Saturday, April 23, 2005

Quasi-Acerbic Oddities for the Day

Ann Coulter on the cover of Time Magazine? They must be desperate for news. Having her around is like visiting the zoo. Everybody likes to have some fun watching the monkeys now and then. But you wouldn't ask them for political advice or invite one home for dinner.

The answer to the moral relativism the new Pope deplores is not Roman Catholic absolutism; nor is it Protestant or Muslim fundamentalism. For absolutists, often relativism means you don't agree with me about issues of right and wrong, and I, of course, posses the truth. Relativism properly defined means that we (Popes pipefitters, Baptists, etc), can justify religious and moral claims only by making use of the approved and available resources (sources, norms, tests) in a particular time and place, i. e., from the vantage point of the claimants in history, culture, etc. With respect to God and morality there is no guranatee that such claims mirror, correspond with, reflect reality, i. e., give us truth that is universal and certain. Believing they are true even while stomping the foot does not make them true. Abolutely believing them and shouting that they are true, TRUE, TRUE does not make them so. Stomping the foot helps only a little. It only mean the claimant has absolute confidence in them invulnerable to doubt.

Pope Benedict XVI has said he is is open to dialogue with other religious groups. e. g., Protestant and other Christians, Jews, Muslims for the sake of improving the human condition on earth. This is highly commendable and welcomed. But on what basis will these discussions take place? Will it assume equality among all with no stated or assumed notion that exclusive or unique truth is held by one of the parties? Until the Pope takes back the notion that we separated folks, e. g., Baptists and other Protestants, have only some but not all marks of the whole, full, complete church and that they cannot have until they are in full communion with Rome, then I don't see how equality can prevail. Will each group secretly hold quietly in its owm bosom the notion that it has more truth than others while being nice, polite, tolerant, open to hear all points of view? What? On whatever basis they are conducted, I guess they can't hurt, but I doubt they will accomplish much either beyond a temporary boost to good feelings and an illusory sense of having done something worthwhile. If these dialogues are for a limited purpose like finding ways to cooperate to feed the hungry, fine. Maybe something worthwhile might happen. But pretty soon the ugly face of sex would emerge, and we will be fighting over birth control control populations growing beyond means to support them, condom to prevent AIDS, so people can live to farm and produce the necessities of life. Dear Pope Benedict XVI, prove me wrong, please. Show me that such diaogue can provide real help to real people suffering from hunger, war, and injustice, and not just make the participants to the conversations feel good for a day.

One solution to the shortage of troops provided by a voluntary army is to stay out of unnecessary wars based on lies, deception, and false premises. Having Sadam out of power is a gain, but the price in money and in American and Iraqi lives has been grossly excessive. A majority of Americans agree that the Iraq war was not worth it, but where was their moral outrage at the president who started it last November? President Bush worries about the innocent deaths caused by abortion, but does he worry about the loss of innocent babies, children, and adults in Iraq because of his immoral war?

Let's get this straight. The major drug problem is this country is not the illegal ones -- marijuana, cocaine, heroin -- but tobacco and alcohol, both perfectly legal.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I was Wrong About Josef Ratzinger

OK, I was wrong about the new Pope.

I was glad at last to see pictures of Josef Ratzinger, whose name in English is Joe Mousezapper. He is actually a nice-looking man with a big smile, shy, generous, gracious. All these years I thought he was a little old man with a hook nose and a pointed chin who lived in the bowels of the Vatican (like the Phantom of the Opera), who never came out except on dark, moonless nights. From these dark recesses with bats flying around he sent missives of condemnation written with poison around the world laying bare the heresies of people who said such nasty things as:

that condoms were ethical to prevent unwanted kids and AIDS,

that the Pill gave women effective, responsible control over the number of children they had and was morally OK,

that married men, like the Apostle Peter, could be good priests,

that women could dispense the body and blood as well as men,

that gay people were not morally degenerate perverts but real nice people just like everybody else whose love was valid and whose erotic deeds are part of the goodness of creation,

that in Latin America it was OK to learn from Marx and that sometimes it might be a good thing to remove by force as a last resort cruel dictators who killed people without mercy in order to get justice for the poor and democracy for all, i. e., those despicable liberation theologians.

Well, I was wrong.

He is really a nice man who from now on from his comfy office in the Vatican will send missives of condemnation wrapped in pastoral velvet dipped in papal honey around the world laying bare the heresies of people who say such nasty things as the aforementioned.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Final Reflections on the Terri Schiavo Case

Now that the hysteria over the Terri Schiavo case has subsided, some final reflections may be in order. It is at heart a simple matter involving only three items. 1. The background is that law and practice for the last decade and more have established the right of patients to control their own medical treatment, to refuse it or to stop it at their will. When the patient is unable to do so, properly instructed proxies may act in their behalf. 2. Florida law provides that the spouses, not the parents of patients, may speak for them when the patient is unable. 3. Florida courts found factually that the husband Michael correct represented his wife's wishes in this case. That is all there is to the case, and the courts at every level, including the Supreme Court of the United States, repeatedly reaffirmed this.

It is unfortunate and a tragedy that the family was divided and became the source of the great uproar, generated largely by the need of cable news stations to fill time 24.7. The drama was ready made for exploitation on all hands, from the media to the fanatics. For TV it was wonderful for ratings: visual, dramatic, emotional, involved conflict, winners and losers, and plenty of people informed and uninformed, wise and foolish, hysterical and rational, eager to claim camera time.

Michael was tragically made the bad guy and had to endure all kinds of lies and irrelevant and factually absurd charges, and the courts sustained him every time. He was deeply in love in with his wife and never ceased to be. He cared for her lovingly and tenderly until the last hour, cradling her in his arms as she died. He sought the companionship of another woman after medical experts had convinced him that the Terri he loved so much was gone and would not come back ever. He maintained that Terri would have approved what he did.

I have some experience here. I cared for my wife after we were divorced and I was remarried until the day she died in a hospice. I sat and held her hand every day during her last days, and we tenderly confessed our love for each other. I was in her room along with our children the day she died and went to the pharmacy to get a prescription the nurses wanted to ease her pain. Eloise would have told you plainly that she trusted me more than anyone on earth -- along with our children -- to take care of her. I was close by and assumed responsibility down to the last detail of planning her funeral, taking the dress she was buried in to the cleaners, and putting a monument on her grave. Michael, I know how you felt. I applaud Michael for having the courage in the face of all the trashing and court suits he faced to insure that his wife's wishes were carried out.

Terri's parents and relatives, on the other hand, were in a state of deep denial for years. Had it not been for the fuss they raised, the case would never come to public attention. Note, the only reason this case claimed national attention was because of the family dispute over her care. Ventilators and feeding tubes are removed from hopelessly ill patients every day in this country by the will of patients or their authorized proxies. They do so by law and standard medical practice and in ways compatible with compassion and love. As a parent, I share the agony of the parents and siblings. But Michael was on the right side of this issue, and the courts rightly confirmed this over and over.

The Congress to its disgrace tried to interfere in areas where they have no business. Most Republican were exploiting the issue politically, and most of the Democrats were moral cowards hiding in caves. Both parties were out of touch with large majorities of the American people who had the good sense to see the issue in a humane way and wanted the Congress to do something about Social Security, Medicare, and health insurance for those without and stay out of the sick room. If members of Congress were ignorant of law and current practice, they should have informed themselves. I don't doubt that some had genuine convictions on the issue, but families not Congress should settle these issues.