“Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” Hannah Arendt
Today is my birthday. I’m now 61 years old. I couldn’t have imagined, as a kid, that I’d be this old. But here I am – a husband for 38 years, a father of three precocious daughters, and, of all things, a grandfather of four boys. As a kid, I was largely clueless about a lot of things, which is the way it’s supposed to be. But, as an adult, if we aren’t aware of what’s happening – especially because of indifference – well then, we have the beginnings of real evil.
The State of Wisconsin, the place I have lived for the past thirteen years, now stands out as what I describe as a marijuana desert. In every state of the union, either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, or both, are now legal. But not Wisconsin. State Republican House Speaker, Robin Vos, has stated multiple times, “We are looking to say medical marijuana for people who have a truly awful long-term medical condition should be something we at least consider…. I don’t think recreational should ever happen.”
My grandson is thirteen years old, and has had epilepsy his entire life. Every time my little buddy is hooked up to an EEG (used to measure the electrical activity of the brain, via electrodes applied to the scalp) the data shows that he, at times, experiences as many as three seizures per minute.
Granted, they are rarely the grand mal, big-daddy-of-them-all, kind of seizures. Nevertheless, they are still seizures. The best pediatric doctors in the Midwest for this kind of thing tell us something that doctors aren’t prone to say, that they are stumped. Little buddy experiences up to seven different kinds of seizures, and he has defied any kind of solid diagnosis as to the nature of the epilepsy, let alone even thinking about a prognosis – other than that, if unchecked, he will not live to see adulthood.
Yes, he is on medication – lots of it – with unimaginable side effects. Yet, without the meds, he would be having literally hundreds of seizures in any given day. Even on a good day, he has dozens. And even though most of his seizures last only a few seconds, each and every seizure damages the brain, if only a little bit. Add up the thousands of seizures over the span of a thirteen year old life, and factor the tens of thousands of them he will yet have in the next years and it, in my puny limited understanding, doesn’t look promising no matter how you examine it.
When supposedly well-meaning politicians, pundits, religious folk, and faith communities rant about the ethics and morality of ungodly “potheads” having a legal avenue for their recreational smoking, what gets lost in the mix are children and families who could potentially be helped by legalizing marijuana – by a carefully genetically engineered strain administered medically and safely.
In this grandfather’s mind (and heart) the greater risk is to keep doing what we’ve always done and hope that all will work out okay someday. When it pertains to a child’s life – that kind of thinking doesn’t cut it for me. It’s nothing more than the banality of evil, of keeping some political constituents happy, above thinking about the life of human beings in your own backyard.
As a Christian Pastor, encountering this kind of ignorance amongst both politicians and parishioners is nothing new. Far too many of my denominational meetings have been given to angry persons upset about abortion and gays. Whereas there are those who believe this country is, in the words of one man, “trampling our Constitution and we are being judged as a nation for killing babies.”
Without me even attempting to deal with any rightness or wrongness to that statement, the only kind of good that that kind of proclamation did was personal to the proclaimer – he just got something off his chest, and maybe he felt better for it. But I was left wondering: What about women who have had an abortion? I cannot even begin to imagine that if there was a woman in the room who had an abortion in the past having to sit and listen to a guy put a label on her as a murderer. There is enough regret and grief in many a woman’s own heart without having someone twist the knife for her.
There is a reason why many people often do not want others to know what they really think about certain issues, and why they want to keep all their skeletons in the closet. They do not want to be judged and condemned, and they have every reason to think that they will be – whenever they hear the raving of “Christians” who believe they are doing God a favor by effecting holiness through noise.
It is imperative that we all, especially the Church, do the best we possibly can in order to create and sustain a culture of compassion and care through continual monitoring of what actually comes out of our mouths. When there are oft mentions of “the sin of homosexuality,” peppered with defamation upon LGBTQ+ folks; whenever there is a stream of hateful references to particular persons in poverty, or groups of black and brown people; and, when there is a blanket denunciation of marijuana as always being linked with persons getting high; then there is not an atmosphere of grace that leads to life, but a culture of fear that leads to death.
Where some see the “issues” of gay marriage and transgendered inclusion, I see people created in the image of God who have the same needs of respect and equality that I do. Where some see political “issues,” I see persons in need of God’s justice and peace and basic human rights and decency. Where some see the “issues” of poor lower class people versus upper class wealthy people; or Latin concerns versus Black concerns; or blue collar people’s agenda versus white collar people’s agenda; or plain (white) Americans versus all the other hyphenated Americans; instead, I see people – people in need of grace, mercy, and peace, just like me, who need a seat at the table and are heard in their own right with listening ears from me.
My daughter needs support with her special needs son who happens to have epilepsy. I am glad I can be there for her and for him. I am glad my church and many others care about them. This old sinful world has enough shame and pain in it without adding to the pile through ignorance and strife. Before we use our tongues, let’s have some working knowledge and some basic education about what we are talking about. Most of all, let’s have some basic decorum and some working knowledge of God’s grace.
So, this grandfather says to those in political power: “Do you consider this situation of a young boy with a terminal condition of epilepsy acceptable?” Evidently so since lawmakers have purposely dragged their feet for years about medical marijuana. There are times when individuals need to be called out, and a situation must be named for what it is. This grandfather, for one, is calling out the Wisconsin legislature, along with Speaker Vos, and naming this for what it is: indifference to human suffering.
As of today, it is unfortunately too late for my grandson to have any significant assistance from medical marijuana in the form of cannabis oil for his condition. His epilepsy has come too far, and his brain has simply had far too many seizures. The hard reality is that, apart from a miraculous divine intervention, my grandson (who, I might add, is one of the nicest people of any age you’ll ever meet) will likely never see adulthood. But that wasn’t true 10 years ago, when I was writing letters and, evidently, speaking into the wilderness – getting form letter responses, if any response, at all.
The time for consideration is past. Debate the “issue” of marijuana all you want. Meanwhile, there are people in Wisconsin who live with chronic pain and have to cross state lines just to get some help and a bit of relief from their chronic conditions. It is not supposed to be this way. And it does not have to be this way. Never mind that medical marijuana has been shown to significantly reduce and even eliminate some seizures in children. Ears have been stopped up and eyes wide shut for so long that hearts have become hard – and cannot even have compassion on children who are, frankly and literally, dying.
There is a biblical proverb which states, “People who respect others will be blessed, but stubborn people will have plenty of troubles.” (Proverbs 28:14) We expect kids to be immature. And we expect the adults in the room to have the requisite growth over a period of time in order to make wise, responsible, and mature decisions. It looks like there are lot of politicians in need of remedial learning. Their stubbornness has already led to too much trouble for all of us.
*The Epilepsy Foundation exists to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives. For more information, you may go to their website at epilepsy.com
**To learn more about epilepsy in Wisconsin, go to their website at epilepsywisconsin.org
***For information on medical marijuana and epilepsy: epilepsy.com/treatment/alternative-therapies/medical-marijuana