March 23, 2005

"Don't you feel anything?"

As my first post on the Terri Schiavo case says, I avoided writing on the subject, but chose to break my silence to weigh in on the subject of federalism, an area of professional expertise for me. After that, I read the federal court complaint and decided to provide a summary of it for my readers, who I didn't think would take the time to read and understand it. I followed up yesterday with a post about the district court decision -- really a tribute to the worthy judge. I did one more post, critical of Congress for groundlessly impugning the work of the state courts, which had put so much serious, hard work into the case. I've gotten a lot of supportive links and email about my posts, but I'm not surprised to get an email like this:
I'm disappointed. Your logic is 100% legal, antiseptic, and very dummy-proof. Spoken like a true legal professor.

I'm pro-choice, conservative, republican ... but this makes me literally cry at every turn. Don't you feel anything? or has Madison finally numbed you also?

The least and the most you can do is make the case for compassionate conservatism.

Here is how I answered the emailer:
I have a lot of things I could say that I am choosing not to say, as my first post indicates. Some things I chose not to say out of pity for the parents, who have suffered.

I'm not going to fill up my blog with speculation about what has really motivated the husband and parents of Terri Schiavo over the years. There are all kinds of horrible things one could say about them. It's easy to think of those things and to write them down. As to end of life decisions and the hard realities of death and dying, thousands of painful dramas play out every day. I don't have general pronouncements to make about how these should be resolved. Terri Schiavo's drama was enacted in public because of the bitterly hardened dispute between the husband and the parents. The dispute made an occasion for people with strong moral beliefs to argue their positions in high media profile.

I am not one of those people who have fixed beliefs about "the culture of life" or "the right to die," so I don't have an automatic side to take and the desire to fight it out. I think these are difficult matters, and maybe I should write about them here and increase the proportion of moderate writing. But I pick my subjects here. When I choose to write about something serious, it's usually because I think I have something different to say or some extra value to bring to the table. When I'm silent about something, you can speculate about what I might think, but you don't know. You can try to goad me to write on a subject by emailing me your speculations about what I think (and feel), and maybe I will reveal it, but maybe I'm really quite committed to my silence.

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