Remembering Those Who Suffer
In Maduro’s Venezuela one out of every three is malnourished and hungry, among those who may be considered more middle class it’s one in five. In Northern Syria, there are over 900,000 people caught in the war there, and 13 million Syrians have already been displaced. The near one million refugees have no place to go, no one to turn to. It’s been so cold, several children have frozen to death. In Kashmir, the government continues its limited Internet access and other restrictions against the mainly Muslim state, not to speak of the recent riots in New Delhi which is causing many to flee because Muslims are no longer wanted in those areas. In China the Muslim Uighurs are being put in so called reeducation camps for the slightest action, such as growing a beard. In Yemen war rages, in Libya, anarchy continues, in several countries, refugees keep coming and find no refuge, no let up to their angst and difficulties, no escape from poverty, sometimes no way to survive. I could go on about the suffering of the world, and yes these are man-made problems, and because they are man-made they are even harder to resolve, because the human imperfections that caused them still exist. There may be very little we can do, but we can remember these lives, learn from their courage, their fortitude, be inspired by how they endure and handle their suffering, be humbled by their strength and bravery and most of all remember them because their problems dwarf ours no matter how serious ours may be.
The Rights of the Terminally Ill
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 should die?
The Return of Landmines
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.
Shortage of Condoms
It’s easy to say that a shortage of condoms is not a big deal, but as it turns out that’s not quite so. Malaysia is on lockdown because of the virus, and that’s where the world’s biggest producer of condoms is. The 3 factories of Karex Bhd have opened up again but are working at only 50% capacity. They produce condoms for many brands including Durex, also for the UK’s NHS as well as for the UN’s Population Fund. When at capacity, they make 100 million condoms a week, so the closures mean a shortage is looming. It will be a while for the factories to come up to capacity and be able to fill the demand. Factories in China, India and Thailand are also on lockdown as of this writing. For countries like Africa and the many NGOs through which the condoms are distributed, it will not take a week or a month but may take at least several months before the shortage can be made up, thus creating another kind of humanitarian crisis, forcing people to have children before they are able to care for them, or perhaps be unduly contaminated by diseases. And it’s doubtful the issue of unwanted pregnancies and disease contamination will be confined to Africa and is bound to also manifest closer to home. A shortage of condoms, inconsequential as it first appears ends up demonstrating how the long arms of the coronavirus reach far and wide, showing us once again how interrelated we are, and how what happens in one distant country can affect all.
No Prison Visitations
It’s easy to forget the plight of those who are incarcerated during this coronavirus pandemic. They have no masks, no gloves, some may be given bleach or disinfectant for their cells, many not. There are no provisions that I’ve read about at least to protect neither inmates nor their guards although I’ve read that contamination in such a setting could aggravate the public health crisis. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that given the lack of social isolation inmates are like proverbial sitting ducks. There is though one more consequence, the impact on their families and loved ones. As a precaution to not spread the virus, or to bring it in, face to face contacts and visitations have been stopped nationwide in state and federal prisons. And since prisons do not have the staff and often the inclination to keep families informed about the welfare or whereabouts of inmates, families are now left wondering what’s going on with their loved ones. In some cases it is not virus related, but whether the cancer treatments were continuing, or whether the COPD of another was being addressed. I have found, as numerous others have too, that the well-being of someone we love can be more important than our own, that the pains of someone we love can be harder to bear than ours. And so in this time of difficulties, when my heart goes out to so many groups such as refugees, detainees, homeless and so many others, I include the anguish of those who have a family member incarcerated.
Expiration Dates Are Not What They Are
The US Department of Agriculture calls it Food product dating, we know it as expiration dates on the many foods we buy. Except those dates are not as valid as they appear, most products are good way past the printed date and some years past. Sugar, honey, vanilla and other extracts, salt, vinegar can last just about forever. Rice and lentils for example are good for years, except for brown rice which is only good for months. Eggs last far longer than their dates and canned goods unless there are rust or bulges on the cans can last years too. The dates are, according to the NYT article I urge you to look at, arbitrarily arrived at, and do not mean the food item is spoiled. As far as I can tell the dates are decided upon by the manufacturer, therefore tend to be on the conservative side. That wouldn’t be surprising since it would encourage greater consumption. In an era when we need to be mindful of how we use resources, this invites unnecessary waste. In fact the notion of expiration dates not representing the end of product usability is not new. A while back I did a piece on medications which also do not have accurate dating.
Expiration dates are so much part of our culture, we don’t give them much thought and assume if it says January 2022 it is January 2022. This revelation, spurred by the need for many to use what’s in their pantry during being sheltered at home, forces us to think for ourselves, to use our common sense about what is spoiled and what is not. Let’s call it a silver lining from the pandemic.
To Ponder On
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”