SCHIAVO ISSUE LOOMS LARGER THAN ALL OF US

As a person of faith, I can speak to God, but I can’t speak for Him. I don’t know His desires for Terri Schiavo.

But I bet He can spell her name.

That’s more than you can say for certain politicians, who last week drafted a memo to jump on the Schiavo bandwagon. The memo called it an “exciting” issue that would appeal to the Republican conservative base, while putting a moral squeeze on Democratic enemies.

Sadly, in their zeal to get things going, they spelled “Terri” wrong. They used one “r.” But then, the woman doesn’t really matter, does she? It’s the votes!

What a world we now inhabit. In one week’s time we had a president, who vigilantly supports a war and the death penalty, fly to Washington, virtually in his pajamas, to “err on the side of life.” We had senators like Bill Frist make medical examinations from watching a videotape. We had figures like Tom DeLay — whose list of ethical violations could fill a church pew — accuse Schiavo’s husband, whom he’d never met, of being the worst kind of louse.

“What kind of man is he?” DeLay asked.

Funny. We were wondering the same thing about you.

No one should be a political pawn

Last I checked, politicians were elected, not canonized. They were beholden to the law, not a sermon. And while most voters appreciate a religious or moral code in their representatives, they are sending them to Washington to govern America, not heaven.

What if Terri Schiavo’s parents had wanted her feeding tube removed? Would we still have Congress rushing to make a law that mentions one woman by name?

Of course not. But why not? If it’s wrong to remove that tube, it’s wrong no matter who wants it done, right?

The reason you’d see no action is because there’d be no traction, politicians couldn’t get a grip, there’d be no angle, no hook, no video, no tearful family faces to exploit and — most important — no activist groups to offer a political windfall.

The truth is, the Schiavo case became interesting to politicians only after Terri’s immediate family aligned itself with anti-abortion and Christian conservative groups, who used the issue to galvanize their members as well as raise money.

Members and money mean clout and votes. And suddenly — what a shock — politicians care. Suddenly, they’re calling judges “murderers.” Suddenly, they’re crafting memos. Suddenly, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, despite doing nothing for years, finds a last-second doctor and wants the State of Florida to commandeer Schiavo’s care, as if he’s God’s hand, staying Abraham from killing Isaac.

What would we do?

When I was sitting with Morrie Schwartz, as he died from Lou Gehrig’s disease, we had a discussion about the end of his life. He told me if he couldn’t communicate, couldn’t tell people he loved them, couldn’t hold their hands or exchange meaningful thoughts, he wouldn’t want to be kept alive. He’d want his loved ones to end it.

I didn’t get it in writing. It was just something we discussed. But I know what he said, and I know he was sincere. I wonder now, if Morrie slipped into a vegetative state, would a politician claim he knew better?

In the end, this was a family dispute, an issue facing up to 35,000 families right now who have members in similar states as Terri Schiavo. It should have stayed that way. It didn’t. The real shame is that two parties who claim to love Terri Schiavo can’t get past their hate for one another.

Last week, I heard a preacher say, “If it were truly God’s will that Terri live, she wouldn’t need a feeding tube.” It makes you realize, if this were 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have a debate, because death would have already come. It also reminds you that these issues are big, bigger than you or me, bigger than all of us, and certainly beyond the reach of politicians who can’t be bothered to get a dying woman’s name right.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com”

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