Jesse Jackson is a genius. Like most of you, I had a “WTF?!” moment1 when I heard he was joining the Schindler family in their protests, but his interview on CNN this morning in which he recounted his advice to the family was brilliant :
JACKSON: And so I said to them, at a time when fate deals you such a cruel hand, lean to your faith and use your love. And while you are losing a daughter, thank god for what’s left. You still have another daughter left. You have a son left.
And therefore, lean upon them. But through it all, do not get bitter. Get better.
And thank god for the legacy of your daughter, because her legacy has forced the nation to focus on health care in ways the nation would have ignored. I mean, we cannot deal the past issue now of medical malpractice which helped to sustain her. We cannot deal past the issue of Social Security versus Medicaid, for example. We can’t deal past the issue right now of long-term health care.
I thought she received excellent hospice care. But in the end, when they pulled the plug, which was a judgment that was made, it certainly induced her death. And the family was keenly angry over that. But I urged them to get past that anger and now move on to the next stage of how they reconcile.
[. . .]
JACKSON: Well, I’ll tell you what, there is nobody who is conservative but disagrees with her winning malpractice. They would not disagree with her having Medicaid or long-term health care.
I think sometimes that we talk past each other in these kinds of political polarizations. There are some, you know, who really are sincerely concerned about abortion, and they will fight for the fetus. But then the fight against prenatal care, head start (ph) and daycare, they must grapple with this issue in broader terms.
Now, there are those who will really embrace Terri and loved her as a symbol and love her as a classic crisis, and yet they must also deal with what she needed, which was long-term health care. And so I think if we see this thing right and talk with each other and not at each other, that the long-term health policy issues are now front and center. I think we should all be part of that debate in a creative and unbitter and non-hostile way.
[. . .]
JACKSON: You know, this is a case where faith and public policy came together. Faith sustained them.
KAGAN: When you say “them,” do you mean the Schindler family?
JACKSON: The Schindlers. I mean, faith sustained them. But a public policy of health care also kept her alive and enabled her to have hospice care, enabled her to get medical care.
So people of faith — I mean, Jesus taught by example and he also taught by parable. So what do we glean from this that has value beyond Terri and what’s there?
About 30,000 other people in the same or similar conditions. What shall we do for those who are not under the lights of TV every day as she has been? And I would contend that people of faith must now fight for a health care policy that in fact addresses more meaning to those who will be living longer as America grows older.
I think conservatives try to take advantage of this story’s political momentum and steer it towards one of their pet causes are in for a rude awakening. While there’s message discipline among the protesters2 now, I think many of the “Culture of Life” folks might not be as willing to switch their “Save Terri” placards for “Abortion = Genocide” ones as Randall Terry might have us believe.
While I’ll grant that steering this discussion towards healthcare reform is an equally abrupt change, it does bear repeating that this sort of tragedy happens every day, often for people whose terminal (or in this case PVS) conditions aren’t self-inflicted but are equally preventable. If we’re truly a country that believes in a “culture of life”, our first step should be to do everything in our power to keep people from dying. This should apply to all people (regardless of their income), not just those on life support or in a petri dish.
1: By the way, what’s the deal with this Ralph Nader column? Dude, the election’s over. You don’t have to kiss conservative ass anymore.
2: Of course this isn’t that hard when half the people have tape over their mouths.