Thursday, March 31, 2005

Somebody Got Murdered

From time to time the fate of an individual, their life and/or death, captures the hearts and minds of a nation and even, sometimes the world. Often one could ask "why... and not...". Kenneth Bigley was one such man, his two American colleagues killed and forgotten long before Bigley's tragic story was dragged to its inevitable end. Robert McCartney is another - his memory kept alive by his sisters so tirelessly when so many others murdered by republican scum (I usually think specifically of Newry postal worker Frank Kerr, murdered in cold blood during an IRA robbery AFTER it called its ceasefire) are forgotten in the interests of political expediency.

Now we have Terry Schiavo in the US, a woman whose brain no longer functions (although, apparently, she's not strictly brain dead) and has been in this state for nearly 15 years. Her husband wants her to be allowed to die by removing her feeding tubes, while her parents do not (they must believe that a miracle recovery may take place?...). Personally, I believe in neither the death penalty nor abortion but I do believe people have the right to determine their own fate, if sound of mind, or to have their loved ones make that decision for them if not sound of mind.

However I also believe there's a terrible hypocrisy at play where euthanasia is not allowed but a person is "allowed to die". How on earth can starving someone to death be considered in her own interests? Even drowning would be preferable! (and I don't mean to be flippant). If the US courts have decided that allowing someone to die is acceptable then, really, legalising euthanasia should be debated as a matter of course - and that would stir up some storm.

The thing about this case, though, is that the woman has become a political football and it surely cannot have escaped the American peoples' notice that their president, who signed dozens of death warrants in Texas, got out of bed in the middle of the night to try and enact a federal law to prevent Schiavo's physicians from allowing her to die. It dissapoints me, as a very moderate Catholic, that the church in Rome manages to get itself tarred with the same brush as the fundamentalist right-wing evangelical Christians who still would have us believe creation "theory".

Europeans really don't realise (I don't pretend I totally do either) that Americans pretty much despise the idea of big government (and their version of "big" is a lot smaller than government in a number of European countries) , which is one of the main reasons why the Republicans have held the presidency for a large majority of the time in the last century. Anything resembling what we would consider social justice is virtually brandished "communism" in the States. So when the federal government is seen to so directly interfere in the life of an individual, Americans are up in arms.

American conservatives are clearly in a muddle. They despise Democrat-style "big" government yet their own chosen leadership, which they must have believed would be an extension of Ronald Reagan's theme of big Government being an enemy of the American Way, is seemingly being dominated by a religious right that is now guilty of exactly that which they purport to oppose. Strange times indeed.

When I'd finished writing this I saw on the BBC that Terry Schiavo had passed away. RIP.
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