Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Politics and Voting Are Not Life and Death

Today is election day.  After months of hearing how our way of life hinges on the results, it will once again be proven that politics really isn't life and death. It's just politics, and it sucks like Bob often reminds us.  And contrary to the bovine fecal material we have been fed for the last year or so, there are no courageous political figures "fighting" for us.

So that's all I have to say about politics on the most political day of the year.  Instead, I'd like to talk about life and death.  The topic crosses all our minds at different times and for different reasons, but I think anyone who has been paying attention to the news lately has been forced to contemplate  the subject as a result of hearing the stories of  Brittany Maynard and Lauren Hill.

Mrs. Maynard took her own life on Saturday with the assistance of doctors.  She had been diagnosed earlier this year with a stage 4, malignant and inoperable brain tumor.  The prognosis she was given was a rapid deterioration of her motor skills, a loss of control of her bodily functions, severe and debilitating seizures, pain, a vegetative state, and ultimately death, all within a very short window.

After much soul searching and consultations with doctors and family members, she made the choice to end her life with dignity and on her terms, picking November 1 as the last day of her life.  She wavered in the final days, thinking that perhaps the timing wasn't right, but she ultimately stuck with her decision.

Ms. Hill has a condition similar to Mrs. Maynard's.  She too was diagnosed earlier this year with a malignant brain cancer that will most certainly take her life.  Her doctors have estimated she has about two months to live.  Unlike Mrs. Maynard though, Ms. Hill didn't opt to end her life in a clinical way.  Part of the reason is her love of basketball, which was on full display last Sunday night in front of a crowd of 10,000 who all knew her story.  Against all the odds, she scored two baskets and fulfilled a near life long dream of playing college basketball in the process.

If you ask me, there are real examples of fighting and courageousness in both their stories.  In Mrs. Maynard's case, she didn't lay down and quit when she got the news about her cancer.  She tried to outrun it for as long as she could and lived life to the fullest until death was too near to be ignored any more.  Then she went and met it head on with the kind of courage and dignity that is difficult not to notice and admire.  It should be noted that before her eventual death in Oregon, she waged an unsuccessful fight with the government of California to do so there.

Mrs. Hill's courage was on display in the basketball game and in the days and weeks leading up to it.  In her own words, "every day is a fight."  She wins some days and "can't admit that she doesn't win on other days."   

Both stories are a reminder of what life and death are really about.   And they're also a reminder of a notion about courage and fighting that ex NBA player Bill Russell captured so well in a story he told in an interview with David Feherty which I have retold below:

His parents had moved the family from Louisiana to Seattle when he was about 9 years old.  On their first day in the projects he was standing on the steps in front of the house when  five kids came running by. One of them slapped him and knocked him down.  So he got up crying and went and told his mother.  She then grabbed her house keys and said '"let's go'"and they went looking for the five kids.  When they encountered the kids, his mother said, "are these the guys?" to which Bill replied affirmatively.  His mother then told him to fight them all, one at a time.  He won 2 and lost 3.  On the way home he was sobbing and his mother stopped and said, "Don't worry about it.  It does not matter whether you won or lost.  You have to fight for yourself, always fight for yourself."

So please, vote for who you want, but take Bill's mother's advice and fight for yourself.



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