Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A dear friend e-mailed me last week

when I was knee deep in my trial prep, with the following message.

Man, I’m quite disappointed. I’ve been checking your blog, and apparently, you have chosen NOT to discuss the whole Terri Schiavo situation. I mean, you have no problem attacking liberals or democrats when they do something stupid, why not at least MENTION the stupidity of the right-wing republican factions that are trying to make a mockery out of the judicial process. Thankfully, the balance of powers is at work, lest Jeb Bush have anything to say about that. What, you can give it but you can’t take it?

I love my dear friend, her being a Democrat notwithstanding. Can't say I'm not open and tolerant, eh?

I have resisted posting about the Terri Schiavo case, in large part because of my own conflicted feelings about the case. I do believe that people should be able to decline such life-saving measures if they want to. I have a living will. I have made it quite clear to my family that I don't wish any of that nonsense if I'm so incapacitated. My dear departed father also rejected such measures, even though it might have meant lengthening his life by a unknown amount of time. I firmly believe that such extraordinary measures are more for the benefit of the survivors than the patient.

I don't know what Terri Schiavo said or didn't say. I don't know whether she would have wanted to live as she is, as her parents contend, or that she would not have, as her husband contends. I don't know whether a feeding tube could be considered "extraordinary measures," unlike a respirator. I do believe that matrimonial bonds generally should take precedence over the parent-child relationship. I suspect when Terri married Michael, her father "gave her away" as is traditional. That act sublimates the parent-child bond to the husband-wife bond. The two had become one, and all that.

Now, on the substance of my dear friend's e-mail. I'm not wholly sure of what she was referring to when she wrote about the "stupidity of the right-wing republican factions that are trying to make a mockery out of the judicial process." I assume she meant the congressional efforts to intervene in the case, despite the Florida state courts' numerous rulings in the case.

I generally opposed the effort to nationalise the case, even though, as I understand it, all the bill the Congress passed did was to give the federal courts jurisdiction to review the case. Living wills and these kinds of situations have been the province of the States and should remain so. But I thought it odd that Democrats, mostly the more liberal ones, in Congress, were arguing against federal court review of the case.

You see, it has long been the position of liberals to make any violation of individual rights or individual injustice to the federal courts. State courts, it was argued, couldn't be trusted to protect the helpless and powerless.

Well, here we had a case of a helpless woman facing starvation and dehydration as a manner of death, and liberals couldn't elucidate their opposition to federal court review loudly enough. The question is why?

I don't believe for a minute that this matter, as far as congressional participation is concerned, has been a case of state v. federal courts or any of that nonsense. I'll tell you what I am convinced this case is, as far as the national politicos hope to use it.

This is a proxy for abortion. The Republicans are using this case as a way of playing to their pro-life base and to bolster their pro-life bona fides in an arena outside of strictly abortion. And the Democrats opposing this oppose it for the opposite reason: They see that to allow government intervention into this matter to save a life could serve as a precendent to allow it in to save other life as well. And that the Democrats cannot allow to happen even one iota.

(An historical aside: Did you know that the expressions "not one iota" or arguing over every iota has its origin at the Council of Nicea, AD 325, where the raging debate was between St. Athanasius, who argued that Christ was "of the same substance" of God the Father (homoousias) and Arius the Heretic, who argued that Christ was "like the same substance" of God (homoiousias)? So the main source of controversy in one of the most important meetings in the Christian era was over the iota.)

So the whole injection and protestation of Terri Schiavo's case in the national political arena was for nothing more than politics, abortion politics.

See, Harry Blackmun? You thought with your twisted opinion you could remove abortion as a political issue by giving constitutional cover, just like Roger Taney thought he could remove slavery from the political sphere with his warped opinion. Didn't work then. It won't work now.

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