Revolutionary Worker #1273, April 3, 2005, posted
"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the
visibility of what's going on in America."
Tom DeLay, Congressman from Texas, House
Republican Majority Leader,
speaking to his co-thinkers of "Family Research Council"
Tom DeLay is a powerful right-winger who wraps his ambitions in a frenzied
god-speak. He is the cynical manipulator, who redistricted Texas to disenfranchise
political opponents, and is now rewriting congressional ethics procedures to
rescue himself from his own colossal corruption. He is an aggressive liar, who
recently dared describe Terri Schiavo as "lucid."
But, for a half second there among allies, he let out something true.
This huge national power struggle over Terri Schiavo's fate has, in fact, elevated
the visibility of what's going on in America.
The U.S. is in the middle of a great, ongoing, relentless power grab by extreme
rightwing fundamentalist forces--who deeply deserve the name "Christian
fascists." They are moving to impose on everyone a morality and world view
lifted from the Dark Ages.
In a demonstration of raw hatred for simple science, the Christian fascists
insisted that Terri Schiavo is as fully alive as any of us, and even that she
might just "wake up" at any time. They claimed medical analysis rudely
denies the possibility of divine miracle. And they insisted Terri Schiavo should
remain artificially plugged in forever, without a thought or emotion or a hope
of recovery--as a gruesome living monument to their religious mysticism and
their earthly power.
In a profoundly anti-democratic sense, they think it does not matter what
a person thinks or chooses, or what the population wants. They think their standards
and politics are literally divine , and those who oppose them are literally
demonic. They have claimed for themselves exclusive rights to define
and represent family and parental love--and they have argued that all their
opponents want is a cold, atomized, amoral culture where humans would count
for nothing and decisions would be governed by raw selfishness. And once again,
they have smeared anyone who dares to stand against them--including especially
Terri's husband Michael Schiavo.
They are exploiting a monstrous passivity and paralysis among opposing political
forces. In this manufactured crisis, they have demonstrated their determination
to reverse any laws, legal rulings, constitutional precedents, and public opinion
that may stand in their way--to recast the whole existing legal and political
framework if necessary, to bring their horrific vision of righteousness into
Throughout these days of hysteria, they have portrayed the whole state and
federal judiciary as dangerously out-of-touch, dictatorial, and anti-human--and
they will exploit this as an opening shot for their coming campaign to pack
the Supreme Court with extreme fascists of the Scalia-type.
In a bizarre special session (on Palm Sunday!) an unprecedented law was passed
by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives without any serious opposition.
It tried to have this private end-of-life matter hoisted into federal courts--where,
it was hoped, a federal judge might order Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted.
And by federal decree, everything else was supposed to be swept away: Michael
Schiavo's legal rights as husband/guardian, well-established principles of constitutional
federalism, the governing content of Florida state law, and 15 years of painstaking
And President Bush cut his vacation short, flying into Washington to sign the
bill and prance in public as part of this fascist circus.
Anyone who thinks theocracy (rule by religious fundamentalist dictatorship)
is unlikely for the United States-- needs to look more closely: These Christian
fascist forces are already swaggering in the corridors of power.
For years, far too many people have believed that these Christian fascists
are too extreme, too bizarre, too lunatic, and too backward to possibly wrap
their fingers around real power in this empire. It has been widely believed
that they are simply the low-level, manipulated foot soldiers of Republican
business-as-usual. But this is a very dangerous underestimation of them, and
of this moment.
This time, the Christian fascists were frustrated in their legal attempts to
reinsert a feeding tube into Terri Schiavo. And, as we go to press, it looks
like she will finally get to escape from her awful, artificially sustained limbo.
But she has not escaped from their plans to use her as a symbol. These forces
will now drag the body of Terri Schiavo around inside U.S. politics--the way
they have dragged bottled fetuses around outside women's clinics.
They will used this episode to color and hype the coming battles over Supreme
Court justices and to prepare the ground for everything that follows.
They will use it to paint themselves as "pro-life"--and all their
opponents as "pro-death."
They will use this as supposed proof that the United States needs a cultural,
moral and political purge--as proof that they need to rule directly
with a hard and merciless hand, hammering down those who resist, locking life
and culture into mindless conformity and obedience. They envision a grim and
theocratic America "girded" against "evil," prepared to
wage and win an endless war for domination over the world, all in the name of
Tom DeLay, a corrupt kingmaker of fascism's rise, has said that this struggle
over Terri Schiavo was a "gift" to his allies! And that one of the
great outcomes of this has been "to elevate the visibility of what's
going on in America."
