Thursday, March 31, 2005

RIP Terri Schiavo: The Sad Truth of Denial

The news of Terri Schiavo's death was not unexpected, but I nonetheless personally reacted to it with a hint of sadness. My feeling that she's in a better place, is seemingly similar to most people's reactions. However, there is a distinct difference between the two sides -- one which favors allowing Ms. Schiavo's wishes to be respected and honored -- and the other, which favors keeping her "alive" despite her wishes. Further, despite the fact that most thinking people concur with and respect her wishes and believe she would indeed want to be allowed to die, under the circumstances which have defined the last 14 years of her life, the volume and the urgency and the extremism which can be attributed to those who deemed her destiny theirs to control is quite interesting.

As I've touched on herein on several occasions, it amazes me that there are those so fervently against this nation's policy toward abortion that they are willing to kill doctors who perform abortions. This mentality -- of "doing right" no matter what the cost, or what common sense would dictate -- extended to the Terri Schiavo situation. Despite several doctors confirming Ms. Schiavo's cerebral cortex was gone -- virtually wiped out by the heart failure which occurred 14 years ago -- and that she had no hope for recovery, there remained -- and remains -- a minority of people who suspect conspiracy. Conspiracy by the doctors who apparently conspired to kill their daughter; conspiracy by the variety of judges who have heard various arguments connected to this situation to support Judge Greer, who ordered Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube removed on March 18th; and conspiracy by the media to bury all the truths that have been otherwise ignored in favor of a mass scale to assist Michael Schiavo in killing his wife.

In the minds of people supporting or concurring with the above-rendered "facts," these represent part or all of the truth surrounding Ms. Schiavo's "struggle to stay alive."

These are very interesting theories, they're very creative, and they are certainly thorough. Unfortunately, of course, they're all bullshit. But that hasn't stopped an entire segment of the Christian Right from extruding it like manure all over the place, infecting whomever is stupid enough to believe it.

At some point yesterday, my girlfriend and I were discussing the news of Douglas Smith, Jr., the former Boy Scout official who was indicted for sharing and possessing child pornography, when I mentioned to her that he had plead guilty to the lone charge set forth against him. "When was the last time you heard of someone pleading guilty to something like that?" she replied. And it occurred to me that I didn't remember the last time a high-profile case was cut short due to a guilty plea. Denial, it seems, whether it is OJ Simpson or a petty theft, is the word of the day.

Within that context, I was perusing the results of a search engine this morning and came across another blog which has addressed the Terri Schiavo situation, I clicked over to the "facts" page here and was impressed with both the creativity and the conviction the author conveyed. As I worked my way through it, however, I was amazed at how inaccurate the uncredited writer is. The below is a partial list of "facts" from the aforelinked page; my comments are in italics.


A few facts about Terri

For those of you who have not been keeping up with Terri's plight, here are some facts about Terri that you should know: · Terri Schiavo is not a “vegetable,” she is not “brain dead,” and she is not in a persistent vegetative state. She recognizes and responds to others and makes attempts to verbally communicate. Videos and the truth about her condition is available at and

Unfortunately, this is not "fact," it's fiction. Ms. Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, according to the court-appointed doctor who examined her together with her records. Her records include a variety of MRI's of her brain which shows her cerebral cortex is no longer present; it doesn't receive blood, and it has been replaced by spinal fluid. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain which permits thought, reason and communication. It also enables the brain to interpret pain, pleasure and other sensory input received from cells all over the body. Since Ms. Schiavo's cerebral cortex is non-existent, she was, prior to her death, unable to experience any of these things. Doctors described her particular condition as a persistent vegetative state, because not only was she unable to experience these things, communicate in any meaningful way, or experience life as a human being, but because brain tissue does not regenerate, she had no hope of improvement.

· Terri is not on life support but does receive food and water through a removable tube, which experts testify would not even be necessary if she were given therapy. This assisted feeding is a natural means of preserving life and not a medical act of life support or heroic measures.

Partial fact, partial fiction. She was not on life support other than sustenance via a feeding tube; however, there was one "expert" who testified that therapy might have been sufficient in replacing the tube. That doctor, Dr. William Cheshire, suggested that Ms. Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state and that she could improve with therapy.

Dr. Cheshire, however, as I wrote in a prior entry, is the director of biotech ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a group founded in 1994 to recognize the contribution of 'biblical values' to the bioethical debate. Judge George Greer discounted Dr. Cheshire's testimony in part due to his heavily-biased credentials and in part because all medical science demonstrated that, without a cerebral cortex, therapy and time would not improve Ms. Schiavo's condition. Further, there was discrepancy based on her failure to complete a "swallow" test -- which test determines if the incapacitated patient can ingest liquids and/or solid food. If said patient cannot do either, a feeding tube is necessary.

Incidentally, Ms. Schiavo never successfully completed a swallow test.

· Twelve medical experts and nurses who cared for her confirmed these facts. Video available through shows Terri responding and interacting with others. Health care workers have testified under oath that she expresses herself using words, such as “mommy” and “help me”. This evidence was not allowed in court by Judge Greer.

More fiction. Twelve "medical experts" did not verify any of the above. If they had, they would have been listed in any number of court cases during which Michael Schiavo and Ms. Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, clashed.

The video listed above doesn't show her "saying" anything; it shows her making sounds that can be interpreted in any number of ways. For example, one of the sounds she made was "uh" -- some people can interpret that as her indicating pain; others could interpret that as her jokingly referring to someone in her hospital room as ugly; and others, adhering to the fact that Ms. Schiavo, without a cerebral cortex, would be unable to form words, attributed this and other sounds as her body simply reacting physioglogically and without any predetermined or premeditated thought.

Further, the one videotape that Judge Greer viewed was edited, and that showed Ms. Schiavo reacting to her father waving a Mickey Mouse balloon and showed Ms. Schiavo smiling at her mother as she rubbed her shoulders; after Judge Greer requested and viewed the unedited tapes, however, he confirmed that Ms. Schiavo was unable to follow stimuli; she would smile, as she did in the edited tape at her mother, for no apparent reason and without anyone present in the room. She had the same blank look on her face whether her father was waving a balloon, her mother was rubbing her shoulders, or a nurse was changing her bedpan. In short, any and all reactions were actually physiological actions devoid of thought or cognitive reason.

· Terri is a person with disabilities who thinks and expresses her moods and desires. She is loved by her family and responds to their visits with smiles and laughter.

Fiction, except (presumably) the part about her family's love. By the time Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was ordered to be removed by Judge Greer on March 18th, she had no cerebral cortex. She was, unfortunately, therefore, incapable of expressing moods, desires, love or responses. She was able to "laugh" but in essence there was no cognitive thought behind said laughter. In effect, by March 18th, she had less cognitive brain function than most pet dogs.

· Terri Schiavo may be the victim of ongoing negligence and injustice. She has been denied therapy and rehabilitation by her guardian since 1991. Florida’s guardianship laws REQUIRE that these necessary services be given to her.

Another vote for fiction. She was not only given proper care, her supervision was mandated to Michael, her husband, by a court of law, and five different courts (and at least a dozen judges) supervised her treatment as recommended not by a doctor hired by Michael but appointed by the court. Florida's guardianship laws require that necessary services be provided to people who require them. Each court reviewed Michael's care and supervision of Ms. Schiavo and none found any instance of wrongdoing whatsoever.

According to the Second District's initial opinion in connection with Ms. Schiavo's situation, this was part of their decision:
Theresa has been blessed with loving parents and a loving husband. Many patients in this condition would have been abandoned by friends and family within the first year. Michael has continued to care for her and to visit her all these years. He has never divorced her. He has become a professional respiratory therapist and works in a nearby hospital. As a guardian, he has always attempted to provide optimum treatment for his wife. He has been a diligent watch guard of Theresa's care, never hesitating to annoy the nursing staff in order to assure that she receives the proper treatment.
· In 1992, Terri’s husband Michael won $1.7 million in negligence lawsuit under the pretext of funding her rehabilitation and care. He testified, “I believe in the vows that I took with my wife. Through sickness, in health, for richer or poorer. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that.” Since that time, Terri has received no rehabilitation, all beneficial forms of stimulation (e.g. music) have been prohibited and basic health care, such as treatment for a life threatening urinary tract infection, has been purposefully withheld at Michael’s direction.

More fiction. Firstly, Michael offered to share or relinquish that money to her family provided they acknowledged her interest in not being kept alive indefinitely. They refused. Secondly, she received rehabilitation, stimulation, and both basic and sophisticated health care throughout the last 14 years. Finally, to suggest that 30 or more separate court decisions have been offered without continuing medical testing is so ludicrous that it doesn't merit response.

· Even though Terri’s husband has started a family of his own with another woman and their two children, he refuses to end his marriage to Terri or relinquish her care to her immediate family.

This is true in that a) Michael Schiavo has has two children with another woman; and b) he refused to end his marriage to Ms. Schiavo. However, he was appointed her legal guardian by the State of Florida, and the Schindlers begged him to relinquish this position after he petitioned the court to see whether Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube should be disconnected. He didn't petition the court to have the tube removed, but merely to investigate whether, based on Ms. Schiavo's wishes, it should be removed, and he waited, incidentally, to even consider the subject until after the Second Court issued the following decision:

Over the span of this last decade, Theresa's brain has deteriorated because of the lack of oxygen it suffered at the time of the heart attack. By mid 1996, the CAT scans of her brain showed a severely abnormal structure. At this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral spinal fluid. Medicine cannot cure this condition. Unless an act of God, a true miracle, were to recreate her brain, Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state, totally dependent upon others to feed her and care for her most private needs.
· Terri’s “collapse” has become controversial after a previously unavailable bone scan surfaced in 2002 which revealed multiple fractures consistent with a traumatic event. To date, no investigation has been conducted to determine the source of Terri’s injuries, but a radiologist gave a sworn statement that the date of those injuries would fall within the period of her mysterious collapse.

