Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Schiavo part two...People as symbols

Okay. Tom DeLay. I hate him. HATE him now. Tuesday morning's NY Times really hit home for me with this article. Here's the passage that brings tears of anger to me:

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.[...]

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."

Let's start with the first sentence. I'm sure that Terri, her husband, her parents, and all the people who loved and love her don't feel that Terri existed to "elevate the visibility" of any political cause. And while I don't pretend to know the mind of God (unlike Mr. DeLay), I find it offensive to think He'd send Terri and her loved ones through this to further DeLay's (or anyone else's) opinions in the American political arena.

Notice that, in DeLay's quote, there is nothing indicating any interest in the feelings of Terri Schiavo or her loved ones. NOTHING. The first concern is the liberal "syndicate." Check that...that's the second concern. The first is himself. Schiavo is just a symbol for whatever his current political cause is.

And this is my problem. Although he'll tell you he's doing the opposite, DeLay has dehumanized Terri Schiavo. People are people. They are not symbols, and I get angry when political interests (whether I agree with them or disagree with them) make them into symbols.

A particularly resonant example of this (for me, anyway) was the Columbine shootings. With the tragedy in Minnesota this week, maybe we'll get a repeat--I'll watch for it. But back in 1999 everyone on the left and right made Columbine's students and faculty into symbols for whatever they wanted. Their first concern was their pet project; a distant second (or beyond) were the people in pain. They weren't people: they were a public service announcement for gun control/school prayer/smaller schools/better parenting/better suburban architecture (yes, I saw poor architecture blamed for the murders).

There's one more example. Remember when Newt Gingrich said the murder of a pregnant woman was a result of the way welfare was done in this nation? I do. Did he care about the people involved, or did he put his pet issue first? If I remember right, the husband of the victim (whose child remained alive) called a press conference to tell Newt to shut up about his family, then left the spotlight to raise his child. He knew how much Newt (didn't) care.

The same is true of Terri Schiavo. Congress has not met her, and yet is passing unprecedented legislation to protect an individual?

All three of these situations, quite simply, deny the victims so much: their privacy, their own thoughts (it is assumed victims agree with the politician/speaker at all times), and finally, their right to act as their own moral agents. And while I don't have any direct experience with public tragedy in my life, watching the politicans brings tears to my eyes. Angry tears.

Michael Schiavo, I think, has it right when he invites the principles in the political grandstanding to visit Terri. Will the President, Governor, or any grandstanding politician on either side visit? Only if they actually cared about people as people rather than as an arcane political symbol.

In other words...no.

I'll be saying a prayer for all of the Schiavo family tonight. They deserve better from this country. They deserve compassion.


tommyspoon said...

Amen to all that.

Correction: Tom DeLay is a Congressman, not a Senator. If he does ever become a Senator, I may have to do what you outlined in your previous post about your wishes. Hey, the Capitol is only a fifteen minute drive from my house...

lemming said...

I like the Guacamole idea. Right behind you, Mr. Spoon.

Today's news included not only the latest on T.S, but the news that the state legislature has banned gay marriage. Not only gay marriage, but couples cannot make legal arrangements about mutually held property, health care proxies, etc.

Now I learn that the AARP is a group of "wildly leftist and liberal gay marriage supporters." Karl Rove again.

I cannot believe that this is happening, but it is - and I'm mad.

TeacherRefPoet said...


Oops. I'll fix that right away. "Congressman DeLay," or "slimy opportunist DeLay"?

Joe said...

I believe we can borrow an appropriate term from Jon Stewart:

Congressional Douchebag For Freedom.

Me, I'll be leading the Angels Brigade (thank you, brave folk of Laramie). Oh, and holding the bail money.