- Christina: We're going on a joint honeymoon.
- Reva: (pause) I've never heard of a joint honeymoon before.
- Christina: It's one of the benefits of living in sin.
The New York Times yesterday related a story of a young woman from El Salvador they are calling Beatriz. Beatriz is 26 weeks pregnant. She is 22. She has lupus, and she is already the mother of a 14 month-old boy. The child she carries now has anencephaly, a birth defect where parts of the brain and skull are missing. So severe is that birth defect that the child is almost certain to die if it survives to birth. Beatriz’s medical team believes she may die (and by default, her fetus) if she does not undergo an abortion in the coming weeks. She and her doctors have asked El Salvador’s highest court to grant an exception to its abortion laws, which do not allow abortion under any circumstances. Their request was denied.
Abortion is an incredibly divisive topic wherever there are women getting pregnant, regardless of whether it is legal or illegal. In countries where an abortion can be readily had, Beatriz would have already undergone the procedure and would now be at home with her toddler. Instead, she is in a hospital where the doctors, who want to perform an abortion and are legally unable to do so, are instead trying to figure out how to save her life when the one tool that will accomplish that feat is being denied them.
Regardless of where you land on the Abortion Is Murder or Abortion Is A Woman’s Right spectrum, Beatriz’s situation is inherently one of real life and real death. There is no straw man or straw woman here. Death is coming.
The question is what to do about it.
Triage is the medical process by which doctors and nurses determine how and when to treat patients based on the severity of their condition. It’s how they filter and sift through which needs are most pressing so that resources are utilized efficiently and effectively in order to give the best care. In triage, three categories are employed:
1. Those most likely to live, regardless of the care they receive.
2. Those most likely to die, regardless of the care they receive.
3. Those whose outcome is likely to be more positive if they are given immediate care.
Resources are then allocated according to who falls into what category. Triage is regularly used in emergency rooms and emergency situations, not because some people are more valuable than others, but because when time and resources are limited, and everybody is equally valuable, decisions still have to be made in regards to treatment and who gets what, when. In triage categories, Beatriz lands solidly in category 3. The child she carries is tragically in category 2.
Advanced triage ratchets up the process’s difficulty quotient by recognizing that sometimes (battlefields, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc.), time and resources are so limited that it becomes necessary for medical authorities to acknowledge that some patients cannot be saved so that they can focus the time and resources available on the patients who can be. The idea of advanced triage isn’t pretty. It recognizes not only that people are going to die, but that some people will die who might not have, had the immediate situation been different. But in a medical crisis, advanced triage is Reality’s brass tacks. Not everyone can be saved. What do we do? The more humane and ethical way to treat people in such a situation is to put all your eggs in the Who’s-Most-Likely-To-Make-It basket.
Resources and time are very limited in Beatriz’s case. If her medical team is allowed to act swiftly enough in providing her with an abortion, she stands a very good chance at making a full recovery. Currently, there are no technological or medical resources that will save her unborn child. That real and serious limitation cannot be overcome by a country’s laws or a people’s faith. No high court would deny a doctor on the battlefield or at a bombing site the right to prioritize care, i.e. the right to employ triage, even if that prioritizing meant some people died who might otherwise have been saved. Beatriz and the child she carries are in that situation. It’s ugly, and it’s hard, but it’s what is happening. When a woman’s life is in danger and she is pregnant, triage and advanced triage are helpful and real tools for thinking and acting with, regardless of what one’s views—or laws—are on abortion.
Beatriz’s unborn child cannot be helped by the medical field’s current abilities. She can be, but she needs that care soon, or two lives—if you’re pro-life and counting—will be lost.
Here’s a little excerpt from an interview I did with Georgetown College’s WRVG about being an artist. You can read the whole interview here.
“It’s a band about heartbreak–but on a larger scale–we’re leaning into our collectively breaking heart.”
Grief will come to you.
Grip and cling all you want,
It makes no difference.
Catastrophe? It’s just waiting to happen.
Loss? You can be certain of it.
Flow and swirl of the world.
Carried along as if by a dark current.
All you can do is keep swimming;
All you can do is keep singing.
by Gregory Orr
We lost him last week. If you’ve never read him, start now.
