Nat Hentoff Comes Out in Favor of the Patriarchy

Nat Hentoff.

Terri Schiavo.

Mike the Headless Chicken.

I had a whole rant worked up, but I just can’t stand it. If the media and the protesters and the congress and the president and his doughy brother can’t see that this is none of their business, then fuck them.

People die every day. People die this way every day. To swoop in at the last minute and second-guess this woman’s wishes is galling. To prop her up and put her on display like some kind of half-charged Frankenstein’s monster is disgusting. And, Nat Hentoff, you jackass, if you honestly think that dying, even dying this way is the worst thing that can happen to a person, the Village Voice should fire you, because that makes you, sir, a lax journalist.

And for you to buy into the “pro-life” argument, to say that “Many readers of this column are pro-choice, pro-abortion rights. But what choice did Terri Schiavo have under our vaunted rule of law–which the president is eagerly trying to export to the rest of the world? She had not left a living will or a durable power of attorney, and so could not speak for herself. But the American system of justice would not slake her thirst as she, on television, was dying in front of us all.” is disgusting.

No, she didn’t leave a living will or a durable power of attorney, but the courts have found repeatedly that this is what she would have wanted. Not what her husband wanted, but what she wanted. But damn you, motherfucker, for being a journalist I like, and for selling us women out, for using your whole column to promote the position of her parents and to attack her husband.

You want to talk pro-choice? Here’s pro-choice for you, buddy. It doesn’t matter if Michael Schiavo is the biggest jackass on the face of the planet. It doesn’t matter if he has three girlfriends now and children by each of them. It doesn’t matter if he tried to do right by her and then decided, “fuck it,” and left her to rot on the side of the road. It doesn’t matter, because he’s who Terri chose to make her adult life with, not her parents, not the government, not you, and not me.

If she chose poorly, that’s a tragedy, but you know what? It’s not any of our business. It was her choice to marry him and her choice to tie herself to him legally and she made that choice as a consenting, rational adult.

Do you see what I’m getting at? This is not about “protecting” Terri from an uncaring judiciary or a cruel husband. This is about undermining a competent woman’s decision about her life because we don’t like how it turned out.

For you to turn this into something that makes her a victim in need of the protection and care of her parents and the government, and for you to trot out your list of “convincing” experts–Bill Frist, David Gibbs, Wesley Smith, William Burke, William Anderson, Ralph Nader, and finally, one woman, Cathy Cleaver Ruse–as if strangers, primarily strange men, ought to get together and reach a consensus on whether we have to respect Terri’s choices, it’s sick.

This must be like porn for guys like you, Hentoff, to get to pretend to be all bothered by this poor woman doing what all of us do–die–, while at the same time getting to project all your fantasies about what “womanhood” means and who has the right to choose for a grown woman what kind of life, or lack thereof, she should have.

Shit, even Mike the Headless Chicken was treated with more respect.

My Aunt B.

Yes, even your beloved Aunt B. has an Aunt B. of her very own and I had the great fun of spending the whole evening with her.

First, we went to the library, where we helped my cousin find lots of books about witchcraft. Then, we went to eat at BB King’s, which has a free band at 5 o’clock that is so good we had a big fight at the table about whether it was a CD or a band that we were hearing.

Then, my uncle and the Butcher and my cousins all went back to the hotel to swim and Aunt B. and I went to hear Peter Guralnick, Robert Gordon, and Wil Haygood talk about their experiences writing biographies of famous musicians. It was incredible.

Cowboy Jack Clement sat right in front of us. Bill Friskics-Warren snuck in late and out early, but I saw him leaning against a wall. Peter Cooper MCd the event and he was funny and self-deprecating and stayed out of the way, which was nice. The folks from the Hall of Fame sat behind us and a bunch of people from the committees I’m on at work were there and they were the people from those committees that I really like. Tony Early was there as well, walking back and forth like the whole thing was giving him mad energy–to have that many writers in one room–and I wished, for a second, I could follow him home and see what notes he jotted down about the evening. He was not the only one. There were a bunch of creative writers from the English department there–students and faculty–and I saw a bunch of them scribbling things down.

Two things struck me from the evening.

1. You could not have three more generous authors in one spot. Peter Guralnick made two of the kindest gestures to young writers I’ve ever seen. He explained how he once had to interview someone with another writer and how both of then ended up using the interview in their books, but that you wouldn’t know, based on what each of them took from it, that it was the same interview and he was enthusiastic about the fact that he could not capture every facet of someone and that other writers would come along and help flesh out our understanding. What I took from that was that he thought there was more than enough life in any subject and that young writers should not be afraid that all there is to say on a subject has been said.

2. They love people, the people they’re writing about and the people who tell them things about the people they’re writing about, and people in general. My nieces and nephews, I wish you could have been there, to see this room full of fragile people, each weighed down by his or her hopes and fears and peculiarities, sharing with each other the ways he or she works to understand other people’s hopes and fears and peculiarities, in order to tell a particular, specific story, that somehow ends up being larger than that. It made me proud.

My Aunt B. kept talking the whole way home about how awesome it was that everyone could come together to support each other and to share with each other and to have a good time.

You know, people slag on Nashville, and deservedly so, in some cases. But shit like this, it makes me feel like I’m a part of a rich and fun creative community.