Truth. According to, a bone scan was taken in 1991 and that the doctor who read it saw on it evidence of past trauma at various places on Terri's body. Some consider that evidence of a severe beating by her husband, others consider it evidence consistent with bulimia, a fall, and CPR by paramedics. Whether trauma really happened, or what kind, or when, are all unclear.The bone scan was not raised in the original trial regarding Terri's wishes. The issue was raised by the Schindlers in a November 2002 emergency motion. Judge Greer rejected the matter as being irrelevant to the issue of Terri's wishes.

· Remarkably, The Florida Courts have sided with Michael, accepting the testimony of two “expert witnesses”, one of whom is a known advocate of “mercy killing”, over that of twelve independent medical professionals (6 of them neurologists).

Fiction. The testimony provided by the Schindler family was based in large part on the examination-by-proxy performed by Dr. William Cheshire, (the director of biotech ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a group founded in 1994 to recognize the contribution of 'biblical values' to the bioethical debate). The Court-appointed physician simply was asked to determine whether Ms. Schiavo’s condition was permanent and what the then-current status of her brain injuries were. Once it was established that her cerebral cortex was irreparably damaged by the court-appointed physician (verified by MRI tests), there was no need to revisit the issue provided by any number of medical personnel hired by the Schindler family.

· Without intervention by the Florida Governor and Legislature, Judge George Greer is set to give Michael the legal empowerment to withhold food and water from his wife for the purpose of starving her to death.

Fiction. Judge Greer never ceded to Michael that power. Michael sought a hearing to determine whether Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed. He did not request her feeding tube be removed. Greer himself deemed Ms. Schiavo’s medical situation to be hopeless; he similarly agreed that her wish was to be allowed to die if she indeed became permanently incapacitated. Finally, it was Judge Greer who gave the order to have her feeding tube removed.

· Terri Schiavo deserves to have medical tests and therapy. She does not deserve to be starved and dehydrated to death.

Fiction in part. Certainly, Ms. Schiavo, like any human being, deserved proper medical attention. The fiction is the suggestion that she did not receive it.

Over the course of the past 14 years, Ms. Schiavo was examined by over 20 different doctors and had a cavalcade of tests. No human being deserves to be starved and dehydrated to death. However, in the place of the administration of a drug that would almost instantly allow Ms. Schiavo’s body to die, the only other option, legally and politically, was the removal of Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube.

It should be made clear that a human being without a functioning cerebral cortex cannot process pain, sensation or stimuli. To wit, Ms. Schiavo was unable to feel a pin-prick on her skin, a hand on her shoulder or a tap on her knee. And despite her body’s ability to react physiologically to stimuli (eg a tap on the knee to test for reflexes), her mind was not able to feel the stimulus or control the movement of her knee. In fact, her mind was not able to sense the presence of the doctor examining her, the instrument used to test her reflexes, or the light in the room.

In layman's terms, her body was “alive” but her mind was not.

· Advancements in the understanding of brain activity and misdiagnosis and the recent recovery of a patient after 20 years in a persistent vegetative state, further calls into question any decision that would end the life of Terri Schiavo. Terri deserves to be cared for and loved by her family. She laughs and cries, she has a need for human companionship, she feels emotional and physical pain, she loves music, and she hates her dad's mustache when he kisses her (she makes a face). Her body isn't perfect, but her heart is. Why does Michael Schiavo, Judge George Greer, and George Felos want her dead?

Fiction. Lots and Lots of it.

The advancements in the study of the brain have certainly made progress since Ms. Schiavo’s heart failure, but what this progress has done was confirm, over the past 14 years, that her cerebral cortex had been irreparably damaged and its condition worsened over this period of time. And medical science has not yet found a way to regenerate brain tissue. Had that technology been discovered and successfully implemented, Ms. Schiavo might be alive today.

Unfortunately, the state of medical science was not able to “fix” or replace her cerebral cortex and until medical science finds a way to do this, someone without a functioning cerebral cortex will exist in a vegetative state.

As for laughing and crying, Ms. Schiavo uttered sounds which resembled laughter, but she did so involuntarily. She could not “cry;” one or both of her eyes, on occasion, would become watery, but it was her body’s way of expelling dust or other pollutants from the eye. Most humans, in their lifetime, will get a grain of sand, dust or even an errant eyelash on their eyeball; even if they are extremely happy at that moment, one of their eyes will water (or tear) in order to assist in removing the pollutant. It’s an involuntary, physiological response to environment, not a conscious, emotional reaction to a life event.

As for her need for human companionship, the review of unedited video showed she was unable to even acknowledge the presence of one or more people in her room at the hospice. Her “reactions” to same were identical, in fact, to instances where there were no people in her room at all.

Because her cerebral cortex is gone and non-functioning, the supposition that she could feel physical and emotional pain is patently false. It’s physiologically impossible for someone without a cerebral cortex to feel or sense anything.

As far as her hating her father’s mustache, prior to her heart failure, that is certainly a possibility. However, once she lost the ability to reason cognitively, it’s likely that her father’s mustache simply “tickled” her facial muscles and said muscles “reacted” by contorting. It would be the same reaction if someone ran their fingers repeatedly on the sole of another (ticklish) human’s foot. The person being tickled has no control over their reaction to the stimulus; but it doesn’t imply a conscious, cognitive reaction to the stimulus; rather, it’s purely physiological.

Finally, none of the people – Judge Greer, Michael Schiavo, nor George Felos – wanted Ms. Schiavo dead. Neither did the Second District Court, nor the Appellate Court, nor the US Supreme Court, nor Jeb Bush, nor the hospice, nor the members of the Florida Senate, nor the members of the Florida House, nor the members of the US Congress, nor the President himself, want Ms. Schiavo to die. However, all of these entities concurred that Ms. Schiavo’s wish to not be kept alive artificially, despite the beliefs and/or the ignorance of a group of people, were irrelevant.


While Ms. Schiavo’s death this morning was greeted with sadness and disappointment, many among us agree that it was her desire to not be kept alive artificially should she become incapacitated without hope for improvement. And many more among us feel similarly with regard to our own lives.

While Bob & Mary Schindler are allowed their own beliefs, as is every US citizen, it is unfortunate that they disregarded their daughter’s own wishes, distorted the facts, stole what little dignity she had left, and made a spectacle of the end of her life.

It amazes me that, of the extremely vocal minority who opposed her being allowed to die with dignity, so many thereof are armed with falsehoods, fiction and belief in the place of truths. The lone essential fact that Ms. Schiavo had no cognitive brain function, as a result of the irreparable damage to her cerebral cortex, made it impossible for her to function as a human being on a meaningful mental level, precluded her improvement no matter what therapy known to medical science was implemented, and made irrelevant any and all opinions about her life that were not hers.

Finally, I originally intended to cease addressing Ms. Schiavo herein once she passed away; and I will honor that, in order not only to be bound by my own decision but out of respect to her dignity. However, I anticipate that tomorrow, and the days thereafter, will be filled with more fiction in connection with this matter; if the author(s) of the listed material feel comfort in blatantly misrepresenting and/or corrupting the truth, I am sure that they are not alone. However, I would encourage any and all people interested in this topic to visit for unbiased, succinct review of the facts surrounding Ms. Schiavo’s life and death.

Further, I would hope that, in the face of clearly differing opinions, the reader will make his or her own decisions about the veracity of facts, opinions and concepts put forth here and every- and anywhere he or she travels. Blatantly obeying faith, half-truth and misrepresentation is why this “controversy” became so out-of-hand. In the words of Rush lyricist Neil Peart, in the song “Hemispheres,” I subscribe to the following, and I encourage all to do the same.

We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim

Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united in a single

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Day Common Sense Took A Holiday

Here at the HoB, we've gone a bit heavy on the Terri Schiavo matter, but since I'm still personally recovering from a four-day cold, a dearth of sleep and reeling over the masturbatory futility of the Schindler family's legal attempts at circumventing the laws of the United States, I figgered it'd be worth cramming in as much of this saga as is humanly possible prior to Ms. Schiavo's impending death, which, frankly, will be coming soon.

Incidentally, many people who have been overtaken with the Constitutional issues embedded in this fiasco forget that at the heart of this matter is a woman who will soon die. Granted, she's been unable to communicate, think or even blink her eyelids in any deliberate way since she suffered heart failure due to a bulemia-caused chemical imbalance. In other words, she's pretty much gone already; but once her heart stops beating, that will be it. Despite right and wrong, the loss of human life, especially considering the bizarre spectacle in which this situation has culminated, is worth contemplating on its own.

The day's events came fast and furious: Jesse Jackson made his way to speak with Florida Governor Jeb Bush; he was invited to the hospice by the Schindlers but was denied a visit with Ms. Schiavo by her husband, Michael. The main reason, one would speculate, Michael Schiavo denied Jackson access to his wife was to limit his on-camera time. Jesse Jackson is clearly not concerned about Ms. Schiavo's well-being; his interest in this case is to express and instill his beliefs on the politicians and the proletariat at large. The only thing that he has not yet attempted is riding up to the entrance of the hospice on a large white horse named "Miracle." And frankly, I wouldn't put that tactic past him.

Meanwhile, Dubya's wife Laura weighed in on the whole situation while doing her Tupperware Party in Afghanistan. Her brilliancy shone through: "It's a life issue. The federal government has to be involved. It really does require the government to be involved."

With all due respect to Ms. Bush, it's a personal issue, not a life issue. I can scribble out a living will right now and have my next-door neighbor, Cherry (she's a stripper) bear witness to my living will; the government, subsequently, cannot and should not be involved in my choice to be allowed to expire should I recede into an incapacitated, unrecoverable state (judging by this forum, that's to be expected -- soon). No government official, elected or otherwise, has the right to tell me I cannot choose to be allowed to die should I become incapacitated without hope for recovery. Doesn't matter how many bibles or protesters shack up outside my apartment -- it ain't happening. In fact, a government official has more right to demand more new episodes of Melrose Place than dictate to me my right to die, should I so choose.

