The Politics Of Saving Lives

by Mackenzie Armstrong

‘I am very sorry, sir, you are out of luck. Fighting your disease would be politically incorrect. It is not inclusive enough. If you had AIDS, on the other hand…’
Every year, thousands of university students across Canada participate in Shinerama and help those with cystic fibrosis live longer. I was lucky enough to be one of these students. It was my first week at Dalhousie and hundreds of us clogged the sidewalks of downtown Halifax, bothering people for their pennies and their dimes.
When the day was over, a representative of the CCFF (Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation) stepped in front of the masses of first year students and gave a powerful speech. She said that the life expectancy of those affected has increased by 40 years since the Shinerama campaign began. Of course, the fundraiser cannot take all of the credit but it has certainly done its part. She then shared traumatic stories regarding patient whose lives were completely consumed by CF. She exposed a more human perspective concerning an infliction that I had only read about in biology textbooks.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease that affects primarily the lungs and the digestive system. In the lungs, mucus buildup makes it hard for the body to fight bacteria, so breathing becomes extremely difficult due to infection. The mucus also restricts enzymes from digest food properly so for CF patients to get enough nutrients, they have to take an average of 20 pills every time they have a snack. One in every 3600 Canadians is born with this brutal disease for which there is no cure.
A few weeks ago, the students’ council at Carleton University passed a motion to discontinue Shinerama on a very odd, and outrageous, pretense. They claimed that the majority of those living with CF are white males, and therefore the fundraiser was too inclusive. In other words, since the disease only affected a specific group of people, they did not believe that it would be politically correct to ask the student population to lend a hand in the search for a cure.
I may be mistaken, but I do not see how a charity could be deemed politically incorrect when it is, in fact, fighting a disease. If the charity was funding the activities of neo-Nazis or the fabrication of napalm, I would understand. Shinerama is fighting death not encouraging it. I thought that a man’s response to an article posted on
www.hotair.com was both appropriate and powerful.
He said, “I live with a mild form of CF. Luckily I live a fairly normal life, but there are tens of thousands that can’t…When I e-mailed this story to my wife, she cried. We are expecting our first son, and there is a small chance that he may be born with CF as I am a carrier. Our child will be born 1/4 Mexican. Is that diverse enough for these clowns?”
After receiving a few days’ worth of much-deserved criticism, the council passed a motion to reinstate Shinerama.
That such an idea could have gained any momentum in the first place is very disturbing. What made this council forget what is means to be blatantly racist and sexist? For obvious reasons, my opinion is biased but considering the national uproar, it does not appear as though my opinion is unique. And, to think: this all began because someone was worried about being politically incorrect.

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Mackenzie Armstrong

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