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From Pat to Newt to Sarah: Marriage Vows to Death Panels and Back


NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics Recently diehard Christian, tele-evangelist and the man who talks to God at least once a day, Pat Robertson, told America that it was completely acceptable to divorce, put aside, renounce your vows, go have a fling with someone else, call it what you will, if your life-partner has Alzheimer’s. Here are some YouTubes of it.

The logic is this: People with Alzheimer’s are dead and gone, anyway, so your wedding vows are dead and gone with them.

But they’re not dead and gone legally because custodial care is still required and someone has to pay for that custodial care and if the law can find you, it’ll be you.

So despite Pat’s best wishes, you’re not really divorced, separated, or able to put them aside in their moment of greatest need.

Unless you’re Newt Gingrich, I guess.

What? You’re surprised that church and state aren’t as separate in America as we were taught?

Light at the End?

I would love to offer an easy out for this. One of the most horrible experiences of my life was working with the family of an Alzheimer’s patient, being with them when he had a brief moment of lucidity.

He suddenly looked up at all of us. We could tell by the look on his face that he recognized us, he knew who we were. He smiled and there was warmth and intelligence in his eyes.

Then he looked down at himself, at the hospital pajamas and bathrobe he was wearing, at the pastel blue polyfoam slippers on his feet, then he looked around at the others on the ward, at the nurses, the doctors, the other patients, the walls, the windows and beyond.

He looked up at us again, his smile gone but his eyes still bright, still knowing, his face now wrinkling with an understandable confusion, “Where are we?” with the emphasis on “we”, his family recognized as being there with him.

Then he noticed the hospital bracelet on his left wrist and turned it with his right hand so he could read it.

He looked up at us, his eyes wide, his face flushed, drained, colorless but his eyes still full of life, of hope, of sanity, of love.

His head shook ever so slightly, ever so slowly, denying what his senses were telling him and he whispered, “No,” a request, a plea, a desire.

Then a look of exquisite, incredible, undeniable pain. A tear slid down his face., “Oh, god. No,” he said as his face went blank once again. His eyes dulled and he was gone to us once again. As it turned out, he was gone to us forever. He never returned that I know of although we continued to visit him for his remaining time.

Or the End of Light?

So if someone has Alzheimer’s, it’s okay to put them away.

Oh, heck. Let’s do the same for terminal cancer.

Or heart disease.

I hear bubonic plague is making a comeback…

How about…AIDS?

Oh, wait…we already went around the circle with that in the 1980s. That was when nobody could get funding to research it because it was 1st a disease only homosexuals got 2nd a disease only third-worlders (read “People of Color”) got but by golly when that first white, all american heterosexual male got AIDS (and purely by accident you know he wasn’t fooling around or nothing like that) didn’t available funding go through the roof?

The above anecdote reminds me of a MADTV skit from way back. Somebody wakes up in the President’s bed in the White House. There’s a Secret Service man sitting there. “How did I get here?” asks the man. “You were elected.” “The last thing I remember was my fraternity kegger.” “Yes, you ran for President on a dare. Nobody took you seriously but everybody under 35 voted for you. You’re in your third term.”

“Third term? How’s that possible?”

(and here’s the kicker) “In your first term you promised a cure for cancer. You took the ten richest men in America and injected them with cancer. We had a cure for cancer within six months.”

Beloved Death Panels

I won’t get into how Pat Robertson’s words violate Christian theology. I’m more taken by how this plays against the relatively recent hubbub over Death Panels.

And I won’t get into how idiotic and false that concept was, I’m only addressing that it got air time — heck, I’m writing about it now, aren’t I? — and that patterns form around things.

I would be truly surprised if a Democrat made similar comments about Alzheimer’s or Health Care Reform — not saying they won’t or haven’t already. I don’t know if such is the case, only surprised if it’s happened or would — because such thinking simply isn’t in the Democratic concept-space (the Democratic mindset couldn’t easily incorporate such phrasing).

And readers, I really want to see counter evidence of this. Please let me know if Democrats have publicly made such statements.