More participants weighed in today, as was expected; specifically, Ms. Schiavo's father Bob described Ms. Schiavo fighting to stay alive. She can't give a thumbs up, cannot say "hello" and hasn't been aware of her surroundings for 14 years, but, according to Mr. Schindler, "she's fighting to stay alive." Okee. I believe Mr. Schindler. Just because he's suggested a variety of judges are conspiring to kill his daughter, as is the hospice which is looking after her, not to mention her husband, doesn't mean his credibility is completely in the toilet. Not at all. In fact, if he offered, I'd buy the Brooklyn Bridge from him. Again.

Mr. Schindler's wife Mary spoke directly to Ms. Schiavo's husband and his companion this afternoon. "Michael and Jodi, you have your own children. Please, please give my child back to me."

The problem is, of course, that it's not Michael's or Jodi's or Ned's or Billy-Bob's place to "give" her daughter back to her. God, and Ms. Schiavo herself, made these decisions: the former provided heart failure, and Ms. Schiavo's bulemia (which went unnoticed by doctors) and her own personal feelings and choices were the remainder.

I'm not going to address the expected national reaction to Ms. Schiavo's death, which is near. Last weekend I remarked to friends that I was surprised no network (nor cable) news program/network hasn't entitled a segment or dedicated a rolling bar called "The Terri Schiavo Death-Watch." America has locked onto this issue and, while it largely focuses on the Constitutional rights of individuals, the states, the Fed and the Judicial Branch (on the state and Federal levels), it seems to me that this situation should be anything but focused (or intruding on the family struggles) of Ms. Schiavo, her husband, and her family.

I anticipate mass memorials throughout the locale the hospice is located (Pinellas Park, Florida) as well as Washington, where protesters began plying their beliefs. As I've indicated herein on more than one instance, I respect and admire the fact that this country fosters -- thrives on -- the freedom of speech. However, we must temper that freedom of speech and the notion itself of self-government with education and intelligence, lest our efforts fail. Thomas Jefferson, in an 1819 letter to John Adams, wrote:
"[If a] people [are] so demoralized and depraved as to be incapable
of exercising a wholesome control, their reformation must be taken up ab
incunabulis. Their minds [must] be informed by education what is right and what
wrong, [must] be encouraged in habits of virtue and deterred from those of vice
by the dread of punishments, proportioned indeed, but irremissible. In all
cases, [they must] follow truth as the only safe guide and eschew error which
bewilders us in one false consequence after another in endless succession. These
are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the
structure of order and good government."

The same Thomas Jefferson also wrote the following:
"Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence
before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful
to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one."

Sometimes I wish those people clamoring for the reinsertion of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, and for our government to intervene on her behalf -- against her own wishes -- would spend more time reading and learning about our government and actually thinking and less time reading about and obeying the Bible. The freedom to think and the freedom of religion are not mutually exclusive; unfortunately, as Ms. Schiavo's destiny has played out across the country, it appears increasingly that they are. If nothing else, that is the next question we as a nation, as a people and a culture should be asking ourselves.

Between prayer vigils, of course.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

It Gets Better...Someday

There’s so much going on, I don’t even know where to start. So I’ll start with this: Jesse Jackson is now a participant in the pathetic saga of Terri Schiavo.

For the most part, I’ve always regarded Mr. Jackson in the same regard as I have two other political figures of dubious accomplishment: Al Sharpton and Yasir Arafat.

Mr. Sharpton, aside from often behaving in a manner which befits a cartoon character (two words: Tawana Brawley), always seems to be in the middle of issues in which he has no place. And while he seemingly fights the system on behalf of African-American people in the City of New York as well as elsewhere, it always seems his agenda is more self-serving than selfless. Mr. Arafat, prior to his recent death, fought on behalf of the Palestinian people in their desire to establish a Palestinian state, but despite winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in bringing “peace” to the Palestinian-Israeli struggle, it was largely ignored that he was a terrorist that ordered or committed a variety of anti-Israel attacks that killed civilian women and children. When then-President Bill Clinton was able to secure Arafat a Palestinian homeland, something to which he had dedicated his life, he politely declined a compromise with Israel, opting instead to maintain “secret” alliances with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and whatever other terrorist groups were willing to continue blowing themselves up along with buses, cafes, cars and trucks filled with Israelis. By the time Arafat died, even President George W. Bush was aware he couldn’t be trusted because, with each denial of his involvement or knowledge of Palestinian-sponsored terror, it became increasingly obvious that he was not only aware of but directing anti-Israel terror.

These two men, to me, are examples of self-serving, egomaniacal, publicity-seeking leeches with bad intentions. Mr. Jackson hasn’t reached that level quite yet, in my opinion; however, if he truly believed “While law is important, law must be tempered with mercy to have justice," then perhaps he would respect Ms. Schiavo’s wishes to not be forced to endure an existence devoid thought, cognitive reason or pleasure. Justice is an ideal to which we should all aspire; is it justice to force a husband to disregard the final wishes of his wife and instead adhere to beliefs held by others? Another of Mr. Jackson’s suggestions followed: “a consistent moral and ethical position would extend a feeding tube to all who are confronted with starvation -- to demand public, government policy to feed the hungry.” I respectfully suggest that the American public is starved for government that will keep itself out of matters to which it should not and does not have jurisdiction. And personally, I am starved for politicians who are not full of shit.

Looks like we’re all going hungry.

As an aside, another aspect of the Terri Schiavo saga reveals the hypocritical nature of the so-called Christian Right. According to, Ms. Marianne Clark questioned why Ms. Schiavo’s mother “counts less to the courts than the husband who asked that Schiavo's feeding tube be removed. ‘You have a husband who hasn't been faithful, and he's the one the judges all listen to,’ the Sarasota woman said from a protest line outside the hospice where Schiavo was in her second week without food or water. ‘There's nothing like a mother. A mother knows her child, and nobody else should be able to make that decision.’”

Sorry to disappoint you, Ms. Clark, but the Constitution of the United States is this country’s legal framework and, through the judicial branch, appointed Mr. Schiavo her legal guardian. Aside from the fact that the Bible regards the husband/wife relationship as far more significant than that of the mother/child, Michael Schiavo has remained at his wife’s side despite not being able to communicate with her for the past 15 years, despite her parents pleading for him to grant a divorce so they could retain control of her care. And Ms. Schiavo herself indicated she would not want to be kept alive artificially without hope of recovery. How much clearer can it get?

For once, couldn’t the freedom of speech of be preceded by the freedom of thought?

Thanks again to Ms. Clark for reminding us all how important it is to stay in school, study and not grant interviews unless one can speak without sounding like a complete imbecile.

Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer who was able to win acquittal for O.J. Simpson, passed away at the age of 67. He accomplished a lot of other things in his time, but the simple fact that CNN and other major news agencies opted to interview Mr. Simpson upon Mr. Cochran’s death says a lot. To be precise, what it says is that your entire life is encapsulated by a man who murdered, in cold blood, his ex-wife and her male companion, and walked. I don’t know who will deliver my eulogy but if it’s a multiple murderer who escaped penalty, I’d prefer instead a moment of silence on my behalf. Or a moment of sarcastic commentary followed by some belly-laughs and a belch or two.

Jerry Falwell is in critical condition, suffering from pneumonia for the second time in five weeks. Somewhere, Larry Flynt is laughing. And somewhere else someone is noting the irony of the “celebrities die in three” theory and wondering, if Mr. Falwell does not recover, what that suggests, assuming Mr. Falwell’s name will always be linked to Johnnie Cochran’s.

Finally, Douglas S. Smith Jr., a former Boy Scout leader was charged with receiving and possessing German kiddie porn. Mr. Smith, Jr., retired last month spending 39 years with that organization, and it seems to me that there’s really no more disgusting human being than a person who puts him- or herself in a position to aid and teach children but instead uses the opportunity for prurient, deviant interests. If or when Mr. Smith admits his guilt in connection with the charges, which is expected, if I were prosecuting the case, I would request the court to require Mr. Smith, Jr., to undergo a voluntary castration.

By sledgehammer.

All images courtesy

The Good, The Bad and The Obese

A couple weeks ago, long before the Terri Schiavo case ripped the feeding tube from the collective American consciousness, I expounded on Morgan Spurlock's anti-McDonald's documentary "Super-Size Me." I actually enjoyed watching it, and I respect Mr. Spurlock's position, but I had some problems in principle with his views and let loose herein. My diatribe, which was far too long, completely heavy-handed and thoroughly snooze-inducing, can be found here for those interested parties (including lawyers for McDonald's, Mr. Spurlock, Bette Davis, the Pope, Captain Kangaroo and Madonna's personal trainer's brother, Ned).

Essentially, I think, contrary to Mr. Spurlock's view, that anyone who eats fast food or other unhealthy fare shouldn't search for a way to point a finger at the supplier of said unhealthy fare (Mr. Spurlock's "experiment" was spurred by two girls who sued, unsuccessfully, McDonald's for making them obese). We're in charge of our own bodies, for the most part (unless we are in a persistent vegetative state and don't have a living will and reside in a hospice in the state of Florida -- in which case we'll linger for a decade and a half before we can finally move on). In other words, while I understood Mr. Spurlock's intention in his documentary, the responsibility lies with the consumer to make intelligent judgements prior to gorging themselves on seven six-piece McNuggets and a gallon-sized Chocolate Shake and two boxes of McDonald-land Cookies, before washing it down with a gallon of Coke. It's about common sense, and if you're too stupid to know better -- and actually need to review the nutrition info to know that fried foods doused in sugary sauces, consumed en masse, is unhealthy -- you're in need of a legal guardian or a nurse, not a lawyer.

