Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Enough with the Schiavo Already

I have to admit, I am amazed at the amount of blog attention that the Terri Schiavo case is getting, and to be honest, I'm sick of it. And that's not just because I'm disgusted by some of the rhetoric (like, say, calling a survey question misleading because it states medical facts; or implying that Michael Schiavo should have no say because he's had a relationship with another woman since his wife's death). It is in part due to the fact that I am thoroughly disgusted by the fact that so much money can be spent (by the government, especially) on keeping a person "alive" when there is such incontrovertible evidence of higher-brain death. Honestly, I'm disgusted by the very use of the modifier, "higher-brain" behind the word "death" in such cases, and I'm even more disgusted by the use of the word "alive" as a description of the state that Terri Schiavo is currently in. Obvious cases of higher-brain death are just death, period. And spending money that could be spent on people who are actually alive, just to keep a person's hind-brain firing, makes me really angry.

But more than all of that, I'm disgusted by the amount of attention the Schiavo case is getting because of the amount of attention it is taking away from issues that are really important. Somewhere, people who talk about the government/media manipulating what we think about are rolling their eyes. Why don't we expend all of this blog-writing energy and effort writing hundreds of posts about issues like social security, the war (why is it that these things were called "police actions" in the 50s and 60s, by the way?), or all the people who are alive, sick, and can't get the treatment they need because they can't afford adequate medical insurance? I'm serious. If liberals in particular spent this much time researching and writing about universal health care, maybe somebody would finally pay attention. But instead, we're writing about removing a feeding tube from a dead woman, because Republicans have made it an issue.


EMC said...

Wow ... for a philosopher you really don't know much about begging the question, do you?

Chris said...

Umm... could you tell me specifically where I was "begging the question?" If you mean on the subject of higher-brain death, then you should probably recall that "begging the question" requires an actual argument. I just stated my position. However, given the definition of higher-brain death, PVS, etc., Schiavo's condition is indisputable.

DaveHMiller said...

Chris, you wrote:

the war (why is it that these things were called "police actions" in the 50s and 60s, by the way?)

You're betraying your youthfulness. I lived through the 60s and, in fact, almost no one seriously referred to the Vietnam War as a "police action." This was a term invented by our Glorious Leaders: I think the purpose was to evade the Constitutional requirement that only the Congress could declare war.

However, as I recall, even government officials rarely used the term; everyone knew it was a war.

Both pro-war and anti-war forces in the 60s occasionally used the term sardonically to indicate the contempt they held for our Glorious Leaders (and to remind everyone of the contempt the leaders obviously felt for all of us).

Incidentally, both Left and Right were badly split on the Vietnam War. William F. Buckley's little magazine, "The National Review," red-baited the radical right John Birch Society because the Birchers pointed out that the war was not in America's national interest and therefore opposed the war. (An example of the red-baiting is in the October '65 issue of "The National Review": the Birchers' founder, Robert Welch, is accused of following the "pacifist-Commie line" because he opposed the War.)

I'm not trying to defend the Birchers, who did hold some bizarre ideas (on Ike, for example). However, the whole way that the history of the '60s has been reconstructed for your generation is inaccurate: the "Left vs. Right" scheme, for example, hides what was really happening.

Chris said...

dave, I have to be honest and say that I don't really know much about the political history of the Vietnam War, at least not after the early 60s. When I mentioned the use of the term "police action" being used in the 60s, I mostly meant by the "Glorious Leaders," because Bush and co. would never use that phrase to describe an undeclared war in 2005.

DaveHMiller said...

Yeah, my generation ridiculed the phrase enough that the Bushies are afraid to use it. Of course, that doesn't keep the Bushies from lying through their teeth -- "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

If anyone is interested in the untold US political history of the twentieth century, I highly recommend (from a left-wing perspective) the Introduction and the first essay (Tom Ferguson's "Industrial Conflict and the Coming of the New Deal") in Fraser and Gerstle The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order. For an unusual right-wing perspective on that history , see Justin Raimondo's Reclaiming the American Right. (Raimondo is a gay libertarian who gave a nominating speech for Pat Buchanan at the '96 Reform Party convention -- politics does indeed make strange bedfellows).

Clark Goble said...

Didn't the term police action arise from the idealism surrounding the UN? I believe that Korea was officially termed a police action rather than a war as such to distinguish it from the motivations of the European wars of the prior centuries. Whether it ought to have been so distinguished is an other matter. But I can at least understand the motivation.

I don't recall Viet Nam being called a police action. But then I'm not really up on the details of that history, beyond enough to see that it was a mess that Johnson made worse.

Clark Goble said...

I'd just add that the whole declared/undeclared war bit seems to me to be a bit misleading. It seems the problem of declaring war is precisely because the way war is dealt with in the constitution isn't exactly that clear. You have congress declaring war, but in a fashion that doesn't always make sense since the executive branch can be fighting a war without it being a war.

I've long thought that one place that the founders rather screwed up.

Chris said...

Clark, I don't really know the history of the politics of war in this country well enough to understand all of the constitutional issues.

The real reason I referenced the "police action" label is that I find interesting the ways in which our attitudes toward conflict change over time, and thus the way conflict is framed changes as well.