We had a busy weekend, and I barely was able to keep up with the headlines, but I did read a little about the Obamacare arguments before the SCOTUS. I also heard about former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s heart transplant, and some of the less-than charitable, often outright hateful remarks emanating from the left. The most interesting of those, I think, are the ones instantly re-embracing the “constitution-shredding” and “war criminal” narratives of 2001-2008 without the merest acknowledgment that the current president has assaulted the first amendment, circumvented the congress, and has either kept most of the Bush-Cheney policies in place or expanded upon them.
Funny how that works.
Anyway, my column at First Things this week considers the timing-synchronicity of the Obamacare debate and the grousing that a heart transplant was wasted on a 71 year old man — particularly one already counted as “less-than-human” by some — and then takes a page from the great saint, Philip Neri:
Here, within the neat columns of taxes, fines and policies received versus benefits paid out, hide the little demons of our spiritual destruction; they encourage the appointing of some flawed and imperfect humans to gauge the worthiness of other flawed and imperfect humans and then relentlessly advise for or against a life based on ever more relativistic (but called “practical”) lines. Giving public voice to their relentless prompting, pundits who recently declared that “60 is the new 40” will suddenly be opining that 71 is too old for a heart. 75 will be considered too old for a new knee—news that will stun active, fully engaged and vital people like my 80 year-old father-in-law.
Saint Philip Neri used to listen to the dreams of those around him, and ask, “and then what?” If someone mentioned a lofty ambition, Philip would tease them about what comes next: “you become rich and successful, and then what?”
“And then I marry a beautiful woman and we travel and enjoy life!”
“And then, what?” Philip would gently ask, over and over, until the dreamer was forced to acknowledge that beyond their dreams lay only death, and an eternity reflecting the values and choices of their relatively short blip of a life.
Once a society commits itself to the notion that only certain people meeting certain specs will be considered for certain procedures, it will soon determine that fatties who are 50 will either submit to increased governmental control over their appetites and exertions or be denied a stent. And then what? Perhaps expectant parents, unwilling to do the socially-and-fiscally-responsible-thing and abort their less-than-perfect children, will face the wrath of their fellow-citizens; having been identified as cruel, heartless people too-willing to birth a child whose quality of life has been determined to be sub-optimal, they may not be allowed to parent at all.
And then what? Perhaps a 45 year-old woman who has never married and has no children (and therefore with no one in urgent need of her existence) will be thought too dispensable and unnecessary for chemo therapy. What does she have to live for, anyway?
And then what? Perhaps people with lower IQ’s—whose lower earning potentials can never generate substantial tax revenues—will be deemed unworthy of costly extended therapies.
Missing from all of that, of course, is consideration of the dignity of the human person, and the intangible valuations of love. Those balancing ideas might have been supplied by the church, as they have always been, in a kind of partnership with the government efforts to provide health care for all.
Now, they will have to be supplied by the church, indeed, but contra voce, in resistance.
UPDATE: Speaking of Obamacare, Glenn Reynolds has an interesting post
Jen Fulwiler: pleading for hearts and a home over institutionalization.