Disputing Suicide Advocacy for the Sickly: A Model Essay in Developmental English Textbooks, by JD Meyer

“The Right to Die,” by Norman Cousins: Published by Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Cengage

Originally published by Joffre (JD) Meyer, Yahoo Contributor Network Nov 7, 2011. Voices.yahoo will end tomorrow; a footnote was added.

Wordsmith-a Developmental English/Writing textbook by Pamela Arlov at Pearson Higher Education-includes “The Right to Die,” by Norman Cousins as one of its model essays in the Argument (Persuasive)/Social Issues categories. This essay is about the suicide of Dr. Henry Van Dusen and his wife, Elizabeth. They had become increasingly feeble over the years and felt that their lives were being prolonged artificially beyond human dignity. Importantly, Dr. Van Dusen had been the president of Union Theological Seminary; he was a famous voice in American Protestant ethics for over a quarter century-hardly your typical case for suicide advocacy. The caption under the article’s title states, “Suicide is traditionally considered a tragedy, even a sin. Under certain circumstances, can it be considered a triumph over a slow and painful death?”

An Internet search shows how popular this article has become. McGraw-Hill offers the essay through Primis On-Line and Cornerstones. The Familiar Essay, by Mark R. Christensen includes “The Right to Die also through Cengage. Cyberessays reports that the states of Washington and Montana passed a Right to Die law in 2009.

Dr. Van Dusen left behind a brief note asking if the individual has the obligation to go on living when all beauty, meaning, and power of life are gone. Isn’t it a misuse of medical technology to keep the terminally ill alive when there are so many hungry mouths to feed? What if there’s nothing left to give or receive from life? Why should an unnatural form of living be considered better than an unnatural way of dying?

Exercising free will can mean suicide, according to Dr. Van Dusen. A call for the exercise of free will is quite common in philosophical and theological literature, and Dr. Van Dusen wrote on free will extensively during his career. Despair and pain weren’t given as reasons for The Van Dusens’ justifying of suicide.

Importantly, Norman Cousins admits that suicide is alien to the theological tradition of the Van Dusens, as it is in most cultures. However, no comment was made in this article about the kamikaze phase in World War II Japan or the current Islamic extremists. The Van Dusens regretted that their children and grandchildren may be saddened and not accept their decision. Yet Dr. Van Dusen believed that theologians and all of us should debate his case for suicide for the terminally sickly.

In concluding, Cousins asserts, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. The unbearable tragedy is to live without dignity or sensitivity.”

My initial reaction to this essay was shock that assisted suicide for the sickly would be a topic in a Developmental English or College Composition course, as opposed to maybe an advanced medical ethics or philosophy course. I wouldn’t risk the appearance of trying to euthanize the grandparents of remedial students. Having a disability for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) myself makes me a bit squeamish when I hear a call for suicide of the chronically ill.

Once suicide is approved under these circumstances, the cases for acceptable suicide could become extended. What if one felt he or she was too poor to have a dignified existence? The extremely poor can earn as much as $1000/month. Maybe the chronically unemployed or those with a flawed background check could make a case for their own death too. An elderly neighbor feels that there are two unforgivable sins: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and suicide. Fortunately, the former seems like the most unlikely and esoteric possible form of swearing. My neighbor’s views are probably considerably more common than advocacy for suicide of the sickly.

On another note, adding mullein leaves (gordolobo) to my coffee pot this morning has helped my breathing far more than traditional medicine over the past week–including albuterol for my nebulizer, generic Mucinex, and prednisone. There were also some eucalyptus leaves and whole garlic pieces in that odd drip coffee bin, which had been ineffectual without the gordolobo. At least in Texas, you can buy a package of gordolobo or eucalyptus leaves for $1 each in the Mexican spice and herb section of the grocery store.

Later I stumbled upon a story about the later life of Norman Cousins (1915-1990) at http://www.happinessandlaughter.com/ Norman Cousins was the longtime editor of the Saturday Review and had received hundreds of wards, including the United Nations Peace Medal and nearly fifty honorary doctorate degrees. But in 1965, Cousins became very ill with ankylosing spondylitis, “a degenerative disease causing the breakdown of collagen.” It was believed that the writer would die within a few months, and he was almost completely paralyzed. But Cousins found a way to cure himself, not kill himself; he checked out of the hospital and started taking massive amounts of Vitamin C and watching funny movies! Cousins regained the use of his limbs and he returned to his full-time job at the Saturday Review. Cousins later wrote a book on his ordeal, Anatomy of an Illness in 1979. Thus Cousins chose life over suicide unlike Dr. Van Dusen. I’m glad that Earvin “Magic” Johnson chose life, as today is the twentieth anniversary of his announcement of retiring from pro basketball due to contracting the HIV virus.

