Reader Mail

Expressions of Support

Living will, living well, living badly. Reports from Japan, Oman, Indiana. Plus much, much more.

4.4.05

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SUSPICIOUS WILLS
Re: Lawrence Henry's Am I On Life Support?:

Thank you very much for publishing Lawrence Henry's "Am I On Life Support?" Mr. Henry puts a human face on the many people who require assistance with living. I'm glad he tore up his health-care proxy, because I believe that these documents, along with living wills and the like, will be used in the not-too-distant future (maybe as early as today!) to kill those whose lives have become inconvenient.

Given that most of us no longer grow our own food, don't dig our own wells, and use devices made of steel, rubber, and plastic to go to and from work, most of us rely, at least in part, on "artificial means" to live. Lest anyone think I'm making some kind of a joke, ask yourself if you would have believed a few years ago that any judge anywhere in the U.S. would prevent oral feedings after a feeding tube was withdrawn.
-- Mark Edward Soper

Like Mr. Henry, these days I take these self-named "angels of mercy" a bit personally. While my situation is far less dramatic than his, nonetheless all the big thinkers who insist that the right thing was done for Terri Schiavo make me uneasy.

Last year, our "deeply flawed" healthcare system saved my life. Through the treatment of a relatively minor medical condition, it was "accidentally" discovered I had cancer. This resulted in my left kidney being removed along with a tumor that sat on its top during a four-hour operation.

Mind you, this was done not at the Mayo Clinic or some super advanced medical facility renown all over the world. All this was done by an excellent hospital along with a group of excellent doctors you will find in any major city in any state in the Union.

Now I am a diabetic with some neurological problems who must fight a family history of alcoholism and heart disease -- and who has only one functioning kidney. On paper my medical health must look below average and as I age it is only likely to get worse.

So one day, will some kind and caring medical official try to convince my wife to "let me go" even though our religion forbids deserting the weak to the ravages of death. Will some well-dressed administrator set my wife down, give her a cup of coffee and say: "Well, yes, Mrs. Lee. We could do X and give your husband a few more years; but what kind of life would that be? I know I wouldn't want that."

Whatever happens, I am sure my Savior and Ancient of Days will keep me; but I worry about what kind of world will abruptly reveal itself when my wife, children and grandchildren may be forced to choose. Worse, what if in its wisdom our medical system refuses to cooperate if my family chooses to err on the side of life?
-- Michael Lee
Indianapolis, Indiana

I guess, like most trendy yuppies, he only wants to treat healthy people. I guess he wouldn't want to treat fat people-everyone knows they just don't have any willpower. And of course, smokers are only slightly better regarded these days than pedophiles. I wonder if this doctor treats people who have contracted AIDS from lifestyle choices.

As far as the case of Terri Schiavo causing people to think and re-think about living wills and advanced directives, all it has done for me is to muddy the waters. How do I know what I would think if I were suddenly a quadriplegic? It doesn't sound attractive but would I want to die? Even if I do sincerely believe in heaven and am certain I am going there? I have heard it said in the past, that if people knew how fabulous it was, we would all be lining up to go NOW. But of course, that is not the case.

May God have mercy on us all.
-- Janis Johnson
Independence, Missouri

Just wanted you to know we'll pray for you and for your return to good health.
-- Anne Fox

Lawrence Henry replies:
Thank you. Prayers are felt, prayers are appreciated. Please do not forget that every kidney or other organ pledged in donation to anyone speeds up the transplant process for everyone.

REALITY CHECK
Re: P. David Hornik's The Not-So-New Middle East:

Mr. Hornik's article was a dose of reality. I am an American expat from Idaho and resident in Saudi Arabia and Oman for the past 23 years. I have Hornik's same feelings. Yes, these people want changes. They have a vague desire to throw off the yoke of their present corrupt and tyrannical rulers. But the real and long lasting tyrant is their society and religion. That unfortunately won't go away for the foreseeable future.

