A message to Republicans: Death is not an abstract exercise when your vote directly leads to people dying. Do you know someone, a friend or relative, who had someone dear to them die in the past year? Have you offered your condolences and told them to call you anytime they feel the need to talk?

Well, that’s not enough. Very few will call even when they are lonely and sad and need to talk. That doesn’t mean that you can write off the death, especially if one of your votes was somehow responsible.

t have learned through my own grief, now six months of tears and wailing for my lost love, my wife of 40 years, how only three friends have continued to reach out to me every day while the others just wait for me to call them.

If I don’t call, and I generally don’t, literally weeks go by before I hear from them. For some it has been months. I don’t hold it against them. Such is human nature. It is very uncomfortable for most people to hear me tell them repeatedly that my grieving, while less frequent and intense, is still breaking my heart every day. Members of Congress make laws that in one way or another lead to people dying. They can’t call every survivor, but they need to know the reality of the loss for millions of family members and dear friends.

The reported deaths associated with public policy are very real to the loved ones of those who die. Even the deaths associated with the government not providing vigorous oversight over industry must be laid at the doorstep of members of Congress who accept campaign donations with strings attached. The obvious case in point is how deep water drilling went unregulated. Another more recent case in point reported yesterday is SmithKline not reporting the heart risks of their popular diabetes drug, Avandia, for 11 years

Like most people, it is so easy for politicians to write off the suffering of others, as we see with the cruel pronouncements coming from the Republicans trying to block an extension of unemployment benefits, or stick it to Obama by fighting health care reform. But the bottom line is human suffering, and yes, it isn’t overly dramatic to say death. The ultimate pain for the living is the loss of someone they love, whether through suicide, war, accidents or illness.

Those who haven’t suffered such loss need a good does of empathy. It is difficult to believe no Republicans have lost a loved one in their entire lives.

There is a disconnect between the real world of  the suffering of those who grieve because of death and a vote in Congress. I keep asking myself whether Republicans who vote against bills to help people who are suffering, or to engage in futile wars, mere lack human compassion or are missing a part of their soul.

We have wars where Americans and our allies die every day. We have had so-called good wars, wars that did make the world safe for democracy,where soldiers willingly risked and sacrificed their lives, and mourning families were proud to bear the burden of their grief.

Why are our sons and daughters dying in Afghanistan? We have a 100% increase in suicide in areas effected by the oil spill. People die every day because of inadequate or no health insurance.

Every day Congress meets, and before every committee meeting, each member should recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Then, instead or in addition to a prayer I’ll like the Senate and House to have someone read a short poem about grief. I’d start with a few lines from Donald Hall’s “Distressed Haiku”:

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.


  1. I would place some very large measure of responsibility of grief on the current failed president and his administration for not only continuing the war in Afghanistan but expanding it. Didn’t he learn from the previous failed administration? That happens to be a democrat and he is shameful by continuing this exercise in causing American grief. Disgraceful two bit Chicago hack.

  2. Hal, your grief is palpable…. tangible… wrenching.

    Too bad you waste it on blaming Republicans, of all people. As if they had something to do with it. As if they wanted it to happen. Check the record – our never-ending wars are truly bipartisan.

    As counterpoint, look at Donald Berwick. He had nothing to do with your grief either (I suppose), but when it comes to voting on who among us will live or die, he’s the HCIC (Head Czar in Charge) of those who will live or die in the new health care system.

    Funny, though, he’s not a Republican – just a caricature of the Grim Reaper… with eyes wide open.

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