After making some serious mistakes and being physically trapped by an 800 pound boulder for 5 days, Aron Ralston hacked his own arm off. I know it's significant and that I have not been in his particular situation but when I read this, I have to be honest, the first thing I said to myself was, "Big deal." A shocking response; let's examine it.
I hacked off more than my arm to escape a very bad physical situation; I aborted my child in the second trimester because I was pretty dehydrated and hadn't eaten a meal in 63 days. Oh, over the course of seven days, I might have been able to choke down 3 plain, lukewarm waffles without vomiting most of it up, and between a few quick IV's and vomit-triggering attempts at oral fluid intake I was able to survive those 63 days, but I was receiving substandard health care, and it was starting to show in my yellow skin and the freaky hallucinations I began to experience. I'm not saying I would have died like ol' Aron, but there was potential. And, like Aron, I also felt trapped, was scared I might die and was suffering (which many people prefer death to). Like Aron, I started to weigh my options, and the only thing I could come up with at the time was a grisly "amputation".
"How could he have done it?" people are asking. To me it's very simple. He wanted to go back to his old life; he wanted to eat, to drink, to live and be out of immediate danger. I know that kind of desperation. Only I'm not a "hero" like Aron, because my "appendage" was my child and not a part of my body at all. Aron gave his arm to live while I involved myself in child sacrifice. (Interestingly, Aron's amputated arm was taken to a mortuary, while the abortion clinic refused to release our child's body to our funeral home.)
Of course, I'm speaking in broad terms of physical crisis and how far people will go to escape, but yes, I know the two situations are a little different. The death threat to Aron may have been more tangible after his 5 day ordeal in the hot sun. For me, after 63 days of literal, clinical starvation and puking up blood I just couldn't take the torture anymore, and I wanted out. Hack off an arm, hack off a leg, hack off a baby? Sure thing. Whatever. "Just get me out of here." I look back and see so many things I could have done differently. I wonder if Aron will do the same. I wonder if, after the fact, he will learn of tools he didn't know about, tools that he could have had with him to dislodge his arm, some kind of hikers' lever or wedge or something? Or I wonder if he will regret not drinking his own urine to survive dehydration for a few more days in which time someone might have found him.
I'm sure Aron will regret the loss of an arm he wanted, and he may sometimes wonder what his life would be like if he still had it, but I don't think he will wonder what it would look like, sound like, smell like, be like if he had not chosen to cut off its blood supply and leave it rotting behind him. He will probably not long to hold his arm, hug it, rock it, kiss it, raise it, actively love and care for it. He will not grieve his arm as a mother grieves a lost child.
Cutting off your arm to escape from a physical crisis may not be a bad idea, because it doesn't involve the same consequences of child sacrifice, although there is a "grieving" process. Amputating a baby to escape a physical crisis may not be a good idea at all because it kills your child and thrusts you into literal mourning, grief for which there is no prosthetic, crisis for which many find no escape but the dull weathering of time. (I find it interesting that certain "pro-choice" groups deny the existence of abortion-related grief, while physical rehab groups openly acknowledge that the loss of a pinkie toe can cause one to sorrow.)
As a side note, I think physicians who view the growing child as little more than an appendix will work harder to save a woman's arm. When many positive treatment options are available, it's wrong to deny them to a woman because of expense, frustration or lack of motivation to research and work towards a better solution than abortion. Therapeutic termination saves time and frustration for physicians. If a patient chooses to continue a disease that is difficult and expensive to manage, she remains the doctor's headache (and possible liability). If she aborts, no matter what her emotional outcome, she is out of the doctor's hair. (And try taking your doctor to court when you abort for maternal health reasons; all they have to say is you didn't really want your baby and the proof is in the bell jar. Boom, case closed. I know this from experience.)
I don't mean to offend anyone here, but I often marvel at America's fascination with asinine subjects such as the California Raisins and Beanie Babies. I don't understand nick nacks or peoples' desire for more things to dust, and I suppose it's also hard for me to understand national awe and attention over a guy who hacks his arm off to escape a crisis...when every single day in our country nearly 5,000 women lay their bodies down and sacrifice much more of themselves. While I am glad that Aron is alive, and while I have great empathy for him in his situation, I don't think we should focus our curiosity entirely on how base or desperate a person can become to escape a crisis. The myriad articles on Aron should not be a study on how awesome it is to have the courage to maim ourselves for the sake of "liberation". Instead, we should carefully (non-punatively) examine the mistakes and encourage others to avoid them. This has become the framework of my grief. This is how I live with it, because nothing else makes sense to me.
If you care about someone you don't teach them to amputate in a crisis. If you care about someone, you plant the truth in their heart and soul and teach them to avoid the crisis in the first place. That's newsworthy.