Calvary, The Donald, and Hope

(Reuters photo: Yuri Gripas)
Living and dying, and knowing there’s more

‘Poland is VERY pretty at night, and the Polish people are nice too. Now I know why both Hitler and Stalin invaded #Poland in WWII.”

I confess, reading that Donald Trump parody tweet on Twitter in an Uber in hot and humid Orlando before coffee, I believed for a moment it was him. Such are these times of bloody presidential tweeting, tasteless or not, often indulgent distractions on one end or another.

In truth, President Trump did speak in Warsaw about an hour after I proved myself gullible, and his speech indicated an understanding and appreciation of the best of the Polish people, especially during the painful 20th century they endured. Trump talked about Pope John Paul II’s return to Poland and how the people in Victory Square that day in 1979 interrupted him to demonstrate their great desire to defiantly say the name of God in a place where religion had been illegal for so long.

I understand completely why some people are skeptical about what Donald Trump means and about the depth of his commitment to his words and even actions. But I also see something quite amazing happening in the United States today. At a time of ever-shorter attention spans and the seemingly insatiable desire to be entertained, Donald Trump has managed to keep people’s attention.

Yes, there’s the anger and even fear on display — we see post-election protests in the streets and countless uncivil tweets. But I wonder if there has ever been a time in American history when so many people have been aware of the name of the newest Supreme Court justice (and one whose name is a challenge to spell, at that) and are paying some attention to his jurisprudence. Perhaps I’m overdoing it on that last clause, but you do see what I mean. For every Washington Post “Democracy dies in darkness” claim, it can be said that there is a light like never before shining on our politics, and, goodness knows, on nearly every move the president and his staff make. That’s good. That’s progress.

And it comes at a time when we haven’t always debated out in the open the many euphemisms and ideological prescriptions that abound. I always come back to the Little Sisters of the Poor, because they were the most inexplicable target of Barack Obama’s administration. My understanding has always been that a person or two in the White House said behind closed doors exactly that: Why on earth would we pick a fight with these women who give their lives to God in service to the elderly poor — people who might otherwise be cast aside and forgotten? They are the best of us. Why take them on for not offering insurance coverage to employees (for whom they provide jobs in the course of their ministry) for contraceptives and abortion drugs and female sterilization? But ideology trumped that good sense and reasonable religious-liberty argument. And so a reelection campaign went by in which what we witnessed was obfuscation at best. But we saw lying, too: claims that there was no controversy, that it had been solved, even as the Little Sisters were on the road to the Supreme Court for relief. That wasn’t a healthy democratic moment.

And now take the case of Charlie Gard, the infant dying of a rare mitochondrial disease. I don’t know what President Trump or anyone else thinks in his heart of hearts. But I do know that he took a break from tweeting about Mika and Joe, among other things, to say a word for this precious child in England, and for his parents, who are trying their best to help him live without prolonging his suffering. His tweet stood against a British court ruling and an apparently uncreative medical establishment at the hospital where Charlie Gard seems imprisoned by a culture of death — in which the child is not so much a patient as a terminal case.

I don’t know what President Trump or anyone else thinks in his heart of hearts. But I do know that he took a break from tweeting about Mika and Joe, among other things, to say a word for this precious child in England.

That stands in contrast to New York City’s Calvary Hospital, which cares exclusively for exactly terminal cases. As Dr. Michael Brescia, co-founder and medical director, recently put it:

At Calvary, we have never, ever, in any way, hastened death purposely. We’ll argue, “We love you enough to never kill.” We come across a symptom that is unacceptable, and we treat the symptom until there is relief. Our doctrine is succor, compassion, love, gentleness. I’m never going to tell someone they have to suffer. I will work to alleviate their pain.

About this time last year, I walked the brutal expanse of Auschwitz. You think of the people who entered knowing they would never see anywhere else on this earth. You think of the inhumanity in men that takes over men’s hearts and souls, allowing such evil to happen. I certainly thought of John Paul on his return to his homeland. Even amid so much chaos, there is a standing in the light that is happening now, more than in recent years. Not everything that is happening these days is good — but then that could be said any day, too — but as long as the light shines and we are engaged, we will not succumb to drowning in the darkness of death. We will live in the hope for which we are made, a hope that lives today as much as ever in human history. We know too much to believe otherwise.


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— Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here. This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.



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