Monday, January 25, 2010

Martin Amis and the Silver Tsunami.

British author Martin Amis is taking it from all sides for suggesting that there should be euthanasia booths on street corners for the impending "silver tsunami" of feeble seniors. The Guardian article is here.

George Pitcher at the Telegraph rightly Amis the slightest shadow of his father and says he may cause damage to the aid in dying movement.

From the tcot-ers at Common American Journal - comes fear that the elites are working to engineer population numbers.

From Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, paternalizing Schadenberg once again fails to see more nuance in the discussion than simple "culture of death" hatred for the elderly.

He suspects Amis may be kidding, trying to promote his latest book, or simply represents all the rest of the blood-thirsty in society who can't wait to knock off our "useless and disrespected" elders.

Egads! At least Amis-the-younger showed how little a sense of humor or proportion both the Antis and the Pros tend to have: the former just 'cause it's their demeanor and they have an entire population to scare with hyperbole; and the latter cause they can't afford the damage a wrongly-placed or too-bold-faced joke or fact will do them.

If Amis is the great commentator on modern culture he has been hailed as, at least with this issue he earns his keep. His simple comments, some absurd, some colorful, some realistic, about aid in dying, euthanasia, assisted suicide - call it what you will - cut through the pastel-colored, soft-voiced, hallmark-esque culture that surrounds the aid in dying discussion.

We're all going to die, he says. Some of us would like the rather practical choice of how to do so rather than be hooked up and strung out for one segment of the populations' gooey adoration and fawning. Give patients choice. Uh, that is what personal rights are all about after all.

And he expectedly draws the "end times," "elder abuse," claims that opponents leverage to reduce seniors to incapable children, fearful for their lives, and unable to make their own medical decisions.

Pro-life groups have done it with women for - ok, forever. Take that "silver tsunami." Your turn.

(Which brings me to the point I'm always making: get the elder's rights folks and the women's rights folks together to fight not only the horrors of pastel leaflets! but the religious efforts to impose doctrinal medicine on patients, ah, could be liberating. Makes sense. Can't be worse than what either group is getting so far on its own.)

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British Mom Found Not Guilty of Assisting Daughter's Suicide.

Today Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale of Britain was declared not guilty in the suicide of her ill daughter.

If you want to hear a story that makes you question all the religiously-inflected laws in this country, all the ideas of the "culture of death," all the supposed humanity behind the pro-life activism we saw this week during the March for Life on DC - with it's images of surgeries and fetus-shaped potatoes and euphemisms for vulnerability, murder, martyrdom, compassion and liberty, with it's work to enforce laws that decide when your life begins and ends and when you have children, that invades your examination room privacy, that defines women by their fertility and refuses to trust their judgement, that imposes religious doctrine via law and calls it "traditional values," that works to define Terri Schiavo as severely disabled, her husband "estranged," her life and yours in their hands: read this:

After the jury had delivered its verdict, Mr Justice Bean said: "I do not normally comment on the verdicts of juries but in this case their decision, if I may say so, shows common sense, decency and humanity which makes jury trials so important in a case of this kind.

"There is no dispute that you were a caring and loving mother and that you considered that you were acting in the best interests of your daughter."

Earlier prosecutor Sally Howes was asked by Mr Justice Bean "why it was considered to be in the public interest" to pursue Gilderdale on the attempted murder charge when she had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting suicide.

Ben Ando, BBC crime reporter

A slight figure with auburn, medium-length hair, spectacles and in plain, dark clothing, there was nothing remarkable about middle-aged divorcee Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale until she took her place in the dock in Lewes Crown Court.

Gilderdale, who is known as Kay, had listened intently to the legal argument and evidence during the 10 days of her trial though, as is her right, she had declined to enter the witness box herself and give evidence in her own defence.

After hearing both prosecution and defence agree that she was a devoted, loving mother who had shown unstinting care for her daughter over 17 years, the jury was quick to return a verdict of not guilty of attempted murder.

Another count, of aiding and abetting suicide, had been admitted by Gilderdale and for this she received a 12-month conditional discharge, among the most lenient sentences the judge could impose.

Ms Howes said the prosecution decided at "the highest level" to try Gilderdale after she told her GP and police she had given her daughter an air embolism with the intent to end her life.

Because a post-mortem examination found that Miss Gilderdale had died of a morphine overdose, her mother was not charged with murder but with attempted murder.

Following the trial Gilderdale's son, Steve, read out a statement on the steps of the court flanked by his mother and father, which praised the verdict.

He said: "We believe this not guilty verdict properly reflects the selfless actions my mother took on finding that Lynn had decided to take her own life, to make her daughter's final moments as peaceful and painless as possible.

"These actions exhibit the same qualities of dedication, love and care that mum demonstrated throughout the 17 years of Lynn's illness.

"I'm very proud of her and I hope she will be afforded the peace that she deserves to rebuild her life and finally grieve for the death of her daughter."

