We the living
I don't share Christopher Hitchens' atheism, but I do share his disgust at how Christian fundamentalists have fetishized Terri Shiavo, and his alarm at how powerful they have become:
It is an abuse of our courts and our Constitution to have judges and congressmen and governors bullied by those who believe in resurrection but not in physical death. Which post-terminal patient could not now be employed, regardless of his or her expressed wish, to convene a midnight court or assemble a hasty nocturnal presidency? Not content with telling us that we once used to share the earth with dinosaurs and that we should grimly instruct our children in this falsehood, religious fanatics now present their cult of death as if it were a joyous celebration of the only life we have. They have gone too far, and they should be made to regret it most bitterly.
Republican politicians should take heed that the people protesting outside Terri Schiavo's hospice represent a constituency that can never be satisfied. Look at how they have turned on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:
"There will be a backlash. A very strong minority of the conservative base will not only not support him, they will work for defeat." (Bush cannot seek a third term as governor in 2006 and he has said he will not run for president in 2008).
Beyond elected representatives, the fury toward the judges who have ruled against Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, at every state and federal level is being subsumed into the broader national issue of what some conservatives here describe as a judiciary that is "out of control" on issues from gay marriage to religious expression.
"Just in the past year we've had 'under God' struck from the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments taken away from the courthouse in Alabama, homosexual marriage created out of thin air and an innocent woman starved to death by judicial decree," said Randall Terry, who founded the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and now heads the Society for Truth and Justice. "The essence of self-government is that we elect our representatives to do our bidding. We don't have that anymore; we live under an imperial judiciary."
Certainly, not everyone who believes that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be re-inserted are conservative Christians; indeed, I still believe that the Florida courts, in the absence of incontrovertible evidence that Schiavo would not have wanted to be kept alive in a persistent vegitative state, should have denied her husband's wishes that the feeding tube be removed.
But it seems that a vocal minority insists on turning this into a sick circus, ignoring even the wishes of Schiavo's parents--who want to keep her alive--to stop their aggressive protests. What a travesty. What a mockery, not only of our system of laws but of their own beliefs.