I am general manager of an Omani company with 400 local women workers. I speak their language. The stuff I hear of what goes on in their homes is gruesome and depressing. And Omani society is, by the standards of their neighboring Arab countries, easy going.

Much as I support the President's ideas of introducing democracy here, I don't see much hope of success, without broaching the question in at least elite circles, of the validity or truth of Islam. Can this happen here? I don't think so. Will there, therefore, be any real formation of democratic institutions? I doubt it, much as I hope that I am wrong.
-- Clint Albano
Muscat, Oman

SOUTH KOREA ROH
Re: Doug Bandow's Cutting the Umbilical Cord:

I read the paper written by Mr. Bandow and found it very persuasive. It was posted in the "2 channel" (famous website) in Japan. Most Japanese there found that it stands to reason.

In fact, since the beginning of the Roh administration, the United States have been annoyed by it. The United States, however, have been send alarming signal implicitly to South Korea only to realize that something wrong has undeniably happened. But even after that, US seems reluctant to show its discontent publicly.

I, as a Japanese, have to tell that weak attitude by the United States toward South Korea does undermine the Japanese who are positive to the broader cooperation with the United States, because it helps those who say, "We need not listen to U.S." "Why not behave like Roh administration rather than a groveler"

To encourage pro-U.S. people in Japan, the U.S. should send clear message to Roh administration, and should not be embarrassed by another brinkmanship by the pinko regime in South Korea.

Best regards.
-- [Japanese signature undecipherable]

ON OUR SOULS
Re: George Neumayr's The Humane Holocaust:

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." -- John 3:19-20

May God have mercy on our souls for what we as a nation have become.
-- Mary L. Gilbert
Bristow, Virginia

Your essay makes a number of excellent points, some of which have not been made elsewhere. I would like to extend your argument slightly. How long before the health insurance companies become major players in these cases? I can imagine the next Terri lying in a hospital after a stroke or tumble down some steps, slowly going through her lifetime hospitalization maximum of $1 or $2 million. Shortly, a representative of the health carrier will speak to the next of kin with an offer to buy back the health insurance policy for several hundred thousand dollars. He will speak in the hushed, rounded unctuous tone of a funeral director. No one will use crude phrases like "pull the plug" or worse, but each of the players will know the script, which may include burning a living will that lies in the way of easy street.
-- Rick Sussman

Your April 1st editorial on the Humane Holocaust is revealing.

Abortion on demand is its own horrific tragedy, but it also opens the door to the taking of innocent life on the basis of convenience. What begins as choice inevitably becomes obligation and ultimately execution.
-- Richard Arena
Roswell, Georgia

Thank you for your excellent article regarding Terri Schindler's horrific death at the hands of her husband and our American judicial system. My sister, Dorothy Buck, 82 years old, died on June 16, 2004. She was a resident/patient at Highland House, a convalescent hospital in Grants Pass, Oregon. My sis was there recuperating from a hairline crack in her femur. She also happened to be an Alzheimer's victim. I visited my sis daily during her recuperation. Her face always lit up like a beautiful sunrise when she would see me. She was fun... loving & lovable. She was a solid Roman Catholic and very pro-life. My son Greg, is a priest in the Diocese of Scranton, PA. Every month during his 9 years of formation, she sent him postage stamps or a $10 bill. On June 15, I took the holy Eucharist to my sis &, as always, when she received Our Lord, her eyes got misty as she said, "Amen." The next morning, her husband of 57 years who was a retired police officer, took his service revolver and shot her in the head... then he killed himself. For the record, he was an atheist. For the record, he had been threatening to do it for 35 years or more (and there are witnesses). For the record, I had written her doctor 6-7 years before her murder her advising the doctor that my sister's husband was a loose, homicidal cannon. The media immediately played loose with the tragedy... hinting that it was a "Mercy" killing or a murder/suicide pact. Nothing could have been further from the truth. There is nothing merciful about a murder! My sister's four adult children have been left in agony as well as her grandchildren who must live with the reality that grandma was murdered and grandpa was the murderer. I miss her terribly, too and nothing makes it right. Terri Schindler's cruel, barbaric death at the hands of her husband is murder as surely as my sister's death was murder at the hands of her husband. My question is where are the voices of all the "Women's Rights" organizations. The silence is deafening. Apparently murder it is only spousal abuse when the wife is in good health and enjoys a high IQ.
-- Mrs. Pat Villaescusa

