The Common Good
December 1994-January 1995

Letters to the Editor

by Subscribers | December 1994-January 1995

WHEN I READ Tim Kantzer's letter in your September-October 1994 issue, a quote from the Bible immediately jumped into my mind: Mark 9:40, "For whoever is not against us is for us."

WHEN I READ Tim Kantzer's letter in your September-October 1994 issue, a quote from the Bible immediately jumped into my mind: Mark 9:40, "For whoever is not against us is for us." True, Sojourners goes outside the Christian tradition sometimes, but it is in a spirit of finding other truths that complement our own. This is an essential part of my faith journey. I have nothing to fear from these "outsiders." Indeed Jesus had the habit of hanging around and conversing with people who were considered outsiders with different visions of faith than the prevailing theology.

I have even found the words of those who are "against us" as challenges that can be used constructively. Camus and Nietzche leveled several charges against the Christian faith that cut deeply. We should examine our lives under their lenses on occasion to see if we are what we say, followers of Jesus in both word and deed.

Michael C. Monnens
Washington, D.C.

THE SOUND OF MONEY

BOB HULTEEN PICKED a relevant topic for his "Worthy of Note" column in the September-October 1994 issue. He's right when he says, "It's difficult to work up a sweat over millionaires." However, I'd like to examine the Pearl Jam-Ticketmaster dispute from a slightly different angle.

As I see it, Pearl Jam-the profit-making entertainment entity, not the laboring musicians themselves-made a business decision to limit their profit on their summer concert tour. On the one hand, one could see this as a shrewd marketing move to increase concert attendance and goodwill, thus promoting sales of albums, T-shirts, concessions, and the like.

On the other hand, one could see it (and I do) as an honest attempt to practice economics as if values mattered-a major subject in Sojourners this year, thanks to Chuck Matthei's brilliant series of articles. Pearl Jam's members have plenty of money, but they remember the days when they couldn't afford to go to concerts.

Ticketmaster's disregard for Pearl Jam's wishes and its threats to sue concert venues who booked the band without its services show a profound contempt for both the entertainers and their customers, the audience. This is economics as if only profits matter.

Chris Mohr
Landover, Maryland

CASTRO'S POWER

AS A SOJOURNERS subscriber for many years, I believe it is important that I react to the article by Martha Orianna Baskin ("Dreams Captured in Paint," September-October 1994). Baskin helps to propagate the fairy tale of Cuba as the good little socialist country fighting against all odds.

Cuba is under the leadership of a man who has been in power for the last 35 years and has acquired all the crust that kind of power will give anyone. As an example of Castro's arbitrariness: During the early '80s, Cuba instituted the farmer's market à la China and Vietnam (by the way, the embargo of Cuba has been in effect since 1960). During that time there was plenty of food in Cuba. Peasants were happy, they were making a living. Urban people were happy-there was plenty of food. But Castro felt politically threatened and closed them down.

In the past five years, almost every organized sector of the Cuban population has requested the reopening of the markets. But Castro prefers to have a nation succumb to hunger rather than see a few Cuban peasants become wealthy. No wonder Castro's motto is "Socialism or Death."

Lorenzo Canizares
Trenton, New Jersey

DYING WITH DIGNITY

I AM IN DISAGREEMENT with a couple of statements made in the commentary "Dying With Dignity," by Phyllis Taylor, August 1994. Taylor seems to be critical of the care given to "people who are in nursing homes, unable to converse, walk, or eat, and whose lives are maintained with feeding tubes and aggressive care when they develop pneumonia or bedsores."

I am presently a nursing student and nursing assistant at a nursing home. The staff tries to make the residents' lives as comfortable and stimulating as possible. Also promoted is the residents making their own decisions about health care, such as whether they want hospitalization (and interventions) or not when terminally ill, their code status (no code, no CPR when they stop breathing), and whether to provide tube feeding or not when they can no longer eat naturally. I have no problem with giving residents (and their families) these choices and respecting them.

But not to provide active treatment to a person who develops pneumonia or bedsores would be neglect and ethically wrong. I also disagree that "a case could be made that the person has a right to end their own life before the disease does." I find it immoral to promote suicide as an answer to AIDS, Alzheimer's, and other incurable diseases. Promoting suicide and aiding in it (by giving out information on the amount of pills needed to "end it all") begins to change the relationship between health care professionals and patients from one of caring and mutual sharing and nurturing to one of executioner and hopeless victim.

Letting go of life by choosing not to prolong it artificially with machines (when nothing is effective in curing or controlling the illness) is achieving a natural death. Actively encouraging the ending of life by suicide or assisted suicide is not death with dignity but a violent way to end life.

Debra Herman
West Allis, Wisconsin

Phyllis Taylor responds:

I spend a lot of time in nursing homes and applaud the staff who work hard to make the residents' lives comfortable. I am also glad that residents' and families' wishes about hospitalization and tube feedings are respected. I continue to feel that wishes around antibiotics, surgery, and invasive diagnostic procedures also ought to be respected even when a person develops pneumonia or bedsores.

It used to be said that pneumonia "is the old man's friend." Many feel that pneumonia is still a "friend" when one is terminally ill as long as discomfort from fever or breathing problems is addressed. I do not feel it is unethical not to treat if that is the wish of the patient or his or her decision makers. Treating often prolongs the dying that led to the pneumonia.

The same is true of aggressive care of bedsores. Without adequate protein, bedsores will develop. If a person does not want artificial feedings and is unable to move frequently, he or she will develop sores or ulcers. Cutting away tissue, one of the ways of actively treating bedsores, often causes pain and I don't feel is appropriate. Changing dressings is.

I do not promote suicide, but recognize a person's right to choose that path if they are terminally ill based on the principle of autonomy or self-determination. I try to see what is motivating the person to consider suicide, to address those fears or concerns, and to see how to maximize those things that still give joy. I do not feel that I am an executioner to talk also about suicide as an option if the terminally ill patient brings it up as part of a sharing relationship. I encourage life and living but do not judge those who choose death before their disease naturally ends their life.

STILL MAKING PEACE

I WAS SURPRISED to learn that we Mennonites are no longer keeping the peacemaking flame alive ("Between The Lines," by Jim Rice, August 1994). Naive child of Menno Simons that I am, I was of the opinion that peacemaking involved not merely civil disobedience and speaking to government, but a thoroughgoing obedience to Christ on all levels of existence. Perhaps the Mennonite Church's wide-ranging programs are no longer valid-all because a peace and justice position has been cut.

Hey folks! Don't generalize. Last I checked, the denomination in which I have taught, studied, and served for 20 years still holds to the following definition of peace-full living:

True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant:
It clothes the naked;
It feeds the hungry;
It comforts the sorrowful;
It shelters the destitute;
It serves those that harm it;
It binds up that which is wounded-
It has become all things to all people.

-Menno Simons, 1539

Tim Wiebe

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

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