Life and death and men and women

TTers weigh in on the Terri Schiavo case, and ponder whether the problem with feminism is masculinism.

By Salon Staff
Published March 25, 2005 4:39PM (EST)

White House

George Bush, Public Enemy No. 1, Part XVII

Peyton Neece - - 11:13 a.m. Pacific Time - March 18, 2005 - #6760 of 6761

Most of them have never faced a real crisis and have to invent crises to keep their senses of outrage, privilege and resentment alive.

Sure, their parents and kids die and they go broke or get sick and all -- but they cling to their insane beliefs because those events are universal and personal. What isn't universal is what happened to the Schiavos. What they'll never experience is what the people of Baghdad live with every day. Therefore, they can create a belief system based in fantasies.

They're religious in the worst way because they're safe, not unsafe. Not worrying about a roof over their heads or three squares has freed them to ponder other things, or more accurately, other people's things. As Burroughs said, the person that minds someone else's business has none of their own.

Note how organized religion in Europe died after WW2. Reality was so brutal and painful that the populace decided to live in the real world and make it work; they didn't have the luxury of time to ponder anything but rebuilding their homes and burying their dead.

A collapse in the dollar, a depression, famine, an inescapable catastrophe occurs and they may pray to whatever for relief, but they'll be stuck with the cold hard facts o' life 24/7. At that point, a vegetable in Florida or a ballplayer on Andro is irrelevant.

The human brain exists to solve problems. When the problems aren't pressing enough, in some people, the brain will create its own, just to stay active.

Social Issues

The right to die

Millie Van Ness - 07:02 p.m. Pacific Time - March 21, 2005 - #22 of 70

Terri Shiavo's quality of life was tragically cut short, leaving her alive, by specific physiological criteria, but in what is referred to as a vegetative state. She suffered brain damage the extent of which appears to be in question, at least by certain family members, not the medical community. Her parents persist that she is capable of responding to them and just needs more physical therapy to be able to talk and interact other ways. Their belief is contrary to medical opinion of more than one physician and court-appointed legal guardians, following various court actions through the years.

Terri's husband has made the case that his wife would never have wanted to go on living in such a state. Terri's parents refuse to accept his point of view and are stopping at nothing to keep her alive. Who can blame them? They are her parents. I would also say that her husband wants to let her go, allow her to die because in essence, due to her brain damage, her life has already ended. Who can blame him? Not those who have also had to make that painful decision for loved ones unable to speak for themselves and allow them to die with dignity.

I refuse to read all the blogs, online forums and Web sites that perpetuate the most godawful rumor and slanders about all the players depending on which team, the parents or husband, they are rooting for. Who is rooting for Terri? Not the self-righteous who suddenly have become medical experts, bioethicists, counselors and crusading right-to-lifers ready to save the life of poor Terri from the clutches of her evil husband, evil judges and other evil people who stand in the way of the people who know best, the public.

I suppose it was inevitable that the politicians would wake up and smell the opportunity to join in with this national mass self-righteousness. Personally, I view the Congress's recent activity on this matter as a travesty. It is obvious that the two principal parties, the husband and the parents, will never come to an agreement on what to do for Terri, which leaves it to the courts. If there needed to be more intervention, then it should have occurred in Florida with other judges, more independent medical input from physicians evaluating Terri's condition by examining her, not from pontificating politicians, over 1,000 miles away. What guarantee do we have now that our federal government will not attempt to intervene in other end-of-life cases even if a person can produce a written living will of a spouse or other family member? All it would take is for someone to contest the validity of that written living will, and if the court of public opinion holds sway, our government will jump into action to interfere with which should be the most private of moments for families.

Terri lies in that strange state between life and death that is neither. The fate of Terri, whatever that might be, and the grief her family has suffered is a tragedy that will not end soon. There will be no winners in this struggle. Death is part of life no matter how we fight it or try to deny it. There are no easy answers in this case and there is nothing that will ultimately bring the comfort to Terri's parents that they seek. I don't know if Terri is capable of sensing pain or even an awareness that something might be changing. I don't know if she will ever get better, although I suspect it is highly unlikely. I do believe that, at some point, it is crueler to allow life to go on than it is to allow death to come. I have had to make this decision twice, and thankfully, not alone. The emotions range from confidence in making the right decision to overwhelming grief at the loss. In the end, it is about what is best for the other person, not you.

White House

Feminism is not a dirty word

Mary Schumacher - 01:12 p.m. Pacific Time - March 20, 2005 - #122 of 124

After 58 years of being a thinking, observing, participating woman in America, I've come to the conclusion that in our culture sexism is in many ways a secondary problem shaped and intensified by a much more primary problem -- our hypercompetitive culture's concept of masculinity is almost entirely bound to the concept of winning.

The upshot of that is, inevitably, that our culture is highly emasculating. Because winner-take-all competitiveness must naturally produce many, many more losers than winners.

Hypermasculinity (masculinism) is used both as a competitive tool (winners are more masculine, so the more masculine I act the more likely I am to win) and a face-saving device (the more masculine I act the less likely I will be seen as a loser).

Underneath all the acting, of course, are a lot of men who are and feel like losers. Especially as middle age approaches (when the hypermasculine browbeating of people deemed even weaker than oneself -- women, minorities, liberals -- administered by loudmouths like Limbaugh and O'Reilly -- offers some psychic compensation for the low rung you've settled on in the pecking order.)

In this dynamic women are seen not so much as inferior as outside the game. This is a competition between men. What women are suppose to be is reward and compensation, what they are suppose to provide is consolation.

When women enter the game, when they do compete, there is a double whammy -- more competition, and, even more important, less consolation. This creates incredible resentment.

This resentment and fear of losing the compensation and consolation women are expected to provide is, I think, a much more important component of sexism in our culture than actual feelings and ideas about women's inferiority.

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