Monday, April 04, 2005

#157 - Death Watch du Jour

It's been interesting to note how the world reacts to death. Or, I should say, it's interesting to note how the media wants us to see how the world reacts.

With Terri Schiavo there appeared to be a huge following of people who wanted - desperately - to empathize with her suffering. Not the brain damage, mind you. It was the family struggle that seemed to spur most people into one corner or another. I, for one, cannot for the life of me figure out why her husband was so dead-set against handing care of his wife over to her parents, who certainly seemed perfectly willing to handle her care and keeping for the rest of her natural life. It has made absolutely no sense to me.

Then again, I'm a little worried about letting the judicial system handle this sort of problem. Worse still was having Congress turn it into a political statement. No; circus, really. If the issue boiled down to the argument of whether a given person has the "right" to die, please let the participants be those who can still speak for themselves. Making Terri the poster child for this issue violated her right to suffer privately. There was no reason to parade her through the public square in order to press a point.

Has my mind been made up on all of these points? Absolutely not. As I mentioned before, there but for grace...

Unfortunately, any time the media gets involved in these affairs, the whole spectacle reminds me of vultures circling some wretched animal just before the final blow. Reporters swoop in and out like so many scavengers, making what they hope to heaven is a profound statement on the human "angle" of the story, then riding the crest to yet another journalistic prize. Terri lies dying while the J-school knock-offs make their marks on the story. Watching the reporting of this tragedy has reminded me forcefully of the reporters in "The Right Stuff" who were always accompanied by the sound of plague-carrying insects. How appropriate.

Even with the passing of a spiritual leader, such as the Pope, the circus changes nothing but the tent. Same tired acts, new tent.

I'll grant you that the passing of a Pope is of great interest to me. The Catholic church has fascinated me for decades as an academic study, and I'm very much interested in watching the process of selecting a new Pontiff as it unfolds. Succession in the LDS church is nothing if not predictable, and there's nothing political about it. That's why it intrigues me to watch a religion deal with its own political issues in something as significant as choosing its next spiritual head.

In the meantime, rather than merely report on the failing condition and eventual passing of a great man, the media had to turn it into Death Watch du Jour. The ticket hawkers sat pompously at their anchor desks and barked for everyone's attention. "Getcher front row seats right here! Witness the gripping drama! Watch bereaved Catholics everywhere! And don't forget: we still have a chance to sway church policy about such media-critical issues as women in the priesthood and gay marriage!"

Oh, yeah. Couldn't forget that.

So now the death watch has turned into a social-issues watch. Terri and John Paul II are dead.

Long live their controversies.

No comments: