for a brain-dead woman, she sure controls a lot of votes

Yesterday, on the way home from work, I was listening to right wing talk radio. (What can I say, I miss the trolls.) The subject being discussed was… as if you couldn’t guess…. Terri Schiavo. The host, in an attempt to further stoke the fervor of his audience, was suggesting that her husband wanted her dead because he was afraid that, if she were to receive decent medical care, she might recover and tell the authorities what really happened to her fifteen years ago. The implication being, of course, that he had tried to kill her. (It doesn’t really explain why he waited for seven years before starting the legal process to have life-support withheld, but it’s a good story.) The host then called for president Bush to fly to Florida with and army of federal agents and “rescue” her (one imagines, like Jessica Lynch) from the clutches of her husband and the activist judges who are conspiring with him.

That same morning, I’d heard Republican Senator Bill Frist say that he wanted to “give Terri a second chance at life,” as though such a thing would be possible for a woman who has warm jelly where her brains had been. Frist went on to say that, in his professional medical opinion, she was not in a “persistent vegetative state.” He concluded this after watching a several year old clip of her rolling her eyes and swinging her mouth open.

The bottom line is that this is just the opportunity that the right wing was waiting for – an opportunity to appeal to their evangelical base, without upsetting their corporate backers – and they’re not going to let it slip away. They’re going to milk it for all it’s worth. They’re going to push it to the point of comedy.

The whole thing pisses me off. I’m pissed that Bush didn’t cut short his vacation in Crawford to respond to a memo entitled, “Osama bin Laden determined to strike within the United States,” but that he got his ass back to Washington in a heartbeat to enact clearly unconstitutional legislation to reinstate this woman’s feeding tube. I’m pissed that this so-called “family values” administration that prides itself on the heroic “defense of marriage” decides, when it’s politically expedient to do so, that the federal government is better fit to make life and death decisions for a woman than her own legally-wedded husband. It pisses me off that people who have never met and/or examined this woman are suggesting that she may still have some hope of recovery. It pisses me off that a family that clearly wants to hold onto their daughter is being strung along like this for political gain. It pisses me off that there are real issues that need to be dealt with in this country while we’re busy talking about steroids use among baseball players and one brain-dead woman’s feeding tube. It pisses me off that Bush “signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient’s family’s wishes,” and no one seems to see the hypocricy. And, it pisses me off that an African American baby was just allowed to die under this “Texas Futile Care Law,” against the wishes of his family… I’m not sure where he fit into the president’s “culture of life.” Hopefully someone will have the balls to ask him one day.

So, as I was sitting here just now, thinking about this sad production that American politics has become, I was reminded of a passage from Thomas Frank’s book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Fortunately, the book was within slouching distance, and I was able to find the quote. Here it is, from page six:

The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may “matter most” to voters, but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won. This is a basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent across its decades-long history. Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act. Even the greatest culture warrior of them all was a notorious cop-out once it came time to deliver. “Reagan made himself the champion of ‘traditional values,’ but there is no evidence he regarded their restoration as a high priority,” wrote Christopher Lasch, one of the most astute analysts of the backlash sensibility. “What he really cared about was the revival of the unregulated capitalism of the twenties: the repeal of the New Deal.”

While I think this is a bit simplistic, in that I really do believe that some Republicans would like to end abortion, affirmative action, and elements of popular culture, I would contend that what we’re seeing unfold right now around Terri Schiavo is right in line with this. What we’re seeing is an army of Republicans (and some Democrats) tripping over themselves in attempts to ingratiate themselves to their extremist base without actually having to do anything substantive. (Hell, it’s a lot easeir than protecting America, providing affordable healthcare, and fixing Social Security.) They believe they can win their midterm elections in ’06 just by getting on TV and claiming that they’re for saving this poor woman’s life… And, the sad thing is, they’re probably right.

