We Aren’t Out of The Trees Yet!

Ed Raymond

Ever since we climbed out of trees and walked on two legs we have been faced with a whole bucket of troubles: sex, greed, political power, race, and religion. In the 21st Century we are still battling over male domination, homosexuality, same-sex-marriage, over 60 recognized genders, celibacy, contraceptives, pro-life and pro-choice, sex abuse, what to do about sex robots, and new items in the bucket such as physician-assisted suicide.

Betty Grande in her Forum article “Has Society Crossed a Line?” suggests our society has crossed some line. But by serving as a research fellow for The Heartland Institute she has already crossed a line into the bogs of right-wing extremism of the Republican Party. The Institute studies many issues: education reform, taxation, healthcare, government budgets and spending, tobacco policy, climate change and global warming, environmental policies, free market policies, and other issues of the day. The Institute is usually on the wrong side of history. It backed Philip Morris when the tobacco company said second hand smoke and smoking were not health risks. Tobacco didn’t cause cancer! Its “education reform” leans toward the destruction of public education. Bring on the charters and the private schools. 

It is one of the leading climate change deniers, always doubting the work of at least 95% of environmental scientists examining greenhouse gases. It backs the concentrated use of all fossil fuels and rejects renewable solar and wind energy. It was happy when Know-Nothing Trump dropped support for the Paris Accords. The Institute must be going into cardiac arrest over the California decision that every new home built in the state must have solar panels supplying the majority of energy. The Institute backed the taxation policies of the Tea Party that have nearly bankrupted several states (Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arizona just for starters). I will give you one guess on who supports Heartland. It’s those two rich fossil guys, the Koch brothers. I could go on…….

The Case That Set Bette “Screaming From The Mountaintop”

At any one time in the United States we have 35,000 children and adults lying in hospitals and nursing homes in “vegetative” states, suffering from degenerative diseases and catastrophic accidents. With intensive care rooms charging $10,000 a day, ordinary hospital rooms going for $1,500 a day, and nursing home rooms charging in the neighborhood of $500 a day, caring for these humans is very expensive.

In her article Bette writes about a brain-damaged baby named Alfie Evans in London, England. Great Britain has between 4,000 to 16,000 children and adults in vegetative states in any one year. Alfie was born on May 9, 2016 with a degenerative neurological disease that is eventuallyfatal. After suffering seizures after birth, at seven months he was admitted to a hospital—and has never left. He continues to decline. He sometimes opens his eyes and at times can open and close his hands. A legion of specialists in the National Health Service agrees he will never get out of the vegetative state. The doctors believe that prolonging Alfie’s life would only prolong his suffering, so they want to withdraw “care and sustenance” from him. The parents object, but in England the courts have the final say over parents.  The British Court of Appeals has agreed with the decision—and has also prohibited his parents from seeking further treatment. The Vatican and the Polish government got involved. Hospitals in Rome and the United States offered to take him. In England the law of the country is that “the child’s best interests are paramount.” Most English courts agree that NHS specialists are the best source of medical information. 

Does Suffering Bring Grace?

England had another case in litigation at the same time as Alfie’s. Charlie Gard was 11 months old and was on life support. Charlie suffered from a rare genetic disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He had suffered irreparable brain damage, could not breathe on his own, was deaf and blind. His parents wanted to take him home to die, but his doctors said he needed ventilators and other equipment and should remain in the hospital. The courts supported the hospital’s decision. Some religions believe that extra suffering brings extra grace in heaven. That has never made sense to me. And parents are not always prepared to make medical final decisions. Bette described Charlie’s situation as a “disgusting example of the cheapening of life, of life being treated as a disposable thing.” The problem is some moral questions have no single right answer. It often depends on whether you believe in science or religion.

Dr. David Berman, a physician who spends his days with trauma and critical care patients, writes about what haunts him: “I often grapple with the possibility of unintentionally hurting people. We constantly make judgment calls based on incomplete information and educated guesswork. I am haunted by emergency decisions that, despite my best efforts and intentions, caused a patient harm. Sometimes there is no clear solution.” Dr. Berman often is involved with persistent vegetative state patients. Because of accident, genetics, and other medical problems, the American Academy of Neurology keeps track of 10,000 children and 25,000 adults in the United States whose brains can still function at a rudimentary level, have sleep-wake cycles, and sometimes can breathe on their own without assistance. About 50% of them have been in a vegetative state for less than six months and 70% less than a year.      