Yesterday, word from CNN Money came that, not to be outdone, Burger King is now going head-to-head (or is that roll to roll) with McDonald's in the Breakfast market; seems McDonald's has been kicking Burger King's ass every morning, so Burger King finally upped the ante in what should inspire profuse sweating on the part of every All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Buffet manager: it's called the "Enormous Omelet Sandwich" and it's a doozy. Forget special sauce, lettuce, cheese, etc.; this bad boy packs a sausage patty, two eggs, two slices of American cheese and three strips of bacon onto a bun. It boasts 730 calories and 47 grams of fat, which beats the Whopper (700 calories, 42 grams of fat) and Burger King's own Fabulous French Toast Platter, which sports three slices of French toast, two bacon strips and two sausage links (and 1261 calories and 79 grams of fat). Ah, choices... The article, if you're interested, is here.

Despite the country embracing a "trend" of healthier eating, Burger King is doing its part, along with McDonald's, Wendy's, IHOP and Denny's, to keep Weight Watchers and Liposuction as two buzzwords for not simply the future but the present as well. And this all would be comical, except for the sad expectation that Burger King serving up death on a bun will surely inspire more people to pointing fingers at fast food restaurants rather than their own eating habits. And while I quite nearly despise most of these restaurants, it would follow that each of us should be responsible for what we ingest. Blaming a bar for serving someone too many drinks is legally compensatory in part because alcohol innebriates and clouds judgement, and it's very easy for someone to have one or two too many without knowing they've had too much prior to driving. That's a fine line -- but blaming Burger King for selling a fat guy a whopper and a shake, or chastising McDonald's for selling the 24 Big Macs to your Uncle Fred right before he had his sextuple bypass is ludicrous, if not dangerous. If nothing else, I anticipate warning labels -- similer to those found on movies, music, cigarettes, alcohol, amusement park rides and anything else that is fun -- to be on the entry doors of fast food restaurants. The first would be "Eat Sensibly" and the second, my own personal creation, would be "Get Out Fat Fucks."

I personally prefer the latter, but it's a long shot.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Love is

Love is
a calamity of epic proportion,
that steals your pain, your jaded cynicism,
and lets you feel the heat of the sun even
standing in the cold of a rainy day.

Love is
endless youth, the smile everlasting,
the power to heal and bridge all.
A vintage that only improves with age,
That must be nursed and treated like
the last one on Earth.

Love is
The rite of sacrifice that allows men to become boys,
women to become girls, and remember what
intentions we hold dear,
When faced with the end
At the edge of the precipice
Of now, yesterday and forever.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Scourge of Modern-Day Technology and Age-Old Stupidity

I've been navigating the Terri Schiavo debate for the better part of a week; some of my observations have made it here, some haven't, and some have eked through not only on this topic but in others as well.

The whole issue, for me, can be summed up in one statement I made in the comments field of another blog, "The Bennelli Brothers." The link, if you're so inclined, is here:

"Logic aside, and speaking strictly on principle, it amazes me that people who so staunchly trumpet family values and the sanctity of life are so quick to desecrate the former and make a mockery of the latter."

Essentially, as I confessed to friends over the weekend, I have gotten increasingly weary hearing, depending on your perspective, how this woman is suffering or not suffering, how she can never improve or can absolutely improve, and how many protesters are being arrested. Now that might sound like superficial bullshit, but I am not minimizing the tragic, heart-wrenching struggle at the center of which this woman resides. I just think it's disgusting that so many people are weighing on this situation in so many ways: protesters, clergymen, politicians, and attorneys...obviously this has polarized the nation much like other life/death issues like abortion and the death penalty. It's not about life or death, it's about people who don't know you and whom you don't know telling you how to govern your own body, and the bodies of people who have done something wrong (either had sex that accidentally produced a child or committed murder). It's outrageous, repugnant and pathetic to think that there are people who think they have the right -- if not the responsibility -- to sound off and/or involve themselves in lives and issues therein to which they have no business even being privy.

Or as they say in the vernacular, "shut the fuck up and mind your own damned business."

Oh...and to protesters who feel the need (or that it's appropriate) to bring their children to the hospice site to be arrested in attempting to bring Ms. Schiavo water: you're sick. Your actions remind me not of minions of mercy, not of teaching your children to be charitable and kind and compassionate... you remind me of members of the Ku Klux Klan that bring children to white-power rallies to burn in effigy members of races which they brand as inferior.

One final point: just wait until these two sides become embroiled in the fight over where Ms. Schiavo's body will be buried, once it is either cremated or embalmed. I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel, and I highly doubt there will ever be. There are and will be no winners here, and, believe it or not, I'm looking forward to lamenting the stupid shit we as consumers of American news will be force-fed once the Schiavo case resides only in our memories.

Some possibly stupid topics for future consideration:

  • Does Britney Spears have fake boobies?
  • Are gay marriages legal, and should they be sanctioned or prohibited on a state or federal level?
  • Should guidance counsellors be permitted to recommend exotic dancing as a possible profession for high-school-age women?
  • Should marijuana be legalized? And if so, could you send me some?
  • Is that "old guy in a tuxedo" on the Six Flags commercial irritating, or really irritating?
  • What is the best invention created in America? The telephone, chocolate, or cleavage?
  • And finally, will Michael Jackson receive time off for good behavior for teaching his future fellow inmates how to moonwalk?
These and other questions await our review once the Schiavo case ceases to occupy the nation's consciousness.

I can't wait.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Hot Potato

With respect to the media circus surrounding the Terri Schiavo controversy, what's more bizarre -- that Ms. Schiavo's parents are claiming that she -- a woman with no functioning cerebral cortex -- is showing signs of wanting to live, or that they are enlisting the entire Christian Conservative right to pound the pulpit in hope of "saving" her?

Part of the wonder of this nation is our ability to freely speak our opinion, except for very few instances (eg shouting fire in a crowded theater). And another part of this nation's history is Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 10 (part of the Federalist Papers), which anticipated "factions" and subsequently created our government to be divided into branches and sub-branches to insure that no one whim, opinion or mood would or could overtake those of others. The concept borne from Federalist No. 10 is today loosely referred to as "checks and balances."

So the news that some asshole was arrested for soliciting the murder of Michael Schiavo (presuming his wife, Terri, indeed dies from lack of nutrition), as well as the murder of Judge George Greer of the 11th Circuit Court, who ordered Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube removed, is hardly surprising, given the profound power of faith the Christian Conservative Right feels they can (and responsibly should) exercise.

To wit, this is the same sensibility (if that term can be used without too much tongue in cheek) that drives anti-abortion extremists to kill doctors who perform abortion. The notion of killing someone to save lives isn't akin to this nation's death penalty; to them, it makes perfect sense.

However, taking the lives of doctors who perform abortions isn't the same as the death penalty. The death penalty is reserved for criminals who have committed acts and atrocities so distasteful and repugnant that they can no longer be accepted in and by society.

Aha, anti-abortionists contend...then doctors who take innocent lives (ie those of fetuses) should be treated in the same manner for taking said innocent lives. And they point to the bible, they speak of fire, brimstone, and retribution, and then they teeter off down the street, shouting at the tops of their voices, waving signs, flags and carrying leather-bound bibles.

The problem with their "logic" is that the state of life is a scientifically-derived condition. So at what point is life "life?" And how, and why, does this matter to the discussion of Terri Schiavo's status?

First of all, I am and always will be pro-choice. I think abortion is an unfortunate and distasteful procedure, but each woman and each situation will dictate whether abortion is appropriate, not someone who quotes scripture. I also am, for the most part, against purely cosmetic surgery and breast augmentation, but I rarely hear abortion activisits clamoring for an end to fewer wrinkles and bigger boobs.

My point is, I respect the rights of so-called extremists to oppose abortion and I support their right to voice that opinion, but once their opinions declare mine to be invalid or incorrect, I tend to speak up. Or, put another way, anyone who is against abortion has a right to their feelings; anyone who tells me that I am evil for allowing my girlfriend, hypothetically, to have an abortion, can go fuck themselves.

Simply put, of course...

So watching this entire Terri Schiavo situation unfold reeks of the same misbegotten, paternal, "we know what's best for you and yours more than you do" attitude that permeates the faith-based anti-abortion Christian Right. The only people who should have any say, as per our government's laws and design, are her husband, her family and the three branches of government, which includes the judicial, the executive, and the legislative. The judicial branch rules on laws created by the legislative branch; the executive branch implements laws and fills (by nomination) the judicial branch; and the legislative branch writes laws allowing the executive branch to enact and/or implement. Thus endeth the history lesson on government. The problem at the heart of Ms. Schiavo's saga is the overstepping of the boundaries set forth in the Constitution by the executive (in this case, the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who earlier implored the Florida legislature to write a law demanding Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted) and the legislative (passing laws demanding Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted). Both of these actions were deemed unconstitutional by the judicial branch of the appelate court of the state of Florida.

Many of the Christian Right demanded either the governor, or his brother, intercede. They felt the judicial branch (not merely that of the state of Florida, but the US Supreme Court, which denied Ms. Schiavo's parents' request for an appeal) had erroneously erred in judgement by allowing Ms. Schiavo to be "murdered." They contend that she is healthy and should be allowed to live.

The problem is that Ms. Schiavo herself indicated to her husband, as well as others, that she would not want to be kept alive if she were completely incapacitated for an extended period of time without hope for recovery. Based on unbiased medical opinion, she is currently incapacitated, for an extended period of time, and has no hope for recovery. In fact, the doctors (hired by her husband, hired by Ms. Schiavo's parents, and those appointed by the court) agreed, in varying degree, that her cerebral cortex was either no longer existent (a result of catastrophic brain damage brought on by heart failure) or was so damaged that she could no longer function on her own. Medical science accepts as fact that the cerebral cortex is, essentially, what makes a person -- it holds our personality; our ability for basic, cognitive reason; and governs our ability to think. Because Ms. Schiavo's cerebral cortex, as confirmed by experts, is no longer able to function, and because brain tissue does not regenerate, she is, by all accounts, no longer able to live or function as a thinking human being. Her body is still "alive," ie that much of her organs are functioning, alive and able to receive oxygenated blood and perform as designed; but she cannot think, cannot speak, and cannot function as a human being.

