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March 22, 2005

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Mark Kaplan

Glad you found the post useful in clarifying some of what is at stake here. Regarding the pro-Lifers, I'm still not sure I've managed to account for 'the casual familiarity with they refer to 'Terri', discarding the surname, as if she were a member of the family.' I wondered what your thoughts were on this.

Mark Kaplan

(should read 'with which they refer to 'Terri')

RIPope

Mark, maybe removing her proper name removes her from the Symbolic. So she becomes, as you say, the pure abstract point of life as, in fact, undead. If they were to acknowledge her by her proper name, they might have to take into consideration her wishes...
Instead 'Terri' serves simply as a foil, an Imaginary focal point...

Jodi

I think RIPope's suggestion is interesting. Mine is more mundane. I think that if they say her last name, they link her to her husband, whom they want to disavow. So, to that extent, they would be, as RIPope suggests, placing her within a version of the Symbolic that they don't want to acknowledge. It would be interesting to know if in the circumstance that her name were her father's would the same phenomenon hold. I would guess not, that the name of the Father would be appropriate here, an acceptance of his authority.

Now, is Terri an imaginary focal point? And, what does this do to the analysis of abstract life emptied of personal particular living? Maybe the name 'Terri' as the placeholder for the imaginary person in the videos etc, as the placeholder for hopes is also what the fantasy that prevents them from confronting the Real of excess life. So, I'm agreeing with RIPope but adding the other side of the coin, as it were.

So, does this work? There could well be better ways to think about it ....

RIPope

Intriguing. I too am not sure it is necessarily the best way to go about it, but it is one way.
It's certainly not the Imaginary as the friendly neighbour, but perhaps it does partake of the Imaginary as the realm of aggressivity.
I'm not entirely satisfied with this, since the abstract point emptied of personal living is in some sense the Symbolic.
But whereas the Symbolic bears a relation to the Real (and the excess of life), it is precisely this Real that is snuffed out in 'Terri'.
So: 'Terri' as friend, at a distance.
Still not totally satisfied, but it's a stab...

Jodi

Maybe 'Terri' is just the marker of the Thing of excess life, the way of designating it within the order of language. So, 'Terri' is Symbolic in a minimal, mundane sense, imaginary in the sense of filling out the gap in the Symbolic and designating a fantasy space through which run the video images, and the gap of the Real of abstract, persistent life, in its horrifying, undead, drive.

Mark Kaplan

Thanks for those suggestive replies. My thoughts, as typed out last night are:

Its certainly about distancing her from the husband (who is simultaneously demonised - a fascinating issue in itself); it's also about removing her symbolic registration -constantly referring to her as 'Terri Schiavo' would sound too rational/ legalistic for their purposes; I think there's possibly also some sort of imaginary identification going on - 'Terri' returns to them all their investments without resitance. It's the appropriation of her tragic emptiness by their fantasy.

(This very process is a practiced one in our 'spectacular' culture - think of the way 'media commodities' like Princess Diana were invested with subjective wishes and fantasies by consumers, leading to a related fantasy of closeness and familiarity.)

I would have thought, though, that the sense of Terri as undead, as an excess or marker of the Thing, is precisely what the faux intimacies of 'Terri' are trying to deny?

Jodi

I said it very, very badly--what I meant was that the Thing is present, the abstract, undead, persevering Life. But how can this be registered in the Symbolic? That would be too horrifying, too shameful--a confrontation with castration. So, the Thing is present abstractly as the repeated appeal to culture of life and all the other pro-life stuff (as you explain far better in the original post that started all this). But, in the present situation in all its particularity, it can't be called or referred to as monstrous undead life. The excess is present as this but can't be acknowledged as this, so 'Terri' is the spot that the undead life occupies but in the safe fantasy version of an imaginary 'Terri.' Imaginary on the side of the Real, here, as the two versions of the same person. And, it may also be the case that part of the attraction of the whole awful case is the directness of the confrontation of the alliance of the imaginary and the Real at the cost of the Symbolic--the words are really falling apart, practices of meaning and signification, the workings of law, the regular mundance acceptances of decisions of doctors and judges, are treated as so much nonsense, as mere 'opinions' offered by those who are corrupt, biased, and even evil.

