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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Maybe It's Something They Put In The Water

Back in the mid-1980s, Florida adopted the following slogan as part of a successful ad campaign: "The rules are different here."

Of course, what they were trying to illustrate was that in places like Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale the lifestyle was so laid back that you didn't have to dress up to go to a fancy restaurant. You didn't need to wear a tie, attend business meetings, get uptight about status, etc. You could lie on a beach, relax, and enjoy. It was sort of like the current "what happens here stays here" ad that Las Vegas is using to attract tourists.

However, given that South Florida, at that time, was the cocaine capital of the world and that the cigarette boat, shaped like a Marijuanna joint, and used for drug smuggling, was practically the state's official symbol, the ad campaign was greeted with much hilarity by South Florida residents. We thought it was not exactly the message we should be sending to the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, the rules are still different in Florida, but for a much different reason. In this Republican-controlled state that has flipped to red, with its influx of Evangelicals, the rules of common decency no longer apply.

Jeb Bush, not content to have overstepped all bounds of common sense and common decency when he interferred in a family's personal tragedy, is now calling for still another investigation of Terri Schiavo's death. The New York Times carried this article.

According to the story, Bush wants a district attorney to investigate an apparent discrepancy in Michael Schiavo's account of when he called 911 the night Terri collapsed. At various times, Michael Schiavo has said that he found Terri at 4:30 in the morning, or at 5:00 in the morning. According to the official record, the 911 call was made at 5:40 a.m.

Schiavo has also admitted that he is not very good at remembering dates and times. However, he has always insisted that he called 911 immediately after discovering Terri's lifeless body.

I have to interject a personal note here. Terri's heart stopped and she collapsed sometime in the very early morning hours. Actually, many people would consider it still the middle of the night. My own mother had her stroke at 3 a.m. Or so my father thinks. The truth is that if he had to make a sworn statement as to when exactly my mother collapsed and what he did first and when he actually called 911, he'd be no more accurate. The thing about emergencies is that you don't look at your watch to determine the exact time that you did what.

I can't even tell you the exact time I woke up this morning because it's the weekend. And in the shock and confusion of discovering a loved one collapsed in the middle of the night it would be absurd to expect them to remember things like the time or sequence of events clearly.

Bush seems to think Michael Schiavo should have exactly that kind of total recall because such an incident is "so memorable." Well, I'm happy for Jeb Bush that he's never experienced so traumatic a crisis or he'd know that while it is indeed memorable, it's also shocking and confusing.

Jeb Bush also made the implication that because the autopsy has not adequately explained why the heart of a healthy 26 year old stopped suddenly, there is still suspicion of foul play. In fact, throughout the whole 15 year period, the Schindlers and their supporters have accused Michael of abusing Terri. The autopsy flatly disputed that. And while it's true that the reason that Terri's heart stopped is not known, it's also true that it may never be known. Unfortunately, healthy people, even young ones, do occasionally experience untimely heart attacks. A good friend of mine keeled over and collapsed several years ago. With no previous history of heart problems, his heart stopped suddenly. Unlike Terri Schiavo, his heart attack was fatal and the doctors never discovered the cause. Life just happens and so does death. Medical science sometimes just doesn't know the reason why. There are, after all, medical mysteries that are unsolvable. Any doctor will admit as much.

But I don't think that matters to Jeb Bush. I think the real reason that Bush is doing this is to regain credibility with his right wing base, which criticized him for failing to seize Terri's body when the feeding tube was removed. To have done so would have been a flagrant violation of a court order and it would have created a true constitutional crisis. But that's not why Jeb failed to act as his base wished he would. It wasn't that he respected the U.S. Constitution. It wasn't moderation. It certainly wasn't respect for the law.

It was cowardice. Like so many bullies, when confronted with the power of an authority stronger than himself, he caved. But as governor of Florida, he does have the legal authority to initiate a state investigation. However, in this case he is abusing his power. And worse, at a time when his state is in fiscal crisis and is cutting social services for the mentally ill and the disabled, he is wasting the taxpayers' money on a witch hunt.

The simple and frustrating (for the Religious Right) truth is that absolutely none of the claims of the the Right to Lifers or of Terri's parents have been borne out. The autopsy proved beyond doubt that Terri could not see them, despite the eye movements that were shown on the now infamous videotape. She was blind. Her brain had shrunk to half the size of a normal brain, so she could not be relating to her family, as her parents claimed. There was no hope of her recovering. And there was no proof that Michael had ever abused her, which became a popular claim by the wacky Right.

They lied. They lied through their teeth, every one of them. They've been caught red-handed in their lies. The only way they can deflect it is by starting still another investigation that casts more doubts on Michael Schiavo. They are using misdirection to put suspicion on him so that people won't focus on their own false claims which have been exposed by this autopsy.

Indeed, when the autopsy first was released, the media went after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is also a heart surgeon, for offering a diagnose that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, based on the video tape. How convenient that now the spotlight is on what Michael Schiavo did or did not do while in a state of confusion and panic in the middle of the night and not on the professionally unbecoming behavior of a licensed physician. This is the medical equivalent of the Swift Boat slurs and falsehoods against John Kerry during the presidential elections. When their own falsehoods are discovered, these are the type people who attack and sling mud and vicious lies every time. It's simply their modus operandi

So, in Jeb Bush's Florida, unfortunately, the rules are still different. However, in the rest of the country, the rules of common decency still apply. And Jeb Bush and his right wing Evangelical supporters have violated every one of them.

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