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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up.

Once my mother heard a story, maybe it was a "Darwin Awards" runner up, in which a man caught himself on fire after a whole series of mishaps caused by his own stupidity. Everyone I knew had laughed at the story, but my mom didn't. She said it's about time we stop blaming people for being stupid; it isn't their fault.

She had a point. We, as a society, are becoming increasingly hardened to those who, through no fault of their own, are weak, unintelligent, disabled, or dependent. Even people who try not to let this hardness infect them will often consider abortion to be less wrong than the killing of an adult, or engage in debate over whether the life of a disabled person is worth as much as the life of a fully enabled, taxpaying, job-holding, mobile voter.

Some even describe starvation as an act of "compassion", if the victim happens to be incapacitated enough not to be able to express herself, like Terri Schiavo. In an effort to "protect the rights" of a woman who never indicated a wish to be starved, this devout Catholic woman was denied even Last Rites.

Her unspoken but assumed wish to die superceded her spoken wish to practice her Catholic faith.

The question is, how did so many people reach the conclusion, in the first place, that she would wish to be denied food and water rather than live with her disability? Our society, in its misplaced sense of superiority, has slowly slipped toward the idea that it's obviously better for a person to be dead than disabled.

I remember a better day, when we were at least expected to give nodding sympathy to the television commercial character who had fallen and could not get up. Now, the prevailing notion seems to be to let her lie there until she starves to death. The columnist from The Oregonian would chalk it up to it being "God's plan, not ours" that the little old lady should stay on the floor and die with agony but dignity.

I say those who cannot get up deserve our help. If I ever become so hardened that I believe the helpless deserve to die, then I have less right to live than they have.