The RIGHT to Terri Schiavo: “Thanks so much and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”?

media, politics 3 Comments »

First of all, I’m sorry to have been away for so long. My muse vanished without so much as thank you (or a playful pat on the behind) and I have been wandering aimlessly ever since. Sure I have started a number of posts over this long break, but they all sit idle, their relevancy passing into the long night. That was until Terri Schindler Schiavo.

I’ve long been on the fence about whether or not Terri Schiavo should be allowed to pass on to the next world. I can’t believe she doesn’t long for it, assuming she is capable of “longing” at all. But as time passes and the controversy and the drama surrounding her grows, it has moved well beyond what should simply be a family decision. It’s grown into something much larger and dangerous: an opportunity.

I can’t help but think that the Right who are in office are grateful for the Terri Schiavo case. She serves to polarize their base, particularly the religious right that many feel played a significant role in putting George W. Bush back into the White House. This is evident in statements made by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay speaking at a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. DeLay is quoted as saying “One thing that God has brought us is Terri Schiavo, to help us elevate the visibility of what is going on in America.” He later went on to say, “That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks.” DeLay then closed by viilifying those who have attacked him and others in the Conservative movement, perhaps in reference to alleged ethics violations. These two trains of thought are practically joined at the hip.

Even Tom DeLay’s website, a press release discussing a bill he is trying to push through is quoted as saying “The few objecting House Democrats have so far cost Mrs. Schiavo two meals already today, and we’re working now to resolve this in time for her to get some food and water tonight.” Sounds more than a little partisan, painting house Democrats and anyone who feels similarly as evil and heartless in allowing Terri Schiavo to starve. Mr. DeLay, I’m afraid it’s a lot more complicated then that.

As usual the rhetoric spills down into the Right’s media bastions: talk radio and Fox News. Sean Hannity, a popular right-wing talk show host, interviewed the Nobel Prize nominated neurologist William Hammesfahr on Terri Schiavo and possible treatments for improving her condition. Repeatedly Hannity and his co-host Joe Scarborough reiterated Hammesfahr’s Nobel qualifications, when in fact he was never legitimately nominated; unless of course you count the unqualified nomination by one Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) from a largely conservative district north of Tampa Bay, Florida. I’m sorry Mr. Bilirakis; you’re not qualified to make such nominations under Nobel rules.

But getting back to Hannity and Scarborough, did they knowingly twist Hammesfahr’s credentials, propping up a man who has been previously disciplined by the Florida board of medicine, accepts only cash when treating patients, and proposes treatments that are unorthodox, untested and unproven? Or were Hannity and Scarborough simply duped. I sense a Ratherism coming on… Damn I can’t find it.

I think the Right also appreciates Terri Schiavo’s wonderful sense of timing, serving up a convenient distraction from the steady but ill winds blowing through Washington: social security privatization DOA; the regular deluge of bad news from Iraq; Tom DeLay’s alleged ethics violations; a gargantuan out-of-control deficit and the passing of a budget that cut plenty of useful programs (including some that impact Terri Schiavo’s continued healthcare) but fails to account for the cost of the War on Terror?

It makes sense that most decisions made and judgments passed about Terri Schiavo are based on emotions and understandably so, but I think it’s now clear that many, more frighteningly, are politically motivated. Yes, it is emotional event, but that emotional event needs to be tempered by the hand of science, by people who are qualified and can see past emotions to help families make reasonable and informed decisions. Instead we have partisan driven diagnoses by unqualified cardiologists outside their field of expertise (Yes, I am talking to you Mr. Frist). And that too goes for Presidents/former governors from states where the law would have forced the removal of the feeding tube years ago.

And surprisingly I think much of America agrees, as the sentiment tends to cross party lines. Polls indicate more support for removing Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube then against, and even more feel that Congress is overstepping its boundaries by getting involved. Is this the America, neighboring on 70% that Tom DeLay is referring to as barbaric? Seems a number of those barbarians elected him and many of his peers into the offices they now hold. Be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you.

Let’s not forget this is the same government that is attempting to legislate marriage. Now it thinks it can muscle its way into the Terri Schiavo case feeling better qualified to determine her fate. I think it sets a dangerous precedent, one that is contrary to one of the primary tenants of the Republican Party and that is for the government to stay out of the way of the people. When similar cases occur in the future, will the one of the courses of action be: “Get Congress on the phone!”

As I muddle my way through this I realize I am no longer on the fence. In fact I am nowhere near the fence. I now know that I am not qualified to pass judgment. And neither are you. And neither is the government. And really not even the courts. But when the parties involved cannot reach an accord it must fall on our courts, which with the help of experts, make the most informed decision they possibly can. And while not always popular, it should be adhered too. Especially when the same conclusion is reached multiple times by multiple courts.

You just can’t keep going back to the well simply because you don’t like the taste of the water…

There it is… I found my Ratherism. Until next time.