Sunday, September 07, 2008

Love, Death, and Politics

Eleanor Clift, of the McLaughlin Group, was our keynote speaker this evening. She spoke about the changing culture of death in our country, particularly as she lived it when her husband , Tom, died a slow death from kidney cancer three years ago while at the same time she was reporting and commenting on Terry Schiavo's controversial death (which occurred the day after her husband's).

She also talked about how going back to work and writing a book about both deaths was cathartic for her. The book --Two Weeks of Life: a memoir of love, death, and politics-- alternates between these two stories to provide a moving commentary on how we deal, or fail to deal, with dying in modern America." It was a fascinating hour of mostly story, but Q and A as well. Here are some highlights for the latter:

"I wanted to lift the curtain from death," she said. "Advances in medicine in the 21st century have made living and dying a challenge" because our lives are prolonged far longer than they would be if left to natural causes. We live longer, but sometimes our quality of life is diminished with invasive procedures, drugs that diminish our capacities, etc. (Her husband felt guilty for some of the treatment he received and even told one care giver that they could be using their time and the money for his treatment better...which the care giver, of course, refuted.)

"The press on Sarah Palin is appropriate" because we don't know who she is yet. . . . But she's crashed Barak's party . . . It [the campaign] is messy. . . . It depends on who comes to the poll to vote who will determine who wins. Barak needs more young people to get out and vote, otherwise, it may not be enough for him.

"We can't lose" in this election, though. "They're both quality individuals."

This "culture of death" is an interesting thing. Other cultures treat it more openly than we do. We don't have a "grown up" attitude about it. We spend a lot of time and money at the end of our lives because people are afraid of pain and of losing their dignity.

What cautions/advice would she give Joe Biden about debating Sarah Palin? "Don't be condescending." He'll probably overcompensate... but he needs to make clear the contrast between where they stand on the issues. "It's tricky for both of them."

What's different about this election? "There's an excitement about the candidates" that has not been there in recent memory. "And there is a dissatisfaction with the government." "McCain wants to shake things up. Obama wants to find common ground. . . . Whoever wins, they will have to find a way to bring the country together." It's the "seriousness of the election" that has stood out for her.


Heidi said...

This lady sounds really balanced. Sounds like it was a fascinating presentation.

Thanks to your blogs, I'll know probably just as much about this convention as my colleagues who are attending! This could make for great lunchtime conversations next week... :-)

sunny said...

"We can't lose" in this election, though. "They're both quality individuals." Oh boy, I like that attitude. That is so much better than the folks who are complaining that they don't like either one.