News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


We like simplicity, but Schiavo debate complex

An odd trait of this great democracy is that the more difficult the issue, the more acrimonious the debate.

Such was the case with the national obsession over Terri Schiavo.

For all the hollering and righteous indignation, the issue was murky.

Was Mrs. Schiavo better off dead? Was she overdue to rest in God's embrace? Was 15 years trapped in a body that no longer functioned enough?

Or, on the other hand, do we somehow deprive God of his mercy by killing Mrs. Schiavo before her time? Did she find pleasure in her bed-confined life? Should we have waited for God to extend his healing powers?

In this country, we love result-oriented input. Whatever our connection to Mrs. Schiavo, we enjoy the certainty of knowing what is right.

We are usually deprived of such certainty in our own decisions. Facts are rarely black, but gray. Competing emotions and obligations hound us as we seek answers. Even our prayers too often yield more questions than answers.

But evaluating someone else's decisions is different. We can filter the facts for the result that sounds best. We can dig through the Bible or the law, collecting what points toward the most appealing conclusion.

And we never once have to talk to Mrs. Schiavo or her mother. We owe no explanation to her father or husband, because to them we are anonymous. We are an overly excited crowd, thrilled at enjoying a simplicity that evades our own lives.

Debates like the one surrounding Mrs. Schiavo are divisive, but probably healthy. We learn about ourselves and our neighbors. We think about God's role in human endeavors. We infuse passion into a sometimes weary democracy.

But after the battle is over, after the harsh words stop echoing and after the tears dry, we need to remember that good people can come to different solutions.

We need to acknowledge, even if quietly, that simplistic solutions work only from a distance. Those involved in the drama are confronted with the same complexity that dogs us in our own lives.

We need to let hatred slide away, to be replaced by understanding.

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