March 19, 2005

Gag Reflex


Back in graduate school, I had a professor who liked to talk about “Bubbe logic.” 

If your not familiar with the term, it refers to a simple method to tell if something is logical or not.  In my instructor’s case, he would take anything he wasn’t sure made sense and try to explain it to his 93 year old grandmother.  If he could make it understandable to her, it made sense.  If not, there was something wrong with it.

When I saw this shot in Thursday’s NYT, my first thought was about Bubbe.

It’s my feeling that, since the election, the radical right has been overreaching.  I say this because they seem to have forgotten how to put a good metaphor together.  Just look at the semantic problems they’ve been having with Social Security, for example.  This protest suffers along the same lines. 

I guess what these people are trying to say is, if you don’t feed Terry Schiavo (the brain dead women in Florida whose husband has been allowed to have her feeding tube removed) you are taking her life.  The problem with the picture, however, is that it would leave poor Bubbe scratching her head.

If my professor had sat down and explained all the facts of this case to his dear grandmother, I could just imagine some of her questions:

In taping over their mouths, are these protesters suggesting that they are being denied the right to give life to their views? 

If Mrs. Schiavo’s brain has essentially been reduced to spinal fluid, and any life-like behavior on her part is simply the result of involuntary reflexes, what do these folks mean by “life?”

If credible courts have repeatedly heard this case, and have consistently ruled that it was Mrs. Schiavo’s intent not to be kept alive in this manner, than who exactly is being silenced?

What’s with the placement of the tape if Mrs. Schiavo’s subsistence has no oral aspect to it, and her nutrition is provided solely through a gastric tube?

Considering that the heart attack which led to Mrs. Schaivo’s brain damage was caused by bulimia, couldn’t these protester be seen as attacking her?  (In other words, what would prevent Bubbe from reading this picture as saying: “If you had just kept your food down, you’d still have a life today”?)

Finally, Bubbe might ask if the protesters believe life lasts forever …just as long as nobody breaths a word otherwise.

(background on the Schiavo case here)

(image: Chris O’Meara/AP in YahooNews)


Random notes:

>>This post re-edited 3/20/05 to reflect proper Yiddish.  As kindly pointed out to me,
Bubba is a pejorative for rural folk.  My instructor’s Bubbe, however, was a Jewish immigrant living in the San Fernando Valley.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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