David Brooks has a column in today’s NYT that offends on several levels. But I want to focus here on the prejudicial language he uses to describe people with quadriplegia. From his column:
Life is not just breathing and existing as a self-enclosed skin bag. It’s doing the activities with others you were put on earth to do.
How can anyone in good conscience and with love in their hearts for their fellow man call anyone a mere “self-enclosed bag of skin,” as if their lives were no more important than a purse? Awful. I hope he is merely thoughtless in his choice of words. But imagine the hurt of being a person with quadriplegia and reading those words. As my friend Bob Salamanca, who died of ALS, once despairingly said about such advocacy, “They are pushing me out of the bright lit avenues and into the dark alley [of death].” Moreover, we aren’t what we can do, but who we are.
Brooks segues from disparaging people living with serious disabilities and long term morbidity into the promotion of what could be called a moral duty to die for those whose care costs a lot of money. If anyone is interested in my take, I discuss in some detail over at Secondhand Smoke.