On Good Friday, as Terri Schiavo lay dying of thirst in Woodside Hospice, Gabriel Keys took her a cup of water. Gabriel was arrested, handcuffed and taken away.
Apparently, no one taught Gabriel that you do not disobey a judge’s order, even to bring water to someone dying of thirst. As he is 10 years old, he is probably not yet conversant with the new morality, where a corporal work of mercy can be a crime. Perhaps his parents filled his mind with such subversive texts as, “Whoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones, a cup of cold water” shall not lose eternal life.
Before this column appears, Terri Schiavo may well be dead. If so, another milestone will have been passed in the long retreat of Western Civilization from a Christian-rooted culture of life to the pagan culture of death of pre-Christian Rome.
For Terri Schiavo will not have died a natural death. She will have been put to death by the state. The coroner’s report should read: This was a state-sanctioned killing of a woman because she was brain-damaged, and the method of execution was by starvation and denial of water. These are methods most of us would protest if imposed on the Beltway snipers.
Why did Florida put Terri Schiavo to death? Because that was the demand of a husband who refused to divorce her and denied her medical care, while he lived with another woman. Michael Schiavo is the ACLU poster boy for family values.
In the Old Testament, King Solomon ruled that the mother who had been willing to give up her baby to the woman who had kidnapped the child rather than see the baby cut in half should have the child. Our Florida Solomon ruled that the husband who wanted Terri dead should have custody of her, not the parents who wanted her alive.
“Should Congress have intervened?” is an issue that has divided conservatives. But conservatives are constitutionalists. Under the Constitution, no person may be deprived of life without due process of law. This has traditionally meant a trial of one’s peers, proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a heinous crime and no cruel or unusual punishment. Though she committed no crime, Terri was put to death in a manner most decent men and women would not use to put a suffering animal out of its misery.
Most conservatives believe in a God who is the Author of Life and has given us the laws by which we must live. Among the first of these is that we must not shed innocent blood. For that is forbidden by the teachings of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and the laws of all the civilizations erected on these faiths. In all nations, killing of the innocent is the most despicable of crimes. Done on a vast scale, these are what were called at the Nuremberg trials, “crimes against humanity.”
Americans must face a hard truth. The state of Florida put Terri Schiavo to death. Before Holy Week, she was neither dead nor dying. For 15 years, she had been cared for by nurses and visited by loving parents. She was not dying until the judge ordered her dead, by ordering her feeding tube removed. Then it has taken her nearly two weeks to die, as he blocked the reinsertion of the feeding tube and ordered police to prevent anyone from giving her water.
When the courts failed Terri, and Congress and the Florida Legislature failed Terri, the governor of Florida, who took an oath to defend the constitutional rights of Florida’s citizens, should have taken custody of Terri, ordered the tube reinserted and let the federal courts proceed with the de novo hearing of the evidence, while Terri was still alive.
When Gov. John Peter Altgeld of Illinois came to believe that those convicted of murder in the infamous Haymarket Massacre of 1886 were innocent, that a judicial outrage had been committed, he pardoned them. “I am a dead man politically,” he told Clarence Darrow.
Jeb Bush should have done the same thing, the right thing. He should have rescued Terri from the death sentence unjustly imposed upon her. If the court held him in contempt, so what? Who does not hold that Florida court in contempt?
From abortion on demand in 1973, to a right to die in Oregon, to a right to suicide in Holland, to involuntary euthanasia in the old folks homes on the old and dying continent of Europe, to America’s death sentence for Terri Schiavo, the West advances steadily toward its own death.
As we find more and more justifications for ending life, we also find that not one Western nation has a native-born population that is growing. All are dying. Before century’s end, the West ends, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “Not with a bang, but a whimper.”