Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Let. Her. Go.

Look, what I'm about to use as an analogy is going to seem cruelly tasteless, but I maintain, as always, that my method is valid. Why? Because THE SIMPSONS is the I Ching--all answers may be found therein, if one only knows how to look. I cite in this instance the episode "Lisa The Vegetarian," in which Lisa (whom her father aptly describes herein as a "know-nothing know-it-all," one of the few times Homer has grasped an ugly truth and expressed it perfectly) turns to vegetarianism out of conscience, and then, with the fanaticism of a born-again Christian, insists that everyone else adopt her world-view. Everyone shrugs her off, largely because her methods of persuasion never extend beyond the shrill and the castigating--hint to Lisa: Positive political change comes through patience, reason, and persistence. Regardless--her frustration at her failure to convert all of Springfield into herbivorism leads her to hijack the suckling pig that her father has prepared for the piece de resistance of his barbeque. She drags it off with what I assume is a lawnboy, and it quickly rolls off under its own momentum, followed by a panicky Homer with Bart in tow. We join our transcript already in progress:

The pig passes through a hedge.

Homer: (desperate) It's just a little dirty--it's still good, it's still good!

The pig crosses a busy highway, then jumps a bridge and lands in a river.

Homer: (chasing it down the current, increasingly desperate) It's just a little slimy--it's still good, it's still good!

The pig gets sucked into a dam's sluice, where it blocks the river's flow like a cork in champagne bottle. Enough pressure builds up behind it and pow!--the pig flies like a champagne cork, only unlike the cork, it never comes down; it just flies away across the horizon.

Homer: (still desperate, but you can hear the futility in his voice) It's just a little airborne--it's still good, it's still good!

Bart: (with finality) It's gone.

Homer: (crushed) I know.

Folks, that pig? Terry Schiavo, the woman in Florida who's been brain-dead for over a decade. Homer? Her parents, who want her feeding tube to stay in place. Bart? Her husband, who's been saying all along that she always said she wouldn't want to live this way and wants to let her be at peace. A perfect analogy. Ms. Schiavo is gone, folks--a victim of science progressing far enough to keep her body alive but not far enough to do a damn thing about her brain. She's gone. She's not coming back. And even if she did--even if, oh miracle of miracles, she awakes, her brain is cabbage, folks. Her quality of life would be about what it is now, only with more drooling. She would be, in essence, a late-stage Alzheimer's victim, unable to communicate, recognize others, or do anything but lie in bed soiling herself. Who she was--the daughter that these parents love and want to hold onto? She's not there anymore. And yet, because her heart still beats and her lungs still inflate, they cling to her, claiming that she's still 'alive'--she's still good! She's still good! No, she isn't. This isn't The Dead Zone, people. She's not going to wake up fully functional with psychic powers. She's dead in every meaningful, human sense of the term, and what we have is a houseplant in the shape of a human being. Does human life in and of itself have value? Of course--but only if that life is human. And what defines human life is reason, memory, emotion, communication, the ability to be something more or other than a vegetable. In that sense--in that very real sense--I'm afraid that Ms. Schiavo is no longer human. That's an ugly, awful thing to say--it's an ugly, awful thing to think. But it's also true. A body without a brain is a corpse--it doesn't matter if the corpse has a functional circulatory system--and a corpse is not human. Not in a legal sense, not in a moral sense, not even in a sentimental sense.

I understand--I do--why the parents don't want to let go--they don't want to accept the unimaginable pain of what most people agree is the most emotionally agonizing experience anyone can go through--the loss of a beloved child. They will do anything--anything--to spare themselves that fate. But that's my point--they're not thinking about her. They're thinking about themselves. This is about them. And that's where they lose my sympathy. They're fighting to be able to tell themselves that she's still there--she's still good, she's still good!--so that they can go visit an inanimate bundle of flesh and bone rather than a gravestone--so they can talk to a deaf, blind, uncomprehending body than to a memorial. Well, boo-f***ing-hoo. How nice for them. How decent. How caring. How selfish. Let her go, folks. She's not still good--she's gone. Gone.

