Monday, March 21, 2005

MH - "Err on the Side of Life" the theme of today's Lileks column, which manages the herculean feat of linking Terri, Elian Gonzalez, and Star Trek, and makes it work. His main target: the knee-jerk lefties who find something to support in every liberal cause, and something to oppose in every situation that even smacks of "life." Says Lileks, "Some people wouldn’t care at all if she died, unless she had been the sole occupant of a hospital in Baghdad leveled by an errant Tomahawk; then you’d see her face in every protest march."

What I find particularly interesting is his tie-in to classic Star Trek; specifically, the episode that features the crippled former Enterprise captain, Pike:
I remember being horrified by him as a kid, because it seemed the perfect smothering claustrophobia nightmare: unable to exist outside a motorized iron lung, face scarred to immobility, unable to communicate beyond a pathetic beep. But it never occurred to us why he was still alive, why someone hadn’t slipped him the needle or put a pillow over his face in the dark of night. That didn’t seem like an option. No, you suffered, and you suffered like this.

Of course, we all know what happened, right? An elaborate plan was set in motion to steal the flagship of the fleet, proceed to a restricted location one could not visit without pain of execution (if I remember correctly, going to Talos IV was the sole capital crime left on the books – which meant that the death penalty had been eliminated, presumably as a sign of enlightenment) and return the crippled man to the land of the giant throbby-head-vein librarians so he could live out his life in his head, free from physical constraints.


But wouldn’t it have been easier for Spock just to come back and kill Pike for his own good? Wouldn’t it have been logical?
What's so interesting (to me) about this line of thought is that it points out how addled our times have become. Here we are in the '60s, the free-loving, authority-challenging, anything-goes decade, talking about Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry's bastion of secular humanism (and before anyone writes to complain, I loved the original Star Trek, humanism and all); yet when it comes to the idea that the distant, enlightened future would permit mercy killing - well, apparently that was unthinkable even to them. As Lileks says, it just wasn't "logical."

Lileks presents a balanced approach - he can understand those who might, in the name of compassion, sincerely think that death is the best for Terri, but he has nothing but contempt for "those who hear 'err on the side of life' and automatically bristle, because they hear the voice of someone who, damn their black and God-addled brain, once sent $10 to a politician who opposed parental notification law that did not have a judicial review." His conclusion about these "God-addled" types? "You may not always agree with that sort of person. You may have no need for them. But you never think you have need of any chocks until you're in the truck, and you realize it's rolling down the hill. Backwards."

Isn't that the slippery slope we're all afraid of?

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