Monday, March 21, 2005

The Definition of Chutzpah

You may have heard the following definition of chutzpah: a boy kills both his parents in cold blood. Arrested and brought before the judge, he throws himself on the mercy of the court -- as an orphan.

James Taranto at Opinion Journal's "Best of the Web" reminds us of that old joke with an excellent deconstruction of the "marital rights" argument:

Till Death Do Them Part?

. . . According to news reports, Mr. Schiavo lives with a woman named Jodi Centonze, and they have two children together. Surely any court would consider this prima facie evidence of adultery. And this is no mere fling; a sympathetic 2003 profile in the Orlando Sentinel described Centonze as Mr. Schiavo's "fiancée." Mr. Schiavo, in other words, has virtually remarried. Short of outright bigamy, his relationship with Centonze is as thoroughgoing a violation of his marriage vows as it is possible to imagine.

The point here is not to castigate Mr. Schiavo for behaving badly. It would require a heroic degree of self-sacrifice for a man to forgo love and sex in order to remain faithful to an incapacitated wife, and it would be unreasonable to hold an ordinary man to a heroic standard.

But it is equally unreasonable to let Mr. Schiavo have it both ways. If he wishes to assert his marital authority to do his wife in, the least society can expect in return is that he refrain from making a mockery of his marital obligations. The grimmest irony in this tragic case is that those who want Terri Schiavo dead are resting their argument on the fiction that her marriage is still