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« The Sweeter World We Abandon | Main | It’s not about looks »

January 22, 2007

For too many, life is cheap

At today's Blogs for Life conference in Washington, D.C., I saw a couple of men standing at the back of the room before the event got underway, looking at Sunday's comics section in the paper. Suddenly remembering what I'd seen in those comics yesterday, I walked over.

"Is that what I think it is?" I asked them.

It was.

"It's not too clear what he's saying," one of the men said, "but it seems like an insult to my sister."

"That's how it seemed to me too," I replied to the man I now knew was Bobby Schindler, thinking of all the similar jabs he and his family have endured over the years, just a long string of insults added to one terrible, irrevocable injury. Maybe I'm being oversensitive to what Berke Breathed probably didn't mean as a direct slap in the face to Terri's memory. But had any of my readers been standing there with Terri's brother looking at this, I venture to think many of you might have felt the sting I felt.

And I'd always liked Breathed. I wonder if he ever considered how Terri's family would feel about having their position so exaggerated and distorted (yes, I know this was mainly a reference to President Bush, but the president's position was based on the Schindler family's position). I wonder if he even cared, or if he just thought they deserved a cheap shot for having dared to try to save her life. I wonder if he ever even wondered why they bothered if her state was truly what Mr. Breathed thought it was.

I wonder when life -- and our "certainty" about its value -- became so cheap that a struggle to save it could be dismissed as lightly as this.

(I had hoped to blog more about the conference today and tomorrow, but due to other unavoidable commitments, it will have to wait till later in the week.)

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I'm not sure that I get it. I mean, certainty's far from dead. Since when did cheap jabs at other people's expense become so new and unpredictable? It seems pretty certain to me that the only way to maintain any relevance in today's culture is to cheapen the values of those with whom you disagree. If I were them (those characters in the strip, that is), I'd be calling the authorities. Something else is buried in certainty's grave.


I've followed (and loved) Breathed's work since the first Bloom County strips over 25 years ago. His social critiques have always had an edge, so I doubt that he spends much time considering any particular individual’s feelings. With that being said, he probably didn’t intend for this to be an insult to Terri Shiavo, or the Schindlers. Breathed doesn’t seem to be delving into the life/death issue in this case, but rather a statement allegedly made by the White House regarding her condition. At least in my opinion, her condition (PVS or not) had nothing to do with her right to live. Breathed may see it differently, but I don’t think he addresses it here. It is unfortunate to have this example overshadow his larger point of “certainty”, which is an important one. Ken Lay would have been a better, less painful choice.

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