“They’re literally a murderers’ row.”
Disgusted with herself and her world, Olivia Pope, the character Kerry Washington plays on the ABC show “Scandal” was sitting in the White House chief of staff’s office laughing hysterically and condemning her fellow politicos.
Part of the point of a show like “Scandal” is the intense absurdity. But, the day after this episode aired, as I went to a morning Mass on Capitol Hill packed with congressmen, I couldn’t help but wish that this reverent side of Washington, instead of the darkness of “Scandal” and the twisted chic of the Netflix hit “House of Cards,” would make its way into our culture.
There are people throughout this country and even in and around the Beltway who are beacons of light. I got to know Kathy and Paul through mutual friends. We share a healthy New York Yankees’ fan’s aversion to Red Sox Nation (and remember when you could afford to buy tickets to the game) and have attended a Pet Shop Boys concert together.
They’re good, fun, unassuming, kind and generous people. They’re also heroic, as is their youngest child, Margaret.
Maggie is one of those children who probably shouldn’t be alive by our modern “quality of life” standards. Her parents had to fight so that her life would be valued and given a shot in the face of adverse diagnoses (some of them incorrect). She was born with her intestines outside her body, and a whole host of other problems that foretold a short life, but Maggie is thriving six months on.
Kathy, who, despite being understandably scared during her pregnancy, never stopped battling for her unborn daughter, has had her own medical problems in recent days, not that she’d tell you about it. Despite that, she makes the difficult commute at least once a day to the medical center where Maggie is being cared for, to visit her daughter for at least a couple hours. “She is not complete unless she sees Maggie,” her close friend Casey says.
Kathy’s husband is dubbed “nothing-is-a-problem Paul” by Casey. He stands by his wife, who he adores, and always puts some humor into things. Devoted to his family, he takes care of them joyfully and without hesitation. Both Kathy and Paul view life as a tremendous responsibility, one full of wonder, work and duty.
Maggie had a chance because of her brave parents and the fact that doctors are fighting back against a medical culture increasingly comfortable with giving up on life for reasons of efficiency, resources and even regulation. Dr. John Bruchalski is among their heroes; the Tepeyac Family Center he founded welcomed Maggie when other doctors had given up.
Later this month, the Supreme Court will hear the first challenge to the Department of Health and Human Services’ abortion-drug and contraception mandate. The approach of this landmark has brought a wash of social-media commentary, some insisting that the case is about access to birth control and busybody businessmen trying to trample on women’s freedom. But the fact of the matter is that nearly a third of 45 for-profit cases brought against the regulation involve women plaintiffs. Talk to plaintiffs Mary Frances Callahan, Mary Clare Bick, Mary Patricia Davies, Mary Margaret Jonz, and Mary Sarah Alexander about the war they are supposedly waging on their own gender.
If Americans can get over our joint cynicism and ridiculous expectations about Washington, campaigns and media might not fall back on manipulative, patronizing scare tactics quite so often. They might instead look in the eyes of inner-city schoolchildren — who are endangered by this unnecessary regulation, which is a threat to the future of the institutions that in some cases make all the difference in their lives — or to girls like Maggie and be inspired. We can choose to always err on the side of life, in our politics, in our medicine and in our culture.