“Just to be clear, Adam. You do realize that it’s for me alone to decide what’s in your best interests. If I were to rule that the hospital may legally transfuse you against your wishes, what will you think?”
He was sitting up, breathing hard, and seemed to sag a little at the question, but he smiled. ‘I’d think My Lady was an interfering busybody.” (Ian McEwan, The Children Act, 117-118).
Around the World through Books’ upcoming program on Thursday, November 10, will be framed by the events of The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan. Paralegal Studies program head Susan Brewer will lead the discussion, a challenging task because:
- Not everyone will have read the book, and that’s okay.(But all three Reynolds Libraries have copies to lend.)
- Though this program is sponsored by the Multicultural Enrichment Council, it is not particularly multicultural—at least not in the sense of ethnic diversity. It is set in London, England, and the main characters are white middle-class folk of decent background and intelligence, with nobody particularly harassing them.
- This is a book without much action or plot, and almost everybody in it wants what’s best for the others. Almost everybody. Yet it has a sense of urgency and is literally about life and death decisions.
This is a book about searching for truth, and it’s a book about judging. Fiona Maye is a high court judge who must decide whether a young man with leukemia, Adam Henry, a Jehovah’s Witness, must have the blood transfusion which he wants to refuse, but without which his treatment will surely fail. Adam is seventeen and three-quarters, still technically a minor, but well over the sixteen years at which a child’s wishes are usually considered in legal matters. His parents support his choice. The hospital has brought it to court—the doctors want to save this charming, intelligent young man. The Henrys believe that Biblical injunctions to abstain from eating blood also preclude accepting blood products into the body. Adam is prepared to die rather than disobey God.
What’s multicultural about all that? What does this book have to do with diversity and inclusion? Here are three answers; perhaps you can supply more. Or perhaps the program will give us a chance to develop other ideas—come to LTC 220 from 7-8:30 on Thursday, Nov. 10 and see.
- Religious convictions (or anti-convictions) are part of each person’s cultural identity. They help define our understanding of right and wrong and how things ought to be, which in turn affects how we treat each other.
- Even reasoned, critical thinking based on law (The Children Act is the British child protective services law, to oversimplify it), logic, and the best of intentions is affected by the context of cultural conventions, parental and social influences, and, perhaps, life’s momentous distractions. Fiona is childless and her husband is behaving badly.
- Fiona’s husband is behaving badly. It is accurate to say he’s being really stupid and selfish, but that sounds so judgmental. Society today has a “Don’t judge!” mantra. “Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1),” is quoted frequently. But what does that really mean? How can we be inclusive, kind, and respectful, and still be true to our own convictions about right and wrong?