The human race is a race of cowards. Including me. When under attack years back in W. Africa I was instructed: ‘Kill them or kill yourself. Because if captured you will suffer ingloriously.’ Hmm… Fortunately I am a poor shot. Or is my brain just too small to hit? And then there was Brittany Maynard…

There’s a long-forgotten joke about this convicted killer. He (pick your least- favorite, dim-witted ethnic) was given a choice of execution by the administering judge. He could die in the electric chair, gas chamber, by hanging… or, by being injected with the despicable, tortuous, lethal AIDS virus.

The doofus chose AIDS.

And after receiving the toxic needle the prison guards were bewildered.

‘Why would you pick the most hideous, painful, agonizing way to die?’ they asked.

‘No problem,’ he replied. ‘I was wearing a condom.’

Hmm…

Surely he was misinformed. And more than a tad ‘stoopeeed.’ Which obviously brings me to the misinformed, stupidity being spewed by the sanctimonious, supercilious, pompous asses going on and on post-mortem about Brittany Maynard.

With only a few months left to live from an incurable aggressive brain tumor the 29-year-old, just days away from her next birthday, chose to spare her husband and relatives from the daily agony of watching the seizures, torture, convulsions and personality disorders detonated by her enervating death march. So she relocated from California to Oregon to take advantage of its Death With Dignity Law. The law allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor.

And all along the pious indignation followed her. Some even had – and still voice — the cheeky impudence to call her a coward. Which prompts me to ask: Do you know why we have two ears, but only one mouth?

So we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Hmm…

There is nothing worse than pious fools who stand before us with the assurance of dogma and the arrogance of certainty – the absolute enemies of wisdom. Their righteous impertinence isn’t rational. Nor reasonable. They are insolent and presumptuous. They can only hear the organ music blasting between their ears.

And to tell you the truth, I admire their strong faith. Heck, I’ve got it even stronger. But what sets me stampeding and reaching for my elephant gun, is their supercilious, fervent proselytizing that theirs is the only cow-path to heaven. And worst of all, most of these pilgrims have never been in a foxhole or desperately starving.

Hell, it’s no deep secret stowed away in the likes of Roswell, New Mexico, that we are sailing along on a ship of fools. Yet I realize that to despair of this human condition would make me more of a coward than I already am. But am I also a fool to hope we could be better?

Please… would someone please toss ‘hope’ back into Pandora’s box.

Surely anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature recognizes that it is what it is. That self determination has its own consequences. But so what? If G-d did indeed grant us this free will to choose, then let us choose for ourselves. Don’t let others ever choose for you. You are abrogating your rights… and perhaps your wrongs. In the end G-d will sort it out.

So, without getting into a cockfight with the archangels on this I want to point out a couple of personal situations that might give you a communion wafer or two to gnaw on. If I’ve told you these before, please don’t interrupt me. Because I’d like to hear them again.

Hmm…

When under a surprise attack years back in West Africa I was instructed: ‘Kill them or kill yourself. Because if captured you will suffer ingloriously.’

Hell, I was a journalist. And an adventurer. I wasn’t any soldier. I was just stoopidly and grandly on another one of my escapades, drawn by curiosity and enterprise to see what was there. To witness what was on the other side of the mountain.

But we walked into an ambush of xenophobic lunatics who just seemed to enjoy the carnage. And I was informed by those more experienced in these matters that if I became their prisoner these wild and crazed natives would kill me slowly and horribly. That it would be more excruciatingly unbearable than even my last divorce. That it was kill or be killed horrendously.

So would I have killed myself?

At that moment I was so frightened you could probably smell me all the way on the other side of a Sahara sand storm. I would have killed anything. Especially my last ex who couldn’t comprehend how I could kill anything, even in self defense – except perhaps the mice scampering about in our huge over-priced apartment.

Indeed I am a very poor shot. And my brain is undoubtedly too small to hit. But to be sure I saved one bullet in my pocket. I called it my retirement plan. And there was definitely no cavalry riding in to save the day.

Yet, somehow we managed to survive. I was fatigued and wounded. But the question still haunts me today: Would I have sucked down that last bullet?

You’re damn right! I was determined to kill to live. Or live to kill myself. Was I afraid? Certainly. So was Brittany Maynard. But as one of my fighting compatriots over there enlightened me: ‘The only time you can be brave is when you are afraid.’

Hmm…

Was this G-d’s plan for me? Was G-d saving me? I know there are victims born to have their throats cut, just as there are cutthroats born to be hanged. But if HE was there where was he during the slaughter of the 800,000 Rwandans? Or when the hundreds of young girls are still being kidnapped and forced into a life of living death in Nigeria? Or where the hell was he when a million Armenians were butchered? Etc… etc… etc…

Believe it or not I do understand very well when pious folks invoke the tenets of their creed and biblical faith. But I don’t appreciate their refusal to grasp the paradox that nothing is a miracle… and everything is a miracle.

Hmm…

Some 15 years later I was in the clutch of another debilitating situation.

Teetering on a 14-story ledge, I was engulfed by Post Traumatic Stress Disease. Undoubtedly it was eventually triggered by my life of risky adventures, including Africa and Russia. As well as my younger son born with transposition of the great arteries, barely a left lung and an assortment of other seriously lingering life and death maladies.

And finally I crashed. Into a deep depression – with his massive medical debts going up and my mood sinking down. And there I was up on the roof of our apartment building looking down on Philadelphia’s celebrated Parkway – all of its many museums and institutes bookended by the ornate City Hall and the eminent hilltop Art Museum 10 blocks away.

I was stricken with an overwhelming pressure to succumb. It was like being attacked by hordes and hordes of winged bats. Or perhaps more like gnats. Like those that swarmed the ranging herds of wild buffaloes. Until the bisons tried to run and outrun them. Even running over cliffs to their deaths to try to escape the suffocating masses of these swirling insects.

The humid heat of August choked in my lungs. I was sweating copiously. Hours drifted by. And there I stood, a man in the Great Debate — afraid to live… and just as afraid to die.

I thought longingly of my children… And finally I decided to climb down. To get help. And to live. I mean, the world has no room for cowards. And I didn’t want my children to have ‘no room’ to inhabit.

So I went and got cured. For there was a cure for me. There wasn’t for Brittany Maynard. Her brain cancer was more vicious than the natives that attacked me, and the depression that swamped over me like a tsunami.

Hmm…

And finally there is the erstwhile story involving the Philadelphia haberdasher who drove a yellow Rolls Royce and made silly TV ads that captivated ensuing generations in my Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love.

One afternoon as he skipped into his men’s clothing store on Philadelphia’s well-known, anything-goes South Street he breezily asked one of his salesman how his day was going. The salesman kvetched that it was so bad that if he had a gun he would kill himself.

Jokingly, as always, dapper Benny tossed him a small handgun from his suit jacket pocket. And at that the salesman proceeded to kill himself.

Hmm… Sometimes a small notion can land you a big bang – no theory required.

And, as they say: Sometimes shit just happens.

Brittany Maynard didn’t ask for her brain cancer. It just happened. For whatever reason. And she didn’t frivolously ask the doctor to give her the pill that would enable her to end her misery. And to die with dignity.

It takes a brave person to do what she did. A coward dies a thousand deaths; a brave woman dies but once. Hope is a wonderful thing. But even hope was going to make her final days excruciating, if not totally inhumane.

I only hope to never have to make such a final choice. Or even come close to it… again.

And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…

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