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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Spin Doctors on Tomas Young

Tomas Young is very much in the news. His last Letter is making the rounds on the internet. Stephen Kuusisto and just a few minutes ago Stephen Drake at Not Dead Yet have posted about Tomas Young. Like me, Kuusisto and Drake are deeply upset at how the mainstream media are spinning the story. Absent are references to assisted suicide. In its place Young is now described as being "in hospice care" or a "dying Iraq veteran". No mention is made of VSED. Instead Matt Campbell in the Kansas City Star writes that Young "will soon refuse nourishment water and life extending medication". This is a very benign way of telling his readers Young will dehydrate and starve himself to death. Democracy Now has joined the band wagon. In an exclusive interview with "dying Iraq war veteran" Juan Gonzalez writes "Tomas Young's tragedy goes back to 2011". Democracy Now reports Young will "end his life by discontinuing his nourishment which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube". It appears to me the media has decided that Young is a "dying Iraq war veteran" fed threw a tube. His story is a tragedy. Phil Donahue, director of Body of War, understands why Young wants to die as do others who are close to him. Young in Donahue's estimation shows an "unusual act of moral courage". I think not. I think Young's experience in the army, the decision to go to war, and the bungling of his care on the part of the Veterans Association is the real tragedy, a tragedy that is socially unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is those that support Young's decision to die. Thus I find much to object to in stories about Young. For instance Donahue states "he's not only a paraplegic, he can't hold silverware. Tomas has to be fed. When he and Claudia were able to go out, they would  go to a restaurant, and they'd find--she would find a corner where she could feed him without being stared at". 

I am stunned at how quickly Young's humanity has been reduced by a host of powerful forces that support his death. Young wants his death to have meaning. I would suggest Young try to make his life worth meaning. Living with a disability takes guts or to use Donahue's words unusual moral courage. It takes steely resolve to reject stereotypes associated with disability. It takes resolve to navigate the world that is not designed for people that have atypical bodies. It takes resolve to fight for a taxi in NYC when the Mayor tells the tabloids it is too dangerous for a person using a wheelchair to hail a cab in the street. It takes resolve to go to a museum and be accosted by guards who tell you guide dogs are not permitted. It takes resolve to go to a meeting and know no one wants you to be present because the first line item cut from the budget is equal access. It takes resolve to battle with airlines that begrudgingly  comply with the law. It takes resolve to   step in front of a bus because the driver does not want to us the lift. It takes resolve not to scream in rage when a stranger tells you that he would prefer to be dead than paralyzed. It takes resolve to file a formal complaint when refused entry to a restaurant because of a no wheelchair policy. This is the sort of courage and resolve we need. We do not need to add to the death toll associated with the war in Iraq. And if I could say one thing to Young it might start with don't give that bastard Bush the satisfaction of dying. Be a thorn in his side now and forever.


6 comments:

E Fischer said...

Hear, hear.

Elizabeth said...

Yes. Yes on the last line in particular.

Katja said...

What is VSED?
Thanks.

Middle Child said...

May I put this up on my blog page of course with your details on as author - you said it so well... ""he's not only a paraplegic, he can't hold silverware. Tomas has to be fed. When he and Claudia were able to go out, they would go to a restaurant, and they'd find--she would find a corner where she could feed him without being stared at". What is wrong with Donohue? I had to cut up Don's food - or we would ask them to do it in the kitchen if they were friendly - we never sat in a corner...Don used a spook strapped to his hand, but it didn't always go where planned - he'd make a joke out of it and have the table laughing - I even recall his flicking one of our girls on the face with a bit of crust from his spoon when no one was looking - at home they'd flick him back - was good fun - There comes a point when if you want to have a life you have just got to go for it

Claire said...

Katja, VSED is voluntarily stopping eating and drinking for the purpose of ending your life. In short dehydrating and starving yourself to death.

Katja said...

Claire, thanks for the explanation.