“Under what circumstances, if any, may ‘the government’—i.e., the military or the C.I.A., with the consent, tacit or express, of the President—order the killing without trial of a citizen not on American soil? What about the killing, also without trial, of a specific person who is specifically believed to be a dangerous terrorist but has the misfortune of not being a citizen of the United States? Or a person of whatever nationality whose habits and associations conform to a circumstantial ‘signature’ suggesting that he is, or probably is, a dangerous terrorist? How certain must those who dispatch the drones be that their ‘target’ is who they think he is? What safeguards, what checks, what procedures, short of a full legal process, but greater than the mere say-so of the drone dispatchers, are required or appropriate? Given the brutal methods of ‘modern’ war, whether ‘conventional’ (invading armies, aerial bombing and strafing, ‘force-protection’ thoroughness, ‘shock-and-awe’) or ‘asymmetrical’ (suicide bombings, terror attacks, ‘improvised explosive devices’), all of which tend to kill and maim civilians in greater numbers and at higher ratios, don’t drone attacks represent a somewhat less inhumane alternative—’the worst form of war, except for all the others,’ as Will Saletan put it recently? Because drones carry no physical risk to the attacker, don’t they create a temptation to use them simply because they can be used?”
from The Drone Perplex: Rand Paul and Obama by Hendrik Hertzberg over at The New Yorker
Hey, all. One o’ my Lexington bands will be live on the Internet tonite at 7pm EST on Red Barn Radio if you wanna tune in. It’s a fun, bluegrassy little outfit with three songwriters (one of ‘em is me) and three singers (one of ‘em is me). Some of my faves in town are in this band: Warren Byrom, Tree Jackson, Scott Wilmoth, and Robby Cosenza. Lots of songs and a little bit of talking. You can listen here. I’ll be playing songs you outta-towners haven’t heard yet. If you’re in Lexington, the show’s at ArtsPlace, and we’d love to have you in the audience.
Look up the worst school massacres in history, and you’ll see the pattern. Madmen are everywhere. They strike without regard to gun laws, mental health care, or the national rate of churchgoing. They’ve slaughtered children in every country you’d think might have been spared: Scotland, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Finland, Japan. They’ve falsified every pet political theory about what kind of culture or medical system or firearms legislation prevents mass murder.
But one pattern holds true: The faster the weapon, the higher the body count.” —From Speed Kills by William Saletan. Read the rest of his article here.
I am in a beautiful hospital waiting room at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center where Will is in the beginning stages of a very serious surgery. Three walls are made up of large panels of a cherry-like wood veneer. The fourth is all window, and the hazy SoCal light is mixed and diffused with the soft warm lamps suspended from the 20 foot ceiling. The temperature is perfect, i.e. I can wear or not wear my AC/DC hoodie depending on my emotional state, not my over- or under-warmed-ness. There are probably 40 people in here, mostly strangers to me and to one another. Our voices rise and fall, but no words come through. We are pitch and cadence and quiet. It is, without a doubt, the perfect Heartbreak Hotel.
I am drinking a coffee someone else brought Angie, but since she doesn’t drink coffee, I claimed it, and I am eating the scone they brought, too, since she can’t eat that either, and now, I am guiltily wishing someone would bring her bourbon, because well, I would like it, and she wouldn’t drink it, and, knowing my fondness for the stuff, would pass it off to me without even offering it to someone else. I am answering texts and emails as they come in. I am not speaking unless spoken to, and when that happens, I often cry. I am putting off making and returning and answering phone calls because hearing a loved one’s voice across distance is too much unhappy poetry.
We are here to wait, and, I think, to pray. But all I can muster is: Okay, which is not shorthand for Thy will be done, because, if I am honest, when I believe in God, I don’t really trust him (cue any montage of human history). I am simply trying to line myself up with what is happening.
Angie is next to me. We are on twin laptops. She is reading through notes documenting prayers and love from across the wide land. I love her. She loves me. She loves Will. I love Will. Right now, that is also what is happening.
Click on the link above and see one vision of The End of The World. Thanks for posting, Marke.
John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics athlete
Of Politics & Art
……. —for Allen
Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.
She read to us from Melville.
How in an almost calamitous moment
Of sea hunting
Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves
At the still and protected center
Of a great herd of whales
Where all the females floated on their sides
While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers
just stared into what they allowed
Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow’s
One visible eyeball.
And they were at peace with themselves.
Today I listened to a woman say
That Melville might
Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, “And why not?”
The first responded, “Because there are
No women in his one novel.”
And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms.
Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows.
There was a blue light on her face, breasts, and arms.
Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying
Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room
With thirty children
Rapt, confident and listening to the pure
God-rendering voice of a storm.
by Norman Dubie
from The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001
Copper Canyon Press
Thanks to David Dark and his wondrous clan for finding this and other things I need and love so regularly.
Leon Wieseltier, on Paul Ryan, Community, Capitalism, Collectivism and Oh-Fuck-Was-It-Really-Jesus-Who-Told-Us-To-Do-Unto-Others-As-We’d-Like-‘Em-To-Do-Unto-Us?
Read the whole she-bang at The New Republic, titled “His Grief, and Ours”. Just when you thought it was safe to quit considering The Golden Rule and get GREED tattooed ‘cross yer knuckles…
Much thanks to David Dark for tweeting the article.
(p.s. Pretty please, don’t confuse this post as being from an unthinking Obama-supporter. For example: I am oh-so-tired-of-and-heartbroken-over illegal and immoral drone warfare. Aren’t you?)