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Thursday, March 31, 2005


There Will Be No Peace

Terri Schiavo is dead, as her husband and the legal system wanted her.

The attempt of some to portray her husband in a positive light has come to naught. His lawyer is stealing his money because the attempt is not possible.

But the American legal system, which insists that justice has been done, has its defenders. That is, if you refuse to face the fact that Terri Schiavo was killed by a combination of dehydrations and starvation while police stood guard to insure that no one gave her food or water. That is a level of barbarity unseen in a civilized country since World War II. As her will to live neared its end, authorities shoved a morphine suppository into her body to reduce her struggles. Had she raped, killed and eaten her neighbors she would have been treated with more compassion and dignity. She would certainly have been eligible for ACLU protection. As it was, the ACLU offered a brief for her judicial killing.

There are few things that divide a society more than issues of morality. Thanks to the slow motion killing of Terri Schiavo, America is going to have a debate about the ethics of judges. We are going to have to address the issue of whether this country will allow something that is so morally repellent – something for which people were executed after the Nuremburg trials - to make it’s home here.

The Sacramento Union’s editorial writer said it well when he wrote:

This is, for all those who cherish life and all the bravery required to keep it, a grim and bitter day. Terri Schiavo’s death, coming at the behest of an unfaithful spouse and an unmoved judicial system, leaves a colossal milestone in our nation’s history—a history whose framework, until now, favored life and liberty. The framework failed this profoundly disabled woman. It failed us all.
This past fortnight, in which Terri clung to life without nourishment, brought a keen sense of desolation and helplessness. How intensely appalling that those who loved her were denied an opportunity to feed her. How colossally tyrannical—the right word—that an unaccountable judicial system, at every level, sought to preserve its superiority over the other two branches of government by ordering her death. How galling that our mainstream media misrepresented the Constitution by supporting the judges’ claim to final authority.
How deeply disappointing that so much of the public, according to falsely constructed polls, seemed to go along with the orchestrated execution of this perfectly innocent woman. It is not without reason that men and women of traditional faith compare their compatriots’ sensibilities with those of the rabble who pressed for the death of Christ. Indeed, the torturous denials from state to federal courts seemed too reminiscent of Pontius Pilate washing his hands of his decision.
Those are hard words to write as acceptable analysis. But they are inescapable. They burst from our own understanding of the faith and the history that inform our government. The courts could have considered the case de novo, dropping their creaky proceduralism and considering all the facts of the case. They could have done that with all the presumption for life they accord death row inmates. They did not—clearly piqued by the perception their power was being attacked by the legislative and executive branches. They did that by conveniently forgetting Article Three of the Constitution, not to mention the Fourteenth Amendment, which respectively grant the people’s representatives final direction of the courts and permit federal intervention on behalf of individual rights.
Terri Schiavo’s right to counsel? Denied. Her dignity? Denied. Her life? Denied.
Because liberty itself is bound up in the right to life, the gavel came down on that, too. Repeatedly. And ultimately on the liberty of us all, none of us secured fates different from hers.
If Terri Schiavo is to be redeemed, it will mean that more Americans—like Edmund Burke at the sight of the ghastly French Revolution—are “alarmed into reflection.” And that, absorbing the full meaning of their existence, faithful Americans will redouble their efforts to take back the judicial branch of what once was a government formed to protect life and liberty.

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