Now that the Supreme Court has upheld Oregon’s assisted suicide statute, let’s raise a glass of hemlock to a new slogan for our proudly independent state: “Live Free and Die.”
This is, of course, a mildly edited version of the New Hampshire state slogan. It is traced to Gen. John Stark, New Hampshire’s most famous Revolutionary War soldier, who in 1809 couldn’t attend an anniversary reunion of those who fought at the Battle of Bennington. So he sent a toast: “Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils.”
No, dying under the thumb of an imperious federal bureaucracy would be worse than dying at a moment and in a manner of your own choosing. Which is just what Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act provides terminally ill patients who have less than six months to live, as I discussed in a Church of the Churchless post yesterday, “Assisted suicide is moral, Scalia isn’t.”
Bill Long is a friend, author, attorney, Willamette University law professor, and prolific essayist (plus, a perennial runner-up in the National Senior Spelling Bee). He inspired me to come up with my one-word change in New Hampshire’s state slogan with his hugely more creative revision of Oregon’s state song.
The pre-Gonzales v. Oregon words to the song are pretty lame. (Sample lyric: “Land of the Empire Builders, Land of the Golden West; Conquered and held by free men, Fairest and the best.”)
Bill’s version probably will be sung with gusto only at Bar Association meetings, but at least he’s brought the song up to date with the recent Supreme Court decision:
Land of the Suiciders, Land of flowing Nembutal;
Chased by Ashcroft's minions, to lock us in their thrall;
No! said Hardy, No! said John; we'll not give up our fight;
We love you too much, Oregon, to yield to Ashcroft's might.
Land of the legal scholars, who argued in our defense;
"Give us the Skidmore, but not the Chevron deference";
A cold baptism for Roberts, along with Scaliamas;
But 6-3 for Oregon, a victory for us.
If you’d like to let Bill know what you think of his new and improved Oregon song, send him an email. Traditionalists: sing it in the shower for a few days; it might grow on you (or, it might not).
Apart from the vastly increased topicality of these new lyrics, there’s another reason to adopt Bill’s version. Is it still appropriate to end Oregon’s state song with these lines?
Blest by the blood of martyrs, Land of the setting sun; Hail to thee, Land of Promise, My Oregon.
Sounds pretty jihadist to me. However, in the tape from Osama bin Laden that was released today, he expresses some sentiments that are right in line with the attitude of Oregonians to assisted suicide and the right to die. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews quoted the tape as saying:
I swear not to die but a free man, even as I taste the bitterness of death.
On this much, Osama bin Laden and John Stark are in agreement. Count me in too.
[Bill also has written an essay on the Supreme Court assisted suicide decision that can be read here.]