Sanctity? They Don’t Know The Meaning…

March 21st, 2005

Without going into the obvious rants about the Schiavo case, I want to hit on a few things that I’ve only heard mentioned a few times.

Stick With Me; I’m Going Somewhere
The republican party is firm on its idea of the sanctity of marriage as an argument against gay marriage. This means that nothing should be as important as the bond between a married couple, as the word “sanctity” implies a holiness to the union, a committment that is sacred and to be given the utmost respect. The republican party’s unwillingness to even consider a change in the definition of marriage is in line with thinking of this institution as sacred, one that is not flawed and is perfect in its present state. This is the same way people of faith regard their religion. The implication is clear in the republican rhetoric: marriage is to be given the same degree of honor and respect that religion is afforded by those that are religious. Since that doesn’t mean anything to some people and since there are those who afford no honor and respect to religion, I suppose that, later, a clear conception of that degree of honor and respect will be presented to all athiests, but I digress…

Who Do You Talk To?
The sanctity of the Schiavo marriage is being violated when the government second guesses Michael Schiavo. He says one thing; his wife’s parents say another; whose word is to be taken? I’d argue for the word of the husband, not because I happen to agree with him, but because I think he would know what’s best for his wife.

I don’t talk to my parents about too many things. It’s nothing personal; I love them both, I just don’t share that much with them in regard to my philosophy. We talk about computers (dad) and teaching (mom). There’re a fair amount of philosophical life views expanded upon in either on of those conversations, but it’s far from a personal discussion of goals, dreams, and aspirations. My girlfriend is the participant in such conversations that reflect where my mind really is.

Vanessa knows much more about how I think and believe than my parents do. It’s with Vanessa that I have conversations about goals, dreams, and aspirations. My parents don’t know that I write fiction stories and, even if they do have an idea about that, they’ve never read one (to be fair, I’ve never shown them one, but that just goes to prove my point). Very simply put, the depth of conversation I have with Vanessa is much more profound than with my family. I would venture to guess this is true for most couples.

It’s Only Sanctimonious If We Agree
How could my parents possibly know what I’d want to have happen to me if I was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS)? Most adults have the kinds of conversations leading to an understanding of such things with their mate, not their parents. When married, a couple is working to forge their lives together and it’s natural and normal to reach these kinds of decisions to the exclusion of the parents’ involvement.

If we want to say that marriage has a sanctity that must be protected, then we must treat that union as holy and not to be trifled with, then Michael Schiavo should be the one who knows Terri the best, then all that honor and respect that comes with the term “sanctity” needs to be afforded to Michael and Terri. If Michael says his wife’s beliefs lie in one direction and the parents say Terri’s beliefs lie in another, we simply must believe Michael in honor of that precious sanctity. That word can’t be used to “protect” marriage in one case and then completely ignored to demolish the marriage in another.

Cruel and Unusual
Another very real aspect of this case is that Terri has been starved nearly to death several times, only to have that tube inserted again. How terrible that must be. Starved for days at a time and, just when you think it’ll end because you’ll die, you’re force fed again, only to have the whole process begin again a few months down the road. I can’t imagine how to put in words the cruelty demonstrated there. It’s almost torture. Yet no one brings up how this constant back-and-forth of food, no food, food, no food is an evil way to treat someone.

Parochial Matriarch
Mary Schindler, Schiavo’s mother, adamantly supports legislation that would result in Terri’s feeding tube being reinserted. She spent time and energy and media attention to urge the passing of that legislation. In a time such as this, Mary is only thinking of herself.

Mary has the opportunity to urge people to make their wishes known. With a platform this large, Mary could promote documentation of medical wishes, even call awareness to the specific forms to be filled out and filed in order for wishes to be honored without such a mess. Yet, instead of fighting to make sure that no other parent/spouse ever has to go through such an awful situation during the final moments of a loved one’s life, Mary is fighting for government intrusion in a family situation in which she cannot win her way.

While the government needs to deal with important issues such as voter fraud, the Iraq war, military ethics, the budget crisis, and unemployment, Mary Schindler wants to use our resources and money to fight for her daughter simply because she cannot convince her daughter’s husband nor a single court in the land that she is right. She wants congress to fight her battle for her instead of looking beyond her narrow scope and trying to help society in a broader sense by calling attention to ways of avoiding such a tragic situation.

Fear of the Unknown
But what this really boils down to is that everyone is afraid to make the wrong decision. What if Terri really is able to heal somehow? What if there are medical breakthroughs that could treat her condition? Who are we to play God?

Still Play God…
As a society, we play God every day. Every time you take medication, you play God. Every time you see a doctor about something that ails you, you play God. Every time a surgery is performed, God’s role is usurped. The notion of “playing God” is that life is taken and given freely at your whim. The natural order of the life and death cycle is stopped in order to keep one alive a little longer. If the role of God is to be believed, then perhaps that cold you’ve had for the last 2 months was meant to kill you. Maybe a car accident is God’s way of saying, “Sorry, that’s all the time you have.” To interrupt that is to take God’s role away from him and put it into the hands of those trying to save your life.

At your command, that medication goes to work in making you better, healing your sickness, treating your disease, and your life is extended. At your command, the trip to the doctor is a visit to increase your quality and often the length of life; it’s a trip to see God. At their command, surgeons tinker with biology in order to interrupt the natural sequence of events and uphold the Hippocratic Oath, an oath that inbues its taker with the duty of performing the job God performed in the biblical tale of creation. Surgeons, doctors, and even you are God every time a human life is prolonged more than it would be without help.

If we have a religious connotation to marriage by use of the word sanctity to describe it, then let’s allow for it and let the God of that situation act out his role. This has gone on far too long. Michael and Terri were the two involved in the life of this marriage and they should be the only two involved in the death of it.

2 comments on “Sanctity? They Don’t Know The Meaning…”

  1. Debbie Says:

    I totally agree with you about all of this – marriage can’t be held up in one situation and then beat down in another. But, in fairly recent news, something like 13 state courts and 3 federal courts (including the Supreme Court) have told Terri’s mom to butt out. So, I suppose we should be happy that the conservatives are consistent about something.

    I heard on NPR that her hospital bills are being paid by two sources. One, money they received from a medical malpractice suit, the kind the Republicans are trying to minimize. Two, Medicaid, which politicians are trying to minimize. And yet, the Republicans are trying to uphold how wonderful and supportive they are of Terri and her family. Funny.

  2. Todd Says:

    I didn’t know that about the hospital bills. I knew about the malpractice suit, but it didn’t occur to me that that money was being used. Yeah, odd…

    Yet again, this is the schizophrenic nature of the political party and our society, more generally. States rights? Federal law? Privacy? Government intrusion? Personal responsibility? Business legislation? We can’t make up our minds.

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