Monday, January 02, 2006

Terri Schiavo --- Story of the Year

I wrote 15 posts this year that dealt with Terri Schiavo in some way, mostly in March or April. A few I am proudest of are Here, Here, Here, and Here.

In sitting down to re-read them now, I see that I said a lot of the same things over and over again in different variations, as I tried to clarify what I thought.

But in the year-end reviews I read, no one spoke about the issue much at all.

However, I think that the issues raised in Terri's case will prove themselves important, over and over again, in the coming years.

I guess I collapse it all down to these points:

What is our primary human relationship? Are we someone's parent, someone's child or someone's spouse? If we are someone's child first and we forever someone's child first, what does that mean about the nature of marriage, and what does that mean about the nature of maturity?

On the legal issues:

Conservatives said that Terri had no living will stating what she wanted. I continue to disagree. Even though Terri Schiavo had no living will, she did have a legal document. It was called her marriage license. The law, both before, during and after the crisis, all those judges who saw the law, and would not create law out of whole cloth to suit a current witch hunt, were quite clear that the marriage license gives the spouse the decision making in these matters. It isn't absolute, but it does come first.

Either the marriage license means something, or it doesn't. When it came time to decide, a good section of the country seemed to say that someone's marriage did not matter so much after all. A good section of the country seemed to think that 40-year old-plus women preferred to be under the control and domination of their parents forever. That is a very loose view of marriage to be washing over the Bible Belt.

Maybe I'm being unfair. I'm a lawyer, and I know that some people will use any argument to get to their bottom line, and the bottom line for these people was to keep this woman alive.

And I thought, and I continue to think, that the conclusion is wrong as a matter of love, and, although many of my blog entries contained arguments on this issue between me and co-religionists who disagreed, I think it is also an improper conclusion as a matter of faith.

If we keep people alive at all costs, we wind up sacrificing the living to the altar of the dead and dying. We force people to take actions beyond the marriage vows. I don't believe that is what God wants for us.

It is reasonable to think that a person in love with another person, a woman in love with a man, would not want that man to spend the rest of his life deprived of company, spending the rest of his life caring for her, not as an equal, but as a hospital patient, while she could do nothing for him, while her level of sensation, while her level of acknowledgement, her ability to give back, was very limited.

It is reasonable to think that if the issue was put to her that way, she might think that there was something more important than squeezing one more day of life out of the situation for the benefit of your parents or your local Congressman.

But in order to make these assumptions, you have to admit that she is someone’s wife, and that being someone’s wife can matter more than being someone else’s daughter.

It is also reasonable that the law can, and does, make this assumption as well.

Even if some of what was said about Michael Schiavo was true (Tom DeLay said it was true, so who am I to say otherwise), Terri Schiavo did make a choice –-- she chose him ---another imperfect human being --- and that has to matter for quite a lot.

Because if your choice of spouse doesn’t matter for anything, then you wind up with --- well you wind up with the circus that the Schiavo matter became.

I considered that disregard for the requisites of imperfect love and behavior in human marriage the most important story in my year. It was all the people who tried to take an adult story about a marriage and turn it into a television story about parents and children (always the better television). It was all those people seeing themselves as children before they saw themselves as husbands and wives. It was all those people longing to be children more than spouses.

It was the basic assumption that life at any cost is more important than love and family. It was the assumption that God demands that you make your longevity a priority -- more important than love and marriage and family --- that rocked my whole sense of what I was dealing with in this new Millenium.

While the specifics of Terri Schiavo seem to have faded away, I see this longing to be led, in any direction at all, as long as decisions are made for us, to be increasing everywhere. People are shrinking from the responsibility of freedom and maturity. It may well be that in mixed situations of government and faith, where obedience to God also requires people to make decisions, we are refusing to make those decisions. I do it myself.

To tie this issue back to everything else, to the war I support and the President, this Man Who Will Be King, who I despise, we will be at war for the rest of our lives , (although we can of course end the war any time we care to declare ourselves the losers). If we are fighting a war for freedom, but refuse to be free ourselves, what does it matter? If we say we are fighting a war for faith, who gets to determine which God we are fighting for?