An Inconvenient Woman

As I type, Terri Schiavo isn't dead yet. Everyone's expressed an opinion. People I respect are on both sides. Do I have anything insightful to add? Probably not, but typing continues …

I guess I have a meta-point: not so much having to do with the merits of Mrs. Schiavo's case, but with how people are arguing about it. People are talking nearly entirely past each other, with no common ground. Bitterness and vituperation abound. Personal attacks on opponents seem more common, and more heartfelt, than usual. Even the most reasonable folks on both sides seem simply unable to understand where the other side is coming from.

Jay Nordlinger (writing in NRO) expresses what I'm feeling pretty well. When it comes to figuring out the other side, however, he founders, like everyone else. Key point:

I have a friend—Michael Walsh, the writer—who insists that liberalism is a "death cult." (Michael has a well-thought-out explanation of this. And, by the way, when I say "liberalism," I'm using it in the contemporary American sense—which is bonkers, but that's not my fault.) He wrote me the other day—concerning Schiavo—and said, in essence, "See?" Yes, I see. It's amazing how they—you know: they—need her to die. She has to die, or they will be livid. Her continued life is a kind of offense to them. If she doesn't die, then Tom DeLay and Jerry Falwell … well, they'll be happy!

That's a miss, I think. Death is a mere side effect of the real cult, which is one of irresponsibility and convenience. The underlying vision is the wish to be able to discharge obligations and duties when they threaten to become too onerous.

To her husband, Mrs. Schivo is simply in the way, a hindrance keeping him from Moving On With Life (and a new wife). She can't speak or defend herself? All the better! That makes it easier to think of her as a mere inanimate obstacle to be removed.

Some have drawn the parallel between the Schiavo case and abortion. That's not too surprising in this view. Is there anything more inconvenient than a baby? Anything more demanding of responsibility? And (again) unable to speak or defend itself? Best to nip it, literally, in the bud.

I'm aware I sound like a bible-thumping moralizer here. Sorry. And I'm aware that enshrining one's personal morality into the legal system is fraught with peril.

On the other hand, we're moving toward a system where there are ever fewer constraints on killing the helpless. Where do you think that could lead?

Last Modified 2005-03-28 8:38 PM EDT