Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The gift that keeps on taking

That’s how Michael J. Fox describes his Parkinson’s Disease. He’s not just making a joke. He sees his disease as a direction that gives meaning to his life, to be an advocate for a cure by giving publicity to the disease no one else ever could. Muhammad Ali got people’s attention, but he didn’t respond to medication enough to talk about it, his Parkinsonian symptoms being from head trauma rather than Parkinson’s disease.

I’ve heard Fox use this line before this year. Then I heard him say it again in a recent interview about this silliness Rush Limbaugh started. This time Mr. Fox could barely get the joke out because he was so symptomatic. He used to tell it better.

As a neurologist it’s been easy for me to recognize Mr. Fox’s states on TV. Once I saw a reporter catch up with him on the way in to speak. Fox was shuffling with a hand tremor typical of Parkinson’s. When speaking he always has the opposite symptoms, the dyskinesias that are side effects of medications that loosen up the Parkinsonian symptoms. It would be typical of patients to take their medications minutes before they need to walk or talk. Apparently that’s what Fox does. For that he’s being attacked?

Several days after saying Fox was putting on an act, Rush Limbaugh said on his show he had received many messages telling him that he had it wrong, that Fox’s symptoms were from too much medicine, not too little. But Limbaugh couldn’t just say he was wrong. Instead he then spoke as if Fox had been manipulating the audience by taking too much medicine. No, Fox does what patients with Parkinson’s have to do to function. They suffer the side effects of medication that allows them to move rather than the Parkinson’s that keeps them rigid.

Some conservative bloggers and commentators are parroting Limbaugh’s recent position. Some are still stuck on Limbaugh’s initial contention that Fox was faking or like Sean Hannity pretending that putting on “an act” is different from “faking”. What power Rush has over Republicans to follow him in ignorance and arrogance.

Then Laura Bush chimes in about manipulating people’s feelings. Strange she wasn’t criticizing her husband’s party for that.

Many politicians are scum when it comes to lying about people. My own observations are that Republicans are worse than Democrats at this, but how can such a thing be quantified? I’m sure it’s a human capacity for arrogance and ignorance, for partisanship and denial that drives this, whoever is the most under that spell. I understand that better than I understand why more people don’t see this. If they did, negative ads would kill a candidate rather than boost a candidate despite some negative backlash as it seems to be now. People either don’t mind the partisanship or they really believe the attacks on others, such as when Republicans imply that voting for Democrats will get you killed or when Democrats suggests all Republicans are scumbags. That’s what I don’t understand. Why is this OK with people? Why do people listen to Rush? Why do they find simplistic and fantastic bombast worth their time?

I was heartened to see a CNN poll that only 26% of Americans approve of Rush. Unfortunately that many on the right and a similar number on the left make a majority that want to see their enemies ridiculed, who values someone’s skill at that over love and knowledge that philosophers say are the ultimate good things in life.

I’m tempted toward the traditional hope that everything evens out in the end. That’s one aspect of traditional Christianity I always liked. But the closer I move toward God, the more I believe that’s not God’s way. There’s no way to make it all fair. Those of us who try to be good despite the burdens that come our way face difficulties in that. There is no magic tote board that awards points for that. Nor is there one for everyone who insists on being bad boys and girls, to be hurtful and liars in the name of some cause or just for their selfishness. Such people will keep disturbing the peace and using up resources for nothing for as long as I live. They just add to how nature does the same thing, such as it does to Michael J. Fox with his Parkinson’s Disease.

There is suffering that nature causes. There is suffering people cause. I would fight both, but either one is bigger than I am. So I turn to God. He tells me they’re all dead already, the virtuous and the scum. The former have a better chance to live on in Him than the latter. It’s not to make it fair. It’s because that’s what God wants. People don’t change that much. Most don’t improve at all on the life given to them. Then they die. To try to do better than that is not an act. God knows this. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t. I’ll take God.

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