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Made-for-TV Martyrs and the Angels of Death

Terri Schiavo: America’s Most Desperate Housewife?

by JENNIFER MATSUI

The feeding tube frenzy swirling around ‘America’s Most Wanted Desperate Housewife’, Terri Shiavo, just proves how rightwing ‘compassion’ is reserved excusively for those who can’t defend themselves against unctious vultures smothering them in false piety ie: the comatose, embryos, slain moppets, and dead-on-the-cross Jesus. (Clearly, the Mel Gibson meat puppet version of Christ does a better job promoting the Republican agenda than the living, breathing political agitator who scorned the wealthy and believed in taxes.)

Similarly, these angels of death have made martyrs out of Jon Benet Ramsey, Laci Peterson and now Terri Shiavo – people they had no interest in in life, but whom they now fetishize in death. Necrophilia has always been at the center of wingnut ideology, as evidenced by their preoccupations with the unborn and the undead. And no one personifies the rightwing death cult agenda more than Peggy Noonan, who has made a career for herself insinuating herself with corpses: chief among her involuntary love puppets, Ronald Reagan, and the late Senator Paul Wellstone (on whom she famously performed a post-mortum act of ventriloquism and had him criticizing his mourners for their ‘partisan’ eulogies at his own funeral).

Miss Peggy now leads America’s rising professional class of funeral mourners – the paid strangers who will sob over an open coffin to give the impression that their intended victims merit these public convulsions of fake compassion. There are virtually hundreds of websites where such ghoulish mourners can gather to say graveside ‘prayers’ for Laci Peterson and ‘Baby Connor’. And with Scott Peterson’s conviction out of the way, they’ve now moved on to hold cyber vigils for Terri Shiavo, whose vegetative state reflects their own diminished role in decision making.

Since feminism was successfully transformed under the banner of neo-liberalism into just another consumer option,(‘The right to Shoes’) a kind of backlash women’s movement has emerged in the ‘Red States’, where local communities have been crushed under the weight of Wal-Mart and Evangelical Christianity. The adherents to this new religion are for the most part, politically and econonically disenfranchised women seeking an outlet for their feelings of rage and hopelessness. With McMedia spurring them on with its wall-to-wall coverage of sensational trials, these women have adopted the silent symbols of gender inequity like Nicole Simpson, Laci Peterson, (and now Terri Shiavo) as their official martyrs. According to this rather nihilistic interpretation of feminism, dead women demand and deserve ‘justice’ while living ones go on maintaining the status-quo.

It’s not hard to understand why Michael Shiavo has become the official anti-Christ of this movement. For these women, he’s the personification of every ex-husband in progress; the all-too-common deadbeat ‘ex’ who would literally cut them off the life-support system of alimony and/or child support. For them, Terri Shiavo’s feeding tube has become a symbol of their own disengagement from the institutional safety nets that Republicans have successfully dismantled, leaving them literallly hanging on to life while more powerful men decide their fate. And just when the world seemed safe from Atlanta shooter hostage, Ashley Smith and the author of her inspirational bedside reading material ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, McMedia shifts gears to clog the airwaves with 24 hour coverage of another ‘Woman on the Verge of a Spiritual Makeover’, Terri Shiavo.

From the moment Jeb Bush’s big brother stood in front of a rigged Diebold voting machine on November 2nd and declared ‘Mission Accomplished’, cable and network news began inserting words like ‘faith’ and ‘miracle’ into their teleprompters in a cynical shift rightwards to cash in on all those ‘faith-based’ votes.

McMedia Corp’s willingness to embed itself with the enemy was presciently satirized in ‘The Simpson’s’ a few years back. Most ‘Simpson’s’ fans probably remember the episode where obsequious and opportunistic news anchor, Kent Brockman, hastily announces his allegiance to giant space ants on air after Homer (who’s orbitting the earth in a space shuttle) accidentally tips over his ant farm, releasing hundreds of the tiny antennaed creatures throughout the space craft. When they appear on camera looking like giant alien fiends poised for world domination, Springfield’s own ‘Aaron Brown Rather’ briefly welcomes them as his new bosses before he realizes his mistake. Little has changed in the years since, as mainstream news hacks continue to prostrate themselves before their new masters to become the official mouthpieces (and butt plugs) for Jerry Falwell and Tom DeLay.

After the Colombine Highschool massacre in 1999, McMedia went on a rampage through the well-manicured streets of Littleton, Colorada, looking for clues as to how this particular tragedy could have happened, and psychoanalyzing every little aspect of life in an otherwise picture perfect community. By contrast, the invisible inhabitants of the Red Lake Indian Reservation (where the latest school massacre took place) are considered unworthy subjects for pop-psychologists and armchair experts since they fall into a class and income bracket which renders them irrelevant to the interests of ‘real Americans’. Perhaps if the average American ever got a glimpse into life on an Indian reservation, they might just abandon their comfortably held delusions about the ‘Land of the Free’ and feel less inclined to celebrate the ‘American West’ and cheer for the ‘Redskins’. The realization of a genocide going on in your own backyard tends to put a damper on the BBQ festivities.

And without these myths to pin their illusions on, these Americans would have to suffer the consequences of a wake up call – something that certainly doesn’t bode well for the ratings-driven media, who spin these urban legends at the behest of their CEO bosses. Cherokee jeeps and Disney Pocohontas DVD’s would have a harder sell if the media ever stopped embedding itself in the suburbs. This may explain why Colombine survivors have become the official mouthpieces of this tragedy and the people of Red Lake have become a ‘First Nation’ of Terri Shiavos; long cut off at the decision making level and silent witnesses to their own extinction.

So it’s better to dismiss teen shooter, Jeff Weise as an anomoly ("the neo-nazi Indian kid") and expend our energies on worthier recipients of our compassion like Terri Shiavo, who conveniently for everyone, remains silent on the subject of her tormentors.

JENNIFER MATSUI lives in Japan. She can be reached at: catcat@s3.ocv.ne.jp