Reality bites …

Fred Thompson voices why he disagrees with social conservatives on the Terry Schiavo case …

“Obviously, I knew about the Schiavo case,” he said. “I had to face a situation like that in my own personal life with my own daughter.”

Mr. Thompson was visibly flustered by the question.

“I am a little bit uncomfortable about that because it is an intensely personal thing with me,” he said. “These things need to be decided by the family. And I was at that bedside. And I had to make those decisions with the rest of my family.”

Reading the full article, I find myself really empathizing with Thompson.  Not because I’ve also had to make a ‘pull the plug’ decision, thankfully I haven’t. And not even on the Schiavo issue so much; when it happened I supported the Republicans.  But rather, when a political issue showed up on his doorstep in the form of an intensely personal tragedy, he found the social conservative’s position over-bearing, unwelcome, and just a plain bad idea.

About two years ago, I considered myself a hard right wing conservative.  (In truth I never was, I’ve been a libertarian conservative since about 5th grade, but that’s what everyone told me I was, so I believed it) I realized that ALL of my major conflicts with conservative ideas, whether the issue was drugs, immigration,  consumer protections, or civil liberties, stemmed from either my own personal experiences, or the experiences of close friends.  That in itself was extremely enlightening, and made me realize that I’d have to take another look at all my views, including those with which I did not have the same personal experience.  If the right was wrong on every issue I had personal experience with, were they just as wrong on the ones I didn’t?

Eventually, I’ve come to believe that part of the problem is that many of these issues are treated as ‘theoreticals’ by politically minded people on both sides.  The problem, of course, is that life isn’t theoretical, and the effects of these policies are not theoretical either.  Every one of these policies affects a number of people, sometimes intensely so.

If there’s one thing I learned from this revelation, it was that policy-making can not, and should not, be ever separated from human compassion and emotion.   Because, in reality, every situation, Terri Schiavo being a perfect example, is intensely personal to at least a few people.  This argument alone is the single greatest refutation to ‘mandatory minimums’, another conservative idea that in reality is plainly horrible.  A ‘logic-only’ policy, whether it’s disguised as ‘common sense’ or ‘sticking to principles’ by the gasbags on tv, precludes any appeal to human emotion or weakness.  This in itself is illogical, as our policies are targeted to only one kind of creature, the human creature, who is inevitably bound by human emotions and frailties.  The left gave this idea a terrible name in the 80’s, as they basically used appeals to emotion as an excuse to ignore the Constitution.  Now, ironically, remembering these appeals could help the right REMEMBER that the Constitution still exists.   Perhaps we could start moving away from such idiotic and anti-American ideas as extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the unitary executive, and mass deportations.

Nonetheless, the government has no way to act using compassion and emotion.  Even the courts, the one area of government where judges DO typically consider each personal situation in handing down punishments, have been crippled in how they can consider the human condition by the aforementioned mandatory minimums.  The government is bound by law to treat all equally and without bias.  But life demands bias.  No two situations are ever the same. Ever.  And that, perhaps, is as clear a calling there is for the case of limited government.  In other words,  as Thompson realized with Terri Schiavo, there are plenty of times when the government just needs to butt out.

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