Friday, July 9, 2021

Terrible Politics

Sit back and let me tell you a terrible story. 

I have a friend who is a military veteran. This isn't hard. I grew up in a military family and on military bases. This friend is terminally ill. Doesn't matter how or with what. Just know they are. They are aware they are. This friend is also very, very poor and because of that is currently homeless and living out of a car. 

When this friend was first diagnosed, they did some mental math and decided that they'd rather die by their own hand than endure disability and increasing doses of pain medications that probably wouldn't actually dull the pain but which WOULD dull my friend. Two weeks ago Sunday, my friend emailed me their suicide note saying goodbye.

You very likely just had a visceral reaction to that. Look at it. Examine it. That reaction is political. Even if you believe it's moral or compassionate, your reaction is political because it's shaped by the culture that shaped you - a culture shaped by and that shapes the politics with which we all live. What was it? Horror over suicide? Horror over someone forced into a position where suicide seems like the best option? Or was it sadness over the recognition that this person is actively dying anyway, and deciding to take that death into their own hands seems like the final piece of control they can wrest from this world? Whatever it your reaction was, with a little thought, you can trace it to either religious conditioning, or to secular conditioning around right and wrong as defined by Western cultural and political thought.

Still, we're fortunate. Most of us can point to other cultures in the world that don't have the same suicide taboo that our Christianized culture does. We're at least aware there are other viewpoints on death in the world. My point in telling this tale is to point out how deeply entwined politics (and religion) is in our lives and our attitudes and in how we see the world. So you bet politics plays into my stories. I submit that it plays into every story and all world-building, whether we want it to or not. If you're writing romance, the notion of one person falling in love with another (and only one other) person is political. Ask anyone who's polyamorous. 

As for the story about my friend - I didn't make it up. The friend was found by the police and taken to the ER. They survived the suicide attempt, only to be denied hospice care by the VA and turned out onto the streets again today. Still terminally ill. Still homeless. Still living out of a car while I scramble for solutions for getting them housed so that Medicare can provide in-home hospice to them for however long remains.

THAT situation is also deeply political. Not to mention deeply damning of our political system.