I spent a few agreeable hours with Phil today. He was awake and talkative, but I could understand little of what he said. “I am miserable,” I caught, along with, “I am going to die.” Frustrated with his inability to speak, he often tried to point at what he wanted, but his muscle control was no better than his control over his voice. The twenty-year old CNA was happy for me to take over most of Phil’s care. I told him I would return tomorrow—if Phil is alive tomorrow. And Phil might well be alive tomorrow and for several subsequent days as well. People who bet on how quickly someone will die are prone to underestimating the tenacity of the human body. (I read today of a British man who, when he was ninety, bet $200 that he would live to be 100. The bookmaker figured the odds at 250 to one, and lost $500,000.)
I felt little pity or repulsion today, just a firm resolve to never allow myself to die in such a manner. Phil remains too proud to let anyone feed him, yet he is too helpless to perform his basic bodily functions unaided. I imagine a contradiction here, but then I believe in suicide and euthanasia as an honorable way to avoid suffering, waste, and indignity, whereas Phil regards life as a gift that only God can give and that only God should take.
I used to be a CNA, so I know what it is like to be awake at 6:00 a.m. shaving the faces of drooling idiots (not that Phil has sunk so low). When I did such work, I would ponder the millions of dollars a year that taxpayers spend to keep such people alive, and I came to regard it is a criminal act. There never has been and never will be enough money for everything, so why waste it on those who are so hopeless that they don’t even understand the concept of hope, on those who are so brainless that it is hard to tell their good days from their bad or even to determine whether they have good days and bad days?
I often find myself in such extreme opposition to the values of society, especially in regard to compassion and justice. Tonight, there is a hip-hop concert at the fairgrounds. The band last appeared in Salem, where their performance was brought to an early end by gang gunfire and fistfights. I am therefore under some small apprehension that a bullet could come flying through my wall. Yet, I don’t blame screwed-up kids for the existence of gangs; I blame society for the existence of gangs, because we could stop them, and we don’t.
One approach would be to simply kill the bastards. A complementary approach might be to set aside parcels of land, and make them into law-free zones where gangs could do as they pleased. They could die of overdoses; they could kill and torture one another; they could rape one another’s hoes; they could do anything whatsoever without the least apprehension that anyone would help or hinder. Hip hop “artists” would try to shame anyone who lacked the courage to visit such enclaves, while those who buy into the values of hip-hop could have a gay old time of it for however long they wanted—just so they stayed at least twenty-four hours.
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