There it stands. Visible.
The Interrupted Death of Terri Schiavo
"Her CAT scan shows massive shrinkage of the brain. Her EEG is flat--flat.
There's no electrical activity coming from her brain."
Neurologist Dr. Ronald Cranford, University
of Minnesota Medical School,
examined Terri Schiavo for Florida state courts, New York Times, March 23
In 1990, Terri Schiavo, then a young woman in her twenties, collapsed in her
home. She had been caught up in a cycle of bulimic purges to stay slim. Her
heart stopped. Oxygen was cut off from her brain. Drastic measures later revived
her body, but it was too late. The great mass of her brain cells had died for
lack of oxygen. Her brain stem survived and automatic body functions like breathing
and circulation continued. Terri Schiavo was not literally "brain dead,"
but she was so severely brain damaged that she had lost any human consciousness.
Many of the dead cells are so decomposed that they were described as "liquefied."
Large empty spaces opened inside her skull where her cerebral cortex used to
For 15 years, she did not have any thoughts or emotions. She had no brain cells
used to feel pain or store memory. She literally could not see or respond.
Her body was caught in restless cycles of unconscious muscle movements. But
the human being Terri Schiavo was gone. This was not a coma; it was a "persistent
vegetative state" and it was irreversible.
A person cannot think without a brain. When human beings lose their brain,
they cannot "just come back" to consciousness and life. Michael Schiavo
explained that before her brain injury, his wife had made explicit her wishes
to not be artificially kept alive without hope or real humanity. And so the
decision was made to stop artificially prolonging her life. But then, the Religious
Right decided to pour their activists and funds into a campaign to keep her
artificially alive, coldly using the grief of Terri Schiavo's parents as prop.
In particular, they renewed and strengthened a political coalition between
militantly orthodox Catholics and fundamentalist born-again Protestants in a
fight to oppose the "right to die." They have worked to portray Terri
Schiavo as an endangered innocent, a victim, and a symbol of the heartlessness
of modern life.
And so the tragedy of Terri Schiavo's brain damage was compounded by the hysterical
campaign to stop her death.
Rarely in legal history has a case been dragged through as many stages. At
least 19 judges have heard the case in six courts. Before this latest round,
it had already been appealed to the Supreme Court three times. There had been
repeated court-ordered independent medical exams. And the results have always
been the same--based on Florida law and the massive evidence, the courts ordered
artificial support to be withdrawn. Three times her feeding tube had been removed--and
each time, the Religious Right fought to have that reversed.
Their crusade was heartless, dogmatic, ruthless and highly calculated.
Hangmen Praise Life
"In extraordinary circumstances like this, it is always wise to err
on the side of life."
President George W. Bush, March 21
"If you have more concern for a bunch of trees or beached dolphins than
you do for an innocent human being, what does it say about your overall view
"Why are they so committed to this woman's death? They seem to have
fallen half in love with death."
Peggy Noonan, Former Reagan speech-writer,
Wall Street Journal Opinion, March 24
Not for one second can these forces be allowed to masquerade as being "on
the side of life."
George W. Bush is the master executioner of Texas. He is the war-maker who
unleashed "shock and awe" over Baghdad. His hands drip with blood
from unjust war.
The world Bush dreams of, a McWorld of unrestricted sweatshops and U.S. military
dominance, would be a chamber of horrors built on human bones. You can't wave
the Bible over CIA torture camps and make them into outposts of "human
And Rush Limbaugh raves about how American rightwing warrior-commandos are
"doing god's work" as they rampage through mountain villages of Afghanistan.
So much for being "on the side of life."
These forces shred the social net, casually discard the unproductive, and shove
the poor and sick off the radar screen of public discussion.
And yet they pimp off the discontent of millions of people--who see that U.S.
society has become even more cold and impersonal. The sense of community has
evaporated--until all that remains for many people is work, family and church.
And that too is deeply alienating and unsatisfying. Possession, domination,
and neglect often masquerades as family and love. Work, when you've got it,
is an impersonal rat race of use-and-be-used. Whole industries and towns shrivel
because of the restless movement of capital. Often the most vivid human experiences
in many lives all seem to involve the exchange of money. And then, as all this
sickens the hearts of people, the heartless powerbrokers of a corrupt system
repackage themselves as defenders of "life."
