Brain-dead American Institutions
The Teri Schiavo case put on display for the entire world that 70% of Americans are better than our institutions of government, religion or mass media. 70% of Americans were not swayed by the institutional propaganda that turned Teri into a symbol for the “Culture of Life.” This illustrates the wisdom that is created by personal experience and/or individual imagination and how invulnerable it is to mass propaganda. 70% of Americans had had the experience of making the decision to end medical intervention for a loved one whose life was over, had made the decision that they would never want their lives extended if they were in a permanent vegetative state, accepted that multiple courts and judges couldn’t be wrong and/or knew just enough about neurophysiology to recognize that Teri Schiavo was brain-dead.
Unlike Bush v. Gore, the SCOTUS didn’t step in after the state and lower federal court had issued correct opinions. Whether our courts will maintain the judicial integrity seen in the Schiavo case after the influx of GWB’s appointments remains to be seen but the odds are not in favor of it. Not because lifetime judicial appointments never results in judges learning how to put the law above their own personal opinions, biases and prejudices, but because GWB doesn’t appoint men and women with first , or even second, rate legal minds. The legal foundations of this country cannot be preserved by third rate legal beagles or hacks.
The tide has turned for our other institutions and the Schiavo case is an easy to understand microcosm how much they fail us. The rightwing Catholics are almost indistinguishable from the Dominionists. They may shun all artificial methods to create or prevent the creation of a new human being, but they see nothing wrong with artificially extending a life. Thus they are no more intellectually consistent than the rest of us. (Not sure why they denied Teri the right to die with dignity when they granted it to JPII.) But the saddest display of religious pandering in the Schiavo case was that of Jesse Jackson. (If you consider that too harsh an opinion, ask yourself if Jesse would have held hands with white supremicist militiamen protesting the execution of Tim McVeigh. I oppose capital punishment in all circumstances and therefore, opposed the execution of McVeigh. However, any public gesture on my part and in association with McVeigh’s political co-horts would not have correctly communicated where I stood on the issue.)
Jeb! wasted untold amounts of FL government time and money to keep a shell of a life alive. That’s the same government that can’t seem to keep track of children in its care alive and well. Then there’s Congress with some members making medical diagnoses without examining the patient or her medical records. And some Democrats joining hands with Republicans to make a law for the benefit of a single individual with no ability to speak for herself but in direct conflict with her court appointed guardian and the rulings of the family courts. Wonder how much that special Air Force One flight ferrying GWB back to DC cost taxpayers? All we hear out of DC is that this country doesn’t have the money for education, healthcare and social programs, and yet, not one of them addressed who was going to pay to keep Teri breathing. We sure didn’t see them making an issue out of the poor infant in TX that had a slim chance of survival with extraordinary medical effort, and slim is better than none in the case of Teri. Where were the voices in government speaking up for 70% of Americans?
But the most despicable actor in this drama was the mass media. They made little effort to nail down the facts. Almost no effort to educate Americans on brain damage or how a body in that state atrophies. All they did was repeat over and over again a doctored videotape that barely suggested that Teri had some level of cognition when the CT scans of her brain clearly demonstrated that there was none. They let people believe the rightwing hype that Teri had a feeding tube for the convenience of her caretakers and not because she couldn’t eat or drink. They gave massive amounts of airtime to the rightwing to spew lies and slander against Michael Schiavo. They didn’t bother to inform the public that the courts had evaluated all of that and did not find any of it credible. How often did the tell us that Michael had enrolled in and graduated from nursing school to better care for his wife? Or how often he checked on the care she was receiving and complained when it wasn’t at a high enough standard? Or that the Schindlers had tried to care for Teri at home and failed. The Schindlers claimed that Michael wanted her dead so that he could inherit the money awarded to Teri from a malpractice suit. Yet, they failed to point out that Michael was not the administrator of those funds and that they were managed by a court appointed administrator. Nor did we hear that Michael was willing to renounce the inheritance of any funds remaining in Teri’s name in favor of a charity if the Schindlers simply let nature take its course and allow Teri to die peacefully.
Michael and his attorney are the only interesting actors in this story. Both in court and in the court of public opinion, his attorney was one tough cookie and knows how to win. Michael we know less about. But how many Americans in this TV age would decline to take advantage of as much TV appearance time as he could have had? How many of us wouldn’t want to fight back against the lies about oneself appearing daily on TV? That’s interesting but may only reflect the adviceof counsel and not Michael. The most interesting thing about Michael is that he fought for what he claimed were Teri’s wishes for over a decade. A very conservative elderly Catholic man recently said to me that he thought Michael Schiavo was the devil. When I asked him why he thought that, he said, “Because he wants her dead so that he can be free of her.” I pointed out that he could have accomplished that with divorce, and asked him what would motivate anybody enough to spend years in constant battle with the family of a spouse instead of just walking away? He paused and admitted that he had no answer for that.
The autopsy report on Teri Schiavo is to that story what the Kay report was to the claims of Iraq possessing WMD. What the Downing Street Memo is to GWB’s claim that he sought a peaceful solution to his conflict with Saddam. And once again the GOP and media call for us to “move along” -- nothing to be seen here, nobody is responsible for being wrong, and liberals just hate America. Jeb! and the MSM have both been exposed for being complete hacks, but they are worse than that. They are vindicative towards those who make them look foolish by comparison. Thus Jeb! in classic Bush style is going after Michael Shiavo and the MSM is pronouncing that liberals either knew that the WMD was a giant hoax and said nothing or were too stupid to not to have seen it. Ipso facto the Dowing Street Memo is not news; as if compounding their journalistic errors will vindicate them. When America wakes up, we can only pray that these hacks end up on the same public chopping blocks as the GOP.