Who Are the Needy in California?

What some people are experiencing in Chico.

A few months ago, I talked with a single mother who heard gunshots in the street and dove to her apartment floor with her children. A retired woman who lives alone also hid in her apartment across the driveway.

These are some of the people our community depends on. Single mothers work hard—often at more than one job—to provide safe homes for their children, supervise their education, and create some fun amid escalating costs of living. Grandmothers support their adult sons and daughters and their grandkids, and are often the first responders in family emergencies.

I recently heard about an elderly woman who cannot do her shopping, even in daylight hours. She gets around with a scooter and is surrounded by people seeking handouts the instant she shows up at the shopping center. How much has this lady served the community throughout her life, only now to be unable to run errands safely?

Student representatives from Chico State recently made a presentation to the city council asking for more lighting on the streets around campus, where they walk to and from jobs and classes. They were not asking to “feel” safer. They were saying that the streets are not safe—a claim that is demonstrably true.

When we use the word “needy,” we usually refer to the homeless. We have responsibilities to help with that level of need. But having a home does not meet all your needs. If you have to hit the deck because of gunfire, or if you can’t leave your home, or if you fear for your safety coming and going from your home, your needs are profound.

The tool a community uses to start meeting the needs of housed and homeless alike, unemployed and the working poor alike, old and young alike, is called the law. Enforcing public safety is a matter of compassion for all citizens. For the sake of our most vulnerable people, it is time for us to criminalize crime.

The Hidden Debate: Privacy and the End of Life

by Matthew Raley

For the second time this year, California legislators aretrying to legalize assisted suicide. After the bill failed in June, Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) reintroduced it in a special session devoted to healthcare financing.

The bill was originally framed as a response to the suicide of Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon after her terminal cancer diagnosis because assisted suicide is illegal in California. An individual, supporters say, has the right to determine when his or her life ends as a purely private matter.

A debate is hidden behind this issue. What is privacy? Is there really a zone where your actions affect no one but yourself, and where no one has a right to “interfere?”

Advocates for the elderly and the disabled argue that assisted suicide is not a private matter. Legalizing it would create an incentive to promote suicide for the weakest patients, whose care is most expensive. They point to the sinister track record of Belgium, where the law first recognized a suicide right for adults under narrow circumstances, but now allows doctors to euthanize children. Not assist in their suicide. Euthanize. With their “consent,” of course.

What starts as an adult’s right to make “private” decisions morphs into something horrific.

The reason is that this supposed zone of privacy doesn’t exist. First, if I take my own life, I am not the only person affected. Suicide affects families, friends, colleagues, entire communities.

Second, this fraudulent privacy merely creates a space around the end of life in which probing questions are silenced. The elderly patient “requested” suicide. Done. Prescribe the pills. We will not question the role of a financially interested adult son, or a callous social worker, or an activist nurse pushing an agenda. We won’t consider those factors even though we know that medical decisions involve many participants, that patients can and do get manipulated, and that healthcare financing plays an increasingly powerful role in care.

Draw the curtain of “privacy” over that discussion, and you have euthanasia in Belgium. The same curtain hides families and boyfriends who bully pregnant women into having abortions. Until recently, it shielded Planned Parenthood’s sale of body parts.

Eggman’s bill will likely stall again. Resistance to fake privacy in California signals that we may still have the courage to defy the culture of death.