Monday, March 21, 2005

Barbarians at the Well of Life

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (New International Version)

15 “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

We all share in the agony now. In a 203-58 vote Congress passed the “Palm Sunday Compromise,” requiring a Federal legal review of the treatment of Terri Schiavo. Depending on what a Federal judge decides today, she, her mother, father, and brother may have had a last minute reprieve.

I’ve steered clear of the debate about the Schiavo case for some time now. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a doctor. But, at a very personal level, I do know that I don’t want my final fate left in someone else’s hands. Nancy and I have expressed our wishes to one another that we both want the opportunity to pass from this life to the next freely, with dignity. We don’t want that decision left in the hands of lawyers, doctors, politicians, bio-ethicists, or anyone else detached from the love and nurture that Nancy and I have built over the years we’ve been together. These, I believe, are our decisions to make.

Having said that, though, there is much that troubles me about the manner in which Mrs. Schiavo has been treated throughout this long ordeal.

Why, for example, did Michael Schiavo, her husband, decide years into the process that Terri would not want to be kept alive under the circumstances she is now living? Why did it take so long for him to make that determination? Why not make that decision at the beginning? What changed his mind? Was compassion and concern for Terri his aim? Or was it something else?

Mr. Schiavo claims that he is acting on Terri’s wishes. He claims that he is acting out of compassion. He had this to say in an interview with ABC’s Nightline on March 15th:

BURY: “I understand fully the legal question here, Michael.

But let ask you in simply human terms. Can you understand the parents' contention, the bond that they have with their daughter, and their reluctance to let her go? Do you understand that?”
SCHIAVO: “You know, I have children and, you know, I couldn't even fathom what it would be like to lose a child. But you know, it's been 15 years.

They know the condition Terri is in. They were there in the beginning. They heard the doctors. They know that Terri's in a persistent vegetative state. They testified to that at the original trial.

Fifteen years — you've got to come to grips with it sometime.”

Those words should ring true to me, but they don’t. They seem hollow and empty.

This morning I heard something else from Mr. Schiavo that really alarmed me. In a news interview he spent his time railing against George Bush and the Republican Party:

“Tom DeLay should be ashamed of himself," Michael Schiavo told CNN. "He's sitting up there, making comments and bashing people. ... He's found a cause to hide behind, to lighten the load of his other problems.”

There was no hint of concern for Terri and her well being; this, in his mind, was a political vendetta hatched by George Bush and he cronies in the Congress. Now I really understand the difficulty of the situation, but as a man I must admit that his comments offended me. If he was so concerned about his “wife’s” well-being I believe that something like, “Please, please, have mercy on Terri. Let her go to be with God in peace” would have been the appropriate words. But I heard nothing like that. All I heard was a tongue lashing aimed at the President and the Congress. Where, I ask, is this man’s mind and heart right now? I don’t feel comfortable in believing that he has Terri Schiavo’s interests at heart. If I did I might feel differently about all of this.

Then there is the matter of his conflict of interest. He has “moved on” with his life. He has had a common law wife for a number of years. He’s fathered two children with her. Does he really have any vital, living interest in seeing that Terri’s interests are served? The question hasn’t been answered.

In fact it seems that in time more and more questions have been raised about his care of Terri. What financial gain is there for Michael Schiavo in all of this? Why has he, as her caretaker and guardian, denied her treatments that may improve her situation? Why has he refused to even entertain the idea of allowing Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to take over guardianship? He says that he only wants to grant Terri’s wishes. I’m not sure. He didn’t seem to mention anything about that “desire” fifteen years ago when this all began. Why did his recollection only came into play when he found another woman and was subsequently granted a substantial financial settlement from a malpractice lawsuit?

As I look at the videotapes of Terri interacting with her mother, responding to music, attempting to answer her mother, the questions become even more important. I defy anyone who looks at them to make the determination that this woman must be starved to death.

Now the question of the propriety of Federal intervention has been raised. I listened with great interest to last night’s house debate. I wish I could have taken more comfort from what I heard, but I have to admit that, in the end, all Terri Schiavo was granted was a stay of execution. There was not one politician from my political party’s side of the aisle who said they really knew what to do or what they would do in the same circumstance. Yet, a substantial number of them made impassioned pleas for the current status quo. John Lewis of Georgia said that this was a states’ rights issue and the Federal government should not intervene. Mel Watt of North Carolina said he was at a loss to understand why the Congress should pay so much attention to one woman when there were thousands upon thousands that the Republicans were starving in this country through neglect.

