October 3, 2011

Cruel America

    Monday, October 03, 2011   No comments

by Jonathan Schell

At the GOP debate on the 12th, there was another public expression of enthusiasm for loss of life in Texas. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who favors repeal of President Obama’s health plan, what medical response he would recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma.
Paul answered, “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” He seemed to be saying that if the young man died, that was his problem.
There were cheers from the crowd.
Blitzer pressed on: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” Someone in the audience shouted, “Yeah!” And the crowd roared in approval.
A characteristic that these exchanges have in common is cruelty. Cruelty is a close cousin to injustice, yet it is different. Injustice and its opposite, justice—perhaps the most commonly used standards for judging the health of the body politic—are political criteria par excellence, and apply above all to systems and their institutions. Cruelty and its opposites, kindness, compassion and decency, are more personal. They are apolitical qualities that nevertheless have political consequences. A country’s sense of decency stands outside and above its politics, checking and setting limits on abuses. An unjust society must reform its laws and institutions. A cruel society must reform itself.
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