Jurors were told that after Miss Gilderdale made a failed suicide bid her mother crushed up pills with a pestle and mortar and fed them to her through her nasal tube, handed her morphine and injected three syringes of air into her vein.

Lynn Gilderdale
Lynn Gilderdale developed ME at the age of 14

The court was told the 55-year-old tried to stop her daughter ending her life but backed down after she told her: "I want the pain to go."

More from the Telegraph. And from the Guardian.

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A Preying Faith In Haiti.

Pat Robertson may have received a lot of negative attention for his statement that God is punishing Haiti, but there are ways in which churches, and not just Robertson's, gain ground in the wake of disaster. We were silly to react to Robertson as we did: his message is as common as our world history of power and domination. Geographic exploration, colonialism, and war have all traditionally been ways to convert "the heathens/savages/locals" to more "civilized" ways of living and seeing the world.

That misfortune, disease, poverty, injustice, inequality are all punishment for sin is truly as old as ideas of redemptive suffering. The more you hurt, the closer you are to God. Why end suffering when it will bring you converts, souls? And for the believer, why cry out against the suffering that injustice causes when you're told that you deserve it?

Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado reminds us, at ReligionDispatches, that churches gain ground after disasters like the one in Haiti. She writes, citing Virginia Garrard-Burnett's work:

She correlates the explosion of Pentecostalism in Guatemala, who like Haiti, is an epicenter of Pentecostalism in the Americas, in part as a response to the earthquake. An overwhelmingly high percentage of Guatemalans saw the earthquake as a form of divine punishment and a call for repentance. Arriving in the guise of aid and relief, Protestantism provided an alternative way of being Christian. Yet Pentecostalism primarily emerged in Guatemala, as it did in Haiti, disconnected from North American denominations. Indigenous Pentecostalism, with its apocalyptic theology, also gained momentum among Indigenous Guatemalans.

Haiti had barely recovered from the four devastating storms of 2008 prior to this earthquake. The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Port-au-Prince has collapsed, and Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot’s lifeless body was pulled from the ruins of the diocesan offices. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the natural disasters that this nation has endured as “biblical” in nature. "It is biblical, the tragedy that continues to stalk Haiti and the Haitian people." Clinton does not realize that her comments would strike a chord with many Haitians today. Haitian Pentecostals, with their biblical literalism and their certainty that the second coming of Jesus is imminent, could see this time of tribulation as a challenge where the faithful will be rewarded on judgment day. Religion will surely play a role in the manner in which Haitians make sense of this tragedy, and I suspect we will find growing numbers of Pentecostal converts as Haitians attempt to find meaning in what can only be described as senseless and inexplicable suffering.

After crisis, struggling to make sense of death and destruction is easier when you can ascribe reasons to an outside power. Instead of preaching theologically sound ideas of community, mutual aid, justice and compassion, the Pentecostal church has found a way to prey on the fears of those in crisis. Tell them they are being punished for their sins, that their suffering is given by God, and that hurting in shamed silence will save their soul.

Fighting the foreign and national causes of Haiti's corrupt government, sub-standard buildings, poverty, and inability to care for its citizens, loses urgency when suffering makes you closer to God. If evil comes from God, how can you fight it? If salvation comes from suffering, why demand justice? Of course the government would prefer this type of theology to others - it's more passive, safer. And it reminds me of how abusers treat their victims: you deserve this punishment; now be good and take it so I can love you again.

The Guardian today corroborates Gonzalez Maldonado's conjecture with reports on how the Pentecostal church is working to expand in Haiti in the midst of crisis:

With the government's presence all but invisible, and humanitarian agencies and the UN struggling to cope with the demand for aid, groups of preachers are moving in to fill the void.

"I've started a school and we are trying to give people food and clothes," said Reverend Sauverne Apollon, 75, whose church – the Eglise Mission foi Caribéenne Independence d'Haiti – was one of the first to be constructed in the slum after its headquarters was destroyed in the quake.

"The people need hospital help, food and homes. I'm trying to do what I can," Apollon added.

As he spoke, UN troops used pepper spray and rubber bullets to contain Pont-Rouge's residents who were crushing together in their thousands in a queue for water and food. Peruvian soldiers from the UN stablisation force waved their shotguns about in an attempt to repel children who were trying to push into the seemingly endless queue.

Haiti has two official religions: Catholicism and voodoo, and the majority believe in some form of voodoo. But as in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of born again Christians has risen sharply over the last 10 years. For Port-au-Prince's Pentecostal leaders the earthquake is an opportunity further spread their word among the city's ­homeless people.

"When God speaks we must listen," said Apollon, known in Pont-Rouge as "le pasteur". "The earthquake is God's voice and He will do other things. The stars will crash down onto the earth."

Later the article states:

"Whether you are a [Pentecostal] preacher, a Catholic priest or voodoo, it's the same. Humanity needs to say: 'Stop. Stop now. Stop the sinning'."
I think it's time for a little liberation theology - too an indigenous Latin American product - to revive to counter all that redemptive suffering.

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