I Am Worth
August 27, 2001
It has been a confusing couple of days. I was "accused"
of being a socialist because I am a lifelong Democrat. When
I pointed out that I am, in fact, an unabashed capitalist
and quite well-to-do by anyone's standards, I was then accused
of being a "limousine liberal." Today, after reading
an article in the Washington
Post, I believe I have been told by President Bush that
because I am ill with something that stem cells hold out hope
for, I am worth less than garbage. I'm not sure where to begin.
There has been a lot of graying, lately, along the hallowed
edges of what constitutes a Democrat's political philosophy.
The Blue Dogs invaded Congress and Clinton did his level best
to move the party to the center, some of us kicking and screaming.
But a couple of things have remained true to the Democrats'
core. No matter our station in life we don't forget where
we came from, and the foundation of our platform remains to
instill hope in a better future for EVERYONE. Success by one's
own merit is what made this nation great. Creating equal opportunity
to succeed is our nation's responsibility.
The Republicans, on the other hand, apparently prefer a caste
system based on fear of change. Bush the Younger's ascendancy
to the White House was not viewed as "questionable"
but as "dynastic." Clinton is still referred to
as "white trash," "Arkansas hick," and
worse. They try to have it both ways by playing to the "outside
the Beltway" mentality of Everyman-as-President while
maintaining, in actuality, a very elite, inbred circle of
privilege. They scream one thing and do another. This has
never been more evident than during the stem cell debate.
According to the "pro-lifers," my life is worth
less than some frozen cells on their way to the dumpster.
This puzzles me. If you are "pro-life" there are
only two arguments you can make. One is that in-vitro fertilization
should be made illegal so that embryonic cells are not disposed
of. The other is that these cells be used to save lives.
Bush tried to have it both ways. He was not trying to please
both sides of this issue. He was not even trying to keep from
angering either side too much. He was trying to provide his
buddies in the private sector and Thompson's WARF program
with access to government funding. It was a decision about
MONEY. Period. There are questions we should all be asking.
What evidence did he have that there were 60+ cell lines?
What did he know about patent ownership of these lines?
Did he know that these cell lines had a limited lifespan
for research use?
Did he know these lines had been grown on mouse "feeder"
cells, probably rendering them useless to clinical translation?
I don't know that we'll ever have the answers to these questions,
but someone should be asking them on the Senate floor. The
results of his decision mean that we will lose researchers
to other countries and that the only Americans who will be
able to avail themselves of the outcomes will be those who
can afford to travel there and pay out of pocket for the treatments.
Then again, maybe saving the privileged elite was the whole
point of his decision.