On the Other Hand...
by Jim Davies
Elders, Madonna and Kavorkian
After the abrupt departure of Dr Jocelyn Elders, I got to wonder whether a good replacement as Surgeon General might not be Dr Jack Kavorkian. He seems to have more respect for human life and dignity than most holding high office in D.C.
Not that I'd be too hard on the lady he would replace. Yes, Dr Elders is a flaming "liberal" who has no idea which way is up on matters of property, but the two reasons she was fired do her great credit as a guardian of health.
Her first out-of-line statement was to suggest that it may be time to call off the War on Drugs. Well, some of us have been saying that for a decade or two, but it's nice to know that someone in the Clinton administration can see sense; after all, George Schultz could see it, and he was a Republican.
The particular stimulus for her remark may have been the arrest two weeks earlier of her grown son on drug charges, so we must admit that something other than pure logic may have guided her opinion. She may also have had in mind to enlarge her office by taking over some functions from a dismantled DEA. But whatever her motives, hey, she got it right. That's a rare event in Washington.
There are two main ways that AIDS can spread, and one of them is by sharing needles when shooting up. By ending the Drug War, Ms Elders would have enabled anyone (with a few cents) to a buy clean needle, and so made a big contribution to ending this epidemic. A fine day's work for a Surgeon General, right?
Her second (and fatal) out-of-line remark was to suggest that while government employees are teaching schoolkids about sex, they might as well show them how to masturbate as well as copulate.
Now, here I do have big problems with Ms Elders' perspective because I don't think government employees should be teaching children anything at all; I think there should be a strict separation between School and State. I think schools should be run only by profit-seeking businesspeople and by charities, never by government; and of course that all school taxes be cancelled so that parents can use their own money to buy the education they want, on the market.
But let's leave that matter aside for now, even though it's far more important than the AIDS epidemic; let's suppose that, alas, government continues for the present to influence our children. What, then, of Ms Elders' advice?
Well, copulation is the other main way that AIDS can spread, hence all the hype about condoms. So if adolescent kids are so taught about sex that they have less of it with each other and more of it by themselves, it must follow mathematically that the spread of AIDS is going to be slowed down.
Once again, a pretty fine achievement for a Surgeon General, even if Madonna said it first.
In fact, if both bits of her advice had been taken, she would have saved quite a substantial number of lives. More, probably, than all her fellow-members of the Clinton Cabinet put together. What an irony, that he should fire her for trying to save lives! It may lead us to wonder what he has against children. Hey, Hey, William J., how many kids have you killed today?
Just recently, the Michigan Supreme Court announced its copout on the suicide issue; they said under Common Law it was always illegal to help a person kill himself, so the new State Law is unnecessary. The effect will be to push the question to that high-stakes lottery, the US Supreme Court.
Let's go right to the heart of this controversy: I believe that in truth it has nothing to do with the alleged danger of unscrupulous doctors being free to murder patients and claim the act was assisted suicide, and everything to do with the question, Whose life is it, anyway?
In every way possible, from the moment a baby arrives on the scene and is required to be given an SS Number if the parent wants to keep enough of his own money to feed him, right through to these unhappy cases of terminal illness, government arrogantly trumpets the reply, "It's ours."
It's the key question of the 20th Century: is the individual the creature of the State, existing primarily for its benefit, or does the State exist (if at all) for the benefit of individuals?
Politicians, notably Hitler, Lenin, and Mussolini, typically say it's the former; and virtually all of them believe it, whether they say it or not. Any Pol who voted to force babies to have SS#s believes it, for example.
I believe the opposite, and I hope that if you have self-respect, you do too. I doubt whether the State has any uniquely valuable function at all, but if it does, it exists at the pleasure of Us the People, and not vice-versa.
So, who is to decide whether or not to end a human life? - the human being in question is, and nobody else. Every single person has absolute rights of ownership to his or her own life. It is the pinnacle of arrogance for government to claim that it, rather, has any such right. Suicide is totally outside its legitimate domain, and must always remain so for that reason.
And if suicide is legal then obtaining assistance is legal and therefore providing that assistance must also be legal. The whole massive campaign of persecution of Dr Kavorkian is designed to reverse that vital principle of self-ownership. That's what it's really all about.
So, should Jack Kavorkian be the next Surgeon General? - by the time you read this, someone else will have been given the job, but he'd have been a good one. Anyone believing in self-ownership would have brought light to a dark place.
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