlers were notified about the service and interment beforehand
It's probably best if I refrain from the comments that immediately come to mind.
I'm busy with end of quarter business this week, but I'm trying to finish a post on Garcia-Marquez.
Monday, June 20, 2005
I was overwhelmed by the response and friends even sent copies of their letters. They were all good, but I though this one by NY Nana deserved a wider audience:
Dear Senator Durbin,
I am greatly disappointed that a United States Senator would compare our soldiers at Guantanamo to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. A cold or hot room and loud rap music in no way compares with gas chambers, starvation or being shot.
As a Jew, in my late 60's, any mention in so cavalier a fashion, of the Holocaust, in any way, is both repugnant and unforgivable. It shows an ignorance and contempt for the slaughter of over 6 million people, who were found guilty of being Jewish.To even hint at a connection to Gitmo, where these prisoners have amenities and accommodations that surpass anything they knew in their homelands is a disgrace to this great country, and plays into the hands of our enemy. Did you happen to hear of 9/11? We live in the metro NY area, and will never be the same. Our children and daughters in law were working in Manhattan that day. Our community has orphans, mothers bringing up children, fathers bringing up children,in addition to babies who were born after their fathers were massacred in this act of terrorism unlike any in history. These prisoners get 3 meals a day..halal meat, kurans, prayer rugs, and are treated far better than the Americans who are kidnapped and beheaded in these prisoners' countries. The Club Gitmo terrorists are coddled. You have spit in the eye of each and every brave US Military member who has to guard these individuals. We live in times like no other in history, and when an American who is a member of the US Congress makes such inflammatory,and ignorant remarks, it demeans this country, and feeds the enemy. You would do well to stand down, as you are not fit to be in Congress. Our Military is treating them with a dignity that is not warranted.They are not guarding an errant Boy Scout troop, but individuals who would kill them in a nanosecond if given the chance. Perhaps you ought to, at your own expense, go to Israel and visit Yad VaShem, and then to Cambodia, to see the skulls of Pol Pot's victims.
I will never forgive and never forget what was done to my family in Europe, not one who survived, nor will I forgive nor forget those who massacred so many people in NY. The ones who would do this again are now sitting in comparative luxury, at our expense at Gitmo, while you cry for them. Loud music? Boo, hoo.They get showers, have blankets, medical care , chaplain....you are a disgrace to the people who elected you, and to this country. You are not fit to hold office.
You owe our troops an apology. I hope it will be forthcoming immediately, and that after issuing this apology, you will resign. I do not expect this from you, as if you had a shred of decency, you never would have said what you did in the first place.
Now according to realwest of LGF, Durbin has started backing down from his remarks. I credit all those out their that bombarded him with emails and calls. Nice work people.
If you haven't made your feeling know to Sen. Durbin here's the link.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Benedict is right to draw on the musicians - by which I mean the high classic art of Mozart - as well as the Jews, that is to say, the Hebrew Bible. The musicians are dead and the Jews are departed, but the pope must play the hand that history has dealt him. He works under the sign of the mustard seed - the infinitesimal quantity of faith that moves mountains. The inspirational character of scripture and of classical music are the weapons he has at hand, rusty though they might be. Something is stirring in the ashes of the West, and Benedict XVI yet might bring forth a flame.
Go ye and read the tale of the Order that tried to re-write history and then went on to embrace a monster.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Don Richardson began preparations to sail half way around the world to a stone age people in Irian Jaya. Eugene Harder sailed across the Strait of Georgia to start a church in Nanaimo. From that point on, all similarities cease.
Don went to a tribe of headhunters who were unable to read or write. They knew nothing about iron.
All their axes and knives were made of stone. These people believed that treachery was man's highest virtue and the best feast was to eat your enemies.
Shortly after Don settled with this tribe, an enemy tribe up the river befriended a warrior from the tribe where Don lived. Let's name the warrior Adam. The enemy tribe convinced Adam that he could be the peacemaker between the two tribes
Adam became proud of his exalted status with the enemies up the river. They would receive him with great pomp and circumstance and listened to every word Adam had to say. One day at a special feast Adam was killed, roasted and eaten.
Treachery was their highest virtue.
Don and Carol Richardson worked hard to learn the language and customs of the tribe they lived with. They were frustrated that they couldn't get them to understand the story of Jesus coming to earth to die for their sins.
The tribe loved the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, especially the part about Jesus betrayal and crucifixion. At this point they hung on Don's every word, waiting with eager anticipation for the part where Judas gave Jesus the kiss of betrayal. They shouted with glee and clapped for Judas.
Don and Carol prayed that God would show them a way to convey the true message of Christmas in a form these people would understand. Then one day the opportunity came in a manner they didn't expect.
The tribe up the river attacked the tribe Don was living with. For weeks they fought and killed each other. Finally Don said to the leaders of the tribe, "If you don't stop fighting we will leave your tribe."
That was a serious threat to them. They liked Carol's medical care and Don's steel implements. Plus, the presence of the white family gave them status. The chief of Don's tribe realized that he had to pay the price of peace.
One day Don watched the warriors of the warring tribes form a line opposite each other. The chief of his tribe took his newborn son from the arms of his wife. She sank to the ground wailing in uncontrollable grief.
Then the Chief walked down the line of his warriors and each of them put their hands on his little first born child. With determination and resolve the chief walked across the open space between the two warring tribes. He stood face to face with the enemy chief and placed his son in his enemies arms.