Mai

Since feminism was successfully transformed under the banner of neo-liberalism as yet another consumer option,('the right to shoes')a kind of backlash movement has emerged, particularly in 'Red States', where local economies have been crushed under the weight of Wal-Mart. The adherents to this new religion are for the most part, politically and econonically disenfranchised women seeking an outlet for their rage and despair. 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.

There are virtually hundreds of websites where these ghoulish mourners gather to say grave side 'prayers' for 'Laci' and 'Baby Connor'. And with Scott Peterson's conviction out of the way, they have now moved on to hold bedside candlelight vigils for Terri Shiavo, whose vegetative state reflects their own.

It's not hard to understand why Michael Shiavo has become the official anti-Christ of this movement. For these women, he is the personification of every ex-husband to be; the all-too-common deadbeat 'ex' who would literally cut them off the life-support system of alimony and/or child support. And now it seems, a callously patriarchal system is throwing its weight behind him, just proving that when a wife is no longer 'productive', a man still has the right to make life or death decisions for her, even if he has long since discarded her for a new-and-improved model.

Mai

Since feminism was successfully transformed under the banner of neo-liberalism as yet another consumer option,('the right to shoes')a kind of backlash movement has emerged, particularly in 'Red States', where local economies have been crushed under the weight of Wal-Mart. The adherents to this new religion are for the most part, politically and econonically disenfranchised women seeking an outlet for their rage and despair. 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.

There are virtually hundreds of websites where these ghoulish mourners gather to say grave side 'prayers' for 'Laci' and 'Baby Connor'. And with Scott Peterson's conviction out of the way, they have now moved on to hold bedside candlelight vigils for Terri Shiavo, whose vegetative state reflects their own.

It's not hard to understand why Michael Shiavo has become the official anti-Christ of this movement. For these women, he is the personification of every ex-husband to be; the all-too-common deadbeat 'ex' who would literally cut them off the life-support system of alimony and/or child support. And now it seems, a callously patriarchal system is throwing its weight behind him, just proving that when a wife is no longer 'productive', a man still has the right to make life or death decisions for her, even if he has long since discarded her for a new-and-improved model.

Patrick J. Mullins

'whose vegetative state reflects their own.' Oh, that's excellent, and that opens up the whole desire for vegetative existence, which we can now see as having become so fantastically popular. Those 'mourners' for Laci, etc., are good choices, but even 'functioning vegetables' are now the mode. For example, Jodi put Peggy Noonan's 'Wall Street Journal' piece below. That's Schiavo's vegetative state reflecting Peggy's own. I mean, how much more vegetative can you friggin' get than an article by Peggy Noonan. I realize how selfish I've become by insulating myself from such atrocious writing, simply incredible that she uses the term 'strange-o' in a major publication. However, I expect to go back to my own vegetative ignorance of Ms. Noonan. Anyway, I think Ms. Noonan secretly wishes to live a little more like Ms. Schiavo--it's a lot less hyper than what her own vegetable usually does. She's one of the loudest of the talking vegetable heads when allowed on. Since my own vegetable protects me from the Sunday talk shows by now, I don't know if the other vegetables have let her on there for awhile.

mai

I don't know how I managed to post the same thing twice, so my apologies for the error. Patrick, I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make here. That Peggy Noonan is a vegetable? I think 'necrophiliac' is more like it. She certainly has the tendency to insinuate herself with the dead: Ronald Reagan, the late Senator Paul Wellstone (on whom she performed a post-mortum act of ventriloquism and had him criticizing his mourners for their 'partisan' eulogies) and now flatliner, Terri Shiavo.