Footnote: Originally, I wrote this article for Voices.yahoo, which is discontinuing its services as a citizen journalism website on July 31, 2014. At final count, my 38 articles gained 23,869 reads in roughly six years. This article represents revenge for being told never to disagree with anything in the textbook by a couple of short-lived bosses, as well as not to teach subject-verb agreement for indefinite plural pronouns (others, both, many, few, several) because Wordsmith omitted them. However, a few months before writing this article in early November 2011, I had sent an op-ed to a news station called, “Could Assisted Suicide Lower the Unemployment Rate?”
Fortunately, I changed my mind and have since gotten on Medicare & Medicaid–together with receiving housing assistance. Lately, I go to food banks instead of receiving Meals-on-Wheels. My Subject-Verb Agreement chapter section has received well over 9000 reads through Connexions of Rice University and my Academia.edu website. I’m a Twitter fanatic @bohemiotx with over 1400 followers and a member of two community organizations: East TX Human Needs Network (ETHNN)and the Community Health Worker (CHW) coalition…and hoping for a second career. I’ve never had more wonderful friends, and most of us see each other at Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q of Tyler–a regionally known place just two doors down from my apartment in the Hospital District, also known as Midtown.

Introduction to Twitter, by Joffre (J.D.) Meyer @bohemiotx

  Twitter: How to Get Started & Why I Love It, by Joffre (J.D.) Meyer @bohemiotx


For me, Twitter goes beyond my favorite social media website. Twitter is a way to curate news, and it has become a support group full of thought leaders, power users, and educators from throughout the world. I decided to finally write this article when a favorite acquaintance with more degrees than me expressed a negative view of Twitter, finding it difficult. Furthermore, I recently crossed the 1000 follower mark, only joining two years and nine months ago.

Using Twitter merely acknowledges that you read interesting, informative articles, and share them with like-minded people. Re-tweet your followers and those you follow as much as possible, especially the prominent mutual followers. Eventually this will get really difficult. It’s wise to re-tweet a favorite article of someone when they first start following you to acknowledge their presence in your circle. Some articles will be so moving that you’ll click the gold favorite star. At times, add one or two topics introduced by a hashtag (#), so your article can be cross-referenced under those topics, particularly when tweeting the article yourself. For example, I often read about #sustainability and #climate change. Sometimes I feel the need to explain a title by offering a comment within parentheses or brackets. For example, today I mentioned the MSNBC program in parentheses (Your Business) where I learned about a Salvadorian entrepreneur. Earlier I mentioned in brackets that South Korea was #1 in Bloomberg’s list of the 30 Most Innovative Countries. 

Your profile (biography) appears in the left column under your photo; please don’t leave an empty egg! I’ve completely redone my biographical sketch to be less stuffy. Instead, mostly I mention what I taught, the topics I read about and share, and cite the link to my website and hometown. I’ve read that citing your website and hometown make you appear more valid. Some may choose to be more informal than me in their bio, and they can make it work. In the second part of the column, you’ll see photos that you’ve sent, a skimpy area for me. Everyone else’s twitter page will list those that both of y’all know—an excellent feature in deciding who to follow back.

The third category suggests four people to follow, partly based on your latest tweets. The fourth and final category states ten topics that are currently trending. It may be something fun like #amwriting or #FollowFriday, or it could mean something tragic, such as the passing away of singer, Bobby Womack (1944-2014) and actor, James Garner (1928-2014) this July. Returning to #Follow Friday, a good friend told me about that hashtag, so the first week I sent her Twitter addresses of three global leaders in education, and the next Friday I sent her three Twitter addresses of prominent figures in social media—together with that hashtag and her Twitter address. Sometimes there are two columns with two categories each.

Now let’s examine the very top ribbon in the upper left hand corner above everything else: home, notifications, discover, and me. Home is where you’ll see what everyone you follow has been tweeting under the general URL https://twitter.com By the way, you may follow somebody who doesn’t speak English. The translation corner is in the upper right hand corner next to the round ball. Notifications tell you who started following you, or if you were re-tweeted or favorite. Paper.li is a daily e-journal of articles printed by journals and people you follow–should you sign up for this fine publication. Once again, I’m The BohemioTX, http://paper.li/bohemiotx/1318973557, and I follow a couple of others. Notifications will list if your find has been crosslisted in someone else’s Paper.li! Discover is where you can search for a topic. This can be lots of fun, and it’s similar to what’s trending, as discussed previously. Of course, the Twitter folks will tailor “discover” to something they know you’ll probably like. Last is me, where you go to the work you’ve done by tweeting and retweeting under your specific URL—in my case https://twitter.com/bohemiotx

After the top ribbon with those four categories: home, notifications, discover, and me, we have the place to download an artsy heading—in my case the Chinese character, ch’i—a Neo-Confucian term meaning vital force or matter-energy. Now we get to the statistics ribbon, and five number categories: tweets, photos/videos, following, followers, and favorites. These are self-explanatory. You don’t want to have too much of a discrepancy between followers and following, unless you’re a celebrity who doesn’t follow back that much. Favorites are those tweets that you fell in love with and gave a gold star. Then we have lists; you can sign up for one or make one up. I signed up for Best City Policy Planning and made up MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type indicator) sites. A list can serve a similar function to doing a search or to see what’s trending.

