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Friday, April 27, 2012

Why I oppose the death penalty now

I could argue both sides of the death penalty issue, from an ethical standpoint. I basically find the whole idea of killing even guilty people to be distasteful, though.

But I am now officially against the death penalty. And here's why.

Bullies like the guy I wrote about in my previous post. Give that guy license to kill. And the power to invent crimes that deserve extreme punishment. Now, I'm not talking about him per se. I am talking about a mentality. A pervasive mentality wherein you can define "person" how you want and "non-person" as someone you can kill if you wanted to. A mentality that finds no problem using bullying to preach against bullying. A bullying mentality to get your way, a mentality in which you identify the enemy and stir up hatred against them, or at least fear of siding with them against you. Now imagine the power to use capital punishment in the hands of bullies like that.

So, with the government in a headlong rush toward that kind of moral relativism, a totalitarianism of "us" over "them," I would have to say that the death penalty should be abolished.

Anti-bullying hypocrite resorts to bullying to get his way

Here is a story about a homosexual man who is a motivational speaker on sex and anti-bullying. And a complete hypocrite. When it comes to anti-bullying, he means that gays should not be bullied. Bullying anyone else is ok.

We know he advocates bullying people who disagree with him, because he himself used bullying.
“The first thing he told the audience was, ‘I hope you’re all using birth control,’” she told CitizenLink. “he said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the (expletive deleted) in the Bible.”
As the teenagers were walking out, Tuttle said that Savage heckled them and called them “pansy asses.”
So, some people complained to the National Scholastic Press Association, since this high school lesson in bullying was supposed to be a journalism lecture. Here is what they said in response:

“We appreciate the level of thoughtfulness and deliberation regarding Dan Savage’s keynote address,” the NSPA wrote. “some audience members who felt hurt by his words and tone decided to leave in the middle of his speech, and to this, we want to make our point very clear: While as a journalist it’s important to be able to listen to speech that offends you, these students and advisers had simply reached their tolerance level for what they were willing to hear.”
The NSPA said they did not have a prior transcript of Savage’s speech and that wish “he had stayed more on target for the audience of teen journalists.” They also said it provided a “teachable moment” for students.
As for Savage’s attack on people of faith?
“While some of his earlier comments were so strongly worded that they shook some of our audience members, it is never the intent of JEA or NSPA to let students get hurt during their time at our conventions,” they wrote.
However, not once did the NSPA or the JEA offer any apologies to the students or faculty advisors or anyone else in attendance.
Hmmm. I noticed that, too. I wonder why.  I also wonder what would have happened if the whole thing were reversed.

Look, if bullying is wrong, then it is wrong. DON'T DO IT. If they guy is a jerk, admit it, and apologize for it, and refuse to pay him. He is a bully. You are bullies for paying him to bully others.

But the principle at work is not "bullying is wrong," but this: "It is wrong to bully us. It is wrong to bully gays. Bullying per se is ok, if it's not directed at us, if we're the ones bullying."

That's the world we live in. And it's getting worse and worse every day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More on American attitudes on Euthanasia

I was wrong in my post on why Americans oppose euthanasia. Don't get me wrong, I stand by everything I said in it, except that I said there was one reason when in actuality there are two.

I believe I am correct in saying that Americans generally do not believe that there is a right to kill innocent people. We could expand this notion to say that Americans generally do not believe others should have that right over them, nor do they want that right for themselves. We fought bloody wars against regimes that thought otherwise. The right to kill is a tool of tyranny. Americans oppose tyranny. (Why we put up with Obama just goes to show that many Americans have lost their sense of what a tyrant actually is.) This nation exists precisely as a bastion against tyranny.

The other reason, which I neglected to mention before, is that Americans are not cowards, by and large. Some of us are. Most of us aren't. Now the movement favoring euthanasia and assisted suicide has two parts. Those who want to be able to die on their own terms. And those who want to be able to kill them. Both groups tend toward cowardice, the first group more than the second. The object of fear here is not death itself, but of dying. Many people fear suffering, indignation, and that sort of thing typically associated with a protracted death. Some of us do not fear it. At any rate, even if you deny that those who want to want to die quickly and easily are cowards, you cannot say that those who face suffering and the process of dying with their chins up are anything but courageous. But if you do deny that desire for euthanasia is cowardice, you would be creating a reality of your own. It would be like saying a soldier who runs from combat is not a coward because it takes some bravery to risk court martial and prison. Right. But then, many of us are in the habit of trying to make reality be a certain way by defining our words how we like. Why not redefine "courage" to justify cowardice? (Read 1984.)

As far as those who want the right to kill go, I would say that cowardice plays a smaller part. Those in this group are quite diverse and their motives to kill a dying person are myriad. But in general it is their own burden they seek to relieve, couching it in terms of easing the burden of the patient. So they fear their own burden and would rather kill the patient than be burdened. It might be cowardice. It might be selfishness. It might be greed. It might be a combination. Cowardice can't be excluded completely, however.

