Something else died yesterday morning. No, don't mean Terri Schiavo, that "vegetable" the portside media has been telling us has been deceased all along. What died was trust. To say that it had been at death's door for many years is a truism. But yesterday the trust plighted by men and women through the ceremony, sacrament to some, of marriage, shuffled off a remainder of its mortal coil.
You've heard the knell for days, on the subways, the ferryboats, and in the polls. "Well, after all, he was a young man. Why shouldn't he find a life for himself, another woman's arms, and reproduce? It's only natural." And, "What do those religious rightists in Congress think they're doing, trying to make a federal case out of that brain-dead woman that the courts of proper jurisdiction have already pronounced dead? And that showboating President, flying back in the middle of the night to sign a bill that had all the authority of a papal bull?"
So, much of America received the news of Schiavo's death as one who has been shot at and missed, relief at the whine of a bullet making its way harmlessly into the brush of life. That was close. But now we can join F. Scott's boats against the current and never mind the tide that's taking us. Into the past? There was one. It was filled with pledges: "In sickness and in health...until death us do part." "Love, honor..."
Fully fifty percent of those repeating such phrases in America today will one day wish them unsaid, and will have them undone. So is it a wonder, this talk on the subways, buses, and ferryboats, that this man was only doing what comes naturally and yet fought fiercely to maintain suzerainty over that personage to whom, after all, he had made pledges. Adultery? Piffle. This, too, is a matter of personal choice and hasn't the highest court in the land come down on the side of choice in a related matter? Besides, what standing does a vegetable have as a complainant in a divorcement lawsuit?
The portside press tells us with some satisfaction that a benefit of the Schiavo drama is a closer examination of the ineptly titled "living will." That there is a rush to make explicit wishes with regard to what steps are to be taken to prolong life. And of course the tendency is to say, "no heroics. And, yes, distribute my vital organs on any street corner that will take them." Such is the first blush tendency of the young and healthy, who in the same document will assign a loved one the real responsibility for decision.
Somewhere, kismet had another ending for this. A husband decides that another road has been taken, that there is a remnant of a love once felt for what he now regards a vegetable in need of finality, and that this remainder can be deposited properly only with those who gave her birth. Fourteen days before the arrival of April he conveys that love, and proceeds down that other road, with the other woman and the children he has created -- his right, claim the women on the subway -- and America's nightmare recedes into other headlines. It was a shock, but with no tsunami.
Then somewhere, upstate, a young couple whose names we'll never know, might stand and say those things one to the other and truly believe. For them trust will not have died in a dismal room in Florida. Would this were so.
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