Debulk the Congress?

I wonder what America would be like if it were “debulked”  of  its political system, or, more specifically, of its Congress?

I just picked up the term, “debulk,” while reading a review of a book, Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer, by Susan Gubar. The review, written by Elsa Dixler and which appeared in The New York Times Book Review this week, describes debulking as “evisceration or vivisection or disembowelment, but performed on a live human being.”  Gubar, a feminist scholar who describes her bout with ovarian cancer in the reviewed book, underwent surgery to be “debulked” after her cancer was discovered.  This surgery involves trying to get out as much of the cancerous tissue by taking as much of it out as possible, as well as affected organs. The operation, said the article, is thought to extend the life of the cancer patient, but does not cure the disease.

I thought of the term as I listened to a news report about the senate race in Indiana, where veteran Republican Senator Dick Lugar is being challenged by a Tea Party opponent, Richard Mourdock, who is apparently going after Lugar mostly for his ability and record to have “reached across the aisle” to reach compromise in his role as a legislator of this country. Lugar is the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator.

There seems that the lack of desire to compromise is at the core of this nation’s political gut, and it spreads, or has spread, an ugly spirit throughout the nation. If I understand the lessons of my elementary, middle and high school civics classes, the three branches of government were put into place so as to prevent the monopoly of any political party or individual in terms of policy or ideology, thereby assuring a more fair government for “we the people,” as opposed to for “we, some of the people.” Compromise helps that ideal to be realized, right?

The desire for compromise, however, has been viciously opposed.  Reluctance to compromise has  been at our core for a while but it has gotten so much worse since 2008, and the vitriol which has accompanied it has seemingly metastasized in mammoth proportions.  Our nation’s Congress has argued and quibbled over the most basic things, at the expense of the country,and the refusal to compromise and look for common ground has created a rancid atmosphere of political disease which really threatens the very life of this nation.

This diseased body politic is completely impotent to deal with our nation’s issues. All that it has done for the past four years is stirred the pots of its own dysfunction, despite rhetoric that it is concerned with “the American people.” Which American people would that be? The 42 million who live in poverty? The women whose health care needs are being threatened by disastrous policies? The students whose student loan debt is keeping them in perpetual debt?

What if the nation were debulked of its Congress? What if all three branches of government were excised, as it were, and a whole new set of legislators and jurists were put into place, along with a new executive branch? Maybe what has happened is that the Congress has been diseased by members having been in place for too long. Doctors say that much cancer comes from bad diets and lack of exercise. Maybe the Congress became cancerous a while ago, because of inaction and resultant complacency. Maybe the Congress needs to be debulked, and the government needs some political chemotherapy, to rid the nation of any residual ideology which results in such impassivity and rancor.

Like the treatment for ovarian cancer, the debulking will not cure the disease…but it may prolong the life of these United States.

A candid observation…

A Death in the Family

My sister died yesterday.

Her death was not unexpected; she had battled cancer like a trooper, the first time, 20 years ago, and then again, last year this time, when it came back.

She was tired of fighting, tired of going back to the hospital, tired of getting blood and medicine and more blood. I think she just said, “OK, already. Enough.”

She is the first of our siblings to die. My parents both died years ago. We five children have always had each other. Now we are five, minus one. It feels strange.

I have learned not to despise death, or even fear it, but rather, consider death a part of our life cycle.  I keep thinking of John Donne’s sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud:”

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so,

For, those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,

Die, not, poor, death, not yet canst thou kill mee.

I can rather hear my sister saying that to Death as it approached her. She defied death and the doctors, from the first time she was diagnosed with cancer until the end. Doctors said she would be gone much sooner than now; my sister told them both, “I think not.”

When I saw her in April, we were able to talk and laugh and share. What she wanted most was a cup of coffee from McDonald’s. I ran out to get her a cup and the last thing I did before I left that time was to bring her another cup of that coffee. It felt good to give her something she wanted. I took a picture of her, in her hospital bed, with her bald head and IV…and cup of coffee. That picture will forever make me smile.

I am, as a pastor, very familiar with losing people I love. I am even more familiar with the loss death deals as a member of a family. Death doesn’t affect the one who dies nearly as much as it wrangles those left behind.

This coming Monday would have been her birthday. Well, I guess it still is …it’s just that she’s celebrating it in a different space.

Is she gone? Well, physically, yes, but her spirit is all over the place. No life, once shared, is ever fully gone. I took a walk this morning and saw two amazingly beautiful Blue Jays. It was if she had sent them into my space to remind me that her spirit is forever.

There is a comfort I feel, remembering my tenacious sister and John Donne’s poem: death didn’t beat her. She took Death by the hand and led it to where she wanted it to wait until she was ready to go.

Death clearly, in this case, cannot be proud.

That would be a candid observation.