We seem increasingly obsessed with making life as perfect as possible – as if we could control its beginning, middle and end. Advances in genetics hold out the possibility of creating designer babies with no birth defects at all. Euthanasia gives the option of finishing things early when existence gets too much to bear. And implicit in all of this is the view that life isn’t truly valuable unless it is healthy, pain free and contributing to Gross National Product. The sick and the old are a burden. The most helpful thing they could do is go away.
Excuse the cliché, but it’s hard not to see of all this happening and think of the 1930s – when the Western world became hooked on the idea that it could create a cleaner, happier population with the application of medical cruelty. This was barbarism disguised as reason.
The true moral test of a society is not how pretty, sober or well organized it is – but how it treats its most vulnerable, even its most difficult, citizens. And the true sign of grace in a man is his ability to look at something that is supposedly ugly, or just different from himself, and see beauty.
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