HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas

Be Afraid of This Crusade

The Inquisitors envisioned a monolithic world marching lock-step to a deity harsh enough to support the harshest tactics of its zealots.

Welcome to the paradise envisioned by today’s conservatives, who have married God to a world-view as rigid as that of their 16th century forbears.

Behold the Conservative Eden.

• Hymns to the glory of abstinence.

Schools will drop “contraception” from “sex” education. The result won’t be a chaster nation, but a sicker one. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases will rise. Chlamydia, whatever the zealots say, is not a gift from God. Nor is gonorrhea. In a Calvinist world-view, they may mark divine displeasure, but they surely are not gifts.

Of course, in this Paradise, contraception will go underground, becoming almost a black-market purchase, as right-thinking health personnel refuse to mention it, much less prescribe it.

• Veneration of pregnancy. All pregnancies. Even pregnancies from incest and rape—acts probably not of divine prodding.

Few women would welcome those babies as a divine gift. In this Eden, though, women will accept the blessing.

As for prenatal testing, we can drop it. Today clinicians can detect, in vitro, a host of diseases, including Tay Sachs, Down Syndrome, neural tube defects, Turner Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell; and parents who carry an affected fetus can choose whether or not to proceed. We don’t condemn parents for their choices.

This new Crusade will block that option. We will return to the era before Roe v. Wade, when Arizona resident Sherri Finkbein, who learned she had taken thalidomide while pregnant, went to Sweden for an abortion. Wealthy women with passports will still have the choice (most of the developed world allows abortion); everybody else will accept divine will.

• Tax relief for the hardworking righteous; misery for the “least of us.”

Crusaders will slash an evil voracious government that is gobbling up the money of the righteous. A smaller government will enrich taxpayers.

This solipsism, though, casts adrift “the least of us,” those unfortunates beloved in sermons, but nowhere else.

The “least of us” need help. For some, the help will be life-long: people with severe disabilities are unlikely to morph into the “hardworking, taxpayers who don’t depend on government” that politicos laud.

Other people have struck a roadblock. Substance abuse, a teenage pregnancy, a pink slip, domestic violence – the bumps in the road are numerous. Their common theme: these victims will need a helping hand, at least for a while.

Although the Crusaders have promised that people with “special needs” will have a “friend” in government, people with special needs don’t need a friend. They need a spigot that will spill forth money for insurance, education, transportation, group homes. But in this Eden, the zealots will turn off the fiscal spigots.

• More of the “least of us.”

Cloaking war in the rhetoric of a messianic battle (or a football game), the Crusaders envision “victory” in Iraq. (We can call our staged withdrawal what we like, but 5 years after invading a country to rout out weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, I doubt that historians will call it victory). God supports this war—an assurance of zealots on both sides.

As for the people left dead, presumably they will go to Heaven. That too is the promise of both sides.

The wounded, though, are left to muddle through an earthly existence that must resemble hell. You can count them: numbers blind, maimed (one, two, three, or four limbs), deaf, unable to walk, to go to the toilet, to eat, to think. With every month of righteous battle, the census mounts.

Wounded veterans will need help. Again, more government money. Lots more. The harder-fought (another football adjective) the war, the higher the census. And the greater the need for government. But the conservatives want to cut taxes, not raise them. We’ll give our wounded veterans parades.

• A halt to scientific/medical progress.

To develop new medical treatments, the country must train scientists, outfit laboratories, stock libraries, and bolster universities and medical schools—a major investment of taxpayers’ dollars. But conservatives will block any such investment, particularly to elite institutions that teach evolution.

Dante would have recognized this Paradise for what it is: a circle in Hell.

Joan Retsinas is a sociologist who writes about health care in Providence, R.I. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2008

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