L. Neil Smith's
Number 314, April 10, 2005

"Who's Crazy Now?"

I'm a Heartless Bastard
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to TLE

Steven M. Warshawsky says I'm young, ignorant, immature, and breezy. This, in an essay called "On Terri Schiavo: A Response to Jonathan David Morris," published in response my own "On Terri Schiavo," at intellectualconservative.com.

The problem with this response to my article is that it isn't really a response to my article. True, I am young, ignorant, immature, and breezy. But Mr. Warshawsky basically says I would've removed Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube as a matter of mere convenience. I never took this position. In fact, the only position I took was that I took no position—period. Somehow, he sees this lack of moral clarity as a kind of moral clarity all its own. "I fear [the column] reflects the real views of those who believe, as Mr. Morris apparently does, that 'the only humane thing to do is to let her pass on,'" he says. Um, no. I meant what I said when I said I wouldn't pick sides. What do you think that was—a confidence trick?

When it comes right down to it, the Terri Schiavo story hinged on whether or not you thought Michael Schiavo was an a-hole. Why? Because if he was, then he was ruthlessly trying to kill her. And if he wasn't, he was only trying to grant her dying wish. Mr. Warshawsky can talk about "facts" and "probate courts" all he wants, but, for many of us, Michael Schiavo's motives formed the line between humane and inhumane. That's why I couldn't choose sides here. I've never met Michael Schiavo. I've never met Terri's parents, and I've never met Terri. Why should I believe anything that's ever been said about any of them? Both sides had their own sets of facts. For all I know, Michael Schiavo is an a-hole, and Terri's parents really were just clinging to their daughter's faded past. But the point is, I just don't know.

Americans are great at making character assessments based on precious little information. I used to think Jayson Williams was a great guy back when he played for the New Jersey Nets. When he shot and killed his limo driver in 2002, I thought for sure it was an accident. After all, he played hard and smiled in post-game interviews. How could he possibly kill someone? But then I learned he once shot his dog for not being tough enough. That changed my perspective a bit. Shooting your dog is totally messed up.

Sprite commercials tell us, "Image is nothing, thirst is everything," but everyone knows that's just the image Sprite wants us to have of its product. Image is everything in America—not because we're superficial (though we are), but because image is all we have time for.

Three famous people died last week. Famous people tend to die in threes. One, of course, was Terri Schiavo, who was famous simply because she was dying. Another was Johnnie Cochran, and a third was Pope John Paul II. I have no clue what any of these people were like in person. I'd assume the pope was a nice guy; I mean, you'd pretty much have to be to forgive someone who tried to kill you. But how would I know? Same goes for Johnnie Cochran. Some say he was a hero in the face of police brutality. For others, he's the beat poet who paved the way for McDonald's-made-me-fat lawsuits. But which one was he... in real life? Don't ask me. I never met him.

Steven Warshawsky doesn't know me, but he apparently knows me well enough to say: "I strongly suspect that, like so many young people entranced by their own vigor and ambition, and steeped in the doctrine of moral relativism, Mr. Morris believes that there are human beings whose lives are not worth living (because he would not want to live them)." I wonder why he suspects that. Maybe because he's older than me? Or because I meekly admitted that maybe—just maybe—Terri Schiavo's husband and parents both wanted what they thought was best for her?

Maybe it's just because he thinks Michael Schiavo is an a-hole. I wouldn't know. I've never met Michael Schiavo. And I've never met Steven Warshawsky.

Whichever way you slice it, I'm sure I don't fit into Mr. Warshawsky's image of what a pro-life person should be. That's fine. Some people defend a woman's right to kill an unborn baby. Others defend America's right to kill women and children in foreign countries. I'm no fan of either. I do believe a human being has the right to want to die, though. I'll never know if that's what Terri Schiavo wanted. All I know is her husband and parents both know more than me. You want to call that moral relativity? Call it moral relativity. For them, she was more than the image of a dying woman; she was a woman who died trying to achieve an image of perfection. For you, me, and—yes—Mr. Warshawsky, she was something to gossip about.

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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