Doctors can diagnose a vegetative state only after observing a patient many times. People in that rare state require good nutrition and comprehensive care, particularly to remove the possibility of pressure sores. They may stay in that state for years. Usually patients have severe head injuries, but a minority has an injury or medical disorder such as cardiac arrest that deprives the brain of oxygen. Many victims can open their eyes, have regular sleeping and waking habits, and can breathe, suck, chew, gag, swallow, and make some sounds. To pull the plug or to stop food and water becomes a “haunting,” not a “disgusting” decision.

Just How Long Is The Human Rutting Season?

It was inevitable that Bette would get on Planned Parenthood and abortion while she was crossing the line. Unlike most mammalians, humans unfortunately do not have a rutting season. We go at sex all the time—even old folks. It’s a bit hilarious that the word “rut” comes from the Latin “rugire” which means “to roar!”  Animals have rutting seasons, making themselves more sexually attractive by using gland secretions, spraying urine around in conspicuous places, marking themselves with mud, performing erotic physical displays such as dances, rubbing antlers and horns on trees and shrubs, and tactical aggression by  both genders. When we hear elk bellows and elephant roars there is going to be sexual excitement in River Rural. But humans bellow and roar all the time with constant doses of testosterone and Viagra. Prairie dog females can get pregnant only during one six-hour period each year. Human females are erratic but average about 2,600 hours of fertility a year.

It’s not fake news that humans have been aborting fetuses for thousands of years, whether by herbs, coat hangers, animal dung, or by a D&C. Chinese women over 5,000 years ago swallowed hot mercury after sex. A Sanskrit text over 1,200 years old recommended that Jewish women squat over a pot of boiling onions. It didn’t say it worked. The Public Religion Research Institute published a lengthy survey about Christian values in March of 2017. Half of Americans believe that any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is immoral and half believe that it is morally acceptable. People are now not marrying at all or are waiting to the average age of 28. Already these hormoned humans have lived half their lives trying to control testosterone and other physical and societal pressures concerning sex. Are there many virgins at 28? Give me a break! Everyone should read a Guardian article titled “I’m 20 and The Pressure of Being a Virgin is Overwhelming.” A very reliable Guttmacher Poll from as far back as 2006 indicated that 95% of Americans have had premarital sex “at some point in their lives.” So half of sexy Americans are lying about their sex lives! What else is “news”? Can you imagine white evangelicals, particularly Southern Baptists, lying about sex?  The serial adulterer Emperor Donald and his fellow Republicans are pushing “Abstinence Only” sex education programs for young people; nothing about condoms, diaphragms, other contraceptive methods, and the sex mores of the LBGTQ community. And nothing about the fact that sex is determined by what is between your ears, not what is between your legs. A Southern Baptist minister surprised church members by describing a “well-built” 16-year-old girl as “Biblical.” What proverb? What did he have on his mind? Many states governed by Republican governors and legislatures have been preaching abstinence for decades.  It has always failed.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 32 states, those with the highest percentage of high school students who have had sex are Mississippi, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, and Arkansas. All but Delaware are Republican (red) states. The states with the lowest proportion of high school students who have had sex are those dens of iniquity called California, New York, Maryland, Nebraska, and Connecticut. All but Nebraska are Democratic (blue) states with large populations. Gee, do you think sex education actually prevents pregnancies? Evidently “Just Say No” abstinence doesn’t work very well even in “family value” states. Nine of the ten top states with the highest teen birth rates are Republican. Nine of the ten states with the lowest teen birth rates are controlled by Democrats. Case closed.

Raising A Child Today Costs About $235,000

I just don’t believe that males desire more sexual activity than women. Mother Hubbard dresses are not popular. All kinds of modern contraceptive methods have been developed so couples can act on natural impulses. Women have suffered long enough from sexual gender inequality because of fear of pregnancy. Abortion should be available to resolve “mistakes,” whether by calendar or failure of contraceptives. We have seven billion humans on earth—which is probably about three billion too many. Pro-lifers are concerned about fetuses but tend to to forget babies when they are born. They vote to cut food stamps, health programs, taxes, an public education funding. I have been asking pro-lifers and Roman Catholic bishops for 30 years what they would advise a woman to do in the seventh month of pregnancy when she discovers by sonogram her fetus has no brain. They have never answered. They have never agreed to adopt the $235,000 fetus either. With modern contraceptives such as intrauterine devices, sub-dermal implants, oral contraceptives known as “the pill,” male and female condoms, various injectibles, patches, cervical caps, spermicidal agents, vaginal rings, and even sponges we can prevent pregnancies if necessary. The National Institutes of Health report that male contraceptives are ten years away yet. We have to start living in the 21st Century when it comes to abortion. By the way, medical experts say 20% of pregnancies end up as miscarriages anyway. Sure, life begins at conception, but should a state require miscarriage material be buried? That fetus has a lot of developing to do before becoming a viable human being.