Marlowe's Shade

Monday, March 21, 2005

Blogburst for Terri: Empathy and Narcissism

In my last post I made brief reference to the fact that while some people have an instant recognition upon seeing the videos of Terri that she is not in a persistent vegetative state, others don't.

I don't think this is just subjectivity. It's the same mindset that used to claim that babies don't really smile, it's just gas. The key difference in response is partly in how adept a person is in picking up non-verbal communication. But many don't get past their superficial impression of Terri. This article in WorldNetDaily from Barbara Simpson really nails it:

Who is [Terri Schaivo]? Funny you should ask. If it's only now you're hearing about her – and it's not because her story hasn't deserved telling. It's because until now, mainstream media – and indeed, most media, of whatever political stripe – have ignored Terri.

Her story is tough – one that media, especially television, tend to ignore. The cameras want people who are sympathetic. They can't empathize with someone who is "funny looking" and can't take care of herself.

You'd be "funny looking" if you suffered a mysterious injury that left you brain-damaged and unable to speak or swallow.

You'd be "funny looking" if you spent the last 15 years virtually a prisoner of the person you married, who promised one day long ago to love and honor you in sickness and in health and to care for you forever.

Many believe Terri's husband tried to strangle her that night 15 years ago. Many believe that's why Michael Schiavo won't divorce her, won't allow her rehabilitative therapy, wants her dead and has ordered immediate cremation.

You'd be "funny looking" if that person refused you medical treatment, medical tests, dental care, physical therapy, open windows, walks outside, visits from your parents and other family members and friends, free practice of your religion and reception of the sacraments of your faith.

Terri Schiavo is that person and she is "funny looking" but only if you regard her infirmity as a measure of her humanity. I don't, but many do. I've heard from them. They look at Terri, see she's disabled and on that basis decide she'd be better off dead. "Who would want to live that way?" they harrumph. "I wouldn't."

Well, OK. But this isn't about you. It's about Terri and her family members who love her and want to care for her, regardless of her infirmity or how she looks

The narcissistic spirit of our culture pervades all of us, but it finds it's center of gravity in the Left. It's not a random alignment that had George Felos calling on their leaders Friday night to block the legislation to save Terri and their obedient response in preventing swift passage of the bill. That's why so few bloggers on left are coming to her aide.

But this denial of Terri's humanity and ability to feel and love isn't the only response of those who would see her die. While representing a smaller constituency, there is also a kind of sick project upon Terri by some, and this is seen nowhere better that Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos. After reading some excerpts from his book Litigation as Spiritual Practice, I'm, convinced that Felos is projecting his rage over his broken marriages on the subject of the right-to-die cases that he has taken on since his first divorce. Here is a sampling of his own insights to his psyche:

About the Jews, George Felos wrote, "The Jewish people, long ago in their collective consciousness, agreed to play the role of the lamb whose slaughter was necessary to shock humanity into a new moral consciousness. Their sacrifice saved humanity at the brink of extinction and propelled us into a new age." (pg 240)

Felos further wrote, "If our minds can conceive of an uplifting Holocaust, can it be so difficult to look another way at the slights and injuries and abuses we perceive were inflicted upon us?" (pg 240)

Describing the period he was separated from his ex-wife, "that weekend I experienced rage. Savage, unadulterated, and murderous rage." (pg 6)

Felos wrote about his ex-wife, "To her, I seemed unattractive, sexually unexciting, balding, boring, and just not enough fun to be with....she didn't need me anymore. For her, marriage to me inflicted a fate worse than death. She admitted that for the past year or so she had wished for my death, and whenever I flew hoped the plane would crash." (pg 7)

About his anger towards his ex-wife, "I was on fire, fueled by thoughts of bludgeoning and tearing her apart." (pg 23)

Describing the period he was recuperating from his divorce, "it consisted mostly of dreams of being tormented in some inferno." (pg 27)

"Mrs Browning, do you want to die? Do you want to die? - I nearly shouted as I continued to peer into her pools of strikingly beautiful but incognizant blue. It felt so eerie." (pg 63)

"Whatever your opinion about tube feeding, the hard fact was it now stood between Mrs. Browning and her death." (pg 64)

About Mrs. Estelle Browning "...I carried with me the resolute determination to sever the artificial cord that bound Estelle Browning to this earthly realm. Her agonized cry for release ran though my mind over and over again, and I felt our SPIRITUAL BOND." (pg 76)

While on a plane trip, Felos thought "I wonder what it would be like to die right now?" (pg 181)

Felos felt that God told him, "You are more powerful than you realize." (pg 182)

About the Estelle Browning case, "I still got a kick that evening seeing myself on the TV news, notwithstanding my frequently displayed countenance in the media of late."

I'd be interested in finding out how many of the other eight patients involved in Felos' right to die crusade were women besides Terri and Mrs Browning.

I don't know any other ways to make people more empathetic toward Terri. She's dehydrating and starving right now as you read this. At this point, you either get it or you don't.
papijoe 7:48 AM