[Marxism] Sitting Shiva for Schiavo and America: a lynching in NewMexico
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 30 21:58:09 MST 2005
The following is a letter I wrote to a friend after reading Jose's
response re the Schiavo case.
Of course, my shift of position on decisively supporting Michael
Schiavo's position had occurred before he wrote his reply. Aside from
that very important correction of an important error, I continue to hold
most of the papist or "papist" positions he criticizes.
Well, my assessment of the Schiavo debate was that I ground away from a
retreating position, because I made one very big principled mistake. I
did not clearly take a stand against the Florida and
Bush-Congress-rightist persecution of Michael Schiavo for trying to do
the responsible thing in a lingering and (in any short term sense)
insoluble problem. This woman is brain dead to all intents and purposes
-- if she wasn't she would be reacting negatively to the denial of food
and she is not. Only brain stem and/or below activity. That is clear.
The autopsy will confirm the husband's judgment, and not because of any
nasty Kill-Terri conspiracies.
This is a longstanding problem for families of all classes, made more
severe by medical advances that make it possible to sustain life. It is
insane to attack the people who try to deal with these problems in a
practical way. I agree with Jose that keeping her in suspended
animation, waiting for a cure or something, is loony. Its really an
argument for cryogenics. And, curious though I am about what society
will look like in 500 years (like Woody Allen in Sleepers), I am not
interested in debating THAT.
These situations have been handled informally. But the rightists have
imposed growing obstacles to handling it this way. (And there are
obviously greater possibilities for abuse in handling it this way.)
I think I was dead wrong not to support Michael Schiavo, and take on the
arguments from that standpoint. Quality of life. She chose. Etc. I
think I should have thought of the differences with abortion more. For
Jose, if the Catholic church (a recent decision) identifies the right to
die (or capital punishment?) with abortion, they must be the same.
Note, however, that we support abortion as a WOMAN'S right, not
PRIMARILY as a privacy question and also not -- as some liberals argue
today -- as the best interests of the foetus who has a supposed life and
death stake in being born only if "wanted." We support abortion as a
right of the woman, not a right of the foetus. We support women's right
to abortion, we do not oppose the birth of "unwanted" children on
quality of life grounds. Without an untrammelled right to abortion,
women are unfree in the most elementary way. I don't denounce the
Supreme Court for deciding the case on privacy grounds, and the right of
privacy has real importance, but the extension of this to a universal
right of the disabled, sick, and unhappy to die is far from firmly
established as a "human right." And the current pressures that are
pushing toward establishing a generalized "right to die" are, to put it
mildly, not entirely progressive.
I believe the current polarization between rightists and liberals on
this issue reflects the rightists' desire for cover on abortion and as
humanitarianism, but also the pressure of capitalism to get free of
medical responsibilities, the aging etc. The campaign is on, and it is
linked to the propaganda around these cases. The rightists gain ground
with the fearful, etc., while pushing their own more aggressive attacks
on social rights while defending the "deserving" and "helpless"
individuals on humanitarian grounds.
As for the charge of papism, I am not afraid of it. I am, after all,
one of the people they are trying to appeal to politically by taking
this stand and their stand against capital punishment and their (very
squishy) criticism of the war in Iraq. It highlights the importance they
give to the denying women the right to abortion, that they are willing
to adjust their historical positions (deliver them over to the secular
arm to be burned) to win more support against abortion. Jose thinks this
makes anyone their puppet who does not sieze the current radical trend
to cry, when the issue of the "right to die" comes up, Viva La Muerte!
They are actually arguing that in this period of retreat of the working
class, disintegration and fall of workers states, growth of totalitarian
tendencies in all the capitalist state, retreat of the working class,
retreat of the women's movement, retreat of the Black struggle, rise of
neoliberalism -- a great new democratic right is being won before our
And oddly enough it is the right to die!
I wonder what, if anything, the Cubans think about this. How do they
handle these problems? Do the families decide? (Not necessarily
unreasonable, I have concluded, despite the fact that economic pressures
come into play in this country in a massive way as medical care
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