With the baby in his arms, the enemy chief walked down the line of his warriors. In full view of the father and the father's tribe, each enemy warrior placed his hands on the baby boy, Next the warriors turned and disappeared in the bush with the infant. The baby was gone, never to be returned to it's grieving parents.
The Richardson's wondered what the ceremony meant. One day the chief said to them, "I offered my son as the peace-child for our tribes. As long as my son lives there will be peace between our tribes. If he dies, war will resume. Anyone who kills a peace-child will himself be killed."
Don pondered the significance of the ceremony. In a flash of insight he realized the Chief was giving him the cultural key that would open this stone-age people to the truth about Jesus Christ.
One day Don gathered the elders together and told them the story of God's peace-child. Don spoke of the war that rages between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God.
Paul said, "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be." (Romans 8:6-7 ASV) The truth is, we don't want to do what God tells us to do. We want our own way.
Next Don shared how God our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to this earth as His Peace Child to make peace between God and man. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
Just as the warriors put their hands on the Chief's little son as a sign that they accepted this little boy as their Peace Child, so we by faith receive Jesus into our lives to show that we are at peace with God. The difference in the stories is that God's Peace Child lives forever.
If the chief had not given his son the tribes would have kept fighting and warriors would keep on dying. Death is the wages that sin pays. The Apostle Paul reminds us, "For the wages of sin (disobedience & rebellion) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 NIV)
Peace with God is not something that we earn through our good deeds. It is a gift that we freely receive. The Bible says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)
Peace among those tribes in Irian Jaya was bought by the gift of the Peace Child. Each warrior indicated his willingness to receive the gift by placing his hands on the peace child.
Missionaries have noted that these "redemption analogies" seem to exist in every culture. Those who have seen how powerfully they can be used to express the Gospel can't help but see them as being there by design. Bruce Olson, who we met in the first installment of this series, independently discovered the same principle.
Olson was walking in the jungle with his best Motilone friend, Bobarishora, (whom he affectionately called, Bobby) when they came upon men driven mad by their grief and despair. It took Olson a long time to discover why one man was screaming from the top of a tree while the other dug a hole screaming and weeping into the ground. It turns out they were "looking for God." Their oral history had taught them that someone had come into their tribe and deceived them and led them away from God and now they felt compelled to try and find him. All Motilone men went through this ritual many times. When Olson asked why they were looking for God in the ground and screaming to the sky, they replied that it was as good as place as any to look for God.
Olson, looking for connects to explain grace, sacrifice and incarnation, asked if they had other ways they had looked for God. "Yes. We look for God to come out of a banana stalk." Olson couldn't understand this explanation so Bobby walked over to a banana tree which was growing nearby. He cut off a section and tossed it towards Olson. One of the Motilone men reached down and swatted at it with his machete, accidentally splitting it in half. One half stood up, while the other half split off. Leaves that were still inside the stalk, waiting to develop and come out, started peeling off. As they lay at the base of the stalk, they looked like pages from a book.
Suddenly, Olson understood. "Book! Book!" He grabbed his pack and took out his Bible. He flipped through the pages and held it toward the men. He pointed to the leaves from the banana stalk, then back to the Bible. "This is it!" He said. "I have it here! This is God's banana stalk." One of the men ran to the Bible, tore pages off and began to eat them. "I want God inside of me." Olson explained that when you read the words they went inside of you, bringing God.
He also used the story of a Motilone who tried to help the ants by magically becoming an ant himself to explain how God became a man to save mankind. Missionaries are now using redemptive analogies to great effect all over the world. In China the layered meanings of Chinese ideograms are used to teach lessons of Christ's redemptive love. For example, the character that means "righteousness" when broken down into the simpler characters that compose it reveals the characters for "hand", "knife" and "lamb". This is a dramatic way to illustrate the concept that the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God" takes away the sins of the world and makes the believer righteous.
According to Don Richardson, there is only one culture that he has encountered that has no embedded redemptive analogies. It is, of course, Islam
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The association of physicians, Orde van Geneesheren, has informed the Health Ministry it has banned doctors from prescribing a 'euthanasia kit', claiming it is in breach of deontology, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported. The association said a doctor must know exactly what form of euthanasia he or she is choosing and what medication is necessary. The ban comes after three workgroups were established to draw up clear agreements over the availability of 'euthanasia kits'. The chairman of a special euthanasia commission, Wim Distelmans, defended the kits, saying doctors must detail all products and the correct dosage when proscribing euthanasia. Doctors are also required to personally order the kits at pharmacists and return any unused drugs.
I commented on these suicide kits last month. This probably shouldn't be interpeted as a pro-life stance, but it is encouraging to see that there are some principled physicians left in Belgium.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The European Union shelved plans to lift a 16-year-old arms embargo against China because of concerns about the nation's human-rights record and Pacific rim stability, completing a policy shift that marks a U.S. victory and a French defeat.
Things just don't seem to be coming together for Jacques Chirac these days.
French President Jacques Chirac says the embargo against the world's fastest-growing major economy and most populous nation is an anachronism. Lifting the ban would give Europe access to growing demand from the military in China, where arms purchases tripled between 1999 and 2003, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
EU leaders last December set a mid-2005 target date for ending the ban, which the Chinese government calls ``political discrimination.'' Support for resuming arms sales faded after the U.S. warned against upsetting the East Asian military balance and China passed a law threatening to react with armed force to any formal declaration of independence by Taiwan.
