(AP) ZURICH - Voters in the Swiss canton (or state) of Zurich have overwhelmingly rejected calls to ban assisted suicide or to outlaw the practice for nonresidents.I first saw this article at a news site which allows comments, and the comments were overwhelmingly in favor of suicide for the terminally ill, the elderly, the handicapped, and anyone else who no longer enjoys "quality of life," which is apparently defined by the ability to maintain a trendy home, dash off on destination vacations, work long hours for the right sort of people, and shop for cool toys and couture fashion at America's most religiously-attended structures, otherwise known as shopping centers, malls, strip malls, or misleadingly named "town squares" (and this is off-topic, but the couple of times I've had the misfortune of actually setting foot in that place linked to I have honestly felt like the whole thing is frighteningly unreal in a rather evil way; but then, I'm a writer, and thus prone to fits of imagination). Anyone who is not capable of these things by age or infirmity or physical condition no longer has any reason to live--well, except, possibly, for Stephen Hawking, but at least he has the right sort of socially acceptable ideas about God and Heaven, because heaven forbid anyone should actually embrace physical limitations in a redemptive and sacrificial way, or anything.
Zurich's cantonal voters overwhelmingly rejected both measures Sunday that had been pushed by political and religious conservatives.
Out of more than 278,000 ballots cast, the initiative to ban assisted suicide was rejected by 85 percent of voters and the initiative to outlaw it for foreigners was turned down by 78 percent, according to Zurich authorities.
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, provided the helper doesn't personally benefit from a patient's death. About 200 people a year commit suicide in Zurich.
We have become a people without hope, living a life without transcendence. Nowhere is this more truly reflected than in the callous ugliness displayed toward the unborn, the elderly, the infirm, and the handicapped. Society strongly believes, for example, that Down Syndrome babies are better off dead than ever being born; here on this blog a commenter displayed the eugenic belief that even if anencephalic babies are allowed to be born they aren't really people (and, presumably, we could dispose of them if they didn't die quickly enough, though we didn't get into that particular corollary); and thus it's no surprise to see commenter after commenter on the Zurich-suicide tourism story applauding Zurich for their enlightened move away from the superstitious religious belief that it's somehow distasteful or not quite--quite to off Granny while she's still somewhat functional rather than wait for her natural death to occur, and have to put up with all of her embarrassing symptoms of decline and her accompanying needs for assistance. Let's face it: assisted suicide is lots, lots easier than having to give up some of your own precious shopping, working, vacation time to help an old woman with her daily hygiene and the medicine regimen that keeps her pain at a distance and her symptoms from distressing her, right? Why should the young and strong and healthy and bright have to help the old and weak and suffering? Assisted living requires sacrifice; assisted suicide means you can even plan the funeral for the most convenient time for those family members still unenlightened enough to think that some sort of prayer ritual is required for the waste disposal of human remains.
Of course, the proponents of offing inconvenient relatives never think of it that way. They think they are really concerned about the suffering of the person who can't participate in any of life's meaningful consumer activities anymore. They compare the situation to that of an animal: why, we don't let cats or dogs suffer at the end of their lives, so why should Grandpa have to? A more human age saw Grandpa as fundamentally different from a cat or a dog, and thought of human life as intrinsically worthy of respect, but today's people are agreed that only superstitious religious types think there is an afterlife--and if Grandpa is nothing but a chunk of living carbon occupying space, it's much better to speed him along his inevitable journey than to worry about what some hypothetical God who is alleged to have made man in His image and likeness thinks about murder dressed up as compassion. Once Grandpa couldn't golf anymore, or take Grandma to Miami Beach, or continue to dabble in the stock market, then Grandpa became no more worthy of respect or dignity than the family dog--and if truth is told, fewer tears will be shed when Grandpa's plug gets pulled than when Rusty had to be put down after thousands of dollars of dog-cancer treatment failed; Rusty was sort of nice to have around, but Grandpa was difficult, and cranky, and inclined to think he knew everything simply because he was older and had lived through more than his children had.
But there is a danger in a societal belief that life has no transcendent meaning, and it's a danger that has been seen in the last century time and time again. A society begins by agreeing that the old, the infirm, the handicapped aren't really enjoying any quality of life and should be killed as quickly, quietly and conveniently as possible and ends by marching all sorts of people, even the young and able-bodied, into the ovens. If God is not the only authority on when life should end, that authority soon gets passed along to an apathetic committee of an atheistic government who starts to put cost-benefit values on everybody, and sees no one's life as intrinsically worthy of living or respecting.
I think we're well along our way to becoming that sort of society, a society where "Life without transcendence!" begins as a rallying cry against religion and ends as a epitaph for a once-great people. Convinced that life means nothing, that we mean nothing, that the universe means nothing, and that existence is nothing but an evolutionary joke at our expense, there soon becomes no reason not to embrace the most shallow of existences, to fill the dreaded hours with busy work and busy play and busy shopping and busy entertainment, and to avoid all thought of the shuddering horror of the abyss of ceasing to be by demanding that we eradicate pain and suffering by eradicating the pain-ridden and the sufferer--so we won't have to think about them, or about the oblivion beyond, at all.
Some of us, of course, reject that nihilistic view of life, and are capable of praying for the grace of a happy death--one which, even if it includes suffering, also includes the grace of the sacraments and the fervent prayers of those who love us for our salvation and our entry into eternal life. The consequences of our beliefs, though, is that we also believe that it matters how we live--that we are not simply to indulge our every desire, lust, passion, gluttony or greed so long as we live, and put ourselves out of our misery when we can no longer do so. The world can't even fathom such a notion--what, are we to avoid doing whatever the Hell we want with our lives, since only the Hell of oblivion awaits? Unable to fathom a real choice between a Hell which will not involve oblivion at all and a Heaven that will surpass our earthly longings in a way we can't even imagine, the children of this age clamor for assisted suicide the same way they clamored for sex without consequences, for abortion, for greed, and for every other noxious thing. Because if nothing but oblivion awaits, why shouldn't they get to pull the plug on Grandma and Grandpa--and then look forward to the day when their grandchildren will pull the plug on them?