A look at the disturbing trend of Congressional solicitations to Hollywood celebrities for testimony on key issues.
Americans are deeply divided over many issues—our nation’s approach to the war on terrorism is one—our Middle East policy, another. And fetal stem cell research, is yet another.
Just last week, Congress was again entreated for federal permission and funding to carry out mass murder in the name of medical science. Actor Michael J. Fox is one of the prominent advocates for stem cell research that may—as many professionals suggest—lead one day to a cure (or at least, a better treatment) for Parkinson’s disease. But the human cost of this research will be high.
As a voter, I am concerned that high-profile celebrities are gaining increased exposure for their special interest (and often, self-interest) causes while the opposing views are ignored. Mary Tyler Moore can appear before Congress to plead for increased federal dollars—mine and yours—for diabetes research. One need not even be a US citizen to make such an appeal. Even Elton John has gone to Washington to advance a proposal for a US-led campaign to treat AIDS patients in Africa.
Network media amplifies the arguments made by the entertainers through its use of sound-bite journalism. Opposing views are rarely mentioned and never articulated. Who claims to speak for those most innocent human beings whose very lives are being negotiated away in the name of compassion and caring? Silence alone speaks for them.
No compassionate soul would debate that AIDS, Parkinson’s, and diabetes are cruel and miserable disorders. No one would argue that Christopher Reeve’s spinal paralysis is also a horrible condition. But where truly compassionate people draw the line, is the trading of one life for the convenience of another. With all other factors being equal, what human being has the right to judge the value of another? I suggest that none of us has that authority.
Knowledge always demands a response. Medicine has made tremendous advances in the last 150 years. It’s time for us to dispense with the Civil War era understanding of life and its correspondingly limited 14th Amendment extension of protection only to “persons born or naturalized.”
We now know that life begins at conception. That’s a scientific fact. The point of contention is, and always has been, whether or not we have a moral responsibility to defend life against self-interest, political expediency, and all other enemies. It is the reason why debates over abortion and virtually every other moral issue invariably deteriorate into the bombastic and outrageous defenses of “rights” devoid of any acknowledgment of personal responsibility.
Each of us should be as concerned about the number and character of individuals appearing before Congress as we should about the nature of the requests they make for our money and our concurrence in law. The rash of appearances by entertainment notables are used as a method of policy-making by proxy, divorcing lawmakers from their constituents, and reason from thoughtful deliberation.
Solicitation of ideas from experts in a particular field is a worthwhile and necessary pursuit for elected officials. But the current trend of summoning Hollywood’s weary and music’s worn-out rockers for advice on vital cultural values and decisions dealing with esoteric issues should be carefully scrutinized.