The tendency of the European elite to try to impose their agenda on the Contintent has bitten them once again in the derrière. After seeing the Michael Jackson verdict I thought we could all use some good news.
Monday, June 13, 2005
BEIJING — Chinese police have recently raided 100 underground churches in northeast China and detained 600 worshippers, including a group of university professors still being questioned, a Chinese Christian organization said Friday.
On May 22, Public Security Bureau officers in Changchun, a major city in Jilin Province, simultaneously raided 100 "house churches," a term for unregistered Christian worship groups, and questioned most of those detained for one or two days, according to a statement from the U.S.-based China Aid Association. (Kyodo News)
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Set in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, Beyond the Gates of Splendor tells the story of the Waodani, a violent and isolated tribe, and five North American families who contacted them. All five of the North American men were killed (Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully). Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the men, and Rachel Saint, the sister of another, went to live with the Waodani. Later, Steve Saint, the son of one of the slain men moved his family from Florida to live with the same Waodani family that had killed his father.
The Waodani were not just a fearsome foe to outsiders, but were also prone to settling their interpersonal conflicts with spearings and machete murders. Anthropologists who later studied the tribe were able to trace back five generations of the Waodani, and determined that 60% of all adult deaths over that time were caused by homicide perpetrated by other members of the tribe.
Like many accounts of missionaries' experience, it skewers the myth of indigenous life being an Eden-like idyll. Here is one reviewer's description:
The filmmakers are able to communicate the brutal nature of the Waodani existence because surviving tribe members agreed to be interviewed. They tell mesmerizing tales of a seemingly endless string of spearings, and each tale is punctuated by specific descriptions of how many times the deceased was speared, where the spears entered and/or exited, if entrails were exposed, how long the spear-ee lived after the spearing, and most stories end with the natives gesturing and saying (in their own unique language) that "it happened right over there under that tree"...or "they speared my father in his hammock while I was sleeping on his chest"...or "so-and-so was acting crazy, so we had to kill him and when he was dead we were happy". These killings are related with what seems like about the same amount of angst a typical American would have when relating the story of a non-fatal car accident...shaken, but not stirred.
In Hollywood, this would be the end of an interesting, but often told, tale. But in this case, the reality is that these killings were just the beginning of the story.
Based on the book by Jim Elliot's widow Through the Gates of Splendor the movie tones down the origin Christian message, but the poignancy of their sacrifice comes through. What struck me when I saw it was a statement by one of the men when they explained to their families that they would go to meet the tribe unarmed because they "...we at least know we are going to heaven..." This wasn't an expression of spiritual superiority, but sincere concern about taking the life of one who hadn't heard the Gospel, proven by their willingness to lay down their own. I doing so they fulfilled Jim Eliot's motto: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
This of itself would be sufficient to counter the conventional wisdom that missionaries are a type of spiritual big-game hunters who view souls as trophies. But the real power in this story is the reconciliation that happened afterwards. Again, from the Clever Donkey review:
After the killings, the wives decide to stay in Ecuador to continue their missionary work. Then, some time later a group of Waodani women emerge from the jungle, saying that they have fled the tribe out of fear for their lives. One of the surviving tribeswomen relates the harrowing tale of fleeing the jungle and heading for the area of the foreigners, and having them raise their rifles as she approached, but she simply shut her eyes and ran at them even though she thought they would kill her. When they didn't shoot her she signaled for the other, younger women to come out.
The missionary widows hear about these tribeswomen and end up meeting and befriending them, and beginning to learn about the language and culture (and horrors) of tribal life. It turns out that several years earlier another Waodani tribeswoman had done the same thing, and was now living the life of an Ecuadorian peasant rather than a jungle tribeswoman. The widows and the expat tribeswomen bond, and soon another delegation, made up of men and women, exit the jungle and approach the missionaries. They express remorse for the killings, as they found they were triggered by stories that they later learned were untrue. They invite the widows to come and visit them, and one of them does, taking along her five year old daughter.
Incredibly, they end up living with the Waodani for years, and they are also joined by some of the other missionary widows. Through their interactions with the Waodani, they express the horror with which most of the rest of the world views murders, and actually begin to convince the tribe that the vendettas and revenge murders have to stop, or it will spell the end of the Waodani. Astonishingly, village by village, the Waodani agree to stop the killings.
The anthropologists who later studied the Waodani express that this was an amazing cultural transformation. The Waodani way of life was unchanged except for this facet, no new tools were introduced, no technology, no farming techniques, none of the hallmarks of cultural dilution. Just the stopping of the killings, with the transformation going from the first village to the last in the course of a few months. And the change has been permanent, at least to date.
One of the women ended up living out her life with the Waodani, leaving only for cancer treatments, but returning to the tribe to die when she learned she was terminal. The five year old daughter lived there for years, and later returned when she was baptized because she wanted to be baptized in the river by the village, and she wanted her adopted Waodani family there. In an astonishing case of irony or joyfulness, the two Waodani who held her arms and leaned her back for her baptism were two of the men from the party that killed her father.
As a grown man, the son of one of the murdered missionaries returned to the Waodani with his two sons, and lived with them for years, as well. When his son returned to the States and was graduating from high school, he asked that one of the Waodani elders come to his graduation. He called this Waodani "grandfather" in the Waodani language. In another ironic/joyful instance, this man he called grandfather had also been in the party that killed his grandfather.