I don't think that exaggerated pieces of hyperbolic overstatement like this one add much to the discussion.
-- unsigned

Thank you for expressing well how we feel!
-- L. Mills
Salt Lake City, Utah

HEROES AMIDST SORROW
Re: Reid Collins's So What Else Is Dead?:

I am so sorry for Terri and the Schindler family. No one deserves to have such horrors unleashed upon them. Her parents have shown tremendous courage for standing up for their daughter, when so many others had written her off. Where some saw an unthinking, useless body, I am sure that when they looked upon Terri, they remembered the child who regularly made them giggle or amazed them with something she had learned. My hope is that before she moves on to the beauty of heaven (I have no doubt that she will) she gets to finally watch over her parents, who wanted nothing more than to have her with them inside their home instead of a cold hospital room for all these years. The thing I noticed so many times throughout this battle was that the Schindler family was stoic and contained any anger or frustrations within. It is such a rare instance to see such a high level of class exhibited in the U.S. today. I almost forgot what it looked like, but they reminded me.
-- Stephanie Garvine
Bozeman, Montana

Missing from Terri Schiavo's long trek through the court system was anything remotely approaching mercy. Our laws have become perfunctory, applied without regard for the people they assume to represent. How do I know this? Even in death was the judge ready to humiliate the parents by refusing them the right to be with their daughter at the time of her death. The husband won every court battle, hands down. So be it. But that was in life. But now in death the judge continues to assume the husband's wishes alone are paramount. It would be merciful if the judge were to say to the husband, you got your way in her life, now go your way, take up your new life and love your new spouse. And to the parents, you have suffered, you may give your daughter a proper Catholic burial with a nice headstone so that you can visit her from time to time. But no, the merciless court will have none of that. The parents must suffer further, never knowing where their daughter lay in eternal rest. Shame on our court system.
-- unsigned

TOUGH CLINT, WEAK CHRISTIAN
Re: James Bowman's Downright Pagan:

Without denying Bowman's point that the female boxer in Million Dollar Baby was being presented as being paganly, stoically tough, one can argue -- and Bowman himself may have argued on your pages -- that only Clint's character is presented as tough and worthwhile, like the Oscar voters, and the female boxer is presented as having a life no longer worth living and a life properly extinguished.
-- R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

Mr. Bowman has it right, but only up to a point. Knowledge of history will tell you that "mercy killings" are just regular killings of the unwanted, imperfect, sick and old dressed up in the vestiges of a "Christian mercy." The ancient Greeks murdered the sick, lame and deformed. This Hellenistic ideal came into conflict with those stubborn, stiff-necked Jews who would have no part of it. But, after centuries of tension between the two a new way, a compromise, if you will, arose. It was Christianity: melding differing philosophies and moral codes. Unfortunately, this synchronistic amalgam itself is rooted in a death, without which there is no salvation. No wonder the Christian worldview spawns so many with a euthanasia mentality.
-- Wolf Terner
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Mr. Bowman, do not despair. I heard a Fox News poll that asked "if there was no living will, and the person was not brain dead..." -- I forget what the third thing was, but you get the point: 79% of respondents were against the feeding tube being pulled. You see, I always thought the original poll was very unrevealing of the Terri Schiavo situation. Many, many Americans don't know the details of this case. I know, because I asked many people at my workplace. When they were told of the specifics they were in total agreement with me, that Terri should have been kept alive and cared for by her parents. Please get hold of this Fox News poll and write an article affirming how polls can "pull one over on us" by the questions asked. Don't let the anti-life crowd win on this one!
-- Deane Pradzinski
Highland, California

