Thursday, March 24, 2005

A National reality TV series: The Terri Schiavo Show


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The gut wrenching reality show this week had all the elements of compelling TV – life in the balance, dueling family members, a forged Senate memo, tearful demonstrators, activist judges, and pandering politicians.

What a weird dark carnival it unleashed. The President flying back to sign a bill certain to be meaningless. Congress meeting after midnight to pass a law that split Democrat legislators almost evenly. Terri’s governor saying he’d sure like to send in the state police to rescue her, but it would be unconstitutional. Americans saying the hell with the Constitution and the judiciary. Conservatives wanting U.S. District Judge James Whittemore’s ruling in Florida to remove Terri’s feeding tube to be overturned by federal law. But aren’t conservatives for states rights? Opposing special interest groups retaining gangs of attorneys. Christians panicking that she might be released to heaven immediately. As my Mexican friend says, "Why you so crazy."

This is high drama.

"Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love," said President Bush in his inaugural address in January. But the questions appears to be - Who are lost? And what is love? Once again, we are a nation polarized by a cultural issue.

Nobody wants to end up that way, like Terri. Trapped in a non-functioning body but conscious. Only able to follow moving objects and react with a smile. And maybe to hear that folks want to pull the plug. Yikes.

We’re a nation of people concerned with looking right. No-carb diets, personal coaches, cosmetic surgery, and makeover TV shows. Terri is on a liquid diet, attendants make her up, keep her smiling. It could be worse. But I don’t want to think about it.

There are a lot of things we don’t want to think about. For instance not just the survival of this woman, but of the human race. Fanatical terrorists. It’s scary. They could be anywhere and seem to be anxious to die if they can take a lot of people with them. Rather not think about it.

People in our own country so fired up with political hatred after the November election that sister does not speak to brother. Rather not think about it.

Corporate billionaire criminals build their many-acred estates in Florida free by the state’s homestead laws from fear of confiscation. Don’t want to think about it.

The North Pole thawing, beaches disappearing, the air changing its chemical make-up, gasoline at $2.25 a gallon. Don’t want to think about it.

Kids killing kids in schools. The president finally responded Saturday to the second deadliest school shooting in six years in contrast to his swift intervention last week to prolong Terri’s life. Don’t want to think about it.

Easier to get worked up about Terri. We feel for her, and our leaders know it. But shouldn’t they be responsible leaders? Shouldn’t we?

A National law may result impacting premature babies, downs syndrome children, stroke patients, auto accident victims and thousands of others who die each year by purposeful starvation. There are an estimated 10,000 citizens in a permanent vegetative state who are living without artificial life support, but require a feeding tube or assisted hand feeding. Christopher Reeve couldn’t feed himself. Neither can Terri.

It's dizzying to keep the political parties’ ideology straight - who wants expanded jurisdiction of the federal courts, and who opposes federal intervention of states rights? Dred Scott. Roe vs. Wade. Bakke. Outcome based education. Terri’s law. No wonder voters are dysfunctionally polarized.

I remember the start of my school year in September 1963. Television scenes of students being escorted by police in Alabama the first day of school illustrated racial hatred I never observed at my school in Pennsylvania.

Eleven Southern and border states desegregated 144 school districts that September, but Alabama’s Gov. Wallace refused to respect the law of local authorities to integrate public schools. The cities of Birmingham, Mobile, Tuskegee, and Huntsville asked the Federal government to intervene.

So do we want states rights or federal intervention? The polarized political parties seem inconsistent. Maybe this is just politics as usual when it comes to cultural issues. Ask those on both sides of the street outside Terri’s Hospice House Woodside.

Why aren’t legislators and citizen activists working to solve our five survival issues: polarization, terror, deficits, wealth inequalities, and environment/energy? These are serious challenges that determine our collective global future.

My heart aches for the family and supporters of Terri Schiavo. My heart also aches for millions of women in this country and abroad who are facing ill treatment. Why are politicians giving disproportionate time and resources to the Schiavo case and not the five issues that Lead Our Leaders feels are critical to our existence?

Who’s minding the global store? We gotta think about it.


Info on living wills and advanced directives:

Have you found helpful web sites regarding end of life issues?

Please share an inspirational personal experience regarding your care of an incapacitated person.

For myself I have only to bow with humble submission to the will of that God who giveth and who taketh away. Martha Washington, 15 January 1800.