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.

10 thoughts on “Nat Hentoff Comes Out in Favor of the Patriarchy

  1. And now Jesse Jackson is in the debate. Although, if I could take out only part of his sentiment, I could find it to be a very interesting strategy. He says this is about civil rights and that all those who cannot feed themselves should be given feeding tubes. Well, if they want those tubes, that’s great because it sounds to me like Jackson could be making an elaborate point that we are spending insane hours of legislative time and money to attempt to not let a woman make free decisions about her health care and medical intervention while we are instead standing by and doing nothing for the poor, starving, uneducated masses in our nation.

  2. I’m going out tonight and buying myself a big rubber penis. I’m going to keep it in my purse and whip it out in situations where I feel like I can’t get taken seriously.

    Shit, I’m going to start whipping it out in situations where I just want to be taken more seriously than I deserve.

    Seriously, Jesse Jackson’s involved now? Does everyone with a penis get TV time if he wants it? How does this work?

    Once I get mine, I’m getting to the bottom of this nonsense. Look for me on CNN.

  3. I think a lot of the hand wringing, though, is not that she will die, but how. The process seems cruel. Removing someone from a respirator is surely a difficult decision, ask Tom Delay, R-Texas, who had to remove his father from a ventilator; but it is quick, the person dies rapidly and presumably in very little discomfort.

    Now with Schiavo, she will be denied food and water until she is dead. Although the Supremes have held that there is no legal distinction between denying IV nutrition or denying a patient a ventilator, it just seems that there is a difference. Nor is this a quick way to go, she is still kicking (figuratively, obviously, as her literal kicking days are very long behind her) for 13 days.

    I am not a neurologist, but I would imagine that there have to be some pain receptors in what remains of her brain such that we cannot state with any degree of certainty that she will not feel what is happening. That is not, in the least, to imply that she has the capacity to comprehend or appreciate what is happening, but that on the most basic, animal level, she will feel the discomfort of her death.

    I think she has the right to make that choice. I think the FLA courts have done the best that anyone can to determine what that choice, if left to her, would have been. I think there decision is correct. I think that the real tragedy here is the total disregard to the process. We leave these cases to a dispassioned judiciary for a reason, because it is a hard decision to make. Our legislature should respect that determination once made.

    In trying to look at this rationally, I am so irked by Jesse wading into this mess that all I can say is fuck him.


  4. And the irony of this whole situation is that she got in the position she is in by starving herself, so maybe this is the way she would prefer to go


  5. It’s no surprise that Hentoff would come out against letting Terri Schiavo ‘s body die the same death as her mind did 15 years ago. He’s always been an absolutist about life, arguing again and again that any living combination of human cells is worthy of protection over and above any other claims.

    Actually, his ability to stay so resolutely fixed on this position is the same one that serves him so well when he is among the finest defenders of our Constitution.

    Arguing with Hentoff by saying any number of courts have agreed that Schiavo should be allowed to die isn’t going to hold any water. He – and let’s face it, I, and I would hope even you – could come up with court cases we all disagree with. I think you’re on firmer ground with the point about Terri choosing Michael to be her decision maker, but even there, we have heard of women being abused by the men they’ve chosen to marry. I think we’re best off arguing the merits of this case as being a) she’s already dead and/or b) this is an extremely difficult decision that should not be a public issue and/or c) the gains of the parents and their public behavior have been sickening.

    I argued yesterday with a friend who is convinced Jackson will end up making political hay for our side on this. I kept saying, “He’s hugging Randall Terry.” How can that be a good thing?

    Well, she finally gave up the ghost this morning, and that means this particular circus will soon come to an end. Time to move on to another feeding frenzy somewhere else.

  6. Well, you’re right about Hentoff and, now that I’ve cooled off, I can respect his unwaveringness, I guess.

    But it still bugs to see someone smart and insightful argue that we can pick and choose whose legal wishes we get to respect. And I feel for her parents, but it really worries me that the public discourse seemed to accept that parents had some say in the choices their adult children make.

    We’ve got to learn, as a society, to respect the decisions women make. I mean, even in cases of abuse, are we going to start kidnapping women who refuse to leave their husbands? Even if we don’t like their decisions, if they are legal, we ought to respect them.

    Jackson grates on me because he’s so much like every minister I know, who thinks that his job gives him the right, no, the obligation to go around to minister to whoever he thinks needs it.

    I can read. That doesn’t mean I should fly out to LA, hop on a bus, find people with laptops, and start reading their email outloud.

  7. Unwaveringness to what end? Unwaiveringness in defense of an ideal that is wrong, or if not wrong, at least lacking in the absolute certainty by which it is advanced is not a thing to necessarily be commended. Arguing from absolutes refuses to recoginze the value of your opponents position. Those who believe that Terri should have been left to die are painted as inhuman and inhumane monsters for snuffing out this delicate flower so in need of our protection. But if this warm bag of cells that was once a person is now nothing more than that, a warm bag lacking all of the divine spark making it human, what then? Is it really such a crime to let this thing go.

    We do not know what makes us human, what part of our brain houses our essence. I hope we never learn. To say absolutely that this thing that once was a person, while technically living, has life, seems far beyond the realm of our understanding. We are forced to make a judgment, to interpret that which we do not know, in hopes that we make the right decision. There are no absolutes in this decision.

    That is why there are courts, to weigh these matters and make decisions, with input from all of those with a personal (not political) stake in the outcome. The parents have had an ample opportunity to present their side, it has been argued and argued and argued again, they could not convince a trial judge, appellate court state supreme court, federal district court, federal appellate court or the Supremes that Terri would have wanted anything else than to be left alone to die.


    Also, fuck Jesse

  8. Well, if you and the Shill have that kind of understanding, whatever you and Jesse want to do… it’s not my business.

    But, Christ, it’s easy enough to knock Jackson, but he’s not the clergy person who proclaimed her death war against God.

    So, if it’s just about his opportunism, I can’t see how he’s any different than any other clergy person who’s weighed in, and I can’t work up enough emotion to even give a shit.

  9. In other words, if you want to knock Jackson for being one of a kind with all the other clergy folks that have no personal relationship with the family, that’s fine with me.

    But, if he makes you nervous because he’s outspoken and Black, and we’re just talking around that, let’s keep frith and not go there.

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