RADIO PROGRESS
Re: Shawn Macomber's Retiring the Boogeyman:

The sad thing about Clear Channel's breathing much needed oxygen into an incredibly dry and unentertaining "Air America" and "progressive radio" in general is that just like most consolidated music stations, we have no idea how really potent or impotent "Air America" could or will be. The marketplace decided that Limbaugh was solid, one independent station at a time in an era of "pre-consolidated" radio. Air America gets to ride along (with other progressive hosts of dubious quality) in a buffet of programs in metropolitan markets where any of them can be Number 1 in any given time slot because the distributor controls the products being delivered and their content. Thus, the individual stations don't have to fight for market share based on listenable programming because they are no longer individual; they all get a percentage of any market.

It's really McDonald's radio. Commercial music has definitely suffered from it. After suffering by listening to these "Progressives'" programs locally for a month here in Detroit, in the real world "Progressive Radio" wouldn't stand a chance.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

WESTERN DISPATCH
Re: Bill Croke's The Montana Howard Dean:

It is good to have him back! His columns have been missed. I don't know what is going on out in Wyoming.
-- Steven Doyle
Seymour, Illinois

"Californicators" and "modem cowboys" -- boy, have I've missed Croke's columns. This one reminded me of his column on Ted Turner two years ago.
-- Kitty Myers
Painted Post, New York

INANE BUT HELPFUL
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Tell Tchaikovsky the News:

I welcome news about Michael Jackson. One, by taking the spotlight off our soldiers, Marines, and sailors fighting for freedom in Iraq, these men and women can actually do their jobs without worrying about "rescuing" a burning truck so it does not appear on the evening news surrounded by people doing a tribal dance around it. Two, the attention to Mr. Jackson tells me that we are winning the war, because if we were losing, we would be certainly hearing about that.

Concerning Michael Jackson, who he is and what he does have been part of the public record for a long, long time. Questions regarding whether celebrities should be treated any differently aside, he is not some eccentric loner who just moved into your neighborhood. Mr. Jackson wears an ornate scarlet letter, lives far from your neighborhood, and parents thrust their children upon him.

So, Mr. Jackson may end up going to prison. Can we also send to prison every goofy parent who sent their child to spend time in private with him? Social Security reform raises issues of personal vs. collective responsibility; if Mr. Jackson ends up the only person to go to prison, what kind of message are we sending about personal responsibility? Let's keep Michael Jackson in the news.
-- Paul Milenkovic
Madison, Wisconsin

I try very, hard, VERY hard to ignore this spectacle in feathers and rags. I do not care if it is late to court. I do not care if it is injured, ill, or even insane. A very few of the media types on cable news have the good sense to be embarrassed by the lunacy surrounding this creature. However, they say with a straight face, that when they move away from this story, the public goes crazy. I can believe it. How else do you explain the popularity of People- and US-type mags? As long as there is interest of anyone about people like Jackson, the rest can only protest by not buying the magazine, and changing the channel -- or even turning off the boob tube.
-- Janis Johnson
Independence, Missouri

To call Mr. Jackson a creep is an insult to the real creeps of the world.
-- Robert F. Casselberry

Perhaps in Michael Jackson's messed up world, he didn't realize he was watching a comedy when he accidentally tuned in to the Monty Python's Flying Circus episode wherein the purported BBC program "Farming Club" addressed the life of Tchaikovsky with the question, "Was he the tortured soul who poured out his immortal longings into dignified passages of stately music, or was he just an old poof who wrote tunes?" Observers of this current circus can now venture how Michael has answered that.

This begs a new question though: is Michael a warrior/hero/legend-in-his-own-mind who poured out his Peter Pan fantasies into well choreographed passages of groin-grabbing dance, or…?

National Enquiring minds want to know.
-- Stephen Foulard, completely unsympathetic in
Houston, Texas

SOME PARADISE
Re: Shawn Macomber's Utopia Banished:

If only France were Utopia (no place).
-- David Govett
Davis, California

What about the Tour de France? How do the French riders train or race the Tour and not work more than 35 hours a week. Any wonder why the French have not won their won national sporting event since 1985? It takes a TON OF WORK!
-- Chris Leon
Texas Field Marketing Manager
Clif Bar Inc.

