Friday, March 25

AN OPEN LETTER TO MICHAEL SCHIAVO

The esteemed and eloquent defense attorney Clarence Darrow, in a now famous debate with Alfred J. Talley, a New York City judge and proponent of capital punishment, made the following remarks on October 27, 1924, that are altogether pertinent to you on this day, March 25, 2005. Please consider them:

Nobody kills anyone for love ... but they kill the one they hate.

The human mind is blind to all who seek to look in at it and to most of us that look out from it. Justice is something that man knows little about. He may know something about charity and understanding and mercy, and he should cling to these as far as he can.

I will tell you. There is just one thing in all this question. It is a question of how you feel, that is all. It is all inside of you. If you love the thought of somebody being killed, why, you are for it. If you hate the thought of somebody being killed, you are against it.

Nature loves life. We believe that life should be protected and preserved. The thing that keeps one from killing is the emotion they have against it; and the greater the sanctity that the state pays to life, the greater the feeling of sanctity the individual has for life.

All people are products of two things, and two things only -- their heredity and their environment. And they act in exact accord with the heredity which they took from all the past, and for which they are in no wise responsible, and the environment, which reaches out to the farthest limit of all life that can influence them. We all act from the same way. And it ought to teach us to be charitable and kindly and understanding of our fellowman.
In your obstinancy in wanting your wife dead, you continue to claim it was her expressed wish and that you are determined to carry out that wish. You no doubt view such determination as noble and loving, and the high watermark of your character. Your brother reported on television last night that he sat with you while you were crying and as you wondered out loud why so many people in this country and around the world question that you are doing the right thing. Let me tell you what that springs from and, unlike many, I will do so without calling into question whether your wife Theresa actually told you that she would not want her life maintained in the circumstances in which she has lived since her brain injury in 1990.

It springs from the fact that you have been faithful to that one wish of hers, but not to others, and it troubles us that you view her veritable lockdown for years in a facility that specializes in caring for the terminally ill and now her protracted death by dehydration and starvation as somehow fulfilling your vows, and in a manly, courageous way. Yet the vows you made to love, honor, and care for her, in sickness and in health, until death do you part, have been conveniently ignored by you. After all, you did not legally divorce your wife before taking another woman, living with her, and having two children by her. Seems you abide by the laws and morality of your choosing, as they suit you, not as they suit your wife. Your love for Theresa became as expendable, when you needed someone else, as her life is today. How sadly ironic that you clearly want to move on with your life, but remain so intractably unwilling to divorce Theresa and return your legal guardianship of her to her parents, who are willing to do for her as parents, what you are unwilling to do for her as a husband. Why must a gruesome death break those ties, rather than a legal divorce? You clearly use the law selectively and only to advance your own selfish aims.

For the love of God, if we are asked by you to believe that a woman in her twenties was categorically adamant about never wanting to be kept alive with a simple feeding tube, then we ask you why you will not accept that we believe unequivocally that Terri put her faith, her whole being, in those wedding vows and expected you, as her husband, to be faithful to her, to honor her, and to cherish her, all the days of your lives.

And how is it that we are being asked to believe that your wife would have wanted you to refuse her important diagnostic tests, rehabilitative care, dental care, medical treatment for a urinary tract infection, and to deny her the articles and sacraments of her Catholic faith? And how is it that we are being asked to believe that when Terri became your wife, that she wanted you forever more to disavow and disrespect her parents and siblings, their love and wishes, and the blood that courses through her veins? You've even kept them capriciously at bay and under the watchful eyes of security, when you reluctantly and only periodically allow them to join your wife at her deathbed.

You ask so much of us, but you are loathe to allow us to ask anything of you. You strain credulity in so many ways and with a disingenuous earnestness, as if you don't even see the contradictions in your own conduct and purpose. You are not a martyr, though you behave as if you are. This is not about you! Terri is the one suffering; Terri is the one whose life is being snuffed out; Terri is the one who has lost all dignity at your hands; Terri is the one who has been denied food and water for seven days!

Are we to believe that Terri told you that if she ever became severely disabled, she would want you to have her die by starvation and dehydration over one to two weeks, and that she'd want you bedding down with another woman and having children by her without benefit of divorce or subsequent marital vows? I think not. You know not.

Yours is not a noble cause, a shining example of a husband's love for his wife. Good men protect women, protect their wives and families. You walked away from Theresa in one important way, but refused to walk away from her in another. You have put life inside Jody, unabashedly giving her two babies, but you are removing without compunction that which sustains Theresa's -- her food and water. Theresa must lament, as her parents, brother, and sister surely must, the day she ever met you.

I have no doubt even the great Clarence Darrow, were he alive, could not prevail in changing that death wish mentality that has formed and taken root in your mind. No one can move the great Michael Schiavo to end this controversy without ending Theresa's life.

Nobody kills anyone for love ... but they kill the one they hate.