But Wait! There’s More!

Let me share something with you from all my training, something therapists pay close attention to when working with people and something that shows up in NextStage’s Principles as the admission of things; it’s one thing to think something, it’s a completely different thing to say that thing and it’s an indication of conceivable action if that thing is said out loud to others.

Let me explain it this way.

  1. We can think of something pretty horrible to do to someone else. Most people have all sorts of behavioral, social, cultural and perhaps religious filters that kick in and stop things from getting beyond the “thinking” stage.
  2. However, once we voice it and even if we voice it to ourselves, our minds now recognize that horrible thing as being “out there”, hence much closer to being real, hence our actually doing that horrible thing in reality. Most people who don’t stop at 1 above get here and know they should seek counseling. Maybe work’s not going well, family life isn’t going well, whatever, and they know they should get help and do.
  3. But once we say it outloud in front of others, we’re seeking a) peers and b) support for our potential acts, for validation, for “buy-in”. It’s become a “Who’s with me?” type of thing and this is where individuals either decide to act psychotically or create a mob to take part in their hate- and/or fear-based action.

    Note that we don’t place acts of kindness, generosity, altruism, … in this category because such acts of supported by those same filters mentioned in 1 above.

  4. And therapists, law enforcement, security, etc., all know that once that horrible act is voiced in front of at least one other person it has gone from “probably won’t” to “conceivably could”.

So Pat, Sarah, Newt (obviously from history) and who knows how many other Red Staters are willing to put Granny to death or at least put her away because she’s inconvenient for them.

Because they were able to say it out loud in front of others, they are able to do it. They are seeking buy-in for an act they can conceive of themselves doing.

Okay, Back to Reality

Nah, not yet.

I mean, it’s okay to renounce/ignore your vows but it’s not okay to have an affair?

Only in America.

A friend’s 87 year old uncle recently married his 83 year old girlfriend because he was tired of the neighbor’s snide comments. Uncle Henry and his girlfriend had been living together for seven years and had had it with all the gossip and innuendo. That and they couldn’t bear the thought of their children going through life labeled as “bastards”.

As I said, folks, only in America.

Okay, Now “Back to Reality”

Sorry, Pat, sorry Sarah, sorry Newt and sorry, anybody else who takes exception. Love doesn’t die. It never goes away. We know this from neuroscience, from psychodynamics, from more disciplines than the three of you could get together and name, probably.

Love can change, though, over time. People can grow in different ways and in different directions. If two people agree their time is done, so be it and more power to them. Recognizing that they’ve changed and it’s time to move on is, in itself, an act of love.

As I wrote above, love can change.

But it never dies.

So if you want to renounce your vows, divorce your partner or kill or otherwise outsource your granny, at least do it while they’re still around to recognize your act.

Don’t hide from them. What, their dementia and decreasing health were a surprise? You’re shocked, shocked you tell me, to learn they’re more a burden than blessing?

Where in your vows, Pat and Newt, does it indicate you can take off when things are less than optimal?

Where in your thinking, O’ Great SixPack Queen of the North, does it indicate that the right to informed consent equates to euthanizing a loved one?

But wait…Newt and Sarah, at least, are politicians. Maybe I was the fool to expect more…

In my life I have known many people who claim to be Christian. I have known very few who genuinely follow Christ or his teachings, one of which is “You can’t hide your completely, unequivocally, horribly selfish and cowardly act from God.”

I mean, you do remember your God, right? The one who wrote and said all those things about Love?

Unless you think your God’s already pulled the plug on us, or, in Pat’s case, Christ has divorced his church because the church’s actions, obviously, demonstrate it’s cogento-absentia…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/09/20 11:47 am

    This also brings to mind a recent political example of Rick Perry being applauded for Texas’ execution record. Maybe the audience can be forgiven for herd behavior?

  2. 2011/09/20 12:14 pm

    Holy cow! About an hour ago, Glenn Beck was blasting Robertson in disbelief that he should suggest such a thing.

    Glenn Beck and Joseph Carrabis in complete agreement on something?!?


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