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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.
 

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Since it's all anyone is talking about, here we go: Terri Schiavo. It's depressing, the number of ordinarily sensible persons who have turned into foot-stomping whiners over this one. See the Corner for a lot of them gathered in one place, just barely restraining themselves from calling each other's mammas names. Not, mind you, that there's anything special about the Corner in this regard: It's serial tantrums no matter where you look.

No matter how anyone chooses to act about it, and no matter how much pouting he threatens to do otherwise, there is no single controlling legal or philosophical authority to decide this matter. There are enough mutually contradictory premises floating around among all the debating parties -- not to mention in each and every one of them -- that about the only outcome that would not find some widely accepted supporting authority would be feeding her into a plastic shredder. Ya wanna bitch about Congress enacting a special bill? about Congress intruding upon the functions of state law and state courts? Every part of the authority Congress would need for such a thing is already conceded in the passage and upholding of measures restraining protesting in the vicinity of abortion clinics. Ya wanna bitch about Congress intruding directly in the care and feeding of Terri Schiavo? interfering in the practice of medicine? Every part of the authority Congress would need for such a thing is already conceded in the establishment and continuation of the FDA. Ya wanna bitch about Congress and the Federal courts looking into the personhood of Terri Schiavo? Every part of the authority they would need for such a thing was handed down from the Mount in Roe v. Wade. Ya wanna bitch about the courts at all levels flagrantly defying the law and the coordinate branches of government in favor of trendy outcomes? Every part of the authority they would need for such a thing is already conceded in (insert decision here). Ya wanna bitch about Congress issuing a grotesque and pointless subpoena just for the pleasure of grandstanding at a freak show, not caring who else they screw over in the meantime? Every part of the authority they would need for such a thing is already conceded in (insert congressional inquiry here).

On the other side: Sometimes, ya know, it just happens, those who are discovered to have the authority to make decisions the calamitous effects of which fall upon others, turn out to be really shitty persons. It is not a requirement, for the exercise of their undoubted authority, that everyone else weigh and approve the purity of their motives; all the overblown vituperation heaped upon Michael Schiavo is beside the point. Whatever else may be said of Terri Schiavo's viewpoint now or in the past, she obviously, at one point or another, approved enough of her husband's judgment that she married him, thus handing him this authority he now seeks to exercise, under the supervision of Florida's courts, as set down in Florida law. Ya think Michael Schiavo is lying? that his serving up personalized hearsay years after the supposed fact is just a tad too facile and convenient? The authority to weigh and decide upon those points belongs to those courts, whether the bench be filled with shitty persons or not. Ya think the law is wrong, and ought to be changed? The authority to weigh and decide upon those points belongs to the legislatures, no matter how bad the reek from collecting so much shit in one place. Pay attention: There is no such thing, and can never be such a thing, as self-operating law; the good character of those having power under the law will always be important. If ya fill yer families, and yer communities, and yer legislatures, and yer agencies, and yer courts, with shitty persons, the law -- constitutional, statutory, customary, whatever -- is not going to sanitize the result for ya.

Myself, I think the "dump Terri" crowd is just a bit too energetic right now, rushing things as fast as possible with the idea, if the bitch would just die, no one will ever be able to prove their judgment defective after the fact, so it's best to shove her out the door before someone changes his mind. On the other hand, the frenzied efforts of the "keep Terri" crowd have all the stigmata of the straw-grasping appeals customary in the courts long after the actual propriety of a prospective death has been well established.

-- posted by Clayton 3/23/2005 10:27:00 PM


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