Wednesday, March 30, 2005

With the media swarm around Terri Schiavo, we’ve been hearing a lot about one of President Bush’s much-vaunted “core values”: his “Culture of Life.” There is a certain irony, to put it mildly, in a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who, in the years since he was saved, has presided over more executions than any governor in recent history, one of which was that of a severely retarded man. And who, as President, has launched a war based on dubious intelligence that has claimed over 1,500 American lives, and no fewer than 17,000 Iraqis’. And who has actively sought ways to undermine the Geneva Conventions. Whose administration condones and currently outsources the torture of detainees.

But it has a nice ring to it, this political catchphrase “The Culture of Life,” and that’s what matters, isn’t it? Bush and his people don’t inhabit our humdrum “reality-based” world. They live in that rarified faith-based realm, where neocons create reality for the rest of us by fiat. If Bush says it’s a Culture of Life, well then, it must be, right? And while we’re at it, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength, according to this new doubleplus goodthink.

Yes, there are some inconvenient facts to be dealt with, but faith can move mountains, so what’s a fact or two? Still for you reality-based readers, here’s a random few: there’s the racial disparity in health care coverage that, according to a recent study headed by former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, accounts for over 80,000 African American deaths per year.

Or take access to condoms in vulnerable populations. AIDS is on the rise again, but forget about the government funding education or prevention measures. Bush’s policy, in a nutshell: poor people should stop having sex, period. Problem solved. If the poor insist on pursuing their own culture of life, they’ll have to go head-to-head with Bush’s. The odds aren’t good. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2002 infant mortality increased in the U.S. for the first time since 1958, and now stands as 42nd highest in the world, behind Cuba and China.

And what about the natural environment necessary to sustain life? The U.S. ranked 45th—behind Russia and Botswana—in the World Economic Forum’s 2005 environmental sustainability index.

What would a real “Culture of Life” look like? For starters, it would recognize that education, affordable healthcare, and a living wage go a long way toward creating an environment where people can make informed choices about medical care and family planning rather than merely react to crises. And it would not abandon children once they were born. A political culture that shells out taxpayer dollars for half-baked propaganda, one that professes love of life while pursuing costly policies at home and abroad that result in death, that exploits the real misfortune of a family for its own gain is not a “Culture of Life”. It is a culture of lies.


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