So, with all of that said, here’s what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that Terri’s husband sign over power of attorney for his wife to the Bush brothers and that they share in the responsibility of caring for her. Actually, I’m thinking that, once she recuperates, she’ll probably want to travel, so, with that in mind, I’d like to suggest that she alternate between the following “culture of lifers,” spending a few months with each… Bill Frist (he should have her first because he’s a doctor and he can, I’m sure, fix her right up), Tom DeLay, George Bush, Jeb Bush, and Mel Gibson…. I think that’s what God would want.

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  1. Chris
    Posted March 24, 2005 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Well put, Mark. I’m pissed about all of the same things, not to mention the gas prices that someone (guess who?) is probably making a fortune off of.

    I had to drive up to Pinellas Park the other day for my job and actually witnessed the carnival going on outside the facility of this woman. Squeeze in a dunking booth and a juggling bear and charge admission. Some assholes are getting arrested for actually trying to sneak bottled water into the place for this woman. She can’t swallow, hence the feeding tube. Maybe they intended on drowning her, I don’t know.

    Anyway, excellent synopsis of the situation. Being from outside the state, you summarized it better that the talking heads at ABC/CBS/NBC.

  2. JF
    Posted March 24, 2005 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Agreed Mark!! This grandstanding by the President and Congress is absolutely disgusting. This is a court issue and should have nothing to do with politicians. Stay out of my life. The talking heads of this world have managed to make the husband the villian in this case. They have failed to mention the 7 years he spent caring for this woman. The fact he became a registered nurse to care for her. Flew her around the country getting expert opinions. He moved on and now is the bad guy. Years ago he offered to give all of the trust fund money to charity if the parents let him remove the tube. Now the Bush family is planning a kidnapping. UNREAL!!!

  3. JF
    Posted March 24, 2005 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    If the courts dont vote your way just get the guns and kidnap and force feed them.

  4. Posted March 24, 2005 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Sen. Bill Frist (R- vivisectionist). Yikes.

    It’s not really surprising he’s at the center of this monstrostity, considering his perpetual need to cash in on the empathy vote every chance he gets. He’s done his fair share of ambulance chasing, always followed by calling a press conference to announce his great work, and then comes off with an almost Dubya-like “Aw, shucks” persona of mock humility.

    I agree with your prognosis, Dr. Maynard. I think this is clearly a massive interference campaign designed, carny-like, to distract rubes long enough to pick their pockets.

    I’m surprised I haven’t heard someone suggest that Terry Schiavo just “Pick herself up by her bootstraps”.

  5. Posted March 24, 2005 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Brett- Ooh, that’s a good one. My girlfriend and I already made the obligatory “We’ve replaced her feeding tube with Folger’s Crystals” jokes…

    Something else that’s worth noting is that Michael Schavo gave up his rights to determine Terry’s fate; the decision to remove her tube is one made by (as of last count) 19 separate judges.

    And, weirdly enough, this is one time when the public (85% says ABC/USA Today) opposes government intervention.
    Time to call the Republicans ghouls and win some Dem points.
    “This is what being a liberal means: It means standing up against the government for a person’s right to die. The Republicans want to rewrite the constitution so that only they can tell you when to die. Don’t let them.”
    Boom. Easy swing of middle-aged voters for the midterm.

  6. JF
    Posted March 24, 2005 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I think you meant Libertarian not Liberal JS. You would be hard pressed to find many liberals that oppose government intervention.


  7. chris
    Posted March 24, 2005 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Anyone read Scalia’s profile in the NYer? Nice timing. Perfect analaysis Mark. The oddest aspect about all of this other than Christian right to lifers preventing an obvious act of God (if he decides when people live should he not also decide when they die?), is the fact that this coma was apparently induced by an “eating disorder”?!?

    -OC (original chris or other chris)

  8. anoniTed
    Posted March 25, 2005 at 10:26 am | Permalink
    Thursday, March 24, 2005

  9. Posted March 25, 2005 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    JF- No, I meant liberal, as in: protecting people’s personal rights.

  10. dorothy
    Posted March 25, 2005 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    neat analysis mark, you should be writing for the NY times. if you haven’t read “the handmaids’s tale,” beg borrow or steal a copy. it illustrates the result of allowing boy george and his right wing cohorts to meddle in our personal and private lives. keep up the good work!

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