With respect to the twenty-six cent fiasco: While this might be explained away as an “administrative error”, or a “policy decision,” or whatever other kind of excuse-making by the medical insurers (and their political supporters) in the United States, it nevertheless stands as nothing less than a crime perpetrated in slow motion, in bright daylight, on paper. And as a nation that bears witness to it, and millions of other death-by-insurance disasters, Americans are out of excuses. The politicians currently threatening to shut down the government rather than allow the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be fully enacted have only the bogey-man of creeping socialism and “death panels” to peddle — and their audiences ought not be buying. For those who are not yet certain which way to lean, it is long past time to choose sides. I must turn to Hannah Arendt yet again, who reminds us that “[t]he sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
With respect to Russian anti-gay hysteria: I am not sure what to say here that is not obvious, or that has not already been said by others. As a native of Russia, I am distressed, embarrassed, horrified — but not surprised. The lack of democratic history, the general puritanical leanings of the inheritors of several generations of Soviet sexual, social, and political rigidity, combined with a decided rightward drift of the increasingly totalitarian government make for a nation that wears its hatreds on its sleeve. The fact that it is members of LGBT communities who are on the receiving end of official Two Minutes Hate, or, really at this point Hate Week, is exactly what it appears to be: a deliberate and paranoid grasping of a sociopolitically floundering nation for what it knows best — official national villains and moral aliens, ready-made to “other” and expel. What makes the Dmitri Kisilev story particularly repulsive and frightening, however, is his unambiguous essentializing of certain kinds of human beings as physiologically, fundamentally defective: not just their sexual preferences and behaviors, but their very bodies themselves. This Deputy General Director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (RTR) (since 2008) has said that “I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough.” [Gay people] “should be banned from donating blood, sperm….their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.” Gay people, Kisilev thus insists, ought to be effectively excluded from not just the rights of citizenship, but from the shared physical and moral universe of human beings. Their very organs, their blood, are not fit for human use. And he says this openly, on “Vesti,” which is one of Russia’s most popular news shows. And gets applause.
What is happening politically in Russia right now is a general disaster in the making. What is happening to the Russian LGBT communities right now is a specific, growing, and imminent catastrophe that requires immediate and decisive response from the world community. And from the community of bioethicists, broadly construed. So, fellow bioethicists: Thoughts? Ideas? Comments? Please share. We have seen this before. We probably do not have much time.