Death by Torment: Our Cruel, Collective Psychotic Hypocrisy
Today we lost a rare, true Hero in our modern dark age of pseudo-heroes: basket- foot- and base-ballers, movie stars and singers, corporate rapists and mass murderers wearing uniforms. Jack Kevorkian was truly different. He stood for something precious, principled and priceless: true human compassion, and for that he was relentlessly attacked, demonized, and prosecuted until finally imprisoned.
As a culture, we are totally insane about death. On the one hand, for ourselves and our loved ones, it is so scary and ugly that we dare not think about it much except as a remote eventuality which must not be dwelt on lest it interfere with the business of living a lifestyle. We hide it and sanitize it behind communal veils of nursing homes, intensive care wards, hospices and funeral parlors. We treat is as a preventable condition with medical science, proper diet and exercise. We tell ourselves big stories that even if we do die, we will live forever in paradise. On the other hand, we flood our minds with the deaths of others: as entertainment every day on TV and in the movies; as news about who got killed and who we're going to kill in punishment; as justification for waging wars against terrorists, while the real terror of killing thousands of innocents is also scrubbed from our media diet. We love to kill the bad guys. The good guys, us, we don't die.
At the heart of this schizophrenic hypocrisy - ignoring death while embracing it - lies a cauldron of strong morality tales in deep conflict with one another. Human life is Sacred, the gift of God and only God has the right to take it; killing is a sin. Killing is Murder and punishable by death. Killing is OK if you're killing a killer. Killing is honorable and necessary if you're killing for your Country. Or your State or County or City if you're a cop. Or your Corporation if you're Blackwater. Killing is different than dying. When you're not being killed by a person but by natural causes, then you're being killed by God, and that means hands off God's work! We can sure try to kill as good as God, and try we do, but we're amateurs compared to the Maestro. We can shoot folks full of holes, blow 'em to bits, burn 'em, gas 'em, hang 'em, electrocute 'em, or just smash our cars into each other for no reason at all, but in most of these man-made cases, death comes fairly quickly.
When God's busy killing someone for natural causes, however, there is often an element of agony and suffering we just can't compete with. Here's where it gets tricky. When God's killing a loved one, and there's a fair amount of suffering involved, well, there must be a reason for it. Somehow, that person deserves it, needs it, or else why would God be doing it? Nevertheless, out of simple human compassion, our doctors are mandated and empowered to alleviate pain and suffering as much as possible in the process of trying to heal, because pain and suffering can be hellaciously bad things. And that's a good thing. Medicating the suffering is OK. Ending the suffering is definitely not! That would interfere with God's plan for punishment.
A mechanic once told me about a beloved dog of his who became crippled in his old age. The dog got to the point where he was in pain all the time, became incontinent, and could only drag himself by his front paws. The man did not believe in "putting down" animals, and decided to let him pass away naturally. He got a little choked up, lowered his head, slowly shook it and said somberly, "I'll never do that to an animal again."
Many of us who've had pets have experienced the heartbreak and tragedy of watching the suffering as it becomes terminal and because we love the animal, because we are compassionate, we have it put to sleep, as the only humane thing to do. Why can't we treat our own family as humanely as we treat our dogs?
In the lurid, degrading spectacle of Terry Schiavo's fight for life or release from tormented half-life, why was there no option to do what anyone would do for their dog? If the grinning Devil himself had taken over our airwaves, he could hardly have thought up a better demonstration of evil and our cruel hypocrisy than to flaunt in everyone's face the horror of a helpless woman being slowly starved to death to do what's "right."
Jack Kevorkian, a hero way ahead of his time, would have known what to do.
When it's my time to go and I'm in a hell of suffering, please, someone, treat me like a dog.