I am beginning to wonder whether we have woken up in some parallel political universe, where what established parties traditionally stand for has been overturned by vote-grabbing, publicity-seeking or (just perhaps) new beliefs founded on sane reasons. (Actually, I doubt the latter.) (Other political parties at some point - the Republicans have me thinking at the moment.)
So why am I saying this? The case of Terri Schiavo, the Floridian who has been in a "persistent vegetative state" (according to court-appointed doctors) for fifteen years, has prompted Republican leaders to attempt to rush through Congress emergency legislation which will cause Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube to be reinserted. The President has even flown back from Crawford to sign the bill - should it pass.
The actions of the Republicans are government interference in the lives of individuals, the sort of action the Republican party was founded to oppose. The Republicans claim 'big government' will not supplant individual freedom, but here a private matter has been turned into a political pigskin. More than this, the government is trying to overturn the independence of the judiciary, first with the Congressional sub poenas for Mr. and Mrs. Schiavo to appear in Washington (i.e. she would have to be kept alive), now with the putative bill. The Republicans use the hateful phrase "activist judges legislating from the bench" to describe any interpretation of law by judges which they disagree with (to wit, gay marriage in Massachusetts, Ten Commandments scupltures in government buildings, et al); I suppose this activist Congress legislating against judges is acceptable.
So why would the Republican party interfere, when their theoretical guiding philosophy has demanded non-intervention? (And we're not talking international non-intervention, since Central and South American and Caribbean governments have felt the gentle revolutionary touch of Republican governments - and Democratic ones too, in fairness [but Democrats at least do not stake a claim to non-interference].) They interfere for the same reason as their policies have shifted even further to the right: religion. From the supporters of Terri Schiavo's parents (who oppose the tube removal), who are "prayerfully excited", to Republican senators who "had been provided with talking points about how to respond to requests about the Schiavo case, which was described by party aides as a "great political issue" that resonates with Christian conservatives" (NYT, 20.3.05), we find the malign hand of God in action, manifest in Republican policies. (I'm amazed their manifestos aren't written on two stone tablets.)
The influence of God on Republican policies is evident, just as the Democrats too make a show of divine allegiance. This case is no longer about Mrs. Schiavo but about God and betrayal of political beliefs for said Almighty. Forgotten are the circumstances of the case, which are now in a religious nexus, inextricable, intractable. From an atheist's point of view, it all seems rather unhelpful.