Thursday, June 16, 2005

Katherine Kersten on...Terri Schiavo

You knew it was coming, didn't you? I mean, she's already hit-up home-schooling, leveled gay marriage, went on a bender with G.K. Chesterton (?), proved she can live the thug life, and written a junior high love letter to the Siren of Stillwater, Michele Bachmann. Of course, Katherine Kersten would have to cover Terri Schiavo.

And of course, she ties Terri Schiavo to the anti-abortion crowd, which just happens to be holding a national convention in the Twin Cities this week and just happens to have Schiavo's brother and sister as guests of honor and just happens to include a tribute from Brother Paul O'Donnell, Schiavo family spokesperson and Franciscan Brother of Peace (a group that happens to be based out of St. Paul). Oh yeah, and this all just happens to occur the day after Schiavo's autopsy is released (which unequivocally proves she was in a persistent vegetative state and was not abused).

And of course, Kersten attempts to take the high road. She refers to the media circus that surrounded the obsessively televised Schiavo drama, yet interestingly enough makes no mention of the fact that it was people of her own persuasion causing the drama. She also carefully sidesteps the judicial issue, probably because it was a blatant example of how conservatives use courts to their own ends, and when they fail will stop at just about nothing to get their way.

This article, by far, bothers me more than any of Kersten's previous, and not simply because of the factual and necessary omissions stated above. Death is a serious matter. I think all conscious human beings know and realize that fact. Toward the end of her piece, however, Kersten's ends begin to fray and she makes an argument I've heard before, portraying abortion rights supporters and right-to-die supporters as pushing the nation down a slippery slope toward the mass extinction of human life seen during Hitler's reign.

But if Kersten could manage to step out of her heavily insulated conserva-shell for just a few brief moments and look around, she may realize that these people are not bloodthirsty animals nor are they intent on purging the world of the sick, of the disabled, or of the infirm. Rather, these are people who have the utmost respect for all of those groups. These are people who live and work with these groups on a daily basis, who have individual relationships with them, and who care for them more than anyone else. I can understand Kersten's moral dillemma; it's one I find myself frequently debating within my own morals. Yet, to compare those that care the most to historical characters that represent humanity at its basest, is far and away the most grievous accomplishment of Kersten's short Strib career.

1 comment:

Ilya said...

Kersten, like so many in the "media circus" surrounding Schiavo, declares that "Her tragic drama raised some of the most profound questions that we face as human beings." Like what? By saying that the issue Americans confront in the Shiavo case has to do with defining "a standard of care" (Paul Schiavo's words), that is, when a life is justifiably deemed no longer worth living, Kersten, just as many others before her, skirts the real issue. As Joan Didion explains, in an unfailingly thoughtful account of the moral issues at the heart of the case of Terry Schiavo, "What might have seemed a central argument in this case--the ethical argument, the argument about whether, when it comes to life and death, any of us can justifiably claim the ability or the right to judge the value of any other being's life--remained largely unexpressed, mentioned, when at all, only to be dismissed." The question rightfully enough begins, to Kersten's credit, with the different ways we define a life worth living, but the Shiavo case goes beyond this question, to a moral dilemma most commentators have failed to address. "The question had ultimately to do with whether or not there could be occasions when the broad economic and ethical interests of the society at large should outweigh any individual claim to either the most advanced medical attention or indefinite care." Didion is right, nobody wants to raise and debate this question. They'd rather talk about slippery slopes toward wanton practices of euthanasia (what, can't Kersten use that word?) than confront the inescapable moral dilemma.