Sometimes I accrue such anger in my heart, and have nowhere to put it, which means that you, my fellow blog readers, occasionally suffer for it. I had such a moment this evening while listening to All Things Considered, when I heard a column written by a 33-year-old woman suffering from A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), read aloud by her sister. I know I ask a lot, but please give it a listen here – it’s short and heartbreaking.
We’ve had a lot of personal experience with ALS – Tessa’s great uncle died from it, as well as her friend Jennifer Estess, who famously created an organization to fight it. At the ALS benefit, we were honored to sit with Christopher Reeve, who told us first-hand how the current administration was keeping stem cell research in the Stone Age.
Tessa will never toot her own horn, so I always toot it for her: she made a documentary called “Project A.L.S.” that manages to be both informative and beautifully-rendered, and it won the Audience Award at the Nantucket Film Festival, as well as the Media That Matters award at Human Rights Film Festival. All this to say: we are living in the Dark Age Before Stem Cells Change Everything.
Even select Republicans have seen the light: Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter have joined with the Democrats to push a national agenda on stem cells, and we could lead the world down the promised road, if it weren’t for… yep, you guessed it. George W. Bush. The man has stonewalled every attempt at an honest stem cell program (and no, conservative commenters, don’t even TRY to argue that one) and set us back decades. I don’t hate right-wingers for being wrong, I hate them for being cruel.
While Bush fucking cleared brush at his farm, Chris Reeve died, then Jennifer Estess, then thousands of other people with A.L.S., Parkinsons, Alzheimers – and right now my own mom may be slowly going blind from macular degeneration. All things that could be cured if we’d been on track with stem cells. Think of the amount of suffering just in this country alone: the men unable to hug their children, the intense pain, the depression, the suicide… all while that smirking fratboy President talks about “cultures of life.” Which is a code word for “as long as I keep my conservative base happy, your dad with Alzheimer’s can fuck off.”
Don’t tell me that we’re okay because states like New York and California are going ahead with their own stem cell research programs – do you know how much headway we could make if the whole country started a Manhattan Project to eradicate brain disease and paralysis? Plus, it puts more taxpayer onus on those states that are forward-thinking enough to do the research, when it would benefit all Americans (and the whole world, for that matter). It would be just one more thing that the red states would gladly take from us, even while they were “morally opposed” to how we got there. It’s enough to make you want to puke all over Oklahoma.
Our friend Josh Shenk has a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly right now (as well as a fabulously well-reviewed book) about Abraham Lincoln’s clinical depression, and how it made him better served to get our country through a time of crisis. He conjectured that Lincoln’s melancholy allowed him access to creativity, humility, empathy, and a theological relativism… that puts him squarely at odds with Bush, who is said to be HEAVILY medicated for depression.
Granted, the Bush-antidepressant rumor is still filed under “worst-kept secret in Washington,” but only a cocktail of SSRIs – like say, Prozac and Zoloft with a Welbutrin chaser – could make a man so visibly unaffected by massive human suffering, and make a President seemingly vacuous and indecisive when we need him most. And listen, if he’s NOT on antidepressants, it makes his behavior even worse.
Either way, I had a little daydream. While Darcy Wakefield was describing the hell of dying from A.L.S. above, I dreamt that all current sufferers of debilitating diseases that could be cured by stem cells gathered together. They resurrected the pale ghosts of Reeve and Estess, and they lined up with all their energy for one synaptic moment. All the useless arms and atrophied muscle came to life for a split second, as they all collectively hit Bush in the face with one glorious roundhouse slap.
I’m not violent by nature, and sure, it was a dream, but man, it made me feel better.