Last summer, I stayed uncharacteristically silent during the Terri Schiavo sideshow in Florida and to this point, I’ve stayed quiet about Cindy Sheehan, but I’m choosing today to break my silence.
So what do Terri Schiavo and Cindy Sheehan have in common? They were/are media created icons of agenda-driven activists — and poor ones at that. Please allow me to explain.
I’m pro-life to the bone and that means anti-abortion AND anti-euthenasia. But to only but the most ardent prolifers, the Terri Schiavo case was a disasterous test battle for the anti-euthenasia argument. First, there’s the significant family schism that was at the heart of all of this. Certainly, Michael Schiavo came across as a cold, unsympathetic — at times, monstrous — husband who could have ended this whole thing by simply signing off on a divorce or putting Terri under her parent’s care. Instead, he took up with another woman and started having kids by her, he appeared to have some sort of financial motivation due to a malpractice suit settlement, he was cranky and surly after years of feuding with his in-laws and he came across, quite frankly as a boar. Terri’s parents came across as shrill, hysterical, demanding and more-than-a-little out of touch with reality. Is it possible that Michael really did know that his vegetative wife would not have wanted to exist as she was? Perhaps. Were her grieving parents genuinely heartbroken at the state of their daughter and willing to pay whatever cost to keep even a shadow of her former beauty in their lives — without a doubt.
Then enters the attorneys and the activists and the politicians and a bad situation just got worse.
First, the attorneys. Let me state, for the record, I know David Gibbs III who represented the Schiavos and I consider him a friend. I haven’t spoken to him since Terri died and I don’t know his side of the story. But attorneys do what attorneys do and as distateful as it sometimes is as a spectator sport, the rule of law is to give recourse and direction to a civilization and once the conflict became both personal and involved life and death issues, litigation was inevitable. But to reduce a once vibrant, beautiful young lady to being a pawn in a culture war, seemed to me — well, sad (and a lot more.)
Next come the activists — folks on both sides. There were the “Operation Rescue” extremists, the religious Catholics equipped with rosaries and placards, the curious, the sympathetic and the genuinely sincere. Less visible, but consistently vocal were those who empathized less with Michael than Terri, but assumed that no person in their right mind would want to “exist” (because anyone who is intellectually honest wouldn’t call what she was doing “living”) as Terri was. (I would count myself in the “if-that-was-me-pull-the-plug” crowd.) To some extent, some of them were probably put off by the shrillness of those keeping vigil outside of the hospice and thus just naturally took the other side. Either way, it turned into a really pathetic public circus that was about as disrespectful as one could imagine and then they started sending in little kids with loaves of bread and cups of water to get arrested. (Picture me rolling my eyes here.)
Finally, we have the politicians. I think some were honestly driven by principle. I think Governor Bush did the right thing by both seeking to protect life in general and by testing the issue in court. I also think he did the right thing when he finally said, the courts of spoken and ended his participation in it. People have verbally eviscerated the judges who ruled against the politicians, but the law is the law and for once, these judges and justices refused to legislate from the bench which is a good thing. (I KNOW some people would like to argue this point with me and feel free — that’s what comment sections are for.) But once people started trying to make political hay out of this, the public turned on them like month-old cottage cheese.
In the end, euthenasia is a dangerous and unbiblical option which needs to be thoroughly argued and debated and dealt with apart from some individualized and sensationalized case. While our proclivity is to punch emotional buttons by attaching a “human face” to the issue — this is a principle issue and should be approached as such. I contend that Terri Schiavo was a horrible “face” to attach to this debate and in the end, I think it backfired on prolifers (with whom I would generally and otherwise usually be in agreement.)
Now, let’s move to Cindy Sheehan. It seems almost obligatory to express one’s sympathies for her loss of a son and the corresponding grief (which at times in many people can reach the level of irrational) that comes with such a horrific tragedy. Consider my sympathies extended and consider it genuine.
I also want to note for the record, if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have been ardently opposed to the war in Iraq and today am against it. I think we should bring our troops home as soon as we can. I also believe that when you make a mess, you should clean up your mess and with that in mind, we need to stay there until the Iraqi government, people or both ask that we leave or when it becomes obvious that there is nothing more that we can do have to a positive outcome in the country.
But let’s be honest, Cindy Sheehan is a horrible icon for the anti-Iraq war movement. Once again, let’s look at the players.
Cindy comes across as extremely unstable — if not disturbed. Her rhetoric is all over the place. Everytime she goes to lay flowers at the cross that supposedly represents her son with all the cameras whirring around her, I get disgusted. When I was a kid, I told my mom if she ever saw me get hurt on the basketball court, that even if I was laying in an expanding pool of blood, she was to stay in the stands and say, “Oh, he’ll be all right! It’s just a little scratch.” I can’t imagine that the proud soldier who was her son would have wanted her to use his fallen body as a platform on which to launch this spectacle. It’s just pathetic. And to label George Bush as the biggest “terrorist” in the world…well, draw your own conclusion.
Oh and now we’ve got every kook, nut and flake in the country making pilgramages to Crawford, TX. From Michael Moore to smelly beatniks left over from the 60’s they are setting up camp, giving interviews, singing “We Shall Overcome” and trading brownie recipes. Can we say “exploitation?”
The media, who has every right to cover whatever they want for as long as they want however they want, has determined that she’s 2005’s August Celebrity as they search for stories to somehow fill their timeslots while the city of Washington looks like a ghosttown save for the tourists. In some way, I’m kind of thankful for the distraction, otherwise, we’d be getting more stories from Aruba — but that’s another rant.
Bless Cindy’s heart, she’s a mess. Grief makes people do strange things. Someone needs to give her a valium and help her get through the remaining stages of her loss. Should the war be debated…oh, yes! Should someone be held accountable for the lies that sent our troops into the hell-hole of Iraq? I think so. Does Cindy Sheehan really have a clue about what is at state if we pull out immediately, the nuances of the instability in the Middle East and the consequences to our reputation if we leave before the job is done? I’m pretty confident that the thoughts haven’t flitted through her bemuddled mind. She may be a nice person and obviously she loved her son, but trying to turn her into the Iraqi war’s Rosa Parks — well, it’s just senseless.
There’s no question that using individuals to stir people emotionally produces results…sometimes tsunamis of actions. But is that the way to establish public policy? I think not.
Terri Schiavo was quickly forgotten when the Pope died. I suspect that it will only take another bomb in a London Subway or some story breaking that Supreme Court Nominee Roberts once said “Amen” in church and Cindy will also be forgotten in the dust-cloud left by the spinning tires of satellite trucks rushing to meet deadline. And that won’t be a bad thing. As long as we don’t forget to finally sit down and ask (and answer) the tough questions that still need to be resolved.