Hopefully this has been a good 839 word introduction to Twitter. Catch you soon.



Invest in Costa Rica: A Long-Range Answer to the Central American Crisis that Rewards Good Governance, by J.D. Meyer

Central America: Suddenly our southern border is being besieged by immigrants from there—often children. We hear tales of homelands that have become failed states–full of poverty and gang violence—especially Honduras. But what about Costa Rica? I had heard about a couple of really good things about Costa Rica: ecotourism and high ratings in Happiness measures. I’ve never met a Costa Rican, despite teaching ESOL off-and-on during a 20-year period while meeting plenty of Salvadoreans and whatnot. So I decided it was time to introduce myself to Costa Rica through Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Rica
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) not only rated Costa Rica as first in its Happy Planet Index twice recently but also as the greenest country in the world. Costa Rica is “the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.” Costa Rica has made sustainability and environmental concern the fixture of its national public policy. This country used to have among the worst deforestation rates in the world until 1989, but now it’s almost zero. The ecological footprint is one-third of the US.
Around 25% of its land area is in protected areas and national parks–the best in the world and way above the developing world average of 13% and the developed world average of 8%. Costa Rica has 5% of the Earth’s biodiversity in only 0.1% of its land mass. No wonder Costa Rica has pioneered ecotourism, and that now earns more than its three cash crop exports: bananas, pineapples,and coffee. Costa Rica is second only to Mexico in tourism for Latin America.
Now we’re talking economics—the main reason for my topic. The Costa Rican central government offers tax exemptions for those willing to invest in Costa Rica. The three biggest manufacturers are (1) Intel (chip manufacturers), (2) GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceutical, including my Advair!), and (3) Procter & Gamble. The giant Intel facility accounts for 20% of its exports and 5% of its GDP. Costa Rica is also trading with Southeast Asia and Russia, gaining membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Costa Rica is the top destination in Central America for direct foreign investment since 2003, partly because the people are so educated. Costa Rica is a highly literate country– 94.9%. When Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949, it was said that the army would be replaced with an army of teachers.” Elementary schools and high schools are found throughout the country, and they’re free and guaranteed by the constitution. Public universities are considered better than private ones.
Costa Rica is healthy too with an average life span of 79.3 years, second highest in the Americas, and its health care system called Central America’s “great health success story.” Ranked higher than the US, Costa Rica provides universal health care to wage earners and has many hospitals and clinics. It even attracted $150,000 from foreigners (often the US) in 2006 in medical tourism for its proximity, quality, and low expense.
However, Costa Rica only has a GDP of $12,874; poverty is at 23% and unemployment is 7.8%, but inflation is only 4.5% They need help in infrastructure.
My point is for the US to encourage more investment in Costa Rica. Maybe we could ask Intel, GlaxoSmithKline, and Procter & Gamble what companies they’d like to see join them. How many times have we heard our civil engineers urge repairing highways and bridges in the US?Perhaps Costa Rica could save some Central American refugees from trying to move all the way to the often unfriendly US. Costa Rica is one Latin American country with more immigrants than those leaving.

Note: This essay was originally a talk given at the Tyler Spoken Word (July 6, 2014).

Another Subject-Verb Agreement Rule!

I wrote a wonderful Subject-Verb Agreement chapter section https://www.academia.edu/2057551/Subject_Verb_Agreement_Module that has had nearly 2000 reads at Academia.edu. First, I sent it to Connexions of Rice University. Hailey MacArthur, a Composition Instructor and Linguistics researcher at Florida International University, found another rule amidst the 20 Most Common Grammar Errors by Bedford-St. Martin’s. http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everyday_writer/20errors/14.html Go to #14 for Subject-Verb Agreement. You’ll find in their rule #6 when a relative pronoun (who, which, that) follows an interrupting phrase between the subject and verb, that verb may agree with the object of the preposition instead of the subject. Example from Bedford St. Martin’s: “Johnson was one of the athletes who were disqualified.” In a future edition of my 8 Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement, this will be Rule 2B. “Words between the Subject and Verb.” This link will be inserted at that Academia.edu site.