Friday, April 1

Life vs Freedom

Yesterday, Terri Schiavo passed away. Part of me rejoices that her spirit has finally been released from the shell it was encased within and has rejoined the peace and serenity of eternity and God. Another part of me knows full well that the world she left behind is far different than what it was just two weeks before her final day. We have a battle ahead of us people. A battle between those who would give their all (and sometimes your all even without asking you) to preserve Life and those who would instead seek to preserve Freedom.

I personally stand with the latter group, those who feel as did Patrick (Give me Liberty or give me Death) Henry, failure to live free is not truly living at all. A lot has been said about the Schiavo case, perhaps too much - much more will continue to be said. Many future debates involving the fate of the innocent and their protection - "our [Goverments] major responsibility" according to Congressman Tom DeLay - are sure to continue.

I'm pretty sure I know how the Pro-Lifers will try to frame the debate. How they'll rail at Judicial "activism", and continue to misread the lessons of Marbury v Madison which instructed us that our Constitution establish three co-equal branches of government, rather than a Master-Congress/Executive and Slave-Judiciary. Those who stand as Pro-Freedom, have no small amount of work to do to avoid being painted as "immoral pornography spreading death-worshippers".

Many have faulted Congressional Liberals and Democrats for not "stepping up" to the plate - for not taking a stand. But I think their relative silence so far is a blessing. Even without any real persistent effort by the Dems, the Presidents effort to reform (or rather deform) Social Security is falling flat on it's face. Dead on arrival. Not even a single bill has reached or been crafted by Congress, as the President ignores the business of the people to endlessly schlep his non-starter of a plan around the country from one staged and loyalty-oathed protected "town hall" photo-op to another.

According to former Congresional Staffer and West Wing script writer Lawence O'Donnell there is "No Way" that a Social Security Partial Privitization Bill is going to get through the Senate Finance Committee without the support of Senator Olympia Snowe (R). The Finance Committee would have to approve any substantial changes to Social Security, and is current split 7 to 5 (Repubs to Dems). Without Snowe, who has already stated her abject opposition to the Presidents proposals, the vote count goes to 6 to 6 and the bill can not pass, and with all poll numbers on the subject heading toward the subtropics, that opposition isn't likely to wilt any time soon. Like I said, DOA. And the Dems have yet to fire a shot.

Similarly, the entire Schiavo fiasco has damaged the standing of the President and Congress as gross over-reachers, upsurping the seperation of powers to stick their collective busy-body noses into this sad and very personal family tragedy. Bush's approval rating numbers are now looking practically antarctic, even after the big bounce he recieved from the master stroke of delaying the Iraqi election - the Iraqi people had been begging for it for many months - until after the attack on Fallujah and just before the State of the Union. I have to commend his tremendous political savvy at turning his own flip-flop on the issue of Iraqi elections into a temporary political coup and fantastic set-piece of live theater (I know my middle-finger is still slighly purple around the edges, how 'bout yours?)

From all this - I see hope. The President and this Congress are IMO quite power-mad, and growing increasingly so each and every day. They have no sense of restraint, no sense of impropriety - only and overriding hubris which drives their moral entitlement into a murky realm where the ends justifies the means no matter how clearly immoral and intellectually dishonest that means may be. Just look at the record: They staged a phony excuse to get us into a war on Iraq, using Intelligence that was "Dead Wrong", and got away with it. They've run a mini-concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay - resulting in the in-custody deaths of nearly 150 "enemy combatants" and clearly inhumane treatment of hundreds of others, and got away with it. They Secretly planned an Energy policy that resulted in rolling black-outs all over California, a massive stock-market crash and rise of The Governator - and got away with it. Massive unneccesary tax cuts, primarily for those who already have plenty of liquid funds and are increasing exporting American jobs overseas, driving the dollar to an all-time low and national debt, trade and budget defecits through the ionesphere - and got away with it. From the debacle of the 2000 election until now they've gotten away with everything. Everything they've wanted, they have. Everything except this - both Social Security Reform and Terri Schiavo are dead. Indeed, the tide may have turned, if so, each of their next set of proposals may - hopefully - meet the same fate. DOA.

The next target in their sights is clear, radicalizing the Judiciary by excersizing the Senate's "Nuclear" option to jettison the 200 year-old tradition of the Filibuster, the last ditch protection by a minority against the tyranny of the majority. I have little doubt that the Republican Majority will not hesitate try to yet again to ramrod through the most extremist judges possible to the federal bench, while proclaiming that the Dems are simply annoying, whining obstructionists, conveniently ignoring their own illustrious history of obstruction during the Clinton years where nearly 60 of his judicial nominees were blocked from even coming to a vote, compared to the current Dems who have only objected to a dozen or so Bush nominees. (Can you believe the nerve of those Dem Bastards?)

The Repubs, as galvanized by their Radical Right puppet-masters and corporate financiers, clearly don't know when to quit while they're ahead, and will continue to push, and push, until they finally - hopefully - push themselves right out of the Congresional majority in 2006. Why should they stop? Their moral entitlement tells them to press on for the "moral good of the nation", and they will. So far the Dems haven't really needed to get vocal and active as the Repubs own hyper-zealousness has finally begun to become clear. But on the judicial issue, Dems will have to stand up, and stand firm. They may lose, they may win - but they need to get into this fight and do so swinging. From what I can tell from various statements by Congressional Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they are girding themselves to do exactly that. The stage is set. Soon we'll see.

As the oncoming battle begins, I pray that we recall what is truly at stake, and see clearly the competiting visions for America's future - as well as the world's - that they represent. On the one hand I see those who are driven by deeply held Judeo-Christian moral values which cause them to seek to protect all innocent life (or at least those lives they selectively choose to consider innocent and worthy of protection while forsaking others such as Baby Sun Hudson and the Iraqi people). Even with the obvious and frequent hypocrisy of their position, I think we have to assume that most people with this belief are sincere, if sometimes misguided and myopic. Life is indeed, very precious - on this we can all agree. But those who would oppose the Pro-Lifers also do so from a strong and deeply held moral conviction - that the natural state of each and every individual in this world is freedom. Although life is precious, even more precious than life itself - is the value of living free.

The law of the land in America is based on the U.S. Constitution, not the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or Watchtower. Although we should rightly value our various religious traditions deeply, they are not the law - and should never be so. Under the Constitution the government has limited powers, all those not granted to the Government belong to the states and most importantly the people. The Judiciary are the final arbiters of Constitutional understanding, the last bastion of protection for individual freedoms. Under the Constitution we are free, but clearly freedom is not an absolute. Freedom comes with responsibility, chief among those responsibilities is the civic duty to respect and preserve the freedom of each other, particularly when we don't necessarily agree with how those others may choose to exercise their freedoms - we must all individually and through government - still seek to protect them. As individuals and a nation, we must be willing to sacrifice all to preserve this - sometimes including life itself - or else our freedom is no more than an illusion, an allegory, a mirage.

In my view, no one person or government is free to restrict the freedom or control the actions of other people, even if they deem those actions to be "immoral" or even "against God" unless the actions of that person are themselves a greater danger to the liberty of all. Governments primary role within all this, is not just to "protect life" but to balance and protect all of these competiting freedoms, including both the freedom to live or to die. The struggle to maintain this balance I submit, will become the center of future battles for the shape of America, in the courts, within Congress and at the ballot box over abortion, contraception and reproductive health, the right of public religious expression, the right to a dignified peacful death, marriage equity, electronic privacy, national security, global terror and many other issues.

Life or Freedom?

On this question I stand with the late Mr. Henry and the apparent choice made by Mrs. Theresa Marie Schiavo. Which do you choose?


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