Her parents have challenged any judicial rulings which accept the above as fact, citing doctors who they have hired, as well as claiming Ms. Schiavo responds to stimuli (such as her father waving a balloon, or her mother rubbing her shoulders), and they contend with a different course of therapy, Ms. Schiavo could improve. However, a variety of judges, in 24 separate rulings, have denied her parents' claims. Their claim that she responds to stimuli (as a thinking human being) are based on an edited video they submitted to the 11th Circuit Appelate Court. That video shows Ms. Schiavo reacting to her father waving a balloon; but the unedited video shows that she couldn't acknowledge or "follow" this activity; in other words, as several doctors suggested, any and all reaction on her part is strictly physiological activity, uncontrolled and unnoticed by her brain. Accordingly, in its opinion, "the court finds that based on the credible evidence, cognitive function would manifest itself in a constant response to stimuli."

She is there physically, but not mentally. And a person is more than a mass of living tissue.

As for the humanity angle, ie the starvation of a person, there is one simple question that must be asked and answered. Will she -- or can she -- feel pain if she is deprived of sustenance?

According to the experts, her organs will die, but she cannot process and cannot feel pain. Would administering a drug that would induce a more abbreviated ending of her life be more humane? Absolutely. Will she be able to realize she is dying? Absolutely not.


I respect the sanctity of human life. I have never killed anyone, and I don't plan on doing so anytime soon (then again, the day is young). But ending a life like Ms. Schiavo's -- defined by no brain activity, no cognitive ability to reason, and no sense of existence -- is more humane than extending it. And I am disappointed that so many vocal "pro-life" members of the Christian Right would countermand a branch of government and the Constitution of the United States simply because they don't understand (or refuse to do so) the scientific facts of Ms. Schiavo's vapid, empty existence.

But what irritates me -- repulses, actually -- is the notion that these people are so committed to saving a life -- despite the lack of "life" in Ms. Schiavo's situation -- that they would willingly disregard her wishes to no longer be forced to endure her condition. Ignorance of the law -- whether the speed limit, the appelate process or a person's right to determine their own destiny -- doesn't entitle others from making decisions for all.

As per usual, there is, and will not be, no end to this debate -- there will be endless discussion on abortion, the death penalty, and a person's right to live or die. However, as of this writing, Ms. Schiavo's parents have attempted all the appeals to which they are legally entitled, so, assuming yet another extremist fails to come forward and issue a proclamation or perform an extreme act (which is not a safe assumption), Ms. Schiavo's saga will soon end. At that time, we should expect a flurry of lawsuits, threats and more behavior mirroring that which has dominated this controversy from its start.

The one thing we should not do is to mourn Ms. Schiavo. She has been gone for 14 years; it's only now that she can finally, hopefully, achieve peace, along with her husband and everyone else who can take comfort in the notion that she will have finally have her will expressed.

And for those who will claim she was murdered, they will have to live with the fact that, short of rewriting or disposing of the Constitution, their faith-based belief system, which opposes medical science, common sense and the codes of law of this nation, will be, and will remain, irrevelant.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The More Things Change, The Weirder They Get (Doing The Right Thing)

I've been watching the Terri Schiavo situation with a fairly critical eye, for a number of reasons, and I think, as this situation has played itself out, and as it continues to do so, this case is far more intricate than it appears on the surface.

The "right to die" in America, ie the questions of suicide, euthanasia, and, to a lesser degree, abortion, is and always will be a simple us vs. them mentality: some people subscribe to the theory that a person can do what he wants with his or her own body and should be free from governmental controls thereupon; others believe that life is sacred and should be protected, even if it means protecting a person from taking his or her (or her baby's) life. It's perhaps coincidence that many of the people subscribing to the latter point of view are also staunch defenders of creationism vs. the Big Bang theory and Darwin's Theory of Evolution. In some ways, it's a debate over science and religion. And since one can be easily and repeatedly documented with fact, examples and consistent prediction, and the other is based on nothing beyond faith, there is no debate. Yet people cling to that which they believe; it's what helps them sleep at night. And whereas each side is frustrated by the other, part of why this nation is great is that each side can ascribe to their own beliefs as long as they don't infringe on another's rights. The problem is each side's dedication to their beliefs, for better or worse, not only directly opposes the other's beliefs, but is committed to "converting" the other to its way of thinking.

It's confusing, perplexing, and about as easily-resolved as a multi-generational Hatfield-McCoy Battle Royale outside a trailer park in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Which brings us back to Terri Schiavo, et al.

Michael Schiavo, who has spent the last several days at his wife's side, has spent the last 14 years, give or take, taking care of his wife. Her condition has not deteriorated, but since she collapsed due to heart failure in connection with an eating disorder, she has had irreversible brain damage and has been in a "permanent semi-vegetative state." These are the facts.

In 2001, Michael Schiavo, after spending a decade watching his wife linger as a low-functioning mass of human tissue, sought to have her feeding tube removed in order to let her die naturally. Her parents intervened. They claimed that Ms. Schiavo could improve, and that Mr. Schiavo's care was negligient, and, given better care, Ms. Schiavo would return from her "low state of consciousness." The compromise was that she would continue under Mr. Schiavo's custody and would remain alive. During this time, Ms. Schiavo's parents regularly accused Mr. Schiavo of abusing and/or neglecting his wife and repeatedly attempted to gain custody of their daughter. They begged Mr. Schiavo to divorce her and move on with his life, but something, apparently, kept him from doing so. Obviously it would have been far easier to rid himself of the entire situation -- all he would need to do is to sign divorce papers and he could be free of the Schindlers, and their intrusive meddling, accusations and intervening, and move on with his life.

Except he clearly loved and cared deeply about his wife; knowing she would never improve, never be (nearly) the person she once was, and never be fully-functioning, he deigned to obey her wishes to not be kept alive as a breathing, semi-living mass of tissue. Essentially, this notion of preferring death to life as a vegetable, mirrors in a small way Rene Descartes Discourse on Method, "Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am).

All this was lost on Ms. Schiavo's parents; they wanted to control her, and didn't care what he (or even their daughter) thought or felt. And for the past 14 or so years, they have been doing everything they can to control her, him and the situation.

Not much has been discussed about the Schindlers, but on the surface, they appear to be caring, concerned, committed parents. But noting the simple fact that Ms. Schiavo's condition was brought on by an eating disorder, a condition which is almost always a symptom of parental control and/or abuse issues, it should not be a surprise that Ms. Schiavo's parents have waged this campaign of "we know what's best for our daughter," forsaking all outside involvement (including doctors) except for those individuals who can return control of their daughter to them.

And it should be no surprise that when Mr. Schindler, yesterday, suggested that Judge George Greer was on a crusade to kill his daughter, he was being absolutely serious. According to, "Schiavo's parents have said that in the 23 decisions against them, judges have not considered all the facts and, in fact, are joining forces in what Bob Schindler called a 'crusade to kill' his daughter." If a woman's life, and a family's pain, were not at stake, the situation would almost be laughable.

But it isn't laughable.

Some parents take the notion of guiding their children to a dangerous, unhealthy level, and wind up controlling them. While my parents certainly are not in that realm, I have seen firsthand the destruction -- both short- and long-term -- that controlling, dysfunctional parents can wreak on children. They ignore any and all outside influence, even if their way defies common sense, common decency and proper behavior, and do things their own way; anyone who opposes them in any way is attacked, ridiculed and denigrated. Whether this control simply produces a weak-willed, meek child with low self-esteem and a lifelong litany of addictions, problems and dysfunction, or produces a child who wants nothing to do with his or her parents, its damage is difficult to reverse, if at all, and is palpable. Ms. Schiavo's eating disorder came about when she was in her 30's; just as many manifestations of parental abuse and/or over-control appear in children during their adolescence, their 20's, or even later in life once the offending parent(s) has died. So, despite 23 court decisions which have opposed Mr. & Mrs. Schindler's attempts to retain control of their daughter, they have failed, and in doing so, they have attacked the ethics and the credibility of the judges, their son-in-law, and any doctor who dares oppose their far-fetched, fictional beliefs.

To wit, Mr. Schindler was recently quoted as saying "We've had some of the best legal minds in the country working on this. I do think that what was presented last night in federal court is very, very viable, and we're encouraging the appellate court to take a hard look at this thing and to do the right thing." Unless, of course, doing the right thing is allowing his daughter some dignity so she doesn't spend another decade as a barely-living shadow of a human being.

And while America watches and awaits Terri Schiavo's death, these parents pound away at any pulpit that will support them, any politician that will seek to ride their plight to an election victory, and anyone who believes that they are right.

Initially, I, like many observers of this spectacle, felt that Ms. Schiavo's parents deserved empathy and compassion for the ordeal with which they were faced. Parents should never outlive their children, and despite Michael Schiavo doing "the right thing," he was belittled and accused of mistreating their daughter. So as I watch this situation continually unfold, and I try to suppress my shock at the Schindlers' behavior, I begin, more and more, to empathize with Mr. Schiavo. He cares deeply about his wife, otherwise he would have simply bolted once her parents began the process of suing him. While he has a common law wife and young children, his life has been put on hold by these control freaks, and it's unfortunate that they are so far gone that they cannot see that they not only contributed to her misery and pain while she was living, they have done so yet again as her life expires.

But in an ironic twist, as is typical of many of these situations, the tighter the fist around their child, the more likely it is they will lose their daughter. Unless, of course, the Schindlers suddenly wake up and realize they need to "do the right thing."

Not likely.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

This Just In...Again

To the people whose vocabulary regularly includes phrases such as "The Good Lord" and "God Almighty" and "Praised Be Thy Name," it's not a good day.

