Thursday, August 28, 2014

The ALS Challenge

An awful lot of Internet bandwidth lately has gone to video clips of people attempting, with varying degrees of success, to dump buckets of ice on their own or their friends’ heads. This is done, no doubt, in the earnest belief that such actions will help to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” even though no one knows who Lou Gehrig was anymore.

I’m not opposed to curing debilitating and life-threatening diseases, though I have my doubts about how effective the ice dousing is, especially on people who don’t actually have ALS. My other reservation, though, is that I already have my own favorite illnesses, whose cures seem to be linked to walks, bike rides, concerts and telethons and even black tie dinners. My hit list of diseases includes such popular ones as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and the ever-popular genitourinary cancer. (I think the first thing I’ll donate is a hyphen, since “genito-urinary” doesn’t look quite so much like a travel planning Web site.)

If the point of the ALS challenge is to discomfort and humiliate those who refuse to donate, wouldn’t it be more effective to prolong the drama? Done my way, the challenge can last for days. Or, to paraphrase a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous (itself a venerable disease treatment organization), one cube at a time.

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