Thursday, June 3, 2010

Twilight Zone

The headlines of the last few days have made me feel I am living in the twilight zone.

Sister Margaret McBride, a senior administrator at St. Joseph’s hospital in Phoenix, AZ, has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for saving a woman’s life. Last year a 27-year-old mother of four arrived at the hospital three months pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension. This complication put such a strain on her that continuing the pregnancy threatened her life and she was given an abortion. The hospital stated, “In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy. This decision was made after consultation with the patient, her family, her physicians, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee.” Sr. Margaret agreed with the decision and was almost immediately excommunicated by her Bishop for assenting to an abortion.

Saving a life, letting four living children continue to have a mother and a husband continue to have a wife, receives the most serious punishment the church can hand down.

Israel has attacked in international waters a convoy of ships full of humanitarian aid headed for Gaza, to be delivered by several hundred long time peace activists. The Israeli Defense Force has killed at least ten and wounded dozens more. Bringing food, clothing, building materials to people living under occupation in extreme poverty receives a violent and deadly response from a government claiming to be the Middle East’s only democracy.

And finally the continuing saga of greed, incompetence and arrogance going on the Gulf of Mexico, with the BP oil spill in which punishment is not present at all. The BP executives continue to appear on TV, they continue to get their salaries and their stock continues to be traded. This completely preventable catastrophe has already earned the dubious distinction of being one of the worst ecological disasters in history.

What does a commons frame help us to think about these kinds of hideous stories? A commons frame asks for a complete reconsideration of the nature of power, and asks us to look at issues from the point of view of what is best for most people. A woman’s life has to be seen as being as more important as an eleven week old fetus. Human rights (and human life) have to be seen as more important than demonstrations of military prowess and national security. And finally, the health of the earth itself must take precedence over continuing to provide consumers with fossil fuels and shareholders with profits.

Peter Maurin said “our job is to create a society in which it is easy to be good.” In the twilight zone of the last few days, we seem very far from that.

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