They are trying to draw in public support for a dangerous lurch to the hard
right. And their deceit cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.
Raw Lies Assault Medical Truth
The Christian fascists insist their latest public crusade has been a fight
to "save Terri." But the simple medical fact is that no one could
"save Terri"--she was already long gone.
Always eager to bash "educated liberal elites"--the Religious Right
simply mocked and rejected the clear medical evidence in this case. Often there
was crude falsification: Bill Frist, the fundamentalist-surgeon-turned- Senate-leader,
announced that Terri Schiavo was still "clearly responsive"--basing
his long-distance diagnosis on a videotape.
In fact, the brief video clip of Terri Schiavo that everyone saw on TV had
been cherry-picked from hours of footage--so her random eye movements seemed
to be tracking objects, or her grimace seemed like a smile.
After the feeding tube had been pulled, Florida Governor Jeb Bush hauled a
fundamentalist hack, Dr. William P. Chesire, Jr., into the limelight. Chesire
babbled: "Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90- minute
visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional
behavior, yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living
human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her."
It was even claimed that Terri's moans over the last week were an attempt to
communicate--and specifically an attempt to say she wanted to live. This is
impossible; it was self-deception at best, and a deliberate hoax at worst.
In a shameful distortion, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described
Schiavo as "a woman with cognitive disabilities"! These Christian
conservatives were claiming that this Schiavo case puts disabled people in danger
of legalized execution.
But Terri Schiavo was neither disabled nor handicapped--she was in fact gone.
And the truth is that this Republican Right is notoriously indifferent to
all the real difficulties facing disabled people--including poverty, medical
coverage, and the struggle for physical access.
The Christian fascist machinery claimed that a woman without a functioning
brain was communicating. And they did it to portray their political opponents
as cold agents of "legal murder."
It was calculated deceit.
A Crusade Against Science and Human Choice
"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise
in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom
of this world is foolishness with God."
1 Corinthians, Paul's know-nothing gospel
and Christian fascist favorite
"[Those who opposed taking out the feeding tube] do not want an innocent
human life ended for what appear to be primarily practical and worldly reasons--e.g.,
Mrs. Schiavo's quality of life is low, her life is pointless. They say: Who
is to say it is pointless? And what does pointless even mean?... How do the
pro-death forces 'know' there is no possibility of progress, healing, miracles?"
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal Opinion,
"Can you regrow a brain?"
Michael Schiavo, challenging those who
argued in a court hearing that his wife may suddenly wake up
This is a war of world views--where a Dark Ages mentality is assaulting the
very notions of reason, science, and human choice.
Do you think a doctor can discover that a woman no longer has a functioning
brain? Do you think that scientific analysis can deduce Terri isn't coming back?
Do you think a secular legal process of review can then decide to let her body
Well these Christian fascists don't think so!
According to their anti-scientific worldview, prayer might produce miracles,
and consciousness might just be popped back into her head, brain or not. And,
to them, the idea of mere humans pulling out the feeding tube is a secular
declaration that such miracles are impossible .
They think it is "playing god" for humans to take such steps. They
think it is defiance of "god's will" and deliberate disbelief
in their god-myth. And such defiance and disbelief is, in fundamentalist
Christian morality, the biggest sin of all.
Their medieval set of dogmas has profound and horrifying implications.
It means that thousands of dying people would be forced to cruelly linger on
artificial life support.
It means that if a woman becomes pregnant, it is "playing god" to
end that pregnancy.
If an egg might be fertilized during sex, it is "playing god" to
use birth control.
If AIDS is "god's punishment" for unsanctioned sex (as people like
Falwell have said), then it is "playing god" to scramble for a cure.
If the Christian god supposedly visits "plagues and famines" on the
non-believers of the third world (in the End Times, as punishment for human
defiance!), then it is "human foolishness" to think such things are
rooted in social injustice, or that it is necessary to right the wrongs of today's
And so on.
Opposed to such mind-numbing submission is a radically different, scientific
approach to human knowledge and action. For all of human existence, there has
been a struggle for humans to gain mastery over their lives and surroundings--to
develop scientific understandings and use that to change the world.
It has brought us powerful medical means of intervention, and it has brought
us the possibility of radical social changes that will liberate humanity from
injustice and suffering.