How could John Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, use the issue of states rights to defend not intervening at the Federal level in this case? Dred Scott, an enslaved human being, was deprived of his rights, declared to be nothing more than property, and told by the nation’s highest court that his assertion that he was a free man by virtue of having lived in Illinois, a free state, for a considerable period of time, wasn’t valid. Citing historic precedent, Justice Nelson, speaking as one of the majority in the Court’s opinion, noted that:

“Every State or nation possesses an exclusive sovereignty and jurisdiction within her own territory; and, her laws affect and bind all property and persons residing within it. It may regulate the manner and circumstances under which property is held, and the condition, capacity, and state, of all persons therein; and, also, the remedy and modes of administering justice. And it is equally true, that no State or nation can affect or bind property out of its territory, or persons not residing within it. No State, therefore, can enact laws to operate beyond its own dominions, and, if it attempts to do so, it may be lawfully refused obedience. Such laws can have no inherent authority extraterritorially. This is the necessary result of the independence of distinct and separate sovereignties.”

In laymen’s terms a Supreme Court Justice was saying that a man who was a slave in Missouri could not be freed because of Illinois’ law prohibiting slavery. It was, in his mind, and the mind of the majority, that Missouri’s sovereignty could not be violated. Dred Scott, a human being, was denied his right to freedom because he was another man’s property and because the Federal government had no right to intervene in the sovereign affairs of a state within the federal union. Within a decade the nation was at war testing whether those “principles” were valid. Four years of bloody civil war decided the issue. Slavery was abolished and the union, with a strong federal government, was preserved.

Given the circumstances, I believe Terri Schiavo's case deserves Federal attention. This isn't about Florida's sovereignty. It's about Terri Schiavo's life!

For Representative Watt to assert that the Congress needs to be engaged in more important matters than just “one woman” is offensive. Of course it’s about one woman, in the same way that the Dred Scott Case was about only “one” man. This is about an individual, but it’s also about much more than that. In the same way that the Dred Scott decision was about more than “just one man,” the case of Terri Schiavo is about more than one woman. All Americans have a stake in the outcome of what is transpiring in Florida right now. To say that the case has no merit on such a flimsy basis is to do a great disservice to the body in which Mr. Watt serves, the state that elected him to high office, and the nation that I believe expects better of him.

Finally, for me, there is the issue of who to trust in this case. I cannot find it in my heart to trust Michael Schiavo. I cannot find it in my heart to trust either the medical professionals or the Florida courts. The only people who I believe a trustworthy in this case are Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents. And they are pleading for her life.

I believe they, and Terri, deserve a hearing.

The end result may be the same even after a Federal hearing. A Federal judge will look at all the facts in this case, he’ll hear all the evidence. Even after all that is done, this may truly be only a stay of execution. Michael Schiavo may get what he wants.

Where will we go from there? When the barbarians come to the very well of life and suck it dry there is no telling.


Guy said...

Well spoken...I couldn't agree more!

R. Chandler said...

I've often read your blog and enjoyed your writing. I thought this piece was well written and well said. What troubles me is to hear that you are a democrat. Given the democratic party's history of supporting the destruction of Christianity in this nation, it troubles me to hear that you support a party that promotes abortion, homosexuality, and advocates for terrorist's rights. Are the Republicans any better? Who knows? In my opinion much of politics is filled with corruption on both sides. The democrats hold firmly to an agenda which ultimately will include the tearing down of the church in this great nation. To hear that you support them saddens me greatly.

Back to the point of your post, I must say that I agree with what you've said. I do think that things probably should have been done differently as far as the bill went. Overall I do think that Terri's due process rights have been violated and I hope she gets a fair shake today in court.

Jim Baxter said...


When 1 = 0 what do plural numbers equal? Zero. Complicated?

Even collectivism is based on individual value. Collectivists are too stupid to recognize it.

We are now approaching the Last Days scenario: Individual persons will be worth zero. Every human being is first an Individual. Only secondarily a member of a marriage, a family, a group. When only groups are valuable and individual are worth nothing then groups will be worth nothing!

A fool's wisdom is foolish. When 1 = 0 then 12 = 0, etc. This is a fool's future for self and others.

"Look UP. Your redemption draws nigh..." |Thank God!