CNN is reporting that Terri Schiavo's parents, who, late last night filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, were this morning denied the opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court, for the most part, is non-partisan and apolitical, so the fact they reviewed the appeal and deemed it unworthy of judicial review says, to me, all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Legally speaking, there's nothing that can (or should) be done, other than a politician (George Bush, as an example) contravening the Constitution to intervene on behalf of Ms. Schiavo (or, rather, her parents).

A year ago, when Senator John Kerry was campaigning against George W. Bush, and prior to Bush's first election victory, many of the issues surrounding his possible presidency were centered around his dedication and loyalty to the so-called Christian Right. However, many of his critics cited his overwhelming lean to the Christian Right in context with his stance on abortion and the death penalty.

Yet Bush, and his brother, have sounded off on this situation, both (the President speaking publicly, and his brother Jeb passing laws and pleading his case within the confines of the media as well as Florida's state senate) siding with the women's parents, who, despite Ms. Schiavo's wishes, are attempting to keep her alive.

Many of us watching this scene unfold have formed an opinion one way or the other; but much like the hot potatoes of abortion, gay marriage, etc., the principle, and not the actual activity, is what causes our reaction, either for or against. And in this situation, it is fairly clear, despite Ms. Schiavo's parents frenetic attempts to convince us otherwise, that the principle, and each successive court decision upholding it, is that she should be allowed to choose her own destiny, despite the beliefs of her parents, the governor of the state of Florida, and his brother, the President of The United States.

Personally, what repulses me more than Ms. Schiavo's parents attempts to supercede her husband's care for her, whether with good intention or not, is the number of attacks that her parents have levied against Mr. Schiavo. According to what I've read, Mr. Schiavo was accused of neglecting the care of his wife several times over the tenure of her illness; and even now, while he stands up for his wife's wishes, against her family and a gaggle of publicity-seeking politicians who have no legitimate involvement in the situation, what seems sad is that the only person who is truly acting on principle here is her husband.

Her mother yesterday was quoted as saying that even if Ms. Schiavo had a living will and even if she had gone on record saying she would prefer death to being kept alive in a vegetative state, she would still contravene her wishes and make any and all attempt to keep her "alive." And yesterday afternoon, a doctor who was retained by the Schindlers, Ms. Schiavo's parents, indicated that there were possibly new medical developments to consider; this, after 15 years, is suspect, because the new medical developments seem to come, consistently, from doctors who a) are hired by the family and b) who have questionable ethics and affiliations. To wit, the doctor who claimed "new medical developments," Dr. William Cheshire, wrote the following in connection with Ms. Schiavo "I could not withhold life-sustaining nutrition from this beautiful lady whose face brightens in the presence of others." This isn't a medical development, it's an emotional one. And according to, "Cheshire is also director of biotech ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a group founded in 1994 to recognize the contribution of 'biblical values' to the bioethical debate." Using the bible to come between a husband and wife -- sponsored by the state of Florida.


Although Ms. Schiavo's mother, Mary Schindler, has received much of the publicity surrounding the movement to keep Ms. Schiavo alive, her father, Bob Schindler, yesterday joined in the stupidity by suggesting Judge George Greer, the 11th Circuit Judge ruling on the many Terri Schiavo-related issues which have been presented to him, was on a "crusade" to kill her. And to the dozen or so subsequent judicial decisions which have concurred with Judge Greer's opinion, ie that Ms. Schiavo should be allowed (via her husband) to determine her own course, Mr. Schindler intimated last night that the other decisions were, in large part, supporting Judge Greer's (erroneous) decision as opposed to his daughter's well-being.

Clearly he won't be pleased by the fact that Judge Greer denied the petition by the state of Florida to take custody of Ms. Schiavo.

I've seen cases where parents grossly, and grotesquely, overstep their bounds and meddle and/or intervene in a relationship between engaged and/or married couples, but this is beyond ridiculous. Ms. Schiavo's parents obviously are acting out of emotion, and don't want to acknowledge their daughter is, essentially, gone. That's an unfortunate reality, but one they need to face. Blaming a judge, their son-in-law or the governor of Florida isn't going to change that one simple fact.

However, allowing her the dignity to which every human is entitled would at least restore some of the semblance of the life she had, as opposed to the life her parents have been fighting to lengthen.

Each of us has personal history, and based on mine, watching these people countermand every institution and individual who disagrees with them on their daughter's fate, including not only her husband but her own wishes, amazes, sickens and saddens me. Parents have a way of destroying their childrens' lives, both by omission and comission, but this is perhaps the first time I've seen parents destroy a life after, or very nearly after, it has expired.

Unfortunately, I expect there will be much more to be said on this subject.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

This Just In...

15 years ago, when Michael Schiavo arrived home to find his wife, Terri, on the kitchen floor, prone and barely breathing, if at all, one wonders if he realized his wife's fate would ultimately be not in the hands of doctors but old men wearing suits and/or robes.

90 minutes ago, Terri Schiavo's parents instructed one of their attorneys to file a petition with the Supreme Court, only hours after Florida's State Court of Appeals denied a request for review of the case involving their daughter. The Florida State Senate also rejected a bill that would continue giving Ms. Schiavo food and water.

On top of that, Jeb Bush, younger brother of Dubya and currently serving as Florida's Governor, decided to re-enter the fray by suggesting Ms. Schiavo's medical condition should be reviewed as she might have been misdiagnosed.


Is he kidding?

Between her parents' suggestions that Ms. Schiavo might have been misdiagnosed and recent reports from a neurologist (retained by Ms. Schiavo's parents) indicating her condition might be improved with a different course of therapy, one wonders what these people are actually thinking -- if "thinking" is a term that can actually be used to describe their actions.

On occasion, two parties who are embroiled in conflict are interrupted by a third, detached, unbiased party who intervenes and clears up the conflict. In this case, however, there are about twenty-seven different parties; some of them are politicans pandering for votes and making speeches in their holier-than-thou, deepest, most somber voices, hoping for snippets and/or soundbytes on the 11 O'Clock news. There are judges on every level -- local, state and, now, federal. And there is the President, commenting from the sidelines. There are protestors taping their mouths shut, carrying signs and making attempts to bring Ms. Schiavo food and water.

And then there are Ms. Schiavo's parents, who are begging everyone from politicians to judges to the President to Bishop Desmond Tutu to save their daughter.

And then there is the American public, watching this despicable, ridiculous circus. Free. No tickets for admission to this spectacle. Magnetic, it draws opinion and emotion like an impending collision.

Then there is Mr. Schiavo, presumably attempting to carry out his wife's wish to not exist as a collection of organs connected to a wall in a hospice, simply existing in an emotionless, futile vaccuum.

Some very telling, and very legitimate, points being made in and around the media the last 24 hours:

On Republican Senators involving themselves in the conflict: If Republicans are so dedicated to the sanctity of marriage between man and woman, why are they attempting to shove their beliefs between a husband and wife?

On politicians' conservative, christian, god-fearing right belief(s) which claim saving Ms. Schiavo's life is god's will: If god's will is the goal, wouldn't disconnecting all machines maintaining what little life Ms. Schiavo has in her allow that life to proceed as god designed?

Aside from the fact that, at the end of this debacle, Ms. Schiavo's life will end, perhaps the saddest thing about this entire conflict is that Mr. Schiavo's actions have been, ostensibly, to allow Ms. Schiavo to retain her dignity and not simply exist as semi-living tissue. Her parents, in an effort to "save our daughter," have not only stolen her will (to not be kept alive by machines in a barely-conscious haze), but have stolen her dignity as well. Instead of people remembering Ms. Schiavo as a woman who suffered greatly in this life but was allowed to find peace and dignity in death, her parents have made a mockery of the life she has "lived" since she collapsed and nearly died.

Perhaps this is the way modern America shall be; macabre, disgusting, garish displays involving celebrity trials, school shootings, kidnappings and other high-profile media events leading to press conferences, make-shift memorials, public displays of sadness, and poignant scenes of emotion, all compartmentalized between two thirty-second commercials for tooth whitener and improved plastic wrap. And at the center of all of this crass, superficial commercialism, there is life, and the questions which we all ponder at some point in our collective existence.

The spotlight that is shining on this three-ring circus, hopefully, is going to dim and, once it does, I hope Ms. Schiavo, wherever she is now and wherever she is headed, finds solace, peace and tranquility. And I hope, wherever she is going, there are no reporters, camera operators, parents or politicians. She's lived this hell long enough; hopefully, where she's going, those aforementioned people won't be granted admission.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It Happened Again

Yesterday morning, Red Lake, Minnesota, joined Littleton, Colorado, home of Columbine High School, as another example of one of the most sad, terrible phenomenons of America's violent history. Yesterday morning, a 16-year-old named Jeff Weise took the lives of his 58-year-old grandfather and his grandfather's 32-year-old girlfriend, then drove to school in his grandfather's police cruiser, wearing his grandfather's bulletproof vest, shot and killed an unarmed security guard at his high school, and then, as of this writing, shot and killed five students, aged between 14 and 15, before, upon being confronted by police, shooting himself in the head. Today's related news focused on Weise's proclivity towards and support of neo-nazism.

The cycle of violence in America isn't unique; what is is its frequency, magnitude and degree. Many critics point to violence portrayed on television, in movies and transmitted through angry music as being a large contributor to our increasingly violent culture. Without detracting from the validity of this theory, and having "received" the message behind Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" (which suggests rage, through constant visual and auditory bombardment, is infectious), there's a limit to the theory that violence on television breeds violence in everyday life. If it were true, we'd be witnessing these events on a regular basis in all communities, and not just simply in schools; there have been incidents like these in post offices, workplaces and elsewhere -- but that would entail that students, postal workers and office workers are the only ones absorbing violence on TV, in movies and in music. And that's sort of preposterous.