This conservative Catholic pope's slogans about "a culture of life"
are really about denying human beings any power over their lives--and
those slogans have now been adopted by the Republican Right and their president.
Terri Schiavo did not want to live for years as a human vegetable.
But her wishes and beliefs do not matter to the Religious Right and their backers
in the heights of power. To them, such human discussion and choice is "playing
god"--and is the fatal arrogance and foolishness of human sinfulness, inspired
(literally!) by Satan.
In one legal brief before Atlanta's 11th Circuit Court, lawyers representing
Terri Shiavo's parents made an astonishing legal argument: They said that Terri
Schiavo had been raised a Catholic and the Catholic doctrine holds that choosing
to end one's life is a mortal sin. So, they claimed, removing her tube would
be to deny her religious freedom.
First, this argument ignores the fact that Terri Schiavo herself was not a
regular church-going Catholic and did not believe Catholic doctrine on these
Their argument is essentially that removing her tube would be to condemn her
to hell, and so this must be denied--despite any wishes she might have had.
And more: it demands that separation of church and state be torn down, and the
federal state machinery be used to enforce the Pope's extreme doctrine
on nominal members of that church once they are powerless to protest! The logic
here is deeply medieval and theocratic--and deeply hostile to any notion of
science and human choice.
According to the forces screaming about Terri Shiavo, absolute truth has been
mystically revealed, divine morality has been decreed in scripture or papal
encyclicals, and divine will is supposedly manifested in mysterious and miraculous
events. To them, our role as humans is to submit to the absolute.
And because, in objective reality, there really isn't any god actually
demanding all this, it all actually means we are required to submit to
them--to the Christian fascists whose vicious morality and politics are
to be imposed on us all by state power.
Theocracy as Fascism
"Let the eagle soar, Like she's never soared before...As the land beneath
her sings: Only God, no other kings!"
"Let the Eagle Soar", theocratic
anthem by John Ashcroft, Bush's first Attorney General
"Straight up--Bush and his people aren't just ordinary Republicans.
And they're not ordinary Christians either. They are Christian fascists--dangerous
fanatics who aim to make the U.S. a religious dictatorship and to force this
upon the world. If they get their way--and they are very far along the road
to getting it-- society will be plunged into a high-tech Dark Ages."
The Battle For The Future Will Be Fought
From Here Forward!
Statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party
"Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in
the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping
its bounds for political gain."
ABC News poll, March 25
The Christian fascists have made their demands in the face of clear popular
opposition. A CBS poll said that 82% want the federal government to stay out
of the Terri Schiavo case. An ABC poll said that 63% supported removing the
feeding tube (and only 23% didn't).
Even a majority of Republicans were for removal of the tube, and there was
open dismay among some conservatives over the gross federal power grab and disregard
of private decisions. These facts point to potential cracks even within the
power base of the current president and the Christian fascist movement.
You don't have to scratch far into this situation to see the profoundly anti-democratic
and fascist nature of this movement. The Christian fascists actually don't
believe people have any right to think for themselves, develop opinions
and make moral choices. In their worldview, morality is absolute, and it is
embodied in their version of rightwing fundamentalist dogma. And if
other people (who they call "the world") don't agree, if their own
political leaders seem to vacillate, if many ordinary people shrink before the
heartlessness and mindlessness of their dogma--that just further proves that
humans are sinful creatures who need imposed theocracy.
These forces know perfectly well that the vast majority of people
don't agree with them--on censorship, on abortion, on prayer in schools, on
separation of church and state, on birth control, on sex before marriage, on
their whole approach of militant and mindless obedience--and they are determined
to define politics and culture anyway.
In their theocratic absolutism, all of the preceding legal norms of the U.S.
mean nothing: If the courts defy them, damn the courts. If state law defies
them, damn state law. If privacy and personal rights get in the way, they should
be abolished. If the Constitution proves to be an obstacle, then rewrite it
or ignore it. That's how they think.
These are the same forces who have shot down doctors for performing abortion.
And as Terri Schiavo finally approached death, their fangs came out. Preachers
demanded that the White House "send the Army" to seize Schiavo's body
and pump food into it. (Some compared it to Eisenhower sending troops to enforce
school desegregation!) Death threats were made against Michael Schiavo.
A Dangerous Situation
"If George W. Bush can make the nation cry, The Courts Killed
Terri Schiavo, he may be able to engineer a long-overdue reassertion
of the people's power over judges."
