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Archive for July, 2018

11 Better Off Dead

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This is number 11 in a series. If you want to read this series from the beginning, scroll down to number 1.

At the moment, it’s early Monday morning, and I’m back on the pills that make me feel freezing cold and shaky. That’s how those pills work: three weeks on, one week off. And if I had to pay for them, they would cost $12,000 a month.

You know what’s worse? They’re not close to being the most expensive prescription on the market.

On the other hand, my out of pocket expense for them is $0, so there’s that.

At any rate, in order to have some semblance of a life, I get up very early and don’t take pills for a few hours. The effects of the pills—the freezing and shaking—only last a few hours, and recede steadily over the course of the day. So by the time I wake up the next morning, I feel fairly normal.

One of the things I did while feeling fairly normal this morning was to read more commentary on St. Thomas, and I ran across one of those things I find best about Christianity.

And yes, I know that it’s never been followed perfectly. But bear with me.

The idea under consideration is that human beings are made “in the image of God.”

And as St. Thomas stresses, thus means ALL human beings. All of them. And that includes those human beings born with what we now politely call “birth defects.”

The birth defect thing has been on my mind lately because of a pair of cases in the UK where the British National Health Service forcibly prevented parents from seeking further treatment for children born severely disabled because it was “in the best interests of the child” to be…dead.

The idea that the very sick and the profoundly disabled are better off dead is an old one, and it runs rampant through modern medicine. That is why I never dismissed fears of “death panels” as one of the reactions to Obamacare.

In a way, we have death panels already, evidenced by the rock solid conviction of so many medical professionals that very sick or profoundly disabled people “don’t want to live like that” or, if they do, are “irrational,” so their wish to go on living can safely be ignored.

But right now, I want to look at a very specific case: Down Syndrome.

One of the reasons Christianity spread so quickly in Greece and Rome was this: it condemned the common practice of killing babies born ”defective” or “deformed.”

This included a lot more than Down Syndrome babies, of course, but the principal was always the same. A child born otherwise than “normal” was a freak and a scandal and should be destroyed.

And the mothers hated it. And they knew that if they not only converted to Christianity but converted their husbands as well, the husband’s would be required to let the “defective” kids live.

Fast forward a couple of thousand years, and we find ourselves in a world where the need to get rid of “defective” children seems barely to have abated.

In Sierra Leone, a baby with Down Syndrome is a “devil’s child” and killed. In China, all women must undergo tests to determine if the child has Down and must abort if it does.

In Denmark and Iceland, there’s no requirement that women get the test or that they abort if a test comes back positive, but 80% to 85% get the test and nearly 100% abort if the test comes back positive.

The Danish government has expressed itself very happy that Denmark is on track to “eliminate” Down Syndrome in the not too distant future.

This sort of thing—defective people! better off dead!—would drive me crazy no matter who was being targeted, but targeting Down Syndrome children is especially egregious. Unlike a lot of genetic disorders—Tay Sachs, say, or sickle cell—Down Syndrome is not passed down from one generation to the next. It’s a copying error. Two Down Syndrome people could produce a child without the condition, and have.

And here I get to be happy about us. Or at least happier than I am with the rest of the world at the moment.

It’s not that we don’t abort Down Syndrome children because they have Down Syndrome. We do. Something like 67% of all women in the United States who have prenatal tests that come back positive for down Syndrome abort.

But it’s 67%, not close to 100%.

And we’re full of accommodations and programs and initiatives meant to help people with Down to live good lives and to convince people without it that a life with Down is worth living.

The Gerber baby this year has Down. There are child models with Down. My small town has a grocery store that hires Down Syndrome adults as baggers. They earn their own money and live in a state sponsored group home. They’re even encouraged and enabled to vote.

Yes, yes. I know. We could spend more money on this. The programs could cover more people. Blah blah blah.

The fact is that we don’t view them as devil children and we don’t treat them as better off dead.

And that’s exactly as it ought to be.

Oh. P.S. As to the last post.

Yes, of course, there would be dogs other than Samoyeds. I’m just partial to Samoyeds.

And I’ve had cats all my life, too, and I’d expect cats to be included—but Pope Francis didn’t mention them.


Written by janeh

July 9th, 2018 at 10:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 The Necessity of Dogs

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This is the 10th in a series. If you want to read the whole series, scroll down to number 1.

Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post.

And part of that has been because I’ve been enormously tired.

But part of it has been that I haven’t known what to say.

I don’t want this blog to be about politics, or Issues, or any of that kind of thing. I get enough of that in my day to day life.

Lately, though, there doesn’t  seem to be anything else. And, in a way, I get it worse than some of you, because my obsessive checking of the news isn’t restricted to American, or even Western, sources.

So I am sitting here, reading my way through a Peter Kreeft commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Summa, and it feels to me as if the whole world is going to Hell.


St. Thomas would have understood my use of the word “Hell” in that last sentence absolutely.

Americans are odd about all this, because we seem to have no sense of proportion. Raped women in Pakistan are first jailed for having sex outside marriage and then forced to give birth if they’re pregnant. A dozen countries, all Muslim theocratic states, impose the death penalty for homosexuality. Slavery—actual slavery, complete with slave markets and auction blocks–has returned in Africa.

And half the world is on the move. We obsess about what’s happening on our Southern border, but it’s a drop in the bucket next to what’s coming out of subSaharan Africa and some parts of the Middle East.

In the meantime, we behave as if we were the only people on the planet, and we add to that an unstated but adamant conviction that reality is optional.

What’s more, I’m fairly sure all these things are connected. After all, if we live in a “rape culture,” what right do we have to criticize what’s going on in Pakistan?

We indulge our orgiastic bouts of self flagellation at the expense of other people’s hides.

The rule of law, the equality of the sexes, individual rights to freedom of speech and press and conscience, the obligation to treat every human being as an end in herself and not the means to the ends of somebody else—none of these things are “white.” They’re the basis of any decent society.

They’re also hard. None of these things are, or can be, realized perfectly.

In a way, they’re all against nature. If we want the entire world to get with the program—to stop arresting rape victims for “having sex,” to stop executing gay people—we have to be willing to admit that this way is better than that, and that this society comes closer to realizing these conditions than a lot of others.

But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Instead, I’m going to think about Pope Francis, who has said there will be dogs in heaven, something St. Thomas wouldn’t have agreed with, and Peter Kreeft doesn’t either.

I think I’ll go with Francis, and imagine that Heaven is a place filled with sane people and Samoyeds.

If Terry Pratchett is right and we each get the afterlife we believe in, I may hit the jackpot.


Written by janeh

July 8th, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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