The death of Terri Schiavo was an individual tragedy of unknowable proportions for her family. Losing a daughter the way the Schindlers did should never happen to a parent. It came down very simply to the fact that her husband Michael, with the full force and support of the judicial branch of the government of the United States of America decreed that this person - a living, breathing human being who probably had no conscious thought for 15 years but nevertheless existed - would be better off dead.
No amount of sophistry on the part of libertarians can erase the fact that they either stood by in a sort of dazed neutrality or actively supported the idea of Ms. Schiavo’s forced departure from this world. Using a radical objectivism as an intellectual shield, libertarians came up with ever more novel interpretations of federalism and conservative governance for their positions until, like their ideological adversaries on the left, they resorted to name calling and character assassination to get their points across.
There were many things that troubled me about this matter. In fact, many of the same concerns that caused some of these Republican centrists to recoil at the rhetoric and tactics of the religious right also bothered me, a conservative agnostic. But what was never an issue for me or for many of my non-religious socially conservative allies was the cramped, narrow interpretation of life espoused by the libertarians and how that definition led directly to the deliberate starvation of Terri Schiavo.
The fact that libertarians have now resolved one of the greatest scientific questions of our age - what constitutes consciousness - should be a cause for celebration. Couple that with another huge breakthrough in the field of psychic research that allowed these specially gifted people to peer into the mind of Terri Shiavo and assure us that she was no longer human enough to matter, and you have the perfect rationalization for decreeing unequivocally that Ms. Schiavo is an ex-human being and thus, if not a willing participant in her own judicially sanctioned death at least an uncaring bag of water and bones easily discarded.
And what if these super scientific sleuths and soothsayers were wrong? Oh well, we’re assured, she’s in a “better place” or, more honestly, she’s “out of her misery.”
I find it inexplicable that a rational person can say that someone who’s not human any more because she has no conscious thoughts can at one and the same time be in “misery.” As for being in a better place, not believing there’s life after death has its advantages, namely that no one would dare say such a thing as a rationale to kill me.
Perhaps the most troubling and revealing aspect of this entire tragedy has been the dismissive and condescending attitude toward social conservatives on the part of libertarians. Why is this so? The anger of the religious right felt by people like Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse, Bill Quick, over their position is, in my opinion, uncalled for but understandable given the emotions that this issue has brought to the surface among social conservatives. If I may be allowed, I’d like to put some of those emotions into an intellectual and historical context that will make some sense to our libertarian brethren.
America has gone beyond being a cultural wasteland. We’re now a full blown toxic waste dump, a veritable cesspool of poisonous images, noxious ideas, and venomous conceits. The corruption of our culture has proceeded willy-nilly without regard for the sensibilities of a huge minority of loyal American citizens - perhaps as many as 20 million Christian Evangelicals - whose rising concern about the inescapable nature of our mass media and the influence it has on their children has caused them to become politically active.
And what do they get for their trouble? Ridicule, hostility, and the back of the hand from some of the same people who come to them every two or four years and ask them for their vote. In addition, the sneering media’s preternatural pretensions regarding their own sophistication and worldliness give them license to portray these individuals as dupes who believe in some kind of primitive superstitious nonsense.
To make a mockery of someone’s deeply held beliefs would ordinarily be frowned on by these very same critics and sages. But since this target of mirth and derision are Christians, a double standard emerges that’s obvious to all except the most willfully self-deluded.
I wouldn’t be the first person to point out that religious conservatives are not well served by the majority of their leaders. But couldn’t the same be said for African Americans, women, and other minorities? I can’t tell you how many times I heard over the last two weeks what a dangerous extremist Randall Terry is. The fact that I also believe him to be a self-promoting charlatan is besides the point. Randall Terry does not speak for the majority of religious conservatives despite the efforts to portray him in such a light.
Other, less radical and more thoughtful leaders of the pro-life and anti-sleaze movements don’t get air time because, let’s face it, they’re not “sexy” enough. Cardinal George here in Chicago is an extremely articulate spokesman for the pro-life position. But because he’s not a shouter nor a polemicist on the issue of abortion, he rarely gets interviewed. This is a man who heads up an Archdiocese of more than 2 million Catholics and yet gets sort shrift in the media.
The same could be said for dozens of protestants, Catholics, and Christian laity who work tirelessly and selflessly to improve the quality of our culture. Being pro-choice, I don’t agree with many of their positions on abortion. But I respect them as advocates. And on issues where we do agree like trying to clean up the toxicity of our culture, I generally sympathize if not support their efforts.
And what are these efforts? Do they lobby the FCC to enforce the law? Why yes they do! It would seem then that our libertarian brethren are very selective on which aspects of the constitution they would like to be strictly construed. I guess the law authorizing the FCC to insure that the airwaves are regulated in the public interest doesn’t fall into the category of strict constructionist but rather individual taste. So when various Christian media watchdogs request that the FCC enforce its own rules against indecency are they just being blue noses or do they have a point?
I can’t tell you how many commenters on this site as well as other blogs have decided that since I supported Terri’s right to live I’m somehow part of this monolithic threat to our liberties known as the Christian right. And I also would have problems telling you how many non-religious social conservatives like myself have been flabbergasted by being lumped into this group, pigeon-holed by intellectually lazy people who are looking so far down their nose at the Christians, they’ve missed the rest of us who are concerned, even frightened by the state of the culture and the direction it’s taking.
If this is a war that’s begun between social conservatives and our more libertarian minded brothers and sisters than so be it. We didn’t start it. We didn’t want it. But because of the stakes involved, we’ll fight with everything we have.
And if it tears the Republican party apart, amen to that too. We were back benchers for 50 years. I kind of like the view.
Cross-Posted at Blogger News Network
John Hawkins weighs in on this issue, jumping in with both feet:
On issues where they philosophically agree with conservatives, like taxes, free markets, & shrinking the size of governments, Libertarians tend to be impossible to please purists. On the other hand, in many areas where Libertarians philosophically disagree with conservatives, like open borders, legalizing hard drugs, & legalizing prostitution, their beliefs equal political death for almost any Republican who espouses them at the national level.
I made the point in a comment that the libertarians influence in the blogosphere far exceeds their numbers. And the libertarians current attack on Senator Cornyn, joining their supposed adverseries on the far left, is indicitive of how far the libertarians are now willing to go to attack social conservatives.