The American way is to face hardship with courage and to live and die by the notion that no one -- NO ONE -- has the right to kill an innocent person. This has nothing to do with religion. 

I am American. How about you?

Of course, people are defining "American" to mean whatever they want it to mean. Sure, being American means accommodating tyrants, running from battle, being selfish. Just define it that way and that's what it means. Are you that sort of American?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Euthanasia in the US -- The NYTimes

An opinion piece at the NYTimes attempts to pontificate about why Americans are so reluctant to embrace the death of people who are dying and to go out of our way to kill them.

The author is a professor at Harvard and a former editor in chief at the New England Journal of Medicine, both exceedingly hoity-toity entries on her curriculum vitae. I, on the other hand, am a nobody.

There are two reasons for Americans' attitudes on killing people who are dying, according to our erudite author. One is that Americans are too religious. The other is that Americans are afraid if people have the right to kill them, such as health professionals under pressure from government bureaucracies and insurance companies, that those people will use that right.

Of the first problem, religion, she says, "In particular, the Catholic Church, as a matter of doctrine, is strongly opposed to helping patients in this way, no matter how great the suffering at the end of life." OK, she's a Ivy League professor and a physician, but she is neither Catholic (that I know of) nor a theologian, so she has no business commenting on doctrine. I, on the other hand, WAY out-hoity-toity her in that regard.

The Catholic Church, as a matter of doctrine, considers going out of your way to kill someone else or yourself to be a crime. As a matter of doctrine, the Catholic Church commends health professionals and loved ones who care for, comfort, and basically love those who are dying as they die. Unlike the more enlightened non-religious people comfortable with euthanasia, we do not consider killing to be a way of showing love.

She goes on to say, "Church leaders often frame the issue as life versus death, but the real issue is the manner of dying...." No, on both counts. Church leaders do not frame the issue as life versus death, but as caring versus killing, and the real issue is not manner of dying but what we consider to be caring versus killing.

I will clue this Harvard professor into something. The ONE reason Americans resist assisted suicide and euthanasia is that we don't believe that ANYONE has the RIGHT to KILL and call it "helping the patient." Let the Europeans and Canadians kill each other and accept it as caring if they want. That does not make them smarter, more enlightened, more advanced. It makes them more barbaric, actually. As far as the Netherlands goes, I will say this: THEY were brutally occupied and victimized by a regime that enshrined euthanasia in its ethical code. They were freed only at a great cost of the lives of people from another country, without whom they'd be speaking German today instead of Dutch. They have become just like their oppressors rather than their liberators and expect US to follow them? And we're backward? Really.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are designed to do one thing: PROTECT THE KILLER FROM PROSECUTION. PERIOD. Everything else is just marketing.

By the way, I pay my bills by working in marketing. I out-hoity-toity her there, too. I know marketing when I see it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

One of the strangest things a person can believe in is the Resurrection. Given the existence of God, the concept of resurrection is not impossible. For human beings whose souls remain somewhat incomplete without a body, the resurrection is fitting for their complete happiness. Not impossible, and very fitting, and eyewitness accounts in the case of Jesus.

For bioethics, the resurrection of Jesus tells us a few things. I went into some of them in my post on the Feast of the Annunciation last month. I just want to say something brief here.

If the resurrection is true, then bodily suffering in this life is not the greatest evil that can befall a human being. While human beings rightly strive to cure diseases and avoid senseless injuries and pain, at the same time we should not fear suffering or recoil from it. It is not the greatest evil.

If the resurrection is true, the greatest evil is the loss of God and being resurrected unto eternal separation from Him. The body, rather than being perfected and a joy to the soul, will be ever a burden. Imagine the worst possible earthly suffering. Then imagine lasting for millions and billions of years.

Bioethics must keep in mind man's eternal destiny. Not everything we can do is a good thing to do.

And for you atheists out there: If there is no God, then there is no such thing as ethics either, so it is simply hypocritical, an oxymoron to say you're an atheistic bioethicist. Bioethics cannot exist, except as an exercise in formulating plausible rationales to justify whatever you want to do, to placate or coerce those of opposite views into silence. But it would not be about right and wrong.

If there is a right and wrong, there must also be a God. If there is a God, then bodily suffering (though an evil to be combated) is not the greatest evil facing mankind (separation from God is), and the resurrection is possible, and the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' resurrection are plausible and reliable.

And the resurrection becomes a touchstone for authentic bioethics.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Annual Anti-Easter Shenanigans - Updated

Every year, the secular press has stories about how Christ's resurrection did not really occur. Today on FoxNews is a story about an art historian's take on the Shroud of Turin.

An art historian. Note: Not any kind of scientist or theologian or biblical archaeologist. An art historian.

