Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Culture of Death, My Ass!

So-called proponents of life have gone into apoplectic shock about the impending death of woman who doesn't even know where she is, who she is, what she is, or where that bright light is coming from.

Meanwhile, those who support the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube claim that she should be allowed to have "death with dignity". I wonder if these same people feel this way about soldiers dying in Iraq.

Ever since the Schiavo case made national news, Rush Limbaugh has been ranting and raving about this case being an example of a "culture of death" that we now live in.

I think he's back on drugs.

The reason that the Schiavo case is so tragic is that everyone who claims to be speaking for Ms. Schiavo really isn't. Her parents want to keep her alive for them, not her. Her husband says she wants to die. Do we really know that?

As for the people who have nothing to do with the case but who decided to speak up anyway, they are projecting their own views about what they think Ms. Schiavo would want and even have the gall to refer to her by her first name as if they've even met the woman. Excuse me while I vomit.

The truth is that Americans just don't deal with death well. We are so comfortable in this country and see death so rarely that when it does happen, it freaks us out.

The problem is that death is a part of life and a healthy one, at that. We are all going to die. (Yes, even you.)

It used to be that people learned about death growing up and accepted it.

People who grew up on farms or hunting still learn about death as children through the death of animals.

People who are in the military learn lessons about death on the battlefield.

During epidemics of smallpox and bubonic plague, people dealt with death everyday. That was a culture of death.

And people who were in New York City or Washington on 9-11-2001 learned about death, as well.

As for the rest of us, we all fear death. We grow up in suburbs. We never have to want for food. We go to doctors if we are sick. Death? Death is that scary thing that old people have to deal with. Death is that thing that happens to that poor bastard whose house got broken into.

Sure, we joke about death. We watch movies about it. We sing songs about it. (We metalheads do, anyway.) In the end, it's all bullshit. We're fooling ourselves. We don't know shit about death and we end up making excuses for people to die.

For conservatives, they have to be murderers or be fighting (in a war) for God and country. (i.e. We are killing people for the good of society.)

For liberals, it is people making the choice to prevent or end a life out of alleged compassion because they believe that the individual would be to miserable to want to live anyway. (i.e. We are killing you for your own good.)

All of this is well and good, but considering the world we live in, these are not practical views. We fight wars outside our own soil. We can keep a person's body alive who seemingly has no brain function. How do we decide who can die and who can't? Wait a minute. Why are we deciding anyway?

In some tribal cultures, elderly members who felt they had no more to contribute would ceremonially go away to die. Some Americans insist on keep their brain-dead grandparents alive on respirators and shitting into a bag. Aren't we noble.

Gone are the days where we gather around our loved ones deathbed and say goodbye to them as we thank them for gracing us with their presence. Now, we sue doctors for not performing miracles.

I can sum up death in two words: Shit happens.

A person you love very much is going to die. Deal! Culture of death? Don't make me laugh.

Of course, that's just my opinion. Please don't kill me.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Die Die My Darling!

I have two questions:

1. Does Stephen Hawking have the right to die?
2. Can I make a living will that prevents Congress from having a say on whether I live or die?

When I first heard about the case of Terri Schiavo, I just thought it was a clear case of a brain-dead woman being kept alive by machines. I figured that her husband simply wanted to carry out her wishes and that her parents simply couldn't let go.

Well, as we have all discovered, it's not that simple.

Terri Schiavo can breathe on her own. Whether or not she is brain-dead is apparently up for debate.

Her husband claims that Terri Schiavo did not want to be kept alive her current state. If this is true, then he is her knight in shining armor, bravely carrying out her wishes against the objections of her family and millions of onlookers. If this is not the case, he is the worst type of monster who deserves to be killed himself after a being castrated with a dull knife. Place your bets, folks.

Whichever one is the case, Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings don't agree with the decision and believe that she could get better with rehabilitation. Her husband claims that this is nonsense.

The actions of her husband has not helped his case, though. The facts that he only expressed "her wish" to not be kept alive in her current state after receiving a hefty malpractice judgment, indicated that he will cremate her immediately after her death, has not allowed current photographs and videos of her, has hooked up and sired children with another woman, and has refused to grant repeated requests for interviews by the Associated Press gives many the impression that the man has something to hide and may not really care about his wife at all. Of course, I don't know if any of this is true. This is just what I've heard.

The fact that this case has become a case of "he said, she said" is an absurdity of tragic consequence.

The last place in the world that an issue like this should be decided is in a court of law, but unfortunately, this is what has happened. Considering that this case has been going on for years with motion after injunction after God-knows-what, I can honestly see a judge finally throwing up his hands and saying, "Okay, I'm sick of this! This is taking up too much of my time and costing the taxpayers too much! Fine! Kill the bitch! Get her off of my docket! I don't give a shit anymore!"

Now, if somebody doesn't want to live in a debilitated state, I can certainly understand them wanting to end it all. Still, I must admit that it bothers me that a court of law has ordered that a woman who cannot express her wishes can no longer be fed. Using this logic, isn't it quite conceivable that if Stephen Hawking did not have his voice synthesizer and his wife claimed that he did not want to live in his current condition that a court could order the he no longer be fed? After all, he cannot feed himself now. I don't know. Maybe I'm overreacting. (For those who do not know, Stephen Hawking does the talkbox on Pink Floyd's "Keep Talking". Rumor has it, he is a college professor, as well.)

On Friday, members of the U.S. Congress on both sides have decided to grandstand the issue, so now her case has been hopelessly politicized. Now, it doesn't matter what Terri Schiavo wanted. What matters now is who wins the argument. While I admit that I am sympathetic to the parents plea and sort of understand why the Republicans in Congress took the action that they did, I am, also, disgusted by it. This is a clear case of the ends justifying the means. Meanwhile, I've told my wife that if I am in a vegetative state that I don't want Tom Delay to have a say about whether I am taken off of life support or not. Oh, wait. That sounds partisan. Okay, I don't want Nancy Pelosi to have a say, either.

So, now, people start taking sides as information and misinformation flood the media about this poor woman's plight. Some politicians talk about saving her as if they've known her all along. Other politicians talk about her desire to die as if they knew that for a certainty. Journalists interview family members as if they cared about them.

The truth is that nobody knows what Terri Schiavo really wanted. Regardless of whether or not the feeding tube stays out, this woman has already had the indignity of not being able to have any control of her life and having it turn into a public spectacle. The irony of all of this is that the medical technology that saves so many lives is what has caused Terri Schiavo's family so much grief.

So, no matter what happens now, there is only one thing that is certain. Terri Schiavo is going to die. The question is when.