By CHRIS POWELL
What should the legislation now making another appearance in the General Assembly be called: "aid in dying" or "assisted suicide"? It depends which side you're on.
"Aid in dying" makes it sound a lot nicer, just as "pro-choice" has become the euphemism for "pro-abortion" or, more fairly, "pro-abortion rights." Meanwhile there is no getting around it: "Suicide" signifies desperation and despair.
The bill would authorize doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medicine to terminally ill people who want to end their lives. They might have various motives - chronic pain, invalidism, reluctance to become a burden on their families, or severe depression.
The bill's opponents contend that pain almost always can be controlled medically now and that there would be great risk of hustling the afflicted into dying for the convenience of others. The bill's advocates say it contains regulations against that.
This trust in regulations may be a bit naive since government can't always be around when it is needed. Who can forget the "bring out your dead" scene in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"? That's where the wheelbarrow master collecting corpses amid a plague declines to accept a frail old man who is being carried out by a young relative while still alive. The wheelbarrow master says, "I can't take him like that. It's against regulations." But a little cajoling by the young relative produces the "aid in dying" necessary to get the old man loaded aboard - a quick and surreptitious clubbing to the head.
On the other hand, can government be trusted to tell people what they can do with their own lives? Who else's business is it really? How is the "war on drugs" working out?
In his play "Julius Caesar" Shakespeare inclines to the libertarian side of the issue as the conspirators discuss the risk of failure of their plot to assassinate the emperor and restore the Roman republic.
CASSIUS: I know where I will wear this dagger then;
Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.
Therein, you gods, you make the weak most strong.
Therein, you gods, you tyrants do defeat.
Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron
Can be retentive to the strength of spirit.
But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
If I know this, know all the world besides,
That part of tyranny that I do bear
I can shake off at pleasure.
CASCA: So can I.
So every bondman in his own hand bears
The power to cancel his captivity.
Good for the Catholic Church in Connecticut for citing the sanctity of life in opposing "aid in dying." But far more lives - mostly young ones - are lost or jeopardized every day because of practices and policies that neither the government nor the church bothers to get upset about or even examine.
After all, in the long run we're all terminally ill even as the short run is often one blind spot after another.
NULLIFICATION CATCHES ON
Republican-leaning states that support Second Amendment rights are considering legislation to nullify federal gun laws, especially now that background-check legislation has a good chance of passing Congress. But somehow this nullification movement seems to have escaped the denunciation it deserves from Connecticut's congressional delegation, all of whose members support stronger federal gun controls.
Could such denunciation be lacking because no one in authority in government in Connecticut has any business criticizing nullification elsewhere? For Democratic-leaning Connecticut long has been engaging in more nullification than any state since the civil rights era of the 1950s and '60s. Connecticut's nullification is aimed against federal immigration law, as the state obstructs federal immigration agents from doing their jobs and issues driver's licenses and other forms of identification to immigration lawbreakers.
The Republican-leaning states are only contemplating nullification. In Connecticut it is aggressive policy.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.