What the world (and often Christendom as well) doesn't get about the Gospel is this power of reconciliation and forgiveness, which in its essence is love. It is universal, and has the ability not only to heal a tribe, but the world itself.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Missionaries have a bad rap. Ask your average person and they picture someone like John Lithgow in At Play in the Fields of the Lord. I thought I'd offer an alternative to this negative view of missionaries that is so prevelant in the media and even modern textbooks.
I don't pretend to be an expert on evangelism through the ages and in all nations. Obvious there have been many dark chapters in Christion missions. What I hope to present are examples of what happens when the Gospel is shared the way I believe God intended.
I'll start with Bruce Olsen who is one of my all time heroes. I won't pretend to be objective for reason that will eventually become transparent. Here is a short description of his work:
Since 1961, missionary Bruce Olson has labored for the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Motilone Indians deep in the jungles of Colombia's high Catatumbo region. But today Olson's most exciting missionary work still lies ahead.
In the past thirty years, Olson has founded bilingual schools, medical clinics and agricultural centers among the Motilones. His Christ-like humility and work of service to the Motilones has earned him the status of a tribal member. Indian chiefs throughout the region representing 50 tribes and half a million tribe members look to Olson with great awe and respect. He has become a friend of five Colombian presidents; has spoken before the United Nations; and has received educational awards from the Colombian government. Although he completed college only through correspondence schools, his work on translating the Scriptures into the native Indian dialects has earned him honor among linguistics scholars.
Nineteen-year-old Olson first travelled to South America with only a one-way plane ticket and $70 in his pocket. A young person with a deep burden for Colombia's hidden people, Olson set out in in search of the Motilones: a fierce, primitive tribe that no white man had ever encountered and lived. Olson's adventures in Colombia brought him face to face with the Motilones when he was shot through the leg with a three foot arrow. He was brought as a prisoner to their camp to recover. "Bruchko" - the name the Indians gave him (the Motilones were not able to pronounce Bruce Olson) - eventually won over the hearts of these tribal people. Today the Motilones are almost universally converted to Christ.
Three years ago, Bruce Olson was kidnapped in the mountain jungles of Colombia and detained for nine months as a political prisoner by communist guerillas. Hoping to win him as a valuable communist leader, the communists attempted to indoctrinate him through daily political dialogues. "Papa Bruchko" - as they called him - became a source of fascination among the young recruits in training. Many of them began to join Olson in prayer and Bible study. As many as 60 communist guerillas eventually gave their lives to Christ. His refusal to join ranks with the communists earned him death threats and he narrowly escaped execution by a firing squad.
Fearing the reprisal of a united war effort of 50 jungle tribes, the guerilla leaders released Olson in the summer of 1989. The Indian tribes of Colombia had united against the guerillas in a war-pledge to defend Olson's cause if he was executed. The unity of the Indian tribes behind one white man was unprecedented in Colombia's history.
After his release, Olson found that he had become a national hero in Colombia. In the major cities, articles demanding Olson's release had appeared almost daily in the newspapers. Olson's courageous stance against the guerillas was one of the key factors which inspired the common citizens of Colombia to take a bolder, tougher stance against the drug cartels.
From the United States to the Amazon and from the African plains to the Australian outback, indigenous people are being systematically pushed off their homelands -- and robbed of all they possess. Yet Bruce Olsson and the Motilones have managed to preserve 95 present of their traditional land in Colombia -- 83,000 hectares.
The Motilone are the only indigenous people know to have made the transition from an aboriginal lifestyle to modernity, and such contact is usually fatal to a tribal culture. The following passage from Bruce's website written by an admiring journalist and fellow missionary gives you the scope of what God has achieved.
And they have developed [twenty-six] tribal centers on their reservation, each about a day's walk from on to the other. [Forty-two] graduate nurses staff each center's clinic. Vaccination and preventive medicine programs have almost controlled TB and measles epidemics -- a perennial problem among indigenous peoples.
The Motilone population, estimated at forty-five thousand at the turn of the century, was down to a low of three thousand when Bruce arrived. Now the tribe is growing again -- and estimated at about five thousand people.
Bruce has also promoted a cooperative of the Motilone people in the river valley. The cooperative has five goals: developing tropical agriculture, managing a farm store, providing medicine for the Motilone clinics, supporting the [twenty] bilingual schools established in the area, and providing necessary advocacy with the government to protect tribal rights.
The cooperative brings together [two hundred] Motilone families and [sixty] Colombian farm families who also live in the area. The cooperative has created a bridge between these once warring factions. And it has allowed them to be not only self governing but more equitable in their local business transactions.
The co-op's main cash crop is cacao [chocolate]. A few years ago, Bruce began some grafting and developed a hybrid which doubles the size -- and value -- of the native bean. This provides the tribe with necessary income for purchasing selected modern products.
Currently, the tribe has [five] hundred students studying in its own bilingual grade schools. Another [forty] students, all on scholarships, live in Bucaramanga and attend secondary schools and university.
The advanced students spend their vacations at home, catching up on the skills and ways of their tribe, which they miss by being outside the tribe so much. The wisdom of this is readily apparent. The tribe needs lawyers, nurses, and doctors to act as buffers against those who covet its land. Yet the Motilones would never respect a male member who didn't know how to hunt, fish, and run. Nor would they respect a female member who didn't know how to weave, garden, and prepare the traditional foods.