PRECEDENT FOR SCHIAVO
Re: Ben Stein's American Death Sentence:

Stein, comparing Terri Schiavo's execution to abortion writes, "You can bet that's going to change so that babies who are less than perfect will soon be sentenced to death, too." It's hardly a secret that newborn babies with Down's Syndrome, cleft palate, spinal bifida, cerebral palsy, and other not-lethal deformities, as well as old folks who have no relatives like the Schindler's willing to fight for their survival, are already being set aside and deprived of food and water until they no longer exist to disturb their care-givers or delay their inheritance. Perhaps some crack reporter will document how often these unmentioned so-called "mercy-killings" actually take place (Michael Schiavo said on Nightline that it happens countless times every day.) Maybe we could call it Schindler's List!
-- Kenneth Blake

My anger and frustration have finally been voiced by you. The blame is entirely on the black robes as you stated. I've read column after column that skirted all around the facts. But the facts are simple and clearly before us. It's too simple for some to grasp but you have put it bluntly and truthfully. Thank you.
-- C. Benson

THE DRINAN DRAG
Re: George Neumayr's Lying Jesuits and Journalists and "Faith of Our Fathers" letters in Reader Mail's Miles to Go:

Full disclosure: in April 1990, I attended the papal mass in St. Peter's Cathedral honoring the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Jesus. As a member of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, I was privileged to sit close to the main altar and Bernini's baldachino. One of the persistent memories that I retain 15 years after the event is my impression of the then relatively new Father General of the Jesuits, Peter Hans Kolvenbach: I sensed he wished he were elsewhere. Kolvenbach in this case reminds me of his fellow Jesuit, Robert F. Drinan, who often gives the impression that his priestly duties and functions seem like...how to put it?... a distraction, and that his primary responsibility is to serve and advise presidents and other VIPs. To most Catholics, especially those of a traditional bent, Drinan tends to get under our collective skins.

Drinan, ordained more than 50 years ago, has been able, through tactics that more resemble a political ward heeler than a priest, to achieve his current status as the Solomonic sage of the chattering class. This is the man who defied his order's ruling that no Jesuit could hold political office, and did so for 10 years. That is known. What is perhaps not known is that he massaged the truth to do so. According to an authoritative account, published nearly a decade ago, both Fathers Arrupe, Kolvenbach's predecessor, and the Jesuit's New England Provincial, Rev. William Guindon, were told by Drinan that he had received dispensation to run for elected office, which was a total fabrication. When summoned to Rome by Arrupe to defend his actions, the new Massachusetts congressman refused to go, claiming he had an electoral campaign to run. And since Roe v. Wade, Drinan has been a major player in promoting abortion rights, the teaching Magisterium of the Church to the contrary notwithstanding.

It seems to me, then, that the responses I've read to George Neumayr's "Lying Jesuits & Journalists" have missed the point. Previously in these pages, I, along with others, have lamented the deterioration of the Jesuits. In their seminaries and educational institutions, they have been infected with the sin of modernism, but that is no revelation. Yet, the Drinan case is a cautionary tale and a telling part of continuing Jesuit descent in the early 21st century. For the only question to ask is not why Drinan is a media darling; that is easy to answer, but the harder one: why, after 30 years of sustained disobedience, the Society of Jesus, whose priests swear a special vow of papal obedience, has not acted to silence and/or suspend Drinan from his duties? To respond by claiming that the Vatican was unaware of what was happening in America is but another way of saying papal nuncios should submit more accurate reports, but no further evidence that his order's hierarchy would have initiated any disciplinary action. Unless or until Drinan is held accountable by his superiors for his un-Catholic deeds, the Jesuits and, ultimately, the Church, will continue their inevitable decline, hastened by one priest who does not merit to be called "Father."
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

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