So what do you think of this?
A nation gathers around its television sets, and watches a woman die.
Not literally, of course, since there are no cameras in the room. But certainly virtually, since every news program, every cable network, has its own medical expert who is helpfully explaining to us what is probably happening to Terri Schiavo's body right now, X number of hours since she stopped being fed. This will shut down, then that, and we're not sure what she's feeling, and it all will continue until the end.
What does this mean?
Who are we, anyway?
Perhaps some good can be brought of it. It will force us to confront, if we're honest, the liquidity of the language, the clouds that mark the discourse on these issues. "Let the poor woman die," intones Derbyshire over at the Corner, in between invitations to Michael Schiavo to come have a beer with him if he's ever in the neighborhood, ignoring the fact that she was not dying before she stopped being fed at his new drinking mate's insistence. But perhaps as the nation watches, and hears Dr. Gupta explain what happens, and perhaps as it takes an uncomfortably long time, we will get uncomfortable as well, and wonder what we - through our courts - have wrought. And wonder what we - in our indifference to what is going on in the nursing home down the street - have wrought. And wonder what we - in ten years, or twenty - will bring upon ourselves.
Or, God forbid, perhaps it will go another way, the way of the Netherlands, which walked this path on its way to its present cheery state. Perhaps the nation will watch this woman die (in the worst case scenario), and think, "Oh, that's rather cruel. That's taking a rather long time. Why not just shoot her?"
Oh, no, they wouldn't think that, because that too obviously causes death. But they will think, "Wouldn't it be better, if we want her to die, to get it over with? She's suffering, you know. Aren't there more efficient ways,more humane ways, to get this done?"
Watch out. Make sure you've got your rubber soles on. That slope is damn slippery.