Friday, April 15, 2011

Terri Schiavo's Premature Death: A Defining Moment for America

Recap: Elian’s Plight and the Immigration Crisis

From the previous blog it was proffered that a defining moment for America was when the Clinton administration returned Elian Gonzalez to Cuba's dictator, Fidel Castro. If this young little immigrant- this one individual -was the victim of gross injustice by the government while others in power did little to stop it, can it be said that we really value immigrants? that every immigrant's quest for a better life is intrinsically valuable even when it is politically inexpedient? The Elian story revealed something about America. It represented where our priorities really are; particularly among the political Left. Because of the indifference towards the injustice done to one immigrant by politicians, the members of the media and many Americans, it is no wonder that our country has been riddled and divided by an immigration crisis. As was stated earlier, God uses, as his instruments of justice, those things through which we sin. This brings us to another fork in the road; another defining moment for this nation.

Saving Terri Schiavo: Minimal Efforts

I take for granted that the reader knows most of the details surrounding the premature death of Terri Schiavo in 2005. The evil committed against this woman is evident enough to Christians. What has not been fully explored, in my opinion, is that those in positions of authority- both civil and religious –did not go far enough to protect her. If you scroll down you’ll see a picture of Elian and being seized by force. It reminds us of how diplomacy was skirted and force was used to retrieve Elian so that he could once again be under the jurisdiction of Castro. US Attorney General, Janet Reno, spared no effort to carry out this injustice. Our Lord cautioned us about how the unjust goes all out to achieve their end: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” That is, they go to great lengths and employ innovative methods to achieve their unrighteous ends. As for the God-fearing, they often limit themselves to conventional and safe methods.

On the other hand, those supporting Terri Schiavo and her will to live, played it safe and stayed within the conventional means of warding off Michael Schiavo’s (Terri’s ex-husband) attempts to euthanize her. Florida Governor Jed Bush could have pulled a Janet Reno to have Terri whisked away like Elian. And I’m disappointed that, according to Catholic Answers, Bishop Robert Lynch of the St. Petersburg diocese was more interested in reconciling Michael Schiavo with the Schindler’s, Terri’s family, than he was in saving Terri’s life. Sadly, he was missing in action.
I refer you to the picture of Christ reaching over the cliff in order to save one sheep (scroll down two blogs). The vultures had their eyes fixed on this endangered sheep but Christ, so characteristic of his pastoral love, put himself at risk to retrieve a helpless creature. Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said, “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal (but the sleek and the strong I will destroy), shepherding them rightly.” (Ezekiel 34) To “seek out” and “to bring back” implies that a good shepherd may have to venture where wolves roam; to risk an attack from predators; and to snatch the innocent from the jaws of carnivores. This is the kind of model that leaders should aspire to. This is what God bids us to do.
The Schindler’s, as you know, were more than willing to take care of Terri. But a court order had her feeding tube removed and she starved to death. The will to kill trumped the right to life. From a corrupt legal process that ignored the natural law, evil prevailed; all this while good men and women watched. And in end, we can say that Terri Schiavo was a victim of selective healthcare rationing. Fast forward to 2010-2011.

Healthcare Rationing: First Terri Then America

At congressional town hall meetings across the nation there were a flurry of protests from the elderly and the public at large. There was a lively sense that under the vast bureaucratic machine of Obamacare political expediency would trump the best interests of the patient. This speculation is not unwarranted. There are other countries such as Canada and the UK that are more advanced in terms of nationalizing their healthcare. To be sure, there are countless testimonies of patients being treated more like a number than a person with dignity.

And of course the Conservative media caught wind of the Veterans Administration’s end-of-life counseling to its veterans in a program called “Your Life, Your Choices.” This highly immoral and unethical push for euthanasia was discontinued by the Bush administration only to be reinstated by the Obama administration. The various comments from our president gave indication that he favored euthanasia programs and healthcare rationing. In advancing the programs like “Your Life, Your Choice,” euthanasia will merely be accelerating an already existing widespread phenomenon. After all, starving and dehydrating patients to death is a nationwide epidemic today in hospitals and hospices; and I might add, it is becoming more socially acceptable. As the Baby Boom generation (a generation that had much fewer children than their parent’s generation) moves into the elderly age bracket, as the nurse to patient ratio and the doctor to patient ratio becomes disproportionate, the temptation to resort to euthanizing will be considerable. To be sure, the push for a more systematic euthanasia program will come to light and will be publicly justified as abortion is today.

Healthcare rationing by an unchecked Obamacare is- as it stands today –against the will of the majority of Americans. The feeling of helplessness by this majority was deeply felt as the 2000-plus page healthcare bill passed in March of 2010; just five years after (almost to the day) of Terri Schiavo’s death. The American public vicariously got a glimpse as to what many euthanasia patients feel when their life is being snuffed out against their will.

What It All Means:

These two episodes of Elian Gonzalez and Terri Schiavo are representative of so many other cases like it. As for Elian, it revealed how government is capable of treating, not just the citizen, but the immigrant it so often claims to champion. Force was used for an unjust purpose, risking a whole lot of bad PR. However, you rarely see this bold approach from Christians and those who hold traditional values. This latter point applies especially in Terri’s case. Intervention from civil and religious authority could have been more assertive and creative. Like Jesus reaching for the sheep, they too could have stood in front of the door to Terri’s hospice; the National Guard could have been called in; and the Bishop of St. Petersburg could have physically guarded her bed.

Radical! Undignified and unprofessional! You might say. If we saw every American- particularly our family members and our very selves –in Elian and Terri, we would have done more; our leaders would have done more!

As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, the worst thing is not sin, but the refusal to admit we have sinned. The Book of Wisdom says God punishes a little bit at a time so that we can repent as a people. With Egypt, the Lord didn’t just incinerate the whole nation in an instant. When the Pharaoh didn’t listen to Moses, when the Egyptians did not take heed in his warnings, God sent the first plague, then the second plague, then the third etc. He is giving America time. Mary, the Mother of God, has appeared and has exhorted her children to repent in America as well as all over the world.

As St. Peter said, judgment begins with the Household of God. Both initiative and leadership in terms of heroism has to come from Christ’s followers.