The perplexing, appalling, heartbreaking Terri Schiavo case brings very modestly to mind Socrates' injunction that the proper study of philosophy is man. Perhaps the great Socrates could make the study of man a useful endeavor, but if the Schiavo case is any example, most of the rest of us don't seem up to the task.
But there is nothing new in recognizing man's heroic inadequacies. Consider the first stanza of the Christian, Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope's "The Proper Study of Mankind":
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Skeptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest, In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast; In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer, Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err, Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd; Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of Truth, in endless error hurl'd: The glory, jest and riddle of the world!
I would say that pretty neatly sums up the human handling of the Schiavo matter. It seems that every contrivance of man has fallen short on behalf of the helpless Terri Schiavo.
The law, that vital foundation of our civilization, seems incapable of getting to justice of any sort in this sad case. If it is justice to end her life, the law has so developed that a painless injection would be illegal, while the only legal method -- starvation and dehydration to death -- would be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment if it were inflicted on a convicted mass murderer.
If it is justice to find a caring relative to take care of her, the law is debarred from reaching out to the waiting, loving arms of her parents and brother -- being obliged to honor the primary relationship of marriage over the secondary relationship of parenthood -- despite the doubts as to the wandering spouse's sincerity of concern.
If it is justice to leave to science to determine the certainty of her permanent unconsciousness, then science has failed to respond decisively to that call. Perhaps in a few years the science of the brain will advance sufficiently to tell a doctor precisely of what a human brain is aware.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.