L. Neil Smith's
Number 313, April 3, 2005

"The War on Guns"

On Terri Schiavo
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to TLE

A longtime reader emailed me after last week's article to ask why I wrote about steroids instead of Terri Schiavo. The honest answer is, because I didn't feel like writing about Terri Schiavo. That's right. It's that easy. I didn't feel like writing about her. In fact, I still don't. The only reason I'm writing this is to tell you I don't feel like writing it. I can't look at Terri Schiavo for more than thirty seconds without hearing my mom saying, "Jonathan, don't stare," in the back of my mind. Everything about this story freaks me out. There's no other way I can say it. The footage freaks me out. The debate freaks me out. Even the fact that I'm freaked out freaks me out. I'm not used to this. I don't freak out very often. That's why I've kept quiet until now.

The way I see it, there are two schools of thought here. There are people who think Terri Schiavo should live and people who think she should die. Now, ordinarily, I'd choose life over death by default. If someone held a gun to Ryan Seacrest's head, for instance, I would vote not to kill him—even though I could easily imagine living without him. After all, he's a young, relatively healthy person. Killing him would be inhumane. But Terri Schiavo is different. She's bedridden and brain-dead. And some people say the only humane thing to do is to simply let her pass on.

That said, I spent the entire weekend trying to write this column. What you're looking at right now is Take 29. I kept starting over. And as we speak, I still have no clue where I stand.

On the one hand, how can you call Michael Schiavo's decision to remove Terri's feeding tube "murder"? I understand she was surviving just fine when the tube was still connected. But that's all she was doing, though. Surviving. It seems selfish to hook her up to a machine in the faint hope that she'll return to form. The law—and the bible, for those biblically inclined—puts Michael Schiavo in the unenviable position of determining Terri's fate here. This guy has endured fifteen years of endless headaches and lawsuits. That's love. True, he moved on and started another family. But he also turned down a million-dollar offer to walk away and wash his hands of this. It's hard to imagine him doing that unless he truly believes this is what Terri would have wanted.

On the other hand, is this what she wanted? Michael Schiavo says yes; Terri's parents say no. I'm not questioning her husband's motives, but I understand why her parents are. After all, his decision to remove her feeding tube is based on something she supposedly told him over a decade ago. No one will ever be able to prove it. To be honest, that makes me a little uncomfortable. Over a decade ago, I swore I'd wear Skidz forever. Things change. And it would be one thing if you held me to that promise. But to starve me for it? I don't know. That seems a bit mean—especially when you could just as easily walk away and leave me with people who want to give me food.

So like I said, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. If I sided with Michael Schiavo, I would have to side with others who've sided with him. I don't want to do that. Those folks seem to be rooting for Terri's death just to prove a point. But if I sided with Terri's parents, I'd be looking to rob Michael Schiavo of his duties as Terri's husband. That's an anti-family position. The "sanctity of marriage" is a bond between husband and wife—not husband, wife, and in-laws. We should respect that. And we should respect the decision he's made on her behalf.

Then again, if a life is at stake....

Whatever. I'm done trying to pick a side here. I've been avoiding a Terri Schiavo column since the first time I heard about her. Now you know why: Both sides are wrong.

People want to make this out to be a huge political crisis. I would tend to agree with President Bush when he says we should "err on the side of life." But the same conservatives who would err on the side of life for Terri Schiavo would also err on the side of collateral damage and capital punishment. And liberals, for their part, would sooner give the benefit of the doubt to suspected murderers and terrorists than unborn babies and women in persistent vegetative states. You want a political crisis? There it is. Personally, I'd rather err on the side of not erring and simply not kill people at all. But if Americans want to kill people—fine. Let's kill people. But for God's sake, at least be consistent. Enough with the drama. You're freaking me out.

Jonathan David Morris writes a weekly column for The Aquarian and other publications. His website is www.readjdm.com, and he can be reached at jdm@readjdm.com.

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