In Love With Death
The bizarre passion of the pull-the-tube people.
God made the world or he didn’t.
God made you or he didn’t.
If he did, your little human life is, and has been, touched by the divine. If this is true, it would be true of all humans, not only some. And so–again, if it is true–each human life is precious, of infinite value, worthy of great respect.
Most–not all, but probably most–of those who support Terri Schiavo’s right to live believe the above. This explains their passion and emotionalism. They believe they are fighting for an invaluable and irreplaceable human life. They are like the mother who is famously said to have lifted the back of a small car off the ground to save a child caught under a tire. You’re desperate to save a life, you’re shot through with adrenaline, your strength is for half a second superhuman, you do the impossible.
That is what they are trying to do.
They do not want an innocent human life ended for what appear to be primarily practical and worldly reasons–e.g., Mrs. Schiavo’s quality of life is low, her life is pointless. They say: Who is to say it is pointless? And what does pointless even mean? Maybe life itself is the point.
I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people. What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate, and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are.
If they care so much about her pain, why are they unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water? And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo’s death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans “brain dead.” Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay “a slithering snake.”
Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo’s right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground they crowed about having “kicked the sh– out of the fascists.” On Tuesday James Carville’s face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren’t a buffoon.
Why are they so committed to this woman’s death?
They seem to have fallen half in love with death.
What does Terri Schiavo’s life symbolize to them? What does the idea that she might continue to live suggest to them?
Why does this prospect so unnerve them? Again, if you think Terri Schiavo is a precious human gift of God, your passion is explicable. The passion of the pull-the-tube people is not.
I do not understand their certainty. I don’t “know” that any degree of progress or healing is possible for Terri Schiavo; I only hope they are. We can’t know, but we can “err on the side of life.” How do the pro-death forces “know” there is no possibility of progress, healing, miracles? They seem to think they know. They seem to love the phrases they bandy about: “vegetative state,” “brain dead,” “liquefied cortex.”
I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the stop-abortion-please people.
The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.
I do not understand why the don’t-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don’t-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.
I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing–an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law–are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything.
There are passionate groups of women in America who decry spousal abuse, give beaten wives shelter, insist that a woman is not a husband’s chattel. This is good work. Why are they not taking part in the fight for Terri Schiavo? Again, what explains their lack of passion on this? If Mrs. Schiavo dies, it will be because her husband, and only her husband, insists she wanted to, or would want to, or said she wanted to in a hypothetical conversation long ago. A thin reed on which to base the killing of a human being.
The pull-the-tube people say, “She must hate being brain-damaged.” Well, yes, she must. (This line of argument presumes she is to some degree or in some way thinking or experiencing emotions.) Who wouldn’t feel extreme sadness at being extremely disabled? I’d weep every day, wouldn’t you? But consider your life. Are there not facets of it, or facts of it, that make you feel extremely sad, pained, frustrated, angry? But you’re still glad you’re alive, aren’t you? Me too. No one enjoys a deathbed. Very few want to leave.
Terri Schiavo may well die. No good will come of it. Those who are half in love with death will only become more red-fanged and ravenous.
And those who are still learning–our children–oh, what terrible lessons they’re learning. What terrible stories are shaping them. They’re witnessing the Schiavo drama on television and hearing it on radio. They are seeing a society–their society, their people–on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.
Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.
Once you “know” that–that human life is not so special after all–then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of “A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag” (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.