At this point, I am feeling like the only (even-semi)-political blogger who has had nothing so far to say about Terri Schiavo. My reasons for this are simple: It had NOTHING to do with the overall thematics of my blog, and I didn’t want to go off on a tear about something that, honestly, I do not know all of the facts about. This is none of my business. Unless you are related to someone in this situation in Florida, it’s none of your business either. So I had nothing to say.
That has changed. Yesterday evening, Congress, acting largely under the impetus of the Bush White House, convened an “emergency” session and RAMMED THROUGH legislation to create a special one-time brand-new law that would allow them to intervene in the case. I now have something to say:
What I have to say here is my opinion and my opinion only. Flame away if you like.
What Congress and the President did is wrong. They have overstepped their jurisdiction, and have made a mockery of the Constitution of the United States in doing so. They have injected themselves into a private family dispute that has been settled according to the laws of the State of Florida. Twenty Florida State Judges, in twenty-three court cases on the matter over a period of fifteen years have all found, according to the laws passed by the duly-elected members of the State Legistlature, in favor of Michael Schiavo’s claim. You may disagree with the laws. You may believe that Mr. Schiavo has sinister motives. You may believe anything you wish to. But the law has been followed, due process has been served, and no violation of the constitution or overall federal law (which would allow for “emergency” actions) has been found (and, again, the opposing side has been trying to find such for FIFTEEN YEARS.)
But now, because they “believe” that it is the “right” thing to do, the Congress and President of the United States have decided it proper that they leap right over the checks-and-balances and waaaaayyyyy over what is supposed to be the Republican Party’s ideological commitment to state’s rights. Whether or not you agree with the intentions behind it, this “emergency action” is a slap in the face to the State Legislators who passed the laws and American Citizens who voted for those Legislators.
Let’s be very clear here: I am not advocating in favor of one side or the other in the actual Schiavo matter. That case is complex, personal, family-based and ideologically wrenching no matter which side you are on. It’s one of the most complicated and nuanced family-law disputes in many a moon, really. For the record: I am a supporter of the right-to-die, however the various uncertanties in this case do not lend themselves to any easy yes or no answer. The situation of that case, especially from the legal standpoint, is PROFOUNDLY intricate…
…but the situation of the Congressional and Presidential involvement in this case is NOT complex. It’s mind-bogglingly simple: They have no right to be involved. This is STATE matter in the hands of the Florida STATE judiciary. Until said judiciary violates the laws of the state or of the country, the Federal government has no right to get involved. Now, you may believe that a moral law is being violated here. Fine, you are allowed to believe that. But our laws are not determined by morality, they are determined by The Constitution of The United States. It does not matter how “righteous” you think your cause to be, no politician, President or otherwise, has the right to violate our Founding Document in order to get their way.
Some, I know, who felt passionately (and more power to them, seriously) that Terri had to be “saved” are no doubt thrilled about this, the notion of the Great And Powerful Government riding to her rescue like a Soldier of God on a charging white steed. But ask yourself this: Would you be as inspired if Congress was being as bold in favor of a cause you were against? If another president, some years from now, were to call an emergency session of congress in order to steamroll legislation through that would legalize late-term abortion across the nation regardless of State laws against it… would you still cheer for that overreach of Federal power? Or is it only okay when “the Good Guys” do it?
Our Constitution, our legal system and even the often-torturous lengths of process that are involved in both all exist for a reason: to protect freedom and ensure a system of government whereby things like this cannot happen. The idea of one man or one political party taking “hold” of a situation in order to ensure an outcome that pleases their ideology regardless of law or process is the exactly the sort of thing that Thomas Jefferson wrote his landmark documents to protect us against. The law is not perfect. Sometimes it does not come out the way “we” want, sometimes it moves too “slow” for our desire for “justice.” These imperfections are the price we pay for Democracy. The actions of Congress in this case may or may not be rooted in the best of intentions, but those intentions are rendered moot by the simple fact that these actions are unconstitutional.
The moral merits of all sides of the Schiavo case are important, literally matters of life and death, and they are worth as much debate and hand-wringing and argument and shouting and editorializing as all those interested can muster. But nothing is worth trampling on the Constitution and State’s Rights. NOTHING. The Constitution will, most-likely, survive this latest assault, but that’s not the point. It shouldn’t have to endure ANY assault.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.