I recommend at least visiting Bruce's website, or better yet, finding his book to get a full sense of the magical-realismic quality of his story. Hopefully this exerpt from the article "Hostage!" on his site will give you a taste. It relates the low point of his captivity with the ELN terrorists suffering from a painful illness that surpassed anything he had previously experienced:
Then an absolutely amazing thing happened: A bird known in Colombia as the mirla began to sing. I looked up and saw the full moon pouring down through the thick jungle vegetation and felt, inexplicably, that it was shining for me. The mirla's song was the most hauntingly beautiful sound I'd ever heard. As I listened, I wondered why it seemed so familiar, why it soothed me so deeply .
The bird's song soared through the damp, moonlit air as I clung to consciousness.
The music was incredibly complex, set in a minor key. The notes never repeated; they reminded me more and more of something achingly familiar, something comforting -- but I just couldn't put my finger on it. An ancient Aramaic chant -- was that it? Yes, it was reminiscent of that -- but why did it make me think of the resurrection of Christ?
The familiarity puzzled me, but I had no real need to understand it. The music was the most exquisite I had ever heard; I was sure of that. It was communicating something profound to me, something I needed desperately but couldn't identify. I let the song carry me for a long time. Then I lost consciousness again.
When I came to, the bird was still singing. I wondered whether I might be hallucinating. After all, everyone knew mirlas never sing at night. And I was desperately ill, barely hanging on to life. It wouldn't be unusual to hallucinate in my condition. But what I was more intent on trying to understand was why this song -- real or imagined -- was having such an amazing, restorative effect on my spirit. I could feel myself coming back to life with each note.
Then, as the bird's song continued to penetrate the quiet night air, I knew: I knew why this song seemed so hauntingly familiar, why it spoke to me of the resurrection, why it comforted me like familiar, loving arms. The mirla was singing a Motilone minor-key tonal chant, mimicking the traditional sounds with such amazing accuracy that I could almost hear their words, could almost see my friends Kaymiyokba and Waysersera and ll the other Motilones I loved, singing the prophecies of the resurrection of Christ in the timeless Motilone way, our hammocks swaying together in the rafters of a communal home in the jungles as they had for the 28 years I'd lived among them. I could almost feel their warm, reassuring hugs.
In that moment I was lifted above my agony in a way I'll never be able to describe adequately. I didn't even care whether it was real or imagined. The Motilones were with me; I knew it now. I had not been abandoned. And I was going to survive to be with them again, because God had used the mirla's song to transfuse His lifeblood into me.
One of the guerrillas walked over to my hammock as I opened my eyes at dawn. The pain was subsiding a little.
"So," he said softly, "how did you like your personal concert last night?"
I questioned him with my eyes. "The mirla," he said. "His song kept us awake all night long. We've never heard anything like it! The boys wondered whether it was a special angel sent to sing for you. Did you hear it?"
I also have a very personal reason for my affection for "Bruchko". Before his harrowing encounter with the Motilones, Bruce spent time with their more friendly arch-enemies, the Yukos. He has set out from a small Venezuelan town called Machiques and when he met the Yukos they taught him their language but warned him against trying to find the Motilones. However after the Motilones accepted the Gospel, one of their first impulses was to make peace with their ancient rivals the Yukos, and one tribe discipled the other. The Yukos, impressed with the change in the Motilones where easily converted by their former enemies.
One thing Bruce noted about the tribal value system was that unless you were immediate family, compassion was virtually non-existent. If a neighbor fell out of a tree hunting monkeys and broke his back, the others just stepped over him. This changed among both tribes after Bruchko's arrival. Sometime in the early 70's, a little girl who live in the village of Machiques, Bruce's original departure point from civilization, was visiting a scenic mountain area where the Yukos lived on a family outing. She accidently fell into the river and was being swept away by the strong current. In an act of compassion that would have been unheard of under the old tribal system, a Yuko woman pulled the girl from the river. That little girl was my wife.
To this day thinking about that story brings tears of wonder and gratitude. Thank you Bruchko!
Thursday, June 09, 2005
As soon as he's done, I get the microphone and say I'd like to discuss selective infanticide. As a lawyer, I disagree with his jurisprudential assumptions. Logical inconsistency is not a sufficient reason to change the law. As an atheist, I object to his using religious terms (''the doctrine of the sanctity of human life'') to characterize his critics. Singer takes a note pad out of his pocket and jots down my points, apparently eager to take them on, and I proceed to the heart of my argument: that the presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life. I question his replacement-baby theory, with its assumption of ''other things equal,'' arguing that people are not fungible. I draw out a comparison of myself and my nondisabled brother Mac (the next-born after me), each of us with a combination of gifts and flaws so peculiar that we can't be measured on the same scale.
He responds to each point with clear and lucid counterarguments. He proceeds with the assumption that I am one of the people who might rightly have been killed at birth. He sticks to his guns, conceding just enough to show himself open-minded and flexible. We go back and forth for 10 long minutes. Even as I am horrified by what he says, and by the fact that I have been sucked into a civil discussion of whether I ought to exist, I can't help being dazzled by his verbal facility. He is so respectful, so free of condescension, so focused on the argument, that by the time the show is over, I'm not exactly angry with him. Yes, I am shaking, furious, enraged -- but it's for the big room, 200 of my fellow Charlestonians who have listened with polite interest, when in decency they should have run him out of town on a rail.