With an imagination. And a hypothesis based on his imaginings.
According to de Wesselow, there's no need to invoke a miracle when simple chemistry could explain the imprint. It's likely, he says, that Jesus' female followers returned to his tomb to finish anointing his body for burial three days after his death. When they lifted the shroud to complete their work, they would have seen the outline of the body and interpreted it as a sign of Jesus' spiritual revival.
From there, de Wesselow suspects, the shroud went on tour around the Holy Land, providing physical proof of the resurrection to Jesus' followers. When the Bible talks about people meeting Jesus post-resurrection, de Wesselow said, what it really means is that they saw the shroud. He cites the early writings of Saint Paul, which focus on a spiritual resurrection, over the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, which were written later and invoke physical resurrection.
There is a theory apparently that a decomposing body could emit chemicals that interact with carbohydrates in the cloth, much like bread browning in an oven. That chemical reaction, though, pertains to carbohydrates being burned. Browning is the same as charring but not as intense. Decomposing bodies cause a burning effect with photographic details? Remember, it is only a theory, and one that is advanced to explain the Shroud, not one based on any kind of empirical data. Given the number of bodies wrapped in cloth much like Jesus was, you would think that the Shroud would not be the only one in existence, indeed, the only one that has ever been even reported on. Uncanny, isn't it, that the only example in the whole world is one that depicts a crucified man?

Of course this Wesselow person is no chemist or biologist with any kind of specialty in decomposing bodies, the chemical they emit, and the propensity of these chemicals to interact with carbohydrates on adjacent linen cloth. He is an art historian.

Neither is he a biblical scholar. Based on his conjectures, which themselves are based on unproven theories, we are supposed to believe that Jesus' disciples went to the tomb, found his dead body and an image on the cloth and concluded.... what? "Oh, Jesus is resurrected, just like he said!" My GOD, the disciples were stupid. You would think that some of these people meeting "Jesus" post-resurrection would have said, "It's just a picture of a man. I want to see Jesus himself." And all the post-resurrection meetings where Jesus actually said something? Ate fish? Was lifted up into heaven? All lies. Have to be.

So, this is just par for the course for this time of year. Reasons not to believe.

As St. Paul said, "If there is no resurrection, we are the most pitiable of men." Not just Christians who believe something untrue. All of the human race is most pitiable. Because if there is no resurrection, then human life is futile.

The reasoning employed by Wesselow also appears in bioethics, by the way. First, determine what you want to do or believe. Next, craft a plausible rationale to fit the facts as best you can. Then, make people who disagree with you look like fools. Whether it is rounding up homeless people to harvest their organs, genetically engineering a quasi-human with octopus tentacles, or giving yourself a reason to reject God, it is all the same. Plausible rationales to justify your desires and inclinations, to placate or ridicule the opposition into silence.

Well, I'm not gonna fall for it.

UPDATE: Fr. Mullady at the NCRegister ponders the denial of the resurrection in his column, in which he says, "Death is not natural to man, but a result of sin." I say, EXACTLY. If bioethics wants to determine the right and wrong of dealing with human bodily suffering and improvement, then it has to deal with SIN, or at least keep sin in its view. And that means, no bioethical system can be authentic if it denies or marginalizes God.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/christs-triumph#ixzz1rZhQrZ6t

Monday, April 2, 2012

How respect for autonomy ends up reducing autonomy

BioEdge has a little article on how the very existence of euthanasia for those who want it, in the end, pressures people to want it.

And it is true. Where euthanasia is not tolerated, people find another way to deal with their situations. I do not say that it is easy. I do not say it is not costly. But I do say, if killing the old/sick/depressed person is not an option, then people find other options. They find a way.

Where euthanasia is accepted, on the other hand, it looms as an option. It looms as an option for the caregivers who are burdened with an old/sick/depressed relative. It looms as an option for the old/sick/depressed relative as a way to relieve the burden on the caregiver. It looms. Large. You can't say, "Well, those who do not want to choose euthanasia do not have to." Of course they have to. It's an option, isn't it? They have to consider it because it is available. And if they choose against it, they do so not by default because it is not an option, but by conscious, explicit, determined choice. In choosing against it, they thereby choose to continue the burden. There are many pressures in favor of killing, many benefits that could be gained. They have to choose against all of them. It is not an easy choice.

How can you quantify, "But we love you and want you around"? You can easily quantify the medical bills as they pile up. The hours that are lost helping someone use the bathroom and eat. The resources used. The days with pain and suffering. All those numbers loom larger and larger, gaining strength and weight with each passing day.

Let's not forget who's paying the brunt of those medical bills: Health insurance, both private and government. They don't want to keep paying for health services for someone who cannot hope to benefit from them. Euthanasia becomes part of patient and caregiver counseling.

But how do you quantify "we love you" to withstand the pressure? You can't.

The very existence of euthanasia means that it will become a duty, not a choice. A duty.

So much for autonomy. So much for the rallying cry of the euthanasia movement.

I wonder... are they really striving to protect autonomy, after all? Is it really about the right to die?

I don't think so.