Thursday, October 30, 2003

Can't Help It . . . Must Blog . . . .

Courtesy of Dale Price's Dyspeptic Mutterings, we see one of Andrew Sullivan's readers proving there's a synapse shortage on the Left. He or she writes the following regarding Terri Schiavo's case:
There is an aspect of the case, however, that I have not seen discussed. It seems to me that in attacking the husband's decision, the religious right has also attacked one of the key aspects of marriage. Part of marriage is that our spouse is supposed to be able to speak for us in medical and other areas when we are not able. It is one of the rights that gay and lesbian couples so justly demand. Clearly, if there were indications of wrong doing or illegal activities the spouse could and should be challenged, but there ares are no such indications in this case that I know of. It does not appear that she created a legal document giving someone other than her husband the power to make these decisions. Where is the outrage from the religious right on this attack on marriage?
And Mr. Sullivan confirms the existence of a seller's market for grey matter among liberals when he replies:
I guess the answer is that life trumps marriage. But their complete insouciance toward Schiavo's husband's rights is telling, I think. Their defense of heterosexual marriage is far more connected to their loathing of homosexuality than with their concern for marriage as such. It's essentially a negative, exclusionary impulse at heart. That's why they're not proposing a Constitutional Amendment to ban divorce, or forbid civil marriage.
You can read the whole exchange here. In addition to suggesting the purchase of liberal brain futures on the commodity market, there are a couple of interesting points here.

Mr. Sullivan's reader acknowledges that Mike Schiavo's wrongdoing would be grounds to intervene in his wife's case against his will, but that "there are no such indications in this case that I know of." Notice, now, that the reader says that all he or she would want are "indications" of wrongdoing. Not "clear and convincing evidence," not "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," just "indications." Well, if "indications" are needed, one could go here,, or here, or here, or here, or here. But however concerned the reader may imagine himself to be, "indications" are in truth neither desired nor interesting. They would hinder the "correct" result -- a guilt free "mercy killing" and useful precedent for what the reader thinks lesbians justly demand from the law. Nelson turned his blind eye to what he didn't want to see. Liberals don't have that kind of straightforward courage. They like to pretend they're "open to the facts," and "concerned for truth and justice," when they really do is pretend that inconvenient facts simply don't exist. (The right does it too, of course, I'm just calling these two on it).

When so-called "Christian extremists" advocate for family rights, urging things as such paternal consent or parental notification for abortions, people in the same camp as Andrew Sullivan and his benighted reader go into Dudgeon Mode and rant about the "patriarchy" regarding women as "chattel." But when the Culture of Death stands to gain a victory, it's suddenly okay for a wife to become a disposable item. The "Christian extremist" position is consistent -- families are to be independent from interference unless a higher law is being violated, and the higher law is formed by the fundamental tenets of Christianity in which, as Mr. Sullivan "guesses," respect for human life does indeed trump a man's desire to starve his wife to death. The left's worldview, however, depends on a total vindication of individual autonomy. That puts liberals in a bind when the individual can't clearly express an autonomous decision; someone has to make the choice, but the left's own ethical framework prohibits anyone from making significant moral choices for others. As the left never tires of telling us when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, or any related matter, "it's Terri's body" and no one has the right to force her to do or not do something with it. Without the integrated framework of Christian moral teaching and its complex but workable balance of human liberty and immutable moral claims, Mr. Sullivan and his reader are left with no other option but to declare Michael Schiavo a paterfamilias with the attendant rights to kill members of his family. This is the thing to notice about liberalism -- its atavistic impulse to return to the worst stages of the social order it pretends to criticize.

We also perceive in this exchange the zealot's affection for frothy, overblown moral claims and judgments which don't conform to any reasonable standard. (The right does this too, I'm just calling these two on it). Notice how blithely Mr. Sullivan and his reader agree that Michael Schiavo's decisions are being "attacked" with a carefree cheerfulness. To make that claim, Mr. Sullivan and his reader first Turn a Milky Eye Toward the Facts, and then ignore the additional fact that the Schindlers are proceeding according to the law, in court, with all its attendant guarantees and protections of individual rights. Now such proceedings aren't considered "insouciant attacks" when the local ACLU chapter is consuming $150,000.00 of a federal court's time to prevent the town of Bugtussle from erecting the Dreaded Nativity Creche. There's a Very Important Principle at stake in that case, of course, while in Mrs. Schiavo's case . . . well, one might "guess" that life trumps marriage, but since neither life nor marriage is a Very Important Principle (how can life be important, if the paterfamilias can extinguish it on a whim, and how can marriage be important, if anyone can marry anyone else?) decency can't accommodate the Schindlers' desire to keep their daughter from being thrown out like one of Mike Schiavo's old razor blades.

I'd conclude from Mr. Sullivan's bizarre intrusion of homosexuality into this situation that Mark Shea is right -- it really is All About Lil' Willie. From a point made about how, for the so-called "Christian right," the right to stay alive trumps the prerogatives of a paterfamilias, Mr. Sullivan leaps to defend homosexuality. Of course Michael Schiavo's right to starve Terri to death is really connected to the ability of homosexuals to marry. The connection is obvious: Once one realizes that homosexuality is the ultimate fact of human existence, one easily sees how the Schiavo case is significant primarily because of its relation to the ultimate fact. Even the position of Christians on issues like divorce or civil marriage is relevant only to the extent it illustrates their perspective on homosexual marriages. It's not as though the questions of how marriage is to be contracted or whether it is to be dissolved are secondary to the question of who, exactly, can be married at all. No, those questions are primarily related to the ultimate fact of human existence -- the right of homosexuals to marry. One wonders if Mr. Sullivan's support for the invasion of Iraq prescinds, in some way, from his belief that only the establishment of American secularism by force of arms can preserve the hope that, some day, Iraqi homosexuals can marry one another.

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