And of course, we might let her go with dignity, and then use those perfectly good organs to save the live of real humans--we might give her loss meaning by enabling her death to be a gift to those who can think and feel and who have families and loved ones of their own. But stupid, cold-blooded fanatics who think they're caring, moral people don't want that to happen. They stand outside and protest for a dead woman while inside that same hospital are dozens of people who need bedpans changed, pillows fluffed, who need human contact, who need real help--but, you know, "F*** them, I'm not gonna deal with real people--they're mean and cranky and I might not like them and besides, blood and sh*t and all that icky stuff make me want to urp. No, I'm gonna stay out here in the clean, warm sunlight and pat myself on the back for how moral I am." F*** these people. F*** them raw.

And as for the Senatorial forces massing to preserve the sanctity of life? Folks, don't be fooled. These people couldn't give less of a sh*t about what happens to this woman--save, I suppose, for the lunatic fringe of people like Rick "Why Yes I Was A Spanish Inquisitor In A Former Life" Santorum and Gary Bauer--the others just want to make some cheap political hay out of this godawful mess of private pain. The GOP representatives are only pulling evil sh*t like issuing a subpeona to a comatose woman--nice, very tasteful, you soulless f***s--for the same reason they jumped all over 'gay marriage'--because, if you think about it, Republicans ought to (and probably do) rather like the idea of yanking the plug on poor Terry, because it's much the cheapest option in this situation--put it this way: if it's what an HMO executive would insist upon, it's probably what an elected Republican would like. Point is, like 'gay marriage,' it's a great 'wedge issue'--by taking a 'principled' stand, they force the opposition to take an unpleasant if morally consistent position: "No, let her die! We'll fight to let her die!" Which makes it seem as though they're fighting to kill her. And at a time when the Republicans are scrambling a bit because they don't want to get on board with Bush's Social Security--heh--'reform,' but also don't want to look like traitors to the leader of their party, this wedge issue makes them look good to their constituents and buys them some time. Pretty shrewd, really. So while it's fine to be appalled at them, I say let's be appalled for the right reason: not because, like their idiotic, vigil-holding supporters, they're ideology-driven fanatics who don't care about human suffering, but because they're Machiavellian monsters who don't care about human suffering. Huge difference.

Let her go, folks. It's been time for a long time. I say it again: She's not 'still good'--she's gone. It's sad, and it's ugly, and it's true. Enough said, I think.


Blogger Lisa said...

Yes, she's gone. Yes, she should be allowed to die. Yes, her parents are misguided. Yes, some of their supporters are disingenuous. But.


I would find her husband's fight to let her die more appealing if he were not in a position to inherit the multi-million dollar trust fund which the jury intended to be used for her care, and if he were not presently living with another woman, the mother of his young children, whom he plans to marry as soon as Terry is dead.

He could divorce Terry and get on with his life. But then Terry's parents would be left in complete control of her medical care, and they would get the trust fund instead of him.

I hate being cynical.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. said...

No, you're probably right to be cynical--and I certainly don't wonder about the gentleman's motives. I suppose I was simply looking at the problem from the perspective of her and her parents and the 'cause jackals' that have circled the body. Hubby probably could make himself look a lot better, not necessarily by divorcing her (since one could argue that only by remaining married to her could he maintain control over her supposed wish to die), but by waiving any and all claims to the money after medical/legal costs are paid. Were I in his corner, that's what I'd urge him to do. Because, I agree, not doing so almost necessitates a cynical reading of his motives. And given the stakes, one doesn't want to give the other side any ammunition...So yeah, he needs to forgo the cash in order to claim the moral high-ground. Otherwise, BOTH sides of this debate leave me with a creepy feeling...

10:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home