Reposted and revised: "Schiavo and Gonzalez: A preview of things to come"
"A man is punished by the very things through which he sins."
A defining moment: Terri Schiavo and Elian Gonzalez:
There are certain historical events which are defining moments for a nation. Quite often the event might receive some publicity but its impact and ripple effect goes unnoticed. Americans naturally move on to the next news flash but fail to consider the depth and significance of what just happened. However, with a working knowledge of the bible and Church history, we know that what the world considers to be insignificant can be, in fact, a critical event; one that shapes a nation’s future.
This March we celebrated the seventh anniversary of the premature death of Terri Schiavo (2005) and this June will be the twelfth anniversary of returning a young refugee, Elian Gonzalez, to the dictator Fidel Castro (2000). The circumstances surrounding Elian Gonzales and Terry Schiavo enjoyed plenty of publicity at the time. But I would argue that the majority of journalists and historians did not consider these events to have any historic significance. Certainly they are not regarded to be as important as 9/11, the invasion of Iraq or the 2008 housing crisis. Nevertheless, I caution the reader not to subscribe to a journalistic or historical template that minimizes the national importance of an event just because an injustice was done to only one or two individuals. When evil is committed against a helpless person while the nation watches and only a few come to come to his or her aid, then the evil done to that one person may be a preview of things to come for the public at large who stood by and watched. It would seem that the injustice committed against Terri and Elian is an index of future events for Americans at large.
We know this to be true in the case of our Lord’s crucifixion. He said to the religious elders, “Destroy this temple and I’ll rebuild it in three days.” On Good Friday that is exactly what they did. However, Jesus also predicted the destruction of Jerusalem that would take place some forty years later. In 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus, in order to suppress an insurrection, surrounded the city and proceeded to destroy it along with the Jewish Temple. A million Jews died in the process. According to our Lord, these tragic events took place because the people did not recognize the time of their visitation. To be sure, the crucifixion of Christ was a portent of things to come for the citizens of Jerusalem.
With that said, God in his mercy gives us time to repent. In the book of Wisdom it says, “Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!” (12:2). Within recent years there may have been signals from Divine Providence that its protection and benedictions, once enjoyed by America, is receding. The following are a few indications that there may be cracks in America’s foundation:
• We had a significant divide in our country over the 2000 Presidential election between Bush and Gore;
• We had an unprecedented terrorists’ attack on our homeland on September 11th 2001;
• In 2008 our nation was jolted by the Housing Market Crash and people are still anticipating a financial crisis with Federal and State budgets;
• The recent HHS mandate is an indication that religious liberty is no longer deemed to be inviolable by the Federal Government;
• And Obamacare, if unchecked, will precipitate healthcare rationing and an erosion of medical options for Americans.
Very seldom does a nation or civilization decline precipitously into ruin. A decline is, more often than not, characterized by a few steps forward and several steps back; a little progress here and a significant regression there. Close-up it is difficult to see. But if one takes a step back what we find is a general decline in the graph. As Bishop Sheen said in 1948,
"It is characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times…The basic reason for this false optimism is that he [the citizen] attributes to the fact that our civilization is mechanical rather than organic."
Elian and Terri: Two Steps Backwards for America
America’s response to the highly publicized stories of Terri Schiavo and Elian Gonzales happened to be, in my estimation, those significant steps backwards whereby good men and women in positions of power did not put everything on the line to protect these two victims of injustice. These events served as a portent of things to come for this nation. To say it another way, what happened to Terri and Elian is happening to America. Scripture says that God punishes people through the very things by which they sin. We sent Elian back to a Cuban dictator. When his family sought to take refuge in America, our federal government denied him liberty because of the wishes of a Fidel Castro, an evil man. Could it be that the immigration crisis in the Border States and the looming threat of an all-powerful State here in America are but the instruments God is using to purify us? Perhaps the threat of rationing healthcare for Americans under Obamacare is not wholly unrelated to the injustice that was committed against Ms. Schiavo. Like with Elian, the wishes of an evil man, Mike Schiavo, her ex-husband, to put his ex-wife to death were given official sanction. You heard the saying: What goes around comes around.
Not all, but many of us were entirely too passive as we watched Terri and Elian suffer an injustice. These two cases not only speak volumes about the evil that was committed, but it also says something about the good men and women (both politicians and religious leaders of influence), who could have gone the extra mile to protect these two victims but chose not to.