But then again, necrophilia has always been atthe center of rightwing ideology, as evidenced by their preoccupations with aborted fetuses, murdered moppets, and dead Jesus. Not surprisingly, the living, breathing version doesn't promote the Republican agenda as well as the meat puppet one.

Unctious ghouls like Peggy Noonan represent Empire's 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 false piety.

Apolgies in advance if this commentary appears in duplicate again.

Patrick J. Mullins

Oh, I'll go with necrophilia too, it's just that she's so completely non-existent that she just seems to be a 'vegetable in motion', and I was just playing around with the fact of her wish fulfillments--I mean it must be exhausting being that obnoxious and loud all the time. In general, am finding a lot more attraction to the idea of the individual vegetable in America--the society definitely is promoting it in every way.

George W.

I've been doing my best to ignore this latest controvercy...but I cant help but wonder, why doen't Mr.Sh just "give" Terri back to her parents as they want him too. (Yes transferring the passive female from one man to another is patriarchal, but then so is having life and death powers over your wife...) According to Michael, Terry would not have wanted to be kept alive in that way, but then he has already moved on to a new partner, nor does he seem the greevious kind, so why is he going through all this trouble to have her be dead. And the parents do seem to have a clear case that he just wants to keep more of the money that came from the malpractice suit. Plus, he only "remembered" what she wanted in the last 2 years. Why doesnt he just divorce her, or leave her...why does he care to have her gone so much while already having two kids with another woman.

And I understand that the Left needs to oppose the Right and so on. And if Bush wants to sign it it must be bad. And yes there is all the undead anti-feminist stuff. But it's just a bit that his' is the side we are taking. I mean...just think of Terri's mother...yes her daughter is a vegetable, but you cant blaime her for having hope, even if against all odds, that's what mothers do. And given that her daughter is literally starving to death in front of her (for another week), because of the wishes of some man, I cant even imagine what she is going through, and I cant really blame her for fighting in whatever way she can against Michael, even with an alliance with Bush. And to a point, my sympathies are with the parents, they have nothing to gain, but not having to see their daughter fade away, while they feel they could have done something.

Yes...Bush is hyppocrite for signing that law in Texas, so hopefully we can use that to tarnish him a bit. And yes this is a pro-life rallying point, but does the left has to support Michael? This is not an exact right to death case, as we dont really know what Terry wanted. So at this point, the ACLU and the "liberals" just seem to be defending a husbands right to do as he pleases. Couldn't we just stay out of this one, let the controvercy die, let Terry be a vegetable under her parents care, and move on to more important issues?

George W.

here is a link to a statement put out by her parents - it seems pretty straighforward
http://www.terrisfight.org/press/Press%20Release%20Counter%20Michael.htm

Matt

Straightforward in a wingnut sort of way. Clearly they would prefer to place the blame for their daughter's condition solely on him and his "crocodile tears." The same misplaced, vengeful sentimentalism that is dignified by death penalty cases, it might be noted. But hey, it makes good Tevee. They remind me of Chet Baker's first wife and kids, actually. A kind of bland and banal delusion and fundamental insensitivity.

Jodi

Mai,
Fantastic reading of the women who grieve for themselves as they grieve for Terri. It also makes me think of this culture of grief as a kind of desperate way to feel something, to access the Real, as it were, but a way that fails miserably and sadly as it gets quickly coopted and ingested by the gaping maw of the media and its right-wing drivers. It makes me think of the intensification of therapy culture, of dealing with grief, of grieving as the only way to live or the only way to cope with the life that has been provided.

The only thing that makes me a tad skeptical on the empirical side, Mai, is recent poll data that suggests that 82% of Americans are against Congressional and administrative involvement. But, now that I think about it, being against their involvement doesn't say anything about people's, women's investment in the issue, so I've now changed my mind again. Thanks for the comment!

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