Even the most simple layperson can make the distinction that both school shootings, while tragic, took place in relatively peaceful surroundings. If violence breeds violence, it would follow that high schools in the South Bronx would be veritable jungles of murder, rape and mayhem. Ditto South-Central Los Angeles. So why did the two most notorious, tragic school shootings to date occur in the middle of such hotbeds of violence as (sic) Colorado and Minnesota? And if television and movies and music are catalysts thereof, it would follow that these types of episodes would be occurring randomly, yet predictably, throughout the nation, which is not the case; what is perhaps most disturbing is that, whereas the two perpetrators in the case of the Columbine shootings sought out gun shows to obtain weapons, the weapon used in yesterday's episode was the suspect's grandfather's service revolver. The relationship between the two, then, perhaps, is the availability (relatively speaking) of weapons.

Except the Columbine students made pipe bombs in the absence of available (purchaseable) products, ie hand grenades. Assuming that Mr. Weise had learned how to shoot a handgun by his grandfather (his ability to kill a variety of people demonstrated, in addition to a cold, unhuman disposition, a high measure of skill in operating a handgun), then an "overquantity" of available weapons was irrelevant; all he needed was one .22 calibre handgun and the lack of sanity and humanity and compassion to put it to its use.

So if neither visual/auditory stimuli nor the availability of weapons were the essential catalysts to these situations, another factor linking these situations was each incident was perpetrated by youths who had been taunted and picked on by their peers. However, while the students at Columbine had a list of people they had targeted, Mr. Weise appeared to randomly shoot whoever was in his path yesterday morning.

Being taunted by one's peers in high school is obviously something which can cause great angst, depression and isolation; and while different people react to this type of stress differently (John Hughes made a career out of writing/directing comedies based in large part on this phenomenon), it's safe to assume that these three individuals are not, and won't be, the only high school students verbally abused by their peers. And yet, these incidents aren't occurring on most sites of this taunting and abuse, which, presumably, happens at some point every day in every school across the country.

It seems to me that one of the essential ingredients to this recipe of tragedy, for the most part, is the absence of parental supervision in the lives of these students. A great amount of the post-Columbine fallout was the (shocking) revelation that those two young men were stockpiling weapons in their rooms (ie rooms in their parents' houses) without being questioned or with their parents even knowing -- not even having a clue -- what their children were planning. It's hard to imagine a caring, concerned, involved parent not knowing their children had pipe-bombs, shotguns and handguns scattered around their rooms. It's possible today's teenager has more autonomy than perhaps when I was that age, but it seems hard for me to imagine parents doing a poorer job at parenting than not noticing guns and bombs in their kids' rooms.

In the case of Mr. Weise, he lived with his grandfather, a 58-year-old who was dating a 32-year-old woman. Mr. Weise's father committed suicide approximately four years ago, and his mother was confined to a nursing home due to brain injuries sustained in a car accident. So that left the supervision of his daily activities to a career police officer, a grandfather dating a woman twice his grandson's age. When I first reviewed Mr. Weise's family history, it didn't surprise me that he had issues; in fact, it would have surprised me if he didn't act out in some sort of way. Having both parents removed (unhappily) from your life during your adolescence, and being (sic) supervised by someone who is preoccupied with both a busy career and an active social life, and knowing there was suicide in the family (especially that it was his father) virtually guaranteed something would happen.

The warning signs -- present in the two perpetrators of the massacre at Columbine -- were similarly evident in the months leading up to Mr. Weise's actions yesterday. Mr. Weise had once suggested to friends that "blowing up the school would be cool." His friends dismissed it as idle chatter to be disregarded, much like the warnings from Klebold and Harris, the students at Columbine, were ignored. It was also revealed that Weise posted pro-nazi opinion on various, anonymous online bulletin boards.

And all of it was ignored -- up until yesterday morning.

It seems to me that if we are to learn anything from these tragic, awful chapters of our modern history, it is that we can label things, we can invite government scrutiny and guideline, but at the end of the day, we need to be able to answer the question posed by those long-running public service announcements: "It's ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"

We, as a culture and a nation, need to start paying more attention; and we need to start realizing that, if we don't pay attention, we'll be doing a lot more wondering how these things happen rather than actively preventing them from happening. It's a toss-up, really: not knowing vs. not caring. In either case, it will produce the same terrible, tragic results.

And it will happen again. And again.

And again.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Yesterday, Tomorrow, and the Promise of Today

Touching base with friends has a way of putting context in the past, the present and the future. It's just how it works; there's only 24 hours in a day, and I try to spend some of those sleeping, many more of them working, and I use the remaining few to have dinner and try keeping tabs on the world outside my little bubble here on Manhattan Island.

I finally managed to make contact with a friend of mine who, these days, is starting to get into heavy wedding planning with her fiance. Since she and I have shared with each other the sordid details of our past insanities which we (at the time) coined relationships, I was very pleased to hear how well her plans were coming, especially given the memorable experience I gained this past summer in the antithesis thereof. Both her family and her fiance's family seem very cool, and genuinely like one another -- which I can attest, from personal experience, is a genuine plus. So as she told me about the thus-far smoothness of everything, I was genuinely happy, and not merely in a vicarious way. I told her things might get bumpy here and there, but part of the fun of getting married -- or so I've heard from people who have actually survived the process -- is making it through the planning phase...although there are people, myself included, who found themselves relieved they pulled the plug in time to get off the sinking ship. I'm glad that her ship is on the right course and I gladly wished her continued happiness.

Something that we discussed, something with which she and I both can definitely relate, is going from a lousy relationship to a great one. For me, the contrast of moods, feelings, and the overall sense of contentment are clearly apparent. Almost everyone I know has had at least one relationship they wish they could just erase from their past, although there are those people who have had a variety of relationships which had components of greatness as well as lousiness. The key to either/both is to come away with a sense of what you need and what you can tolerate, and what you can and can't handle. The trick is doing it before you meet the right person so you know what to look for, what to look out for, and what (and what not) to appreciate. And as she shared a few revelations of her "before" and "after" experiences, I ran through mine and found myself smiling knowing I wasn't alone and that this discovery I had experienced, and continued to experience, was not unique, and, more importantly, was legit.

Almost immediately after getting off the phone, I realized I needed to call my other half back, as she was on her way home from work to get ready to go out and meet a friend and the friend's husband. They had recently given birth to their first child, a daughter, so my other half and I had, earlier in the afternoon, ruminated on a good baby gift; she had already gotten the little one a cashmere blanket and a "onesy" (easily the most irritating thing about babies is the lingo, btw) but wanted to get another gift. She suggested a Tiffany silver spoon, and I suggested some sort of Polo outfit that would keep the little bundle of joy happy during the fading winter and coming spring (the newly-gifted trio live in Maryland, not exactly a hotbed of warm, infant-friendly weather).

So we went back and forth (mostly me being a major pain in the ass) and finally she relented -- although as I explained to her, a Tiffany silver spoon is nice, but it's not a user-friendly gift. Basically, everyone I know who's had a child gets one of these items; they ooh and aah at the box, they ooh and aah when it comes out of the little blue pouch, and then the fucker lands back in the box, in a bag, a thank-you note is sent, and the next thing you know, that spoon is at the bottom of a closet next to Aunt Gertrude's teacups, Cousin Fred's stamp collection and Uncle Elmer's first jock. Yippeee.

The real point of the matter, and what makes me warm and fuzzy (it ain't Elmer's private-keeper, that's fer sure) is that despite our difference of opinion, and her meowing at me and me teasing her about how lame it is to give a Tiffany silver spoon, is that we wound up laughing. We both knew it was a silly argument, and mebbe that's why it wound up in laughter; but in the five or six months we've been together, we've had, maybe, two or three arguments, and every time we wind up meeting in the middle (literally and figuratively) and go back to smiling without either person getting their feelings hurt.

The reason why I mention this, especially within the context of my friend's phone call, was that I had always paid close attention to (either from my girlfriend at the time, a female friend doling out advice, or non-female friends sharing their sides of the story) and studied the rules of conflict between a couple. Throughout the tenure of my dating history, for the most part, if a partner or I had a difference, (depending on the topic) we would either work it out -- "no, hon, you go tonight and I'll hang out here" -- or we'd agree to disagree. With one relationship, it would inspire knock-down, drag-it-out, bang-your-head-against-the-wall exasperation -- though that was more a case of not having a clue as to her thought process in general as opposed to a simple difference of opinion. But one of the many things I love about my other half is that, no matter what it is, we find a way to be happy, as opposed to finding a way to avoid happiness.

So, in retrospect, I suppose I have it a lot easier than my friend in comparing lousy relationships from the past to my current one; while we're both content, excited and thrilled about where our respective relationships are and where they're going, it's a lot easier for me to be amazed by my other half. Not only do I have a good basis of comparison, but I know she's the best thing to ever happen to me.

Even if she does have lousy taste in baby-gifts ;-)

(Yes, I know, I'm gonna pay for that one... :-)


Sunday, March 20, 2005


First, before I reel off the Boogie-Birthday Re-Cap, I did more review on the whole Terri Schiavo situation. And while I'm not backtracking -- I still think Congress and all politicians who aren't related to the members of this family should keep the hell out of it -- I have changed my position a bit. The fact that Ms. Schiavo is in a vegetative state doesn't mean she doesn't communicate, or that she is totally catatonic; she doesn't speak, but she can smile, and she does exhibit some sort of presence. She'll never be able to fully communicate with the outside world, but to let a person starve -- over a period of weeks -- seems beyond inhumane to me. If she were my relative, I would want her to find peace, but not over the course of several weeks during which she, ostensibly, would suffer. Instead, I would want permission to have a drug administered that would simply induce coma and, eventually, peace. I still firmly believe that her mother's pleas to Congress to save her daughter are, in fact, misplaced, because, in fact, only God can save her daughter. But I think this country needs to revisit its position on euthanasia; I certainly don't advocate the slow, torturous procedure this woman might be forced endure. But conversely, watching her suffer, day after day, and be barely a shell of the person she once was, should not be the only alternative. And while I understand her family and friends want her to be cared for rather than forgotten, it seems to me that anyone who cares about her would not want her to merely exist in the state in which she is in. I think that is something the politicians meddling in this matter should also consider when they next have a microphone jabbed in their faces.


