Sunday, August 16, 2009


Liberals seem to be genuinely baffled by opposition to healthcare reform proposals. Their natural response is to hypothesize some malign motives for such opposition, and to, of course, demonize the "villains," in the manner of Speaker Pelosi. It does not seem to occur to the liberal reformer that there are in fact valid grounds for opposition that have nothing to do with privilege or profit or greed. It does not seem to occur to them that their "vision" assumes a set of values that are dissonant to our culture and adverse to our traditions. The left is shocked that ideas that are predators in the academy are prey in the real world.

The starkest examples, of course, are the end-of life philosophies clumsily articulated by Obama and Ezekiel Emanuel. Obama's extemporaneous musing "maybe she'd be better off taking the pain the pain medicine" assumes a societal fatigue and moral penury which we would lead us to collectively declare that some life is not worth living in a finacial sense. This is contrary to America's history as the most generous nation in history; it is antithetical to our tradition of philanthropy and charity and our moral senses.

When George H.W. Bush was shot down in World War II following a bombing raid on Chichi JIma, Japanese soldiers on the island were amazed that the U.S. Navy would dispatch a submarine to rescue a single pilot. It seemed a foolish risk and waste of resources. Similarly, the U.S. Army's liberation of the POW camp on Cabanatuan seemed extravagant by liberating soldiers who likely would never fight again. When the people of Midland Texas mobilized magnificently to rescue Jessica McClure from a well, one can only imagine the moral costs of doing nothing compared to the finacial costs of doing the right thing. We Americans pay freely to rescue half-wit hikers who get themselves lost in the wilderness, miners trapped by earthquakes, unlucky mariners caught in storms and out of bounds skiers trapped in avalanches. It seems quite natural to us to support the premature infant who is struggling for life, or the burn victim facing multiple surgeries and prolonged rehabilitation. President Obama should expect annoyance when he taps his pencil on the balance sheet and tut-tuts the fact the most Americans still believe that human life is never an ordinary thing.

I will conjecture that most Americans have an intuitive sense for what is meaningful in their lives, much more than what their life should be worth monetarily. Obama just plain sounds stupid when he presumes to lecture centenarians on what is "better" for them. President Obama has no clue whether the last three weeks of a particular person's life might be the most meaningful three weeks. It is simply a matter of individual liberty and good conscience to allow a patient to decide whether pain control or being able to participate in treasured activities is more important. The healer's role after all is not to serve the state by performing repair and routine maintenance on the vassals of Utopia, it is to minimize the effect that disease and trauma have on the ability of individuals to pursue that which is most meaningful to them. If one person opts for hospice and another in the same condition rages against the dying of the light, free from the coersion of the state, that is a positive reflection on a free society, because it respects the humanity of the individual. People who are elderly or terminally ill are just as free and just as capable of meaningful life as are the academic snobs who fret about the cost of their therapy.

The fact that Chris Matthews and Obama and Pelosi can't see that they are openly challenging the values of a significant portion of Americans, and instead attribute opposition to healthcare reform to "greed" or special interests, or racism or ignorance or whatever really just suggests that they are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

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