Thursday, March 24, 2005
Sentiments from Tampa Bay about Schiavo
By my last count, 1,085 people had written e-mails in reply to Tuesday's column criticizing Congress for intervening in the Terri Schiavo case.
Of those 1,085 people, only 40 disagreed.
Another 269 people left voice messages. Of those callers, only 13 disagreed.
The total number of people who responded sets an all-time record. No previous topic has come close - not gay marriage, not flag burning, not even cat-and-dog stories. Nothing.
[. . . ]
. . . I have never seen anything like it. It is the first time in my career that an issue was so one-sidedly dominated by the, uh - well, what do we call this side?
It's sure as heck not the "anti-religious" side. A large number of people made it a point to express their Christianity and their deep faith in God, while expressing outrage at grandstanding politicians:
I am one of those conservatives, and a born-again Christian. I believe in the sanctity of life ... There are many of us who feel Terri needs to be allowed to die naturally.
I'm a Christian and Republican. My personal feeling is Congress was just flat wrong and that the federal government opportunists are trying to grab moral brownie points.
It's not the "liberal" side, either. Just as many people described themselves as lifelong conservative Republicans. A lot of them, with grudging good humor, complained it was the first time they had ever agreed with me, or the tiresome St. Petersburg Times.
I must be feeling the emotions that Ronald Reagan felt when the Democratic Party "left him." I have been a conservative Republican all my life but now I feel that I'm being left behind by my party and even by all of those conservative radio talk hosts.
As a Goldwater Republican I'm saddened at this garbage that the Bush boys are pulling off right now. This could lead to tens of thousands of these battles for no good purpose. My son is profoundly handicapped ... I have guardianship and would be very upset if someone came in and told me how to care for my son. It's MY call, not some jerk in Washington.
Certain themes recurred in the e-mails: profound anger at the arrogance of Congress, the belief that families should control their own destinies, the worry of seniors that their own wishes will be trampled by the government.
Perhaps, the next time one of our congressmen has a pain or feels ill, he should send a snippet of video of himself to his doctor for diagnosis.
I just don't understand how people can claim to be Christian but are willing to vote for politicians who cut health care for the poor. Then when these same political hacks pretend to be so concerned about Terri, they believe them.
What is ironic is that these same conservatives have for years expressed their fears that Democrats, or what they find most despicable, liberals, would take power in the government, and use it to further control people's lives through regulation.
Neither did it escape readers' attention that the same government that preaches to us about the "sanctity of marriage" is so willing to trample over that institution when it doesn't like the result.
I mailed copies of my living will to my mother and sister yesterday. I find it appalling that after passing the Defense of Marriage Act because the sacred institution of marriage must be protected, now Congress seeks to intervene in a marriage. I also can't believe that anyone thinks they can wipe out seven years of court decisions just because the court didn't rule their way. Must be nice!
Many compelling messages came from people who have been through similar experiences in their own families. Some expressed pain and sympathy for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents, but related their own decision to let a loved one go. Several of these spoke firsthand about the natural process of passing, in which our bodies shut down and refuse food and water - it is not "starving to death," nor is it suffering.
Both our fathers died of cancer at home with the help of hospice. Even after days of not eating and little drinking they did not ask for food or fluids when they rallied for brief periods.
While there are many who believe that denying food and water to someone near the end of life is painful and cruel, quite the opposite is true. This is a very natural way for our bodies to shut down when we are near death. Natural brain chemicals kick in, and we peacefully pass on to our afterlife, where there is no medicine or pain.
Most gut-wrenching was an account from Clearwater:
My family is one of the many "murderers" that have had to deal with choosing to prolong a life long gone or allow the kindness of death and the hope for something better for a trapped spirit. My father spent 12 years battling Alzheimer's and in the end, we did what we felt was right and what the hospice people advised - no food and only ice to keep his lips moist.
I can assure those doubters out there, fearing that Mrs. Schiavo will suffer, that it does not happen, especially in individuals who have no cognizant awareness - the body produces endorphins in this state that act as a natural anesthetic. My father did not suffer in his last hours and peacefully passed away at home in his own bed, four years ago. In all that time, I have never once felt like a murderer or that my family should have made another decision.