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Need to Reduce 'Those People' Statements

By Readers · April 15th, 2009 · Letters

Need to Reduce ‘Those People’ Statements

Regarding Joe Wessels’ column “Cutting the Safety Net” (issue of April 8), I’d like to respond to his comment “handing out money over and over again to those who take and never think about changing themselves is flat-out criminal.”

I wonder if this might apply in similar circumstances. For example, is it criminal to pay higher health insurance rates because an obese person requires open heart surgery, insulin or knee replacement? Is it criminal to use public funds at University Hospital to treat COPD and lung cancer for smokers?

Society is at its ugliest when we selectively point the finger of shame and judgment. Certainly we’ve learned from the Nuremburg laws in the 1930s, when people were sent to their deaths for offenses such as mental illness, alcoholism and homosexuality. It’s time to wake up: Most people make lifestyle choices that have negative effects on their health. Perhaps it involves diet, smoking, unsafe sex, alcohol consumption or lack of exercise.

Yes, the world would be better if everyone made health-conscious lifestyle decisions. But that’s never going to happen. People have autonomy, and no one is perfect. It’s hypocritical to hurl venomous invective on selected populations: HIV, chronically homeless, alcohol and drug abusers.

I wonder what would happen if we drastically reduced “those people” statements. We could understand that we’re human, fallible, flawed and correctable. We could provide compassionate life-saving care unconditionally.

Who knows? Maybe some of “those people who never think about changing themselves” might make incremental changes if we approach them without the shame and judgment. — Bob Keck, Covington

Marriage and Religion

Recently, I was struck by this line in a piece on the ongoing issue of marriage equality: “It is an easily observable fact that all opposition to and condemnation of homosexuality is based on religious doctrine.” Part of me wanted to just go “Duh!” — truly I had never before seen this core realization stated in such simple clarity.

Indeed, there is a dearth of facts behind “traditional” moral beliefs regarding gays. Mainstream science tilts overwhelmingly to the conclusion that gay relationships and gay parenting are, in comparison with the male-female variety, just about exactly as good and/or bad. Sure, you could still say that in your heart you feel deeply that gay life is wrong. But given the relative lack of evidence, that’s your religion talking. It’s rooted in the varied religious views that hold gay relationships to be sinful. And no one can make you feel otherwise, hard as some of us might try.

But the point is this: Why does the government meddle at all in the religion-based arena of “marriage?” The government should simply deal with all couples as civil unions, which cover all the areas governments need to administrate.

We might all agree that marriage is something more, something sacred. But things sacred can’t be made standard for all people. My sacred belief can be your damnable heresy, and if we differ vehemently, that’s life, I guess. But when your religious views trample my civil rights, that’s wrong. It’s something we certainly are quick to decry in other cultures.

So if you want to add a sacred element to your union — and I’d absolutely recommend it if you’re inclined — get if from your God, not your government.

And let government afford all couples — nonrelated adult ones, that is — the equal civil recognition and respect they deserve as citizens of the state. Nothing less and nothing more. — John C. Brennan, Clifton



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