By All Appearances

I was reading at Maxed Out Mama’s, a favorite spot to visit, when I am not off getting into trouble in the Wild and Wacky Internet. I came across a quote that struck a chord with me:

“The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error. I come to speak to you in defence of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty – the cause of humanity.”

As in a previous post, this jives with my conviction that we utilize a great power in our use of words, in our protests, and in our arguments. So I googled it. It appears to come from The Cross of Gold speech, by William Jennings Bryan -1896.

Righteous Cause. That is a phrase to give one pause, isn’t it? Especially in the postmodern inflected self-doubt that, should you be ignorant of it, will come to slap you right soundly in the face: “who do you think you are?” Only all bolded and in CAPS.
There is such a thing as righteous cause, and our neglect of it is costing us dearly. It is only when the curtain is lifted and the play is played out that we clamor for a different ending- that we protest long and loud at the audacity of what we find ourselves sitting by and watching.

Better late than never. But still.

Getting back to MaxedOut Mama’s blog, this time on today’s post, dealing with Terri Schiavo’s plight, and putting it into a social context. It made me think of what my husband shared with me. Now you have to understand that as likely as I am to jump into the social controversy fray, my husband is as unlikely. But he feels things deeply, and shared that all week he had been praying that Terri would simply wake up and speak for herself and ‘show them all’ so to speak.

I thought that was a wonderful prayer, but I doubted. Too many decisions had been made in her medical history to give hope for that. And God can do miracles, but even in the great miracles of Jesus there were those bent on their own outcomes.

And can we continue to spit in the face of God and expect his patient interventions to somehow make all things right? My lack of faith -though I would like to believe otherwise- says I will be watching the playing out of our society’s scripting.

We have allowed massive killing by arbitrary judge rulings when it comes to abortion, as well as in this one euthanasia case. In the initial debate back in the sixties I remember the specter of euthanasia being raised upon the invitation of abortion rights. We are seeing this, and it is related. It is related in our general view of what life is. And what many bioethicists and the political propagandists have decided is that life is only the worth what it affords us. If you are able to contribute to the deciding “us”, you are a life. If you no longer contribute- you are worth less than dung.

That is the criteria. And more than a few of us hold to it.

I have said before that I’ve spent lots of time in the online forums…with many arguments on many issues. I learned alot about myself and about my society. One of the interesting and relevant matters that came up in arguing right to life vs. pro-choice was that there are many who hold the line on life –theoretically. They will say they don’t believe in late term abortion, or certain types or that they are generally against abortion, etc.
Then they will say “but I am for women having choice”. So politically they throw their power to the pro-choice side.

One of the points that was very hard to get across was that when you throw your approval or your vote to the one side… you support everything they do de facto. De facto, in reality of the consequence. You can put window dressing on it if you want, but you are saying that all abortion on demand as now practiced holds your support and seal of approval as a citizen. Your lines of demarcation now mean nothing. They are abstractions which are lost in the lowest common denominator of what you will allow, by giving your proxy to others whose lines are at a very different place than yours.

What does this have to do with Terri Schiavo? Much. We have technological advance in science which we have refused to delinate with ethical boundaries. We keep on doing this. We keep on allowing the continuing valuation of life to be not that the person exists as a human, but what we consider a usable contribution from that person. We abstractly project our own imaginations of whether we think we would like to live under those conditions. But really, how silly is that? How many people in the medical profession see again and again how strong the will to live is? It is powerful, because the ability to love completely outstrips ones physical abilities to be a capable thinking person. We can lose much and still love and be loved. And that is a transcendent thing, unquantified by brainwaves and verbalized longings. And the place where we throw our acquiesence in the debate about life will be on the side of it or the side of death.

Yes, we have made the questions harder. Life-support and medical procedures must be in an ethical context. The right of people to decide whether to take advantage or eschew these things must be kept intact. That is in the circle of revering life and maintaining human dignity.

But the enforced will of “experts” or arbitrary judges is leading to a crossroads now. What will we do with our awakened senses concerning Terri Schiavo and those like her?

That is what will remain after all the media coverage dies down. What will we choose to do?

3 thoughts on “By All Appearances”

  1. Bernard, I am very honored to be linked by you, I very much admire your blog. Thank you for reading here.

  2. Ilona, I am honored to be linked by you. You are, as always, uncomfortably clear-sighted.

    I would like to point out one further ramification of your argument above. When we decide as a society that a court will exercise the right to decide whether a person “would have chosen” to starve to death we eradicate the choice permitted by right-to-die laws. The trend towards starving people to death has caused many to fill out paperwork saying they do wish to receive food and water. And now laws in many states allow medical bioethics committees to make the decision that feeding a person is “futile”, and the wishes of the person are not even a factor.

    At least in the abortion debate we are not forcing someone to make this decision. At least in the abortion debate we maintain the possibility of makiing the choice on the individual level, although the life ended is not consulted. Those who are argue that a husband has the right to choose for his wife to be starved to death “since the medical bills are his” are certainly consistent with the abortion promoters. Many now believe that an inconvenient life may be ended by the one whom is inconvenienced.

    Of course, there are additional burdens in a pregnancy, including a possible loss of life for the mother. But it is clear that the philosophy evolved to fit the majority of cases is now being applied more broadly across society.

    We are veering ever closer to a de facto situation in which our official institutions are permitted to substitute themselves for our individual moral choices. This is very far from “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” cited as a self-evident truth several centuries ago.

    I support very strongly the right of individuals to refuse medical therapies including tube feeding (for both religious and moral reasons), but I am appalled at where such laws have led. Therefore I feel a moral responsibility to both support the right of the individual to make such a choice and actively campaign to deny the right of an institution to make such a choice for a person.

    If we do not draw the line at starving people to death in medical institutions who have never recorded such a choice, where will we ever draw it? If we deny the right of a person to be spoon fed, what are we?

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