Years ago, my mother joined my husband and me on a lecture trip to a charming Southern town. Our host graciously showed us around and included the historic, local synagogue in his itinerary.  After a few minutes my mother opted out of seeing the whole edifice, looked physically ill. When I wanted to stay with her she whispered, “You go ahead. This building is making me nauseous. It’s opulent, decorated to the hilt and it’s clear that children aren’t welcome.” Indeed, we discovered that the dwindling congregation preferred not to see children between circumcision on the eighth day of their lives and their bar-mitzvahs at age thirteen. Not surprisingly, by the time the youth were old enough to be welcomed, they were entirely uninterested.

This synagogue was a complete anomaly. I have never before or since heard of a similarly misguided flock. But my mother’s physical reaction to an emotional stimulus is common.  Which of us did not feel sickened as we assimilated the news on 9/11, or indeed, do not feel a gut-punch upon hearing of cruel destruction and murder?

Other times, a news article or video clip which might barely attract our attention on one day, grabs us on another.  Sunday, they twelfth yahrzeit (anniversary) of my mother’s death, I had such an experience. The catalyst to my nausea was a video clip discussing Vice-president Cheney’s heart transplant. There is nothing unique about this particular clip which differentiates it from other newspaper, TV and online reports of this event (not including the vicious, hate-filled ones). The comments revolve around the seemliness of a man of Mr. Cheney’s age receiving a transplant.

The entire discussion appearing in the media is suspect. I’m not the only one to think that if Nelson Mandela had needed a heart transplant at age 71, or if Bill Clinton requires one in a few years, that the question of age would be seen as immaterial. But let’s say that the discussion of age is actually an honest one.  Especially with Obamacare menacing on the horizon, that is a scary thought. Despite protestations that there will be no death panels; that is precisely what will be needed.

I cannot think of a worse way to allocate medical resources than by government bureaucratic fiat. For a panel to decide who gets what based on age, gender, political leanings, race, or how politically correct one’s illness is, is frightening. The fact that members of Congress excluded themselves from the ramifications of the health care bill shows that Americans will indeed be divided into elite and secondary status.

It is an inescapable fact of life that resources are limited. We can be thankful for a constitution which, at least in theory, does not allow the ruling class to “have a little list” as the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado did (for one rendition try googling D’Oyly Carte, I’ve Got a Little List). It is inherently unfair that money should be a deciding factor, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, money may be the worst form of unfairness except all the others that have been tried. If insurance can be freely bought then each individual can decide how much of his or resources to allocate to that and at what age they choose to start doing so.  Each individual can concentrate as much of his or her energies as desired on earning and saving money. Each individual can choose to be self-centered or to place effort on interacting with others and building relationships so that the community surrounding him or her wants to help when money is needed.

A synagogue which decides that pristine carpets are more important than lollipop wielding kids has made a choice and it is no surprise when it dies out. A nation which allows its government to take away the natural rights granted only by the Creator, will face the same fate.


4 thoughts on “Gut-Punch”

  1. Rabbi and Mrs. Lappin
    I so enjoyed the fresh honesty of your comments in “gut punch” and I pray that you read these few words (no need to print them.) I am not a conspiracy theorist- I do not subscribe to theories about “grassy knolls” or Roswell cover-ups. However- population control is a very real danger. When leadership believes that(an end justifies the means)approach to governing is “OK” we are not far from Holocaust. Our economy is driven by age group 35-45 yrs. These folks spend more, make more buy more and drive (and make thrive)the nation’s economy. Older Americans drain resources- and the geriatric community is growing. If abortion is justified- why not euthanasia (passively by care denial ?) As I grow older- I wonder- will they (as poets have mused) will they “come for me ?” We MUST speak up soon- by votes and voice and Truth (thanks Mrs. Lappin, Susan) Rev. “Kyoshi” Kevin Stutler

  2. Every person wants to live, whether he’s 30 or 90 years old. Cheney’s heart transplant at age 71 was ‘excused’ by some because he was forced to wait for his transplant on a waiting list, which ‘proved’ he got no special treatment.
    Well, you’re right that Obamacare would put more decisions like this in bureaucratic hands (though you can bet that anyone with the resources will find a way around it, per “consierge care” available now for a fee). The reason why the nation is now transfixed by the Supremes’ deliberations is an even more crucial issue–the difference in philosophy between individual-based free choice and enterprise versus federal “care” of “everyone.”
    The Torah offers a means of ordering priorities for tzedaka (charity, caring for others) which starts with one’s immediate family and radiates outward. This is the opposite of the top-down, Federal mandate-based system Obamacare promotes. So we have here a conflict between biblical advice on the best way to care for others, and a liberal approach where distant government takes over. As your husband has famously noted, those who don’t believe in the “Big G” (God) put their faith in the “little g” (government). Let’s hope the Supremes make their decision with the right type of Guidance.

  3. Daniel M. Snider

    Thank you Susan for such a thought provoking article. You never cease to amaze me with your God given gift to write so clearly and to the point. God bless you and keep writing those fabulous encouraging article’s!
    Care Pastor Dan Snider @The Rock Church in Monroe, WA.

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