She then begins corresponding with him. I can't help but note how Ms Johnson's atheism hobbles her philosophical argument in service of her intstinctive opposition to Singer's monsterous beliefs.
Singer seems curious to learn how someone who is as good an atheist as he is could disagree with his entirely reasonable views. At the same time, I am trying to plumb his theories. What has him so convinced it would be best to allow parents to kill babies with severe disabilities, and not other kinds of babies, if no infant is a ''person'' with a right to life? I learn it is partly that both biological and adoptive parents prefer healthy babies. But I have trouble with basing life-and-death decisions on market considerations when the market is structured by prejudice. I offer a hypothetical comparison: ''What about mixed-race babies, especially when the combination is entirely nonwhite, who I believe are just about as unadoptable as babies with disabilities?'' Wouldn't a law allowing the killing of these undervalued babies validate race prejudice? Singer agrees there is a problem. ''It would be horrible,'' he says, ''to see mixed-race babies being killed because they can't be adopted, whereas white ones could be.'' What's the difference? Preferences based on race are unreasonable. Preferences based on ability are not. Why? To Singer, it's pretty simple: disability makes a person ''worse off.''
Are we ''worse off''? I don't think so. Not in any meaningful sense. There are too many variables. For those of us with congenital conditions, disability shapes all we are. Those disabled later in life adapt. We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures peculiarly our own. We have something the world needs.
Pressing me to admit a negative correlation between disability and happiness, Singer presents a situation: imagine a disabled child on the beach, watching the other children play.
It's right out of the telethon. I expected something more sophisticated from a professional thinker. I respond: ''As a little girl playing on the beach, I was already aware that some people felt sorry for me, that I wasn't frolicking with the same level of frenzy as other children. This annoyed me, and still does.'' I take the time to write a detailed description of how I, in fact, had fun playing on the beach, without the need of standing, walking or running. But, really, I've had enough. I suggest to Singer that we have exhausted our topic, and I'll be back in touch when I get around to writing about him.
In the rest of the piece she struggles at length with her inability to hate Singer. She realizes (and I trust her perception) his views come from good intentions combined with his secular utilitarian logic. This is the crux of it. We know in our hearts that these "practical" conclusions are a failure of human reasoning. Yet because we can't bear this terrible burden alone, we simply stop listening to our hearts. Without God, we become like Peter Singer. Reasonable respectful considerate monsters.
What we can celebrate is the experience gives Attorney Johnson a new perspective that allows here to extend compassion and empathy to those that would have killed her.
If I define Singer's kind of disability prejudice as an ultimate evil, and him as a monster, then I must so define all who believe disabled lives are inherently worse off or that a life without a certain kind of consciousness lacks value. That definition would make monsters of many of the people with whom I move on the sidewalks, do business, break bread, swap stories and share the grunt work of local politics. It would reach some of my family and most of my nondisabled friends, people who show me personal kindness and who sometimes manage to love me through their ignorance. I can't live with a definition of ultimate evil that encompasses all of them. I can't refuse the monster-majority basic respect and human sympathy. It's not in my heart to deny every single one of them, categorically, my affection and my love.
As a shield from the terrible purity of Singer's vision, I'll look to the corruption that comes from interconnectedness. To justify my hopes that Singer's theoretical world -- and its entirely logical extensions -- won't become real, I'll invoke the muck and mess and undeniable reality of disabled lives well lived. That's the best I can do.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Europe began the twentieth century with bright expectations of new and unprecedented scientific, cultural, and political achievements. Yet within fifty years, Europe, the undisputed center of world civilization in 1900, produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, a Cold War that threatened global holocaust, oceans of blood, mountains of corpses, the Gulag, and Auschwitz. What happened? And, perhaps more to the point, why had what happened happened? Political and economic analyses do not offer satisfactory answers to those urgent questions. Cultural-which is to say spiritual, even theological-answers might help.
Take, for example, the proposal made by a French Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, during World War II. De Lubac argued that Europe's torments in the 1940s were the "real world" results of defective ideas, which he summarized under the rubric "atheistic humanism"-the deliberate rejection of the God of the Bible in the name of authentic human liberation. This, de Lubac suggested, was something entirely new. Biblical man had perceived his relationship to the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as a liberation: liberation from the terrors of gods who demanded extortionate sacrifice, liberation from the whims of gods who played games with human lives (remember the Iliad and the Odyssey), liberation from the vagaries of Fate. The God of the Bible was different. And because biblical man believed that he could have access to the one true God through prayer and worship, he believed that he could bend history in a human direction. Indeed, biblical man believed that he was obliged to work toward the humanization of the world. One of European civilization's deepest and most distinctive cultural characteristics is the conviction that life is not just one damn thing after another; Europe learned that from its faith in the God of the Bible.
The proponents of nineteenth-century European atheistic humanism turned this inside out and upside down. Human freedom, they argued, could not coexist with the God of Jews and Christians. Human greatness required rejecting the biblical God, according to such avatars of atheistic humanism as Auguste Comte, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. And here, Father de Lubac argued, were ideas with consequences-lethal consequences, as it turned out. For when you marry modern technology to the ideas of atheistic humanism, what you get are the great mid-twentieth century tyrannies-communism, fascism, Nazism. Let loose in history, Father de Lubac concluded, those tyrannies had taught a bitter lesson: "It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man." Atheistic humanism ultramundane humanism, if you will-is inevitably inhuman humanism.
