A Fate Worse Than Death

It is night in Greenport. I’m at LB’s at the desk in the front room, by the windows. I don’t feel well, but I am on deadline, so I’m working anyway. Suddenly I hear the sound of bicycle tires on the road, and a man and woman, arguing while they ride.

“I’m not going to stop at stop signs,” he says. This is behind closed blinds, so I can’t see them. They are somewhere between forty and fifty years old, I’d say, from the weight in their voices.

“You have to,” she says. She is annoyed. (So is he.) “You could be killed. Or worse: You could be maimed.”

I have just finished reading Atul Gawande’s piece in the current New Yorker, about end-of-life care. (Anything that man writes is worth reading.) This piece basically says, People can live longer and have better deaths if they choose hospice care rather than medical intervention when they have a terminal illness. Most people don’t know this. Killed might be better than maimed.

That’s all. And the fact that it’s nice to live in a place where you can hear the sound of bicycle tires as they pass in the night.

Yes We Can And We Did

Today, The New Yorker is posting short blogs by great writers about yesterday’s health-care-reform victory. Amy Davidson, an editor at the magazine who reads all the news before any of us do, and writes about it brilliantly in her daily blog, Close Read, will be m.c.’ing this victory-blog extravaganza. My favorite so far is by Atul Gawande, whose pieces in the magazine are all fascinating. Here’s the start of today’s blog:

I went to the Capitol with my fourteen-year-old son to see the vote on health reform yesterday, and as we watched from the House public gallery, I realized I was—for just this one day—jealous of the politicians swirling in and out of the chambers. The scene was extraordinary and tumultuous. Roiling, frenzied Tea Party activists roamed the hallways of the Congressional offices and swarmed the sidewalks on the south side of the Capitol. Shouts of Stalinism, totalitarianism, tyranny, baby-killing rang inside and outside the chambers. It was havoc. Our elected representatives were at last going to take a final up or down vote on health reform. More specifically, they were going to take a final up or down vote on whether to embrace the principle in our country that if you are in medical need, you should be able to get quality health care without bankrupting yourself.

In another post on the site this morning, Steve Coll says

There are at least two glaring anachronisms in American society today, through which it is possible to discern how much one’s children, when they reach power in adulthood, will regard their parents as Neanderthals. One is the country’s retrograde treatment of gays and lesbians under the law. The second is that we succored for so long a political economy with a social-insurance hole so large that forty million people managed to drop through it before we got around to fixing it.

I’d like to comment on this: I think the laws protecting gay people need to be reformed, sure, but before that our government needs to make some serious headway, and fast, on environmental and energy issues. (And we’d be wise to participate in this reform on a grassroots level, starting, at rock bottom, with cultivating what Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche calls “little needs, much contentment.”) Otherwise our children won’t even be around to call us Neaderthals. I think it’s frightening we’re in such deep denial about this issue that even our best and brightest don’t put it on their top-two list.

Anyway, I’m awaiting Rick Hertzberg’s post about yesterday’s vote. He’s on my top-two list of political bloggers, and led many Neanderthals like me through Obama’s campaign and election.

P.S. Barack Obama rules!