Terri Schiavo may soon find a place in flat-liner heaven, thus ending the legal battles about who decides when and whether to feed her. But the real Schiavo Wars are just beginning. In the next decade, the pace of federal litigation on issues relating to the beginning and end of life will quicken; a new assault on privacy will blossom. Will liberty survive?
A God-intoxicated faction of Bible-thumping thugs scored a major victory in the newfound war on privacy. Congress was bullied into behaving as little more than a rubber stamp. To Hell with the deliberative process; God is calling, and the righteous demand that we listen.
Remember Madison's letter to Jefferson?
"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents."
Shorn of its eighteenth century trappings, it comes down to this: Beware the mob. And there is no mob more frightening than those persuaded to a moral certainty that God has cut his way through the cosmic clutter to speak directly to them.
Days after tears are shed over the burying of Ms. Schiavo this new lion will roar.
Gay marriage? Against the will of God.
Abortion? Only God gives and takes life.
Prayer in the schools? Self-evidently good.
Evolution? The dogma of the religion of "secular humanism."
And on and on it will go.
The orthodox beliefs of the pork-fed, polyester clad, Walmart-lovin' Middle American angst junkies will become a new national standard. The righteous bent Congress to its will once; what's another run at a spiritual coup? Pity the heterodoxical too dense to consent to redemption.
The federal courts withstood the recent spasm of Schiavism. But a court-packing president with ties to the religious right will be looking to a new kind of jurist, one more inclined to give the mob what it wants.
It is frightening. Those of us who aren't members of Club Righteousness have good reason to worry. I am not a member of church or synagogue. I am, however, an American, and I always thought that meant I was supposed to tolerate those with different beliefs. I thought it meant I was to be let alone to scuplt my own responses to life's larger questions.
I am looking forward to the next decade. Find me a courthouse, 'cause I'm spoiling for a fight.