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A Good Man Is Hard to Find


So let me get this straight: The President of the United States – a man who doesn’t attend the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq – can rush away from his “vacation” to Washington, D.C. specifically to sign legislation designed to extend the life of a 41-year-old woman who has been sustained by a feeding tube for the past 15 years? A woman who at the age of 26 was apparently in the process of starving herself – that’s what an “eating disorder” is, folks – and succeeded to the point of triggering a heart attack? President Bush who talks about the rule of law when it comes to foreign affairs is happy to let his party override those very same precepts in this country, flouting the states’ and the judiciary’s authority, all in hopes of getting a sympathetic judge who will rule the way he and other social conservatives see fit?
At its core this is a case of judge-shopping. The Southern Baptist Florida judge who ruled that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed isn’t following the party line. Like the Republican Catholic judge who issued the gay marriage ruling here in San Francisco last week, you can’t call Judge Greer activist or Liberal and really mean it. And while we’re here, it’s probably worth asking: If Congress has no respect for the authority of the judiciary, how can it expect better from anyone else?

In the newspaper business, people often talk about a story being screwed up. What they mean is that the chronology, the reactions, the he-said-she-said has become so etched into the clips and records kept in the archives that it’s impossible to see what really happened. The lines are too deeply drawn, positions too calcified. In this media-trained and media savvy world – where folks with political agenda troll for anecdotes and test cases like Schiavo’s, preying on the emotional needy or the attention-seeking – story lines are baked in early, sides chosen, spokesmen and women trained and sound bites issued like fast food menus. And that’s all before they call the politicians or the national media.
There is no way that anyone with any sense looking at Terry Schiavo and her family’s fight to decide her fate can come to anything but the most obvious conclusion: This is a family with serious, long-standing and deep-seated problems — the kind of problems that used to make for great gothic fiction and sharply written short stories – the kind that creeped you out as you thought of the consequences. Today, of course, in the age of reality TV and televised court cases, we have court battles and Congressional squabbling.
Marc Cooper has done a fine job explaining soon-to-be-former House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s excuse for exploiting this tale of family woe and sadness for his own political benefit. Beats the hell out of talking about his possible criminal role in Texas’ redistricting.
The New York Times among others have done a good job of outlining just how Democrats continue to be rendered speechless by the cheap tent revival tactics of the social conservatives. The Schiavo case isn’t about defending life as Delay insists, it’s about defending a political career and it’s a horrible spectacle to watch.
Only a few Democrats have the spine to stand up and say what’s obvious to pretty much everyone else on the planet: This is a family matter, a family squabble with roots and eddies that none of us outside this family can truly understand, not at this great distance. Nor, furthermore, is it any of our business. Terry Schiavo’s fate is sad, tragic even, but it is her fate. And as powerful as it is, Congress has no right to interfere, choosing sides for its own short-sighted political purposes. They would do well to cast their eyes on the Wall Street Journal’s on-line reader poll, the one that’s been up all weekend. By a steady – and consistent margin of four-to-one — WSJ readers say Congress has no business in his matter.
The search here for certainty is what’s truly chilling. Normally fatalistic – believing that individuals are best able to solve their own problems and will probably improve their lot if they learn to rely on themselves — social conservatives decry stem cell research and abortion as “arbitrary” endings to life. Destroying embryos – even a few cells gathered together – is arbitrary. So is removing a feeding tube. And abortion.
But we learn more and more every day about how we die and how we’re born. And it’s becoming clearer that both are gradual processes; there is not one “snap” we can point to and say “this is it.” Life doesn’t begin at conception and if it does it’s often flawed. Death is even less tidy. And life, that part in between – as Terry Schivo’s case is demonstrating with every twist and turn – is arbitrary and often cruel.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:49 AM | Permalink

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