As I hoped it would, the post about Texas AG Ken Paxton’s cliched response when asked what he would say to a parent of one of the children slain by Salvador Ramos in Uvalde (“I believe god always has a plan. Life is short, no matter what it is.”) prompted an excellent discussion, with many outstanding comments. I am highlighting John Paul‘s entry as a Comment of the Day, but the discussion itself is well worth reviewing.
For some reason, I am just now realizing that virtually all of the discussion, including my analysis in the original post, has focused on the first part of Paxton’s statement, and ignored the equally obnoxious second sentence, “Life is short, no matter what it is.” Let me quickly remedy that now.
While the first sentence is a cosmic assertion of dubious legitimacy, the second is a pure shrug. It is a rationalization, essentially following the infuriating logic of the worst on the Ethics Alarms list, the infamous #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” Paxton is saying that all deaths come too soon, so we shouldn’t over-rate the tragedy of any death, even in the violent murder of a child. It’s a stunningly callous and stupid thing to say, and it is also untrue. “Life is short” is meaningless, because “short” is a relative term. If Paxton means human life is too short, as I assume he does, that is also an infantile assertion. Compared to what? A mayfly (or an aborted fetus) would be profoundly envious of the life we find to be “too short.” H.P. Lovecraft wrote a famous horror story about a woman who wished for and was granted eternal life without eternal youth, and ended up as a centuries old , mad, twisted, monstrous thing chained to the wall of a dungeon. Her life, it’s fair to conclude, was too long. So were the lives of Ted Bundy and Salvador Ramos, as well as the lives of all of history’s monsters and murderers. Jacques Cousteau famously wrote that he thought he was going to drown when he was just a teenager, but had experienced so much that he felt like his life had been long enough, and was ready to perish content. My father had, in George Bailey’s terms, a wonderful life, but it ended exactly when he wanted it to, because he could no longer live it on his own terms. The fact is that a life snuffed out in childhood is genuinely too short, and the fact that George Bernard Shaw or, some day soon, Queen Elizabeth isn’t quite ready to go when the time comes is an offensive, disrespectful, inexcusable comparison.
Here is John Paul’s Comment of the Day on the post, “An Ethics Quiz In An Ethics Quiz: Texas A.G. Ken Paxton’s Facile Remark”: