[recorded for NPR “Morning Edition” December 2003; postponed to wait for a “news hook,” eventually lost in a system crash]When reports of human cloning first began appearing in the news, a lot of us had the initial reaction, “You're kidding, right?” They weren't kidding. This bizarre field of medical research is rarin' to go. We don't have much time to consider the question: should it? The idea of a full-grown human clone is creepy enough, but what about cloning for medical purposes--making an embryo with a patient's cells, then killing it to use in the patient's treatment? Even here we know instinctively that something's wrong. We know it isn't right to mix up a baby in a test tube and then, when it starts growing, chop it up for medicine. It isn't right to make medicine out of people.
[NPR, “Morning Edition,” January 22, 2003] Thirty years ago, when I was an idealistic college student, I volunteered at a feminist newspaper called “off our backs.” The Roe v Wade decision happened the first month I worked there. Our editorial said it didn't go far enough, because Roe requires a woman to have medical reason for abortion in the third trimester. I thought abortion rights were going to liberate women.
[NPR, Morning Edition, May 3, 2002] Every couple of years this happens. It's like living in the Twilight Zone. For weeks, everywhere I went, there were fluffy chicks and bunny-baskets, and the grocery store was stacked with bags of pastel M & Ms. It was all about Easter--and now it's done. But not for me.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” January 21, 1998] A recurring question in the abortion debate has been whether the fetus meets the definition of “person.” Why should this be relevant? What advantage is it to be a person? What does a person get? At the most basic level, persons get protected from violence. Not all persons are allowed to drive or to vote, but every person is allowed to call the cops if someone tries to beat them up. There are probably many laws that are unnecessary or foolish, but the irreducible minimum are those laws that protect persons from violence--that prevent the larger and stronger from crushing the smaller and weaker. Laws against violence even the odds, replacing an older and more instinctive law of “might makes right.”
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” July 12, 1996] Someone somewhere is sitting in a car. She's just left the office and is trying to get home, but the traffic is backed into a snarl.The setting sun cuts through the windshield, steaming the car and wilting the collar of her blouse. It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be another, all summer, all winter, year after year.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 31, 1997] I don't think I want personal advice from gas pumps. The other day, while standing at a self-serve pump, I heard the machine give a peremptory beep. I turned around and, in the tiny screen that usually offers specials on soft drinks, this message was reeling by: “Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm...” I was moved to some affirmations that weren't all that silent.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” June 24, 1998] An hour before worship my husband and some guys from church arrive to set up, going down the alleylike passage to the side door, past cigarette butts and soda cans. It isn’t a church building, and it isn’t ours, except on Sunday morning; the rest of the week it’s a day care center for adults with psychiatric disabilities. Since we’re Orthodox Christians, creating a worship space takes some work.
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” July 8, 1996] When my daughter came home from college she announced she wants to paint something else on her car. It's already covered with daisies. Now she wants to add cartoon depictions of the Beatles, Yellow-Submarine style, on the doors. The tape rack inside is filled with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. “Everybody I like is dead,” she says. Her brother David is a couple of years younger. His golden hair flows over his shoulders, and he's attempting by sheer force of willpower to generate a moustache and goatee. Wire-rim glasses complete the look. The other day I found him bent over his guitar, picking out the chords to Bob Dylan's “Like a Rolling Stone.”
[NPR, “All Things Considered,” October 6, 1997] I was thumbing through a high-brow magazine the other day and came across an interesting essay on the virtue of Hope. But before I'd finished the first page I caught them in an embarassing blooper. The author stated that hope is ranked alongside faith and love in the 23rd psalm. In case you didn't catch the faux pas, run through the 23rd psalm in your mind--you probably memorized it in kindergarten. Yes, “the Lord is my shepherd is there,” and the part about the valley of the shadow of death, but there's no mention of faith, hope, and love. For that, you have to flip to the other end of the Bible, to St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In his famous meditation on love in chapter 13, he writes, “So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” --Now, does it ring a bell?
[Recorded for NPR “All Things Considered,” June 21, 1996; never aired] Thirty years ago, I was sitting in a stadium screaming at the Beatles and throwing jelly beans. We’d heard that was George’s favorite, so we were doing our best to pelt him. I screamed at Herman's Hermits, too, freaked out with Frank Zappa, and then it was the Stones. But it had been a long time since I'd been to a rock concert. Recently I piled my teenage kids and a couple of their friends into the station wagon and went to hear one of their favorite bands‑‑a band I've overheard enough to enjoy myself.