Walk A Painful Mile In Their Shoes

April 10, 2006

Steve Young, American Politics Journal

Nothing more reveals the damage the broadcast Lords of Loud inflict than actually seeing the faces of those their blather stings. Distancing themselves from the affect of their words doesn't make their culpability any smaller. Same goes for legislators who vote without first looking at the inhumanity their decisions will cause -- or sometimes worse -- what good their decisions deny.

Probably no better example is their kneejerk scare tactic attacks on anything or anyone close to "Universal Healthcare.

" When they call it "socialism" (which it isn't) or that we'll lose choice (which we won't), they simply devalue the lives of millions of men, women and children who cannot afford life-saving treatment, let alone preventive medical care.

Bloviators are at their worse when they condemn hope through demonization of the victim. HIV/AIDS funding comes to mind. But those in chronic pain or dealing with the misery of some debilitating disease cannot be so easily dismissed.

This past weekend I partook in the Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics on the ironically non-smoking-designated campus of Santa Barbara City College. Amongst the thousand in attendance, I may have been the only attendee who did not actually partake. And while second-hand cigarette smoke might kill, the ocean breezes didn't allow the cannabis clouds to hang around long enough for a contact buzz I might plead "blameless" at the next NA meeting.

Packed into the SBCC cafeteria (how "munchie appropriate") were people with terminal illness, debilitating disease and/or chronic pain that fends off all known legal relief while and ignores no demographic, party or station. Multiple-sclerosis sufferers David "Squiggy" Lander and Montel Williams made appearances -- not for show or pay, but to share their stories of suffering and search for relief, stories so familiar to the other attendees. They were all there to hear what nearly all of them already knew: marijuana had helped them survive. Not only survive, but actually live something close to a normal life.

No matter how many stoner/pot jokes flew, the conference dealt with an all-too-serious issue: there are many who need marijuana to be deemed wholly legal and assessable for medicinal purposes. Yet just last year the Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana patients, even in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Doctor after doctor, researcher after researcher, victim after victim stepped up to detail what even federal research has confirmed over and over: medical marijuana works where nothing else will. Of course, the stigma of recreational use or its severely questionable standing as a "gateway drug" makes cannabis an easy target for those who choose not to investigate further.

To be perfectly honest, there are a few talkers, even on the Right, who Libertarianly profess a belief in drug legalization or an end to a failed "War on Drugs" that makes Iraq look like a triumphant walkover. But even then, it's more an economic or constitutional judgement than a healthcare conviction.

But pain is not political. And it's not about being a stoner, a hippie, a "left coast wacko." It's about making the pain bearable. Unfortunately, those who choose to blare disdain for the victims may never see or understand what the victim is suffering through until they're looking back at it in the mirror. Short of actual compassion, perhaps the only way for critics to understand the pain no "legal" medication can relieve is to feel it themselves. It is a shame that when we speak of walking in other's shoes we never get past the ankles. And it is tough to know the futility when the pain is read of but not felt.

I think I've come up with a solution.

I've seen reporters jump out of planes or be on the target side of a police taser. Several newsfolk who go through some personal affliction, bring their audiences in on their firsthand struggle with pain and anguish. Katie Couric brought her Today Show audience along to (and through) her colonosopy - a response to her husband's terminal bout with colon cancer. The fact that Couric's face (and other body accouterments) were fixed to the issue resulted in massively increased awareness of the preventive efficacy of the procedure.

I say that from now on, every Congressman, Senator, Supreme Court Justice or Attorney General who wants to outlaw or prosecute medical marijuana use, and every talk show host or other opinion monger who decides to shortchange or mock something that people profess to be a life-giving necessity, must be made to feel the same pain and hopelessness the sufferer does for as long as they feel it and for as many times.

Then, just for good measure, they must have their child or parent or spouse suffer the same torment while our pundit is forced to look on at their loved one's agony helplessly.

Perhaps then they might forsake political and opportunistic partisanship for a truly empathetic judgement.

'Course, that might be considered torture.

Then again, what do you call keeping agonizing pain relief kept away from those who are truly suffering?

(For more information you might want to check out Patients Out Of Time at

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