The first lethal explosion of what Henri de Lubac would later call "the drama of atheistic humanism" was World War I. For whatever else it was, the "Great War" was, ultimately, the product of a crisis of civilizational morality, a failure of moral reason in a culture that had given the world the very concept of "moral reason." That crisis of moral reason led to the crisis of civilizational morale that is much with us, and especially with Europe, today.
This crisis has only become fully visible since the end ofthe Cold War. Its effects were first masked by the illusory peace between World War I and World War II; then by the rise of totalitarianism and the Great Depression; then by the Second World War itself; then by the Cold War. It was only after 1991, when the seventy-seven-year-long political-military crisis that began in 1914 had ended, that the long-term effects of Europe's "rage of self-mutilation" (as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called it) could come to the surface of history and be seen for what they were-and for what they are. Europe is experiencing a crisis of civilizational morale today because of what happened in Europe ninety years ago. That crisis could not be seen in its full and grave dimensions then (although the German general Helmuth von Moltke, one of the chief instigators of the slaughter, wrote in late July 1914 that the coming war would "annihilate the civilization of almost the whole of Europe for decades to come"). The damage done to the fabric of European culture and civilization in the Great War could only been seen clearly when the Great War's political effects had been cleared from the board in 1991.
This is familiar territory. But in spite of the poor results of its secular experiment, Europe will continue to not only persist in making human reason its highest value, but also in defining itself in explict anti-Christian terms.
In October 2004, Rocco Buttiglione, a distinguished Italian philosopher and minister for European affairs in the Italian government, was chosen by the incoming president of the European Commission, Portugal's Jos, Manuel Dur_o Barroso, to be commissioner of justice. Professor Buttiglione, who would have been considered an adornment of any sane government since Cato the Elder, was then subjected to a nasty inquisition by the justice committee of the European
Parliament. His convictions concerning the morality of homosexual acts and the nature of marriage were deemed by Euro-parliamentarians to disqualify him from holding high office on the European Commission-despite Buttiglione's clear distinction in his testimony between what he, an intellectually sophisticated Catholic, regarded as immoral behavior and what the law regarded as criminal behavior, and despite his sworn commitment, substantiated by a lifetime of work, to uphold and defend the civil rights of all. This did not satisfy many members of the European Parliament, who evidently agreed with one of their number in his claim that Buttiglione's moral convictions-not any actions he had undertaken, and would likely undertake, but his convictions-were "in direct contradiction of European law."
Buttiglione described this to a British newspaper as the "new totalitarianism," which is not, I fear, an exaggeration. That this new totalitarianism flies under the flag of "tolerance" only makes matters worse. But where does it come from?
One of the most perceptive commentators on the European constitutional debate was neither a European nor a Christian but an Orthodox Jew born in South Africa-J. H. H. Weiler, professor of international law and director of the Jean Monnet Center at New York University. Weiler argued that European "Christophobia"-a more pungent term than Taylor's "exclusive humanism"-was the root of the refusal of so many Europeans to acknowledge what Weiler regarded as obvious: that Christian ideas and values were one of the principal sources of European civilization and of Europe's contemporary commitment to human rights and democracy. This deliberate historical amnesia, Weiler suggested, was not only ignorant; it was constitutionally disabling. For in addition to defining the relationship between citizens and the state, and the relations among the various branches of government, constitutions are the repository, the safe-deposit box, of the ideas, values, and symbols that make a society what it is. Constitutions embody, Weiler proposed, the "ethos" and the "telos," the cultural foundations and moral aspirations, of a political community. To cut those aspirations out of the process of "constituting" Europe was to do grave damage to the entire project.
One need only look at the history of that vanguard of European secularism, France, to see the fruit this philosophy produces: decades of civil chaos, the blight of crops, the carnage and destruction of WWI, the humiliations of Waterloo, the Franco-Prussian War, WWII, and Dien Bien Phu and perhaps worse, a cultural pestilence that has infected the Continent.
The demographics are unmistakable: Europe is dying. The wasting disease that has beset this once greatest of civilizations is not physical, however. It is a disease in the realm of the human spirit. David Hart, another theological analyst of contemporary history, calls it the disease of "metaphysical boredom"-boredom with the mystery, passion, and adventure of life itself. Europe, in Hart's image, is boring itself to death.
I've commented at length on the Dutch euthanasia experiment that I consider one symptom of this soul-plague. Another that the article points out is the horrifying spectacle of Europe willingly transforming itself into Eurabian. Weigel tries to offer a glimmer of hope that attitudes are changing among younger Europeans. But as previously noted, Europe is producing so few of them.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
He argues that in order to have an interest in staying alive, you have to be a thinking, self-aware being and have an understanding of yourself as a being which endures through time. Following philosophical tradition, he calls such beings "persons," in order, as he says in his 1993 book, Practical Ethics, "to capture those elements of the popular sense of 'human being' that are not covered by 'member of the species Homo sapiens.'" Only persons, he says, can be said to have an interest in living and a right not to be killed; non-persons, by definition, cannot.
