Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The truth is that there is no truth. The truth isn't in the details. The truth is in the changing nature of the details. Context is everything. That is what this blog is all about. It isn't a particularly sexy topic for a blog, at least for people other than me. It may seem stupid and overly commonsensical. I wish it was. The fact that John Kerry could be discredited for 'flip-flopping' proves that it's not. Maybe it is as it always was, but it seems to me that more than ever the nuance has been drained out of politics. More than ever before, the issues seem to be painted in black and white. Certainly American politics has become particularly polarized. What really is shocking to me is how readily people accept the importance of context in many facets of their lives, but how steadfastly they deny it in others. Abortion is a clear issue for many. Killing is wrong. The truth is, of course, that no issue is that simple. And the issues importance doesn't change that. An ample illustration of an important issue where most of us readily recognize contextual distinctions is death (I know murder leads to death, but when I talk of death here I am thinking about the concept in the grand sense, inclusive of many causes).
On Saturday a close friend of my family died after a lung transplant surgery failed. His death was not totally unanticipated given his various health problems (bypass surgery, diabetes, and now a lung transplant), but it is shocking and upsetting all the same. Any death is, but this one is especially troubling. My great great aunt died a few months ago. She was in the 90 neighborhood, and had been on a long slow slope into her end. Her death was sad, but the context was different than the one surrounding my family friend's death. She didn't have two 20-something sons who had yet to find their careers, start families, etc. She didn't leave behind a grieving widow. She wasn't still a working and vital member of her community. She had reached the stage of her life when we expect death. More than anything, the impact of context comes through in the fact that now the death of a 62 year old is considered shocking and premature. That certainly has not always been the case.
So my question is, if the death of a person from 'natural' causes can vary in its impact, importance, and meaning over time (and place), why isn't the same true of the unfortunate situation where a life is deliberately taken. What about the situation where America has troops in combat, or the supposed constitutional right to have firearms, or the acceptability of particular romantic and sexual relationships? No one would object to an assertion that the death of a parent when one is 68 is a different situation than the death of a parent when one is 5. Why isn't abortion different from shooting someone in the head because you don't like the color of his hat, and why isn't one killing of a pre-birth life different from another that occurs at a different stage? I admit that these differences might be real, and still not impact one's point of view, but the multifacteed complexity encompassed in these differences must be taken into account.

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