Back to happier subjects: my girlfriend, totally buried beneath an end-of-quarter that comes due at the end of the month, didn't make it to NYC this weekend. Both of us were disappointed, but as I 'splained to her, it's only just a day -- and considering the bullshit over the past couple birthdays I endured, I'm just happy this one transpired without any ancillary temper-tantrums, issues or aggravation clouding the day and our relationship. That, and looking forward to our next visit -- and when she finally becomes a full-time NYC resident -- mean a lot more to me than just one day.

The itinerary was pretty bland -- no bail money, no transvestite hookers named Fred wearing pink fishnets, and no restraining orders -- and no waking up on the Lower East Side in a hippie commune/apartment belonging to The Friends of Taribithia Prayer and Social Club. No, this birthday was pretty cut-and-dry -- my sister brought me a couple cards and gave me a gift from her boyfriend of an assortment of kickin' cigars -- 5 Vegas (Cinco Vegas, for you gaijins), CAO, Don Tomas, et al... Since they weren't humidified I couldn't fire any of 'em up; but in a couple weeks, once they've been properly rehumidified, I'll be running through 'em and re-enjoying my birthday all over again -- the gift that keeps on giving...

We got to the office, I did a little work and then my sister and I went to lunch at the Brooklyn Diner, where my other half had called in an attempt to get us a special dessert, but the maitre'd (who knows us well) had it already handled: just when we were stuffed and couldn't eat anymore, the waitress brought a huge hunk of incredible chocolate cake with some whipped cream and a candle. We brought it upstairs as neither of us could even make an attempt at having even a bite of it... Once upstairs I did some more work and got a bunch more calls from friends and relatives all over, although none was more memorable than from my friend Ron (gee, thanks, Ron), who had called from Tokyo earlier that morning at 4AM (hint: 14 hours). Thank god for answering machines and me being a heavy sleeper. And that chocolate cake didn't go to waste :-)

Once we finally made it out of the office and homeward, I came home to find a care package with some awesome goodies awaiting me courtesy of my other half, including pictures, some shirts, a couple of wonderful cards, a frame with a tasty picture and a keycase. After trying some stuff on and spending some much-needed phone-time with her, I got changed and headed out to meet friends; we had sangria, tequila shots and some rockin' Mexican at Rosa Mexicana. By the time I climbed into bed it was the next day. Thanks to the time difference, I got to fall asleep with my other half in my ear and a smile on my face.


Friday was a blur: I managed some appointments, a bit of laundry, some relaxing, and just enjoyed the day. Saturday, I did a little running around (errands, etc.) and then came home, got changed and went to dinner with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend at a restaurant near my apartment. I felt a bit detached not having my other half there with us, but I still had a great time; we had a bottle of champagne in honor of my birthday, and then, halfway through dinner, the waiter brought another bottle, announcing to the table that it was from someone who knows and loves me who felt badly she couldn't be there by the name of Kaia...I sorta-kinda knew, as we all smiled and missed her, that, in the back of my mind, she would do something like that, but it still made me smile and even miss her more. And by the time dinner was cleared, I had finished six glasses of incredible champagne, a warm grilled calamari and mesculun salad (rockin'), and about half my dinner. They then brought out the cake -- a chocolate monstrosity with candles spelling out the word celebrate -- before we finally called it a night.

I wound up falling asleep on the phone with my other half, despite a clinging headache and being so tired; I thanked her for the champagne, the same bottle that she'd sent to me the day my father got out of the hospital, and let her know how sweet and wonderful a gesture it was. I explained to her that I'd told my father that the only other time she'd sent me a bottle of Clicquot was to celebrate his release from the hospital. As per usual, it was a small gesture, perhaps, but one that really felt good. I doubt I'll ever see another bottle of Clicquot again and not think of her and smile.


This morning I woke up early, feeling good, well-rested and relaxed (in other words, not hung over). I wanted to get some laundry done but it wasn't meant to be, so I relegated my early morning wake-up to some work and some organizing, and downloading a clip of Chappelle's Show (where he plays Rick James). If you haven't seen it, you need to...if for no other reason than to be reminded that "Cocaine's a helluva drug!"

In the meantime, it was rainy and miserable in NYC but I was looking forward to going out as some friends were taking me to brunch for my birthday, so we met up, despite the rain, and had a kickin' brunch at Atlantic Grill...our waiter told us to relax and enjoy and was in no rush to clear us out, so we wound up hanging there for awhile (the fact they brought us fondue with rice krispies, marshmallows, biscotti and fruit for dessert didn't hurt). By the time we rolled out of there and swung by one of my friend's apartments, it was late afternoon. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday, birthday or not :-)

It's nice to know that I've got lots of friends and family around that went out of their way to make sure I had such a great birthday. As they know, I appreciate them all. The one thing that was missing this weekend was my other half, and knowing that for my next birthday she'll be here permanently was all the birthday happiness I needed. The rest -- as great as it was -- is just icing on the cake :-)


"Enjoy yourself,'s a celebration..."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A New/Old Debate, Florida-Style

In a unique bit of irony, only a few days after my rumination on the McDonald's/Super-Size Me issue, another nutrition/government clash is occurring in Florida, though with a decidedly different twist: this struggle concerns Terri Schiavo, the woman who, in 1991, had heart failure and subsequent brain damage that has since left her in a vegetative state.

Several days ago Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, and she is, barring further governmental intervention, going to die.

The saga, if you've somehow avoided it, entails her parents, who have fought to keep her alive, and her husband, who wants to allow her to die peacefully rather than simply exist as a body connected to machines to keep her alive. Lawmakers, including Florida Governor Jeb Bush, have been involved to try and prevent Ms. Schiavo's husband from allowing her to die, and today, Ms. Schiavo's parents, who have frequently sought the involvement of legislators, have urgently begged lawmakers to intervene.

Mary Schindler, Ms. Schiavo's mother, spoke at a press conference outside her daughter's hospital. "My daughter is in the building behind me, starving to death. We laugh together, we cry together, we smile together, we talk together. She is my life. I am begging Gov. (Jeb) Bush and the politicians in Tallahassee, President Bush and the politicians in Washington: Please, please, please save my little girl."

Whether we're talking about Clint Eastwood's recent Oscar-winning film "Million Dollar Baby," Dr. Jack Kevorkian's notedly unique approach to medicine, or the case of Terri Schiavo, a person's right to die in this nation, for a variety of reasons, is not necessarily his or hers to decide. Speaking from personal experience, having recently watched my father exist in a semi-conscious state for an extended period of time due to medicines to ease his experience of a feeding tube, I would assume Ms. Schiavo, who has next to no brain function and is in a vegetative state, is barely conscious of her surroundings. I'm not a doctor, so I will only assume and defer to her doctors for specificity. Based on what I've read, however, her doctors have indicated that she is and will remain in a vegetative state unless medical technology somehow changes and/or an act of God occurs.

Many have seen the pictures of Ms. Schiavo in her hospital bed; she appears catatonic and vacant. Seeing her pictures is disturbing, not only because of my recent experience with my father, but in general. Going to the hospital to visit someone, especially a loved one, in that vegetative state, isn't easy; knowing that person will never get better or have "life" behind their eyes must be even more excruciating.

Which is why I am confused and irritated each time I read how Ms. Schiavo's parents have fought to keep her "alive." Without knowing their religious or philosophical beliefs, it would seem to me that parents, and her other loved ones, would prefer to know she was no longer suffering or existing simply as a body connected a series of wires, tubes and machines. People who have lived their lives normally but experience an accident that leaves them paralyzed, like Christopher Reeve, still have mental capacity and can think and act on those thoughts; but people who have little or no brain function and whose sole means of expression are, for the most part, grunts and tremors, are no longer "living," they're merely not dead. And each time I hear Ms. Schiavo's mother, Mary Schindler, ask lawmakers to save her daughter's life, I respond to her silently the same way: your daughter's life is over, and the doctors have said the only thing that can save her is an act of God, not an act of Congress. It's troubling that people turn to government once doctors have said there is nothing more that can be done.

The "living will," for many people, indicates that, in the event they become incapacitated, their family will allow them to die with dignity rather than simply be kept breathing but, otherwise, no longer a viable human being. I don't know many people who would prefer to be kept alive in this manner, myself included: and while I am sure her parents have been tortured by this entire experience, what is also quite upsetting is the fact her husband has to experience this as well. The incident occured 14 years ago, and in that time, Ms. Schiavo has made little or no improvement; medical technology clearly improves, but it is unrealistic to expect Ms. Schiavo will ever be even remotely like she was prior to the episode which incapacitated her. Selfishness aside, wouldn't it be preferable to end her suffering and let her die peacefully, and with dignity, than to keep her breathing but otherwise a body on a sheet?

Something which really puzzles me is the involvement -- meddling -- of politicians who have contradicted over a dozen court decisions which have stated that Ms. Schiavo should be allowed to die. Actually, based on the cavalier and self-aggrandizing meddling by politicians in abortion, tobacco and gun issues, I shouldn't be puzzled. But these are men, for the most part, who, hopefully, are at least moderately intelligent: why hasn't any of these people told Ms. Schiavo's parents that their daughter is breathing but she's no longer alive? Does election to government equate to a loss of common sense? What is it that so many of us are missing?

David Gibbs, an attorney for Ms. Schiavo's parents, spoke yesterday: "The family is heartsick. This is their daughter. This is their loved one. This is their sister. And they are watching her suffer, in their opinion, a death that she shouldn't have to face."

Sadly, it occurs to me that Ms. Schiavo's parents should consider too that their daughter is suffering a "life" that she shouldn't have to face.