Once in a while the health condition of a celebrity goes beyond their PR and can inspire the rest of us. It happened when Julie Andrews could no longer sing following a surgery and now I read that Val Kilmer following throat cancer cannot speak, or speak so he can be readily understood. He had a tracheostomy and now has a tube which is hidden by a scarf. We all undergo losses, it’s part of life on this planet, and we all have to handle them. Some losses are more drastic than others, and losing your voice when you are an actor is very drastic. According to the NYT profile Kilmer, who is a Christian Scientist, uses the tenets of his faith and shows no self-pity. He’s involved in a foundation he created, has a quirky gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, and still believes he can find roles to suit his present condition.
Here we are living through a pandemic, undergoing some
form of loss, having to make adjustments to our lifestyle, adjustments which
are both large and small, and which will probably linger in some form for a
long time. Some at the moment have no income, and for them the experience of
someone like Val Kilmer can perhaps offer some iota of comfort that it may
ultimately be easier for them to receive an income than it will ever be for him
to get his voice back. For the rest of us it’s a reminder of how fortunate we
NOTE: The Corona virus crisis is forcing us to make many changes making the familiar all that much more important. We shall therefore continue posting as we normally do.
One in 6 hospital patients are now being cared for in a Catholic hospital. For people who believe in assisted end of life, that has huge consequences. Catholic hospital see assisting end of life as intrinsically evil, and insist their physicians abide by their principles, which means that should a doctor sympathize with a patient as happened between Neil Mahoney and Dr, Barbara Morris in Colorado, the doctor gets fired.
Eight states currently
have assisted dying laws (Oregon, California, Washington, Montana, Colorado,
Vermont, Maine and New Jersey) and they are being considered in some 20
additional states. That’s a lot of people who wish for a say so as to how they
die, when and how much pain they can endure.
I believe in assisted end of life. My own
understanding says that to lie in a bed under palliative care sedated to deal
with pain impedes and not eases the process of dying. That is not what I want,
and neither do I want the principles of another religion to be imposed upon
me. What happened in the case of Neil Mahoney
was that without a doctor’s prescription the medication he needed to end his
life could not be filled. He eventually did find a pharmacist who believes in
dying with dignity and who was able to help him. But the issue remains, should the religious
beliefs of a hospital dictate how I or anyone with another spiritual view
The Trump administration is reviving the use of landmines. The state department’s cable announcing it said that it would only consider landmines with “technologically advanced safeguards” meaning mines which could self-destruct or mines which can be detonated by remote control. With the exception of Afghanistan in 2002, the US has not used landmines since 1991 and has not produced any since 1997. The treaty banning landmines was signed by 164 nations including all of the US NATO allies. The US however did not sign the treaty wanting to reserve the right to use them in the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless since 1997much progress was made towards destroying the stockpile. Rob Berschinski who worked on landmine policy in the Obama administration and who is now with Human Rights First says that “…they’re not only massively harmful to civilians after war’s end, but they’re also of very negligible military utility.” Landmine Monitor, an organization which monitors landmines, estimates that between 1999 and 2018 there has been 130,000 casualties, mainly civilians.
This may be another instance of the administration
rolling back the policies of its predecessor, but it is also a way to erase
progress that was made toward creating a more harmless more humane world.
Human Rights Watch has just compiled a report tracking what happens to refugees and asylum seekers who return to El Salvador. Its findings are a blow to one’s conscience. At least 200 El Salvadorans migrants or asylum seekers have been killed, raped or tortured after being deported. HRW traced 138 Salvadorans who were killed by gang members, police, soldiers, death squads and ex partners between 2013 and 2019. The 70 others were subject to beatings, sexual assault and extortion. Of course El Salvador is one of the most violent countries, and many have sought to leave. A measure of this is that from 2014 to 2018 the US deported 111,000 Salvadorans but only granted asylum to 18.2% of those who applied for it. It does not mean that those who were deported fared well. They just were not part of those HRW tracked. Obviously current policy had a big role to play in all this but too it brings to mind a larger issue. Although some means are in place, the world tends to not respond, or not adequately respond, to humanitarian crises. Politics, often under the guise of sovereignty, more often than not interferes. The tragedy in Northern Syria is but one example. The death of those Salvadorans, the fate of those deported, and the need for people to leave El Salvador to begin with reach deep into many aspects of the foreign and humanitarian aid communities. Regardless, we must find better ways, ways free of politics, to address those crises wherever they are. As a civilization, a world, a country, we must institute whatever is needed to help those in need survive, whatever it is we might want if we were in that position.