Obviously, wherever Singer's ideas are accepted as the basis for policy, it becomes a vitally important thing to be seen as a person. Infants, for example, are seen as non-persons. According to Singer they may therefore be killed with far less justification than would be required if they were understood to be persons. Certain adults to whom labels such as "persistent vegetative state" (PVS), "profound mental retardation" and "dementia" are attached may also be killed with less justification, according to Singer.
It would be okay, for example, to kill a "non-person" if you did it because everyone else's preferences would be more likely to be fulfilled if that individual were removed from their lives: that's one justification Singer gives for letting parents kill newborns expected to become disabled children. If parents, freed of responsibility for the disabled infant, were able to try again, says Singer, both they and the non-disabled child they'd ultimately raise could expect to live happier lives.
"We know," he says in his 1994 book, Rethinking Life and Death, "that once our children's lives are properly underway, we will become committed to them; for that very reason, many couples do not want to bring up a child if they fear that both the child's life and their own experience of child-rearing will be clouded by a major disability."
Another justification Singer offers for killing a "non-person" is that it frees "persons," or society, from what they may see as the "burden" imposed by the life of a "non-person." In Practical Ethics, which is often used as a textbook, Singer advocates making it legal to kill disabled infants up to 28 days after birth as well as older "non-persons with disabilities."
The problem disability advocates have with being labeled non-persons is an understandable one.
Is life with a disability any more "clouded," as Singer terms it, than life without a disability? And if so, what should we do about it?
Several studies focusing primarily on people with severe, stable disabilities suggest that people who have been disabled long enough to become accustomed to it rate their quality of life similarly to non-disabled people. The medical professionals treating them, though, tend to underestimate their subjective quality of life.
"Many people assume that living with cerebral palsy means that I am endlessly confronted by my body's limitations," writes human services consultant Norman Kunc in a1995 article with his wife, Emma Van der Klift. "Actually, this is not my experience. Having cerebral palsy means living a life in which innovation, improvisation, creativity and lateral thinking are essential." The description of his life that Kunc offers readers makes it sound more like a dance than a diminishment. While some people with disabilities do attribute significant frustration to disability, it is clear that frustration is by no means a necessary consequence of impairment.
People with disabilities do often find their preferences frustrated in ways that people without disabilities do not. But that frustration is not inherent in their impairments. Rather, it arises from an environment -- physical or social -- which is not designed to accommodate all members of the human race.
What, then, ought we do about that frustration? To offer a parallel: Is the selective infanticide of daughters in societies where boys are offered many more opportunities than are girls an acceptable practice? The girls' lack of opportunity is not intrinsically connected with being born female; nonetheless, the parents and the child they will eventually raise can expect better prospects if daughters are "replaced" by sons. Singer's theory could, therefore, be used to justify the practice of killing off infant girls, thus guaranteeing sons to parents who want them. To date he has not offered that justification.
"I question whether Princeton would hire a faculty member who argued that parents should be permitted to kill their infant daughters so that they could have a son," says National Council on Disability chairperson Marca Bristo. And yet prejudice against people with disabilities is so much more pervasive and unquestioned than sexism that promoting identical methods directed against us raises no concern.
Singer has been roundly condemned by disability advocates like Not Dead Yet, who were at the forefront of the fight for Terri Schiavo's life.
"Peter Singer is attempting to establish a philosophical foundation for denying disabled people the equal protection of the law and killing us for his version of the greater good," says Not Dead Yet's Diane Coleman. NDY, she continues, "considers his appointment a major affront to our minority group, a serious threat to our lives and, hopefully, it will also be a wake-up call for the entire disability movement."
Singer has been named by Time Magazine as one of the world's top 100 thinkers and holds a chair at Princeton University's Center for Human Values.
Monday, June 06, 2005
However this article by Paul McHugh is one of the best I've seen in the aftermath of Terri's death:
Conspicuously missing from the chorus of voices arguing over the meaning and implications of the Schiavo case have been the views of a class of people with a uniquely relevant body of experience and insight: namely, the doctors and nurses who customarily provide care to patients like Terri Schiavo. As a result, few people appear to have grasped that the way she died was most unusual. That, instead, it has been widely understood to be not only a proper but also a perfectly commonsensical way to die, a way approved of by most doctors and nurses, can only be explained by a deep change that has taken place over the last decades in our thinking about how to care for the helpless and the disabled among us.
I think a pretty good case can be made that the medical profession has been either co-opted or silenced. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Contemporary bioethics has become a natural ally of the culture of death, but the culture of death itself is a perennial human temptation; for onlookers in particular, it offers a reassuring answer (“this is how X would have wanted it”) to otherwise excruciating dilemmas, and it can be rationalized every which way till Sunday. In Terri Schiavo’s case, it is what won out over the hospice’s culture of life, overwhelming by legal means, and by the force of advanced social opinion, the moral and medical command to choose life, to comfort the afflicted, and to teach others how to do the same. The more this culture continues to influence our thinking, the deeper are likely to become the divisions within our society and within our families, the more hardened our hatreds, and the more manifold our fears. More of us will die prematurely; some of us will even be persuaded that we want to.
The mainstream media and the right-to-die movement have duped us into believing that in order to avoid a worst-case end of life scenario, we must abdicate control of our own deaths to medical professionals who have abandon the first directive of their oath to do no harm. In the past few months I've tried to show that we have plenty of alternatives. What we don't have is much time.