Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Post Number Twenty-Two: Terri

Of Terri Schiavo

It is not my habit to post about news. What we call news more often than not are completely irrelevant or of scarce importance. We can get very passionate at one case or another, but in a short time everything is over and few recall what happened one month ago. Only rarely, and I believe even more so in our day, news are truly historical. I suspect that even the 9/11 case is not really historical, no more than the Sarajevo murder at least. A casus belli is always less important than the real motives that hide behind a war, and the war against Iraq was conceived and planned by Republicans long, long before 2001.

Anyway there is a lot of fuzz around this case of Terri Schiavo. So much so that even if I consider it quite insignificant, I will spend a few words on it.

Terri Schiavo, for all those that in a month for now will have problems recalling this name, is an American woman who lives in Florida. In 1990, still in her late youth, she was struck by an heart attack, presumably caused by eating disorders. Due to various reasons, she did not fully recover from this strike. She now lives in what is called a vegetative state with no apparent chance to improve. She is kept alive by a feeding tube, but is unable to react to the surroundings due to massive brain damage.
Her husband, Michael Schiavo, insists that his wife wouldn't want to live in such conditions and therefore asked for the feeding tube to be removed.
Her parents believe that she could improve with the right treatment, and since they are both Catholic Roman believers they completely reject the idea of assisted suicide (not Euthanasia, this is really not a case of Euthanasia). They have appealed to many courts to obtain a verdict in their favor, but ever since the feeding tube was removed, 12 days ago, all verdicts have been the same: the feeding tube must not be reinserted.
Even the President of the USA and the Congress have been involved in this matter. George Bush Jr. signed a law that would "save Terri's life" in its intent, but failed anyway to do so. The Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, brother of the President, has tried to help Terri's parents but won't go beyond his powers.

So far these are the facts.

Now my opinions about them
1) It is absolutely a scandal that the President of the USA gets involved in familiar matters, but that's a scandal in line with the scandalous line of conduct of the decaying American democracy of the early 21st century so I am not very surprised
2) Personally I don't think it's all about love and life.

I think that probably Michael Schiavo loves his woman and because of his devotion to her, he feels compelled to help her put an end to her own life. It requires a great love and generosity to let someone you care so much about part from this world. After seeing Terri's picture on TV, and before knowing the details of the case, I instinctively felt a motion of compassion for this woman and wished they let her die in peace. Of course, my idea of compassion clashes with that of Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics care very little about pain as they do about life. They think that there is something "holy" with life because life is a "gift" from their god. Therefore only their god can decide when to take his gift back. Hence, if one is suffering or living in a vegetative state, that life must still be preserved no matter what. This is their opinion which I reject completely. Life is not holy. Life is beautiful, charming, fascinating: I don't even kill ants or other insects for the immense respect I have for the machinery of life. But when a body is wrecked to a level that questions the very desire of a person to live on, I think that life should be ended. We kill horses with broken legs for much less. Are we more compassionate towards horses than humans?
Let's not mention the hipocrisy of Republcans: they protest for Terri Schiavo's life but never raise a finger against death penalty. Terri's life must be protected and that of a hispanic immigrant from Mexico who was probably framed for a crime he never committed shouldn't? I don't reason like that. I am thoroughly against death penalty, but that's another matter. My opinion has to do with the concepts of Justice and State of Right, things that in America are often confused with Revenge. It would take us too far.

There is no way I can agree with Roman Catholics because there is no common ground. I don't believe in their God, and the existence of their God is critical for their morality (some of them even grasp the concept of "Christian Ethics", but only a few and generally not in the USA). There might be some occasional convergences on some issues, but this is not one of them. I am completely on Michael's side. Terri has the right to end her misery.

What troubles me is that, although I am instinctively and rationally on Michael's side, I can't help feeling a certain admiration for Terri's parents.
Let me elaborate briefly.
Terri's parents are Republicans, and what is probably worse, Roman Catholic. I find Roman Catholic beliefs evil to the core, gory, sadistic, immoral, inhumane. I believe they have no sense of compassion, they fear pleasure and chastize those who seek happiness in this world. I see their religion as castrating, irritating and offensive, not counting how it is invasive of other cultures, arrogant and superstitious. Their arrogance is so obvious that they call themselves "Catholic", a word that means "Universal". Not only their religion is so obnoxious to me and so unresonant with my inner self, but it has a well radicated tendency to impose its morals to others, whether they abide to it or not. If they played squeamish among themselves I would care very little about them, but they keep trying imposing their fanatism to others, which includes me. And I do not tolerate it. Personally I find Terri's parents egotistical and irrational, willing to prolong the useless sufference of their daughter not because they really believe she can improve (and I believe she can't) but because of their religion. They just can't tolerate that their daughter will be forced not to abide to their church's regulations. The Pope stated that people in vegetative state must be kept alive, and therefore they must. It's a matter of principle. Terri's parents, I am sure, would keep their daughter alive even if she had been torn all limbs off and her eyes plucked out. It doesn't really matter how much pain she undergoes, it's all about upholding the principles. It's their daughter and she must be a good Catholic.
They are so fixated, so determined to uphold their principles, that are willing to challenge even the President, even the very foundations of the country they live into. They don't revere Freedom and Democracy, the real Holy Grounds that allow them to profess their religion in what would otherwise be a strictly Protestant country. They don't give a shit if America becomes a fundamentalist country like certain Middle East dictatorships as long as it abides to THEIR religion. They just want to uphold their damn principle.
AND DAMN they ARE upholding it!
They have incomodated the dumb President of the USA and not only its dumber brother. They have called upon the Congress and the Supreme Court, they have fought this battle relentlessly, in an epic struggle of unbelievable proportions. In this sense, I have a certain admiration for them. Their beliefs are fucked up, but they have the guts to stand for them. People like that have only one fault: they are on the wrong side.
If I were engaged in a battle of principles, I think I would probably be as stubborn as them. Probably I wouldn't let my emotions influence my actions. Perhaps I would even ignore certain facts once I knew what to do. In a way, sometimes I think I understand those fanatics and fundamentalists because in a certain sense, I am similar to them. I could be equally fanatic and fundamentalist in the struggle to uphold the principle of Freedom and Equality. Perhaps not equally fanatic, in fact, but I would like to. Principles are paramount.

One final note. I am favorable to removing the feeding tube, but damn, what's this starvation thing? Why are they making Terri suffer so much? It's so brutal and barbarian, that I wonder if starving Terri to death is really much better than letting her live her pointless life. You know what I would REALLY have done? I would have given her an overdose of morphine, and let her pass immediately and without any pain. I cannot tolerate pain, neither mine nor that of innocent others. I only hope that Terri dies fast, as fast as possible, because this pronlonged starvation is really what makes me suffer the most for her. I know her parents cannot suggest something like this because it's against their gruesome, pain thirsty, sadistic god's principles, but why doesn't her husband do something? Let this woman end her pain. Please.