Rightwing columnist Lawrence Henry, American
Spectator, March 25
"The supporters of Terri Schiavo's right to continue living have fought
for her heroically, through the courts and through the legislatures. They're
still fighting. They really mean it. .On the other side of this debate, one
would assume there is an equally well organized and passionate group of organizations
deeply committed to removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. But that's not
true. There's just about no one on the other side. Or rather there is one
person, a disaffected husband who insists Terri once told him she didn't want
to be kept alive by extraordinary measures."
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, March
Peggy Noonan's observation is only half true--but true enough to point
out a very dangerous situation.
Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terry, has been slandered as a selfish "adulterer"
who wanted to kill his wife for money and convenience. He was equated with the
wife-murderer Scott Peterson. And yet he stood his ground, and even called out
the powerful Tom DeLay as a "little slithering snake."
And think of the logic of the accusations against Michael Shiavo: After his
wife has been virtually dead for 15 years, he has a new relationship and family.
And that is portrayed as some major sin. Does he suddenly have no legal rights
because of this so-called "adultery"? What's next? Stoning?!
And, when religious fanatics fell on their knees in front of his house, where
was the organized counter-force? Who joined him on those frontlines?
The Christian-fascist movement flooded in. Randall Terry, the thug who organized
harassment of women's abortion doctors, is now a spokesman against Terri Schiavo's
right to die. And right beside him are the hard edge of the anti-abortion movement,
Paul Schenck, Rev. Frank Pavone and Rev. Pat Mahoney. Look at the backing they
have: the highest offices of political power, much of the Republican Party apparatus,
networks of churches and Christian-fascist cabals--a "vast rightwing conspiracy"
that is all too real.
On the other side, millions of people are horrified at the fundamentalists'
arrogance, power and extremism. A majority opposes them. Doctors and scientists,
legal experts and even progressive religious forces--they have all been horrified
There has been a visible backlash--a shudder through the society--as these
Christian fascists strutted their demands and made their moves.
There have been some actions and protests --that often don't make it into the
media. The California Medical Association, to pick one example, condemned the
congressional intervention almost unanimously.
But the simple dangerous political fact is that the resistance has been passive,
disorganized, dispersed and unsure of itself. This is a glaring part of the
situation this case has made "visible." And it is intolerable.
There is a great divide in society, and though the Christian fascists have
some obvious initiative right now, there is tremendous potential for something
else to arise against them, even quickly, with a shocking speed and suddenness--
especially if many more people seize this moment and dare to struggle.
Within the political establishment, the situation has been stark and ominous.
It would have been impossible to pass Palm Sunday's extraordinary Schiavo law
if there had not been broad cooperation by the Democratic Party apparatus. Not
a single Democratic senator took a stand against the bill-- not Hillary
Clinton, not John Kerry, who were absent and silent.
Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, personally participated in formulating
and passing this bill. Reid is a conservative Mormon and committed opponent
In the House of Representatives, a chunk of Congressional Democrats voted against
the law. But look, for example, at House Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi's statement
saying, about Michael Schiavo, "the decision for his wife's care belongs
to him and to God." Today even her half-hearted criticism of the
Christian fascists starts by accepting their theocratic framework!
Ask yourself if this fight, and the coming battle over the reproductive rights
of women, can possibly be entrusted into these hands!
This Schiavo case has been part of a series of crises--all largely manufactured
by aggressive fascist action-- including the Clinton impeachment, the theft
of the 2000 election, and the hysteria over gay marriage.
And it is an opening shot in what now follows--which includes the fight over
Supreme Court judges and a showdown over women's right to abortion. And all
of this forms a much larger fight for the future and the very nature of politics
Two futures confront each other. Will this ugly fusion of Dark Ages religion
and modern capitalism dominate, with all the horror this will bring? OR ,
will the critical spirit be unleashed in a way that does a great GOOD for humanity?
Will society move forward in a revolutionary direction and set about removing
the great suffering and misery cast down on the people by capitalism?
The Revolutionary Communist Party, following the lead and vision of its chairman,
Bob Avakian, is throwing itself into this battle, and straining to expose, oppose
and defeat these Christian fascists and their moves--and working to forge a
revolutionary force that can bring something radical and liberated into being.
We want to challenge everyone reading this: Where do you stand? What are you
doing? Join us in fighting to wrench the future from their ugly hands, and in
bringing about a new world that is truly worth living in.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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