This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper. – Elliot
In Bakersfield, California, an 87 year old woman died this week with a nurse standing by her side and talking to a desperate 911 operator. The operator literally asked the uncooperative nurse to step aside and find a passerby who would be willing to perform CPR. The nurse declined to intervene, allowing the senior adult to die waiting for EMT’s to arrive. The story has hardly raised an eyebrow across the USA.
Compare that to the firestorm that erupted in 2005 when a comatose woman named Terry Schiavo died in Florida. By the time doctors finally disconnected the patient’s feeding tube and allowed her to die, a massive passionate had erupted to spread across the country! The incident created such a furor that Congress actually attempted to override state courts in order to save the life of an individual. Despite her husband’s wishes, it took just about five years for one court to finally achieve the standing to order that Terry Schiavo be allowed to die.
Granted, the details of the stories are different. Schiavo was a younger woman who happened to be in a persistent vegetative state. The Bakersfield woman was almost ninety years old, and the institution where she lived had a written policy that nurses in a particular situation will simply call 911. But the notable lack of national outrage, concern, or even debate is stunning. It measures how far our nation has drifted in less than ten years from our earlier conviction that human life is sacred and we must err on the side of reverence. In 2013, not even the recorded pleas of an operator that someone should assist this dying woman- not even that can rouse our compassion.
In the words of an old Aerosmith song, we are jaded. We have been overcome by a surplus of comfort, an abundance of bad news, and a loss of idealism. There are so many moral battles that we cannot fight them all. So we refuse to engage in any of them. There are so many causes that we cannot rally around them all, so we settle for apathy. And we have enough problems of our own- so many that we don’t have the energy to wade into the battles of others.
T.S. Elliot was ahead of his time when he worried that we have become hollow men, not violent savages but simply stuffed replicas of human beings. This is how the world ends…
Lift up the Cross!