"D" is for death

There are two things in life you can't avoid...death and taxes. - American proverb

by Robert Nanninga
t is rather amusing how much death and taxes have in common these days. Most Americans feel both are unfair as well as an obstacle to a truly fabulous life. As far as I know, everybody gets to do the "Great Goodbye." Ironically, most people spend their entire lives hastening their deaths while struggling against the inevitable.
Back in 1985, when I considered myself immortal, my best friend and soul mate Paulita Elena Ramos was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. Seven months later, Pauli died. The tragedy was that the cure - not the disease - killed her. After the first dose of chemotherapy, Pauli took on the appearance of a coconut, because her hair fell out and she was covered with brown scabs. Not a pretty sight. A woman of incomparable spirit, Pauli fought back. But the doctors were not done with her.
Since the chemo failed to arrest the tumor, the wise warriors of Western medicine decided to double the toxins they were shooting into her body. Because of this, Pauli spent the last month of an already short life in the hospital attached to numerous machines, shot full of morphine and denied the honor of a dignified death.
I will never forget the last words she said to me. As I visited her in the hospital ICU ward, I stepped on a piece of candy. Removing it from the bottom of my shoe, I commented on the fact that it was a Lifesaver. With all the clarity she could muster, Pauli said, "It didn't work."
The last days of her life should have been spent at home in the loving arms of friends and family. Preparing for the passage has always been as important as the trip itself. Pauli was given no time to say goodbye. It seems to me faith should be enough to allow people to die with dignity. But the doctors were intent on playing God, to the detriment of all involved.
Mickey Mantle is a good example of wanting it both ways. Mr. Mantle had everything a person could ask for in life: fame, fortune and loving friends and family. The only thing Mickey lacked was a second liver. Having made the choice to drink his first liver to death, he refused to let that get in the way of his immortality. "Bartender, give this man another liver."
America has decided the Mickey is a hero, a role model to be admired by children. Excuse me, but what kind of role model is an alcoholic who can't take responsibility for his actions? This form of hypocrisy is rampant in America. Our government spends billions of dollars on cancer research as it allows industry to pump untold amounts of carcinogens and other toxins, such as alcohol, into our food, water and air.
Our culture is so afraid of death we keep people attached to machines for decades. Need I say anything about baboon hearts in babies? How about the Loma Linda University Medical Center, where Dr. Steven Gundry plans to transplant the hearts of pigs into humans. According to the mad doctor, "Baboons are in very short supply. But our society slaughters millions of pigs. For transplants, we only need ... one day at the meat market." Yikes! Is he blinded by science or what?
With the world being overrun by the masses of humanity, what is the benefit of handing out replacement parts to those who are at the end of their run? Natural law has always provided checks and balances to keep populations under control. Death in all its creative forms, is the ultimate "pink slip." Humans must start to accept their fate, and get on with enjoying life, no matter how short.
For example, feeding the famished in Africa only prolongs their suffering. We have all seen the pictures: zombie people starving in a dry, barren desert. What is a bowl of grain going to do to improve the quality of life for those dying people? Nothing but prolong their misery for another day. France colonized these areas; when they were done exploiting the land and people, they left them there to starve. Can you say manifest destiny?
How's this for irony: in the United States we have deer hunts to cull what we consider an overpopulation of wildlife. Concerned that deer will starve during a tough winter, we shoot them for the good of the species. Yet in the face of gross human overpopulation, we do nothing but subsidize their misery in an environment that can no longer support human life. Now, I'm not saying we should shoot starving people (although think of the revenue that could be generated with those hunting licenses). What I am saying is, people should be allowed their fate.
It seems we can't even accept death by natural causes. Here in San Diego County, when a women is killed by a mountain lion we kill the first mountain lion we see. As if another death will mean something, other than one less predator to compete with man. If an animal attacks an individual, we kill the animal, ASAP. But if human being kills another, we do everything but take their life.
The human race must decide that quality of life is more important than quantity of life. Those in the pro-life community are fond of the saying "All life is sacred." These are the same people who champion duck hunts, Big Macs and fur coats. Not to be misunderstood, I wish to go on record as Pro-choice, Pro-death penalty, Pro-euthanasia, and first and foremost Pro-life for all species. If there is someone I haven't offended yet, try this on for size: infants born with a weak heart and the like, should not be supported with the latest high-tech gizmo.
The doctors at the aforementioned Loma Linda University Medical Center only prolonged the suffering of baby Fae and her parents. There are millions of healthy children on this planet that could use a loving home, one that the billions of dollars spent on Frankenstein interventions could otherwise provide.
When I was in grade school, I was told that the pre-technology life expectancy for human beings was approximately forty years. As a culture, we should stop avoiding the truth of mortality. Doctors have amassed personal fortunes convincing people that they can live forever, with Western medicine being little more than a placebo. By doubling our life expectancy with artificial means, we have more than quadrupled the number of people laying waste - quite literally - to the planet. With more people, spending more time on this planet, how long will it be until we choke on our evolutionary success?
By trying to cheat the grim reaper, we as a culture will wind up depending on machines and chemical cocktails to keep us alive, in the process destroying the Earth and forfeiting our humanity.
Personally, I have made my desires clear to my family and friends. When it is my time to check out, I want to go without the Sturm und Drang of a Ginger Grant "death scene." This movie star wants no machines, no heroic measures and positively no hospitals. To be honest, I'm looking forward to the time when I do not have to worry about rent, work, or the people that are mucking up the planet. So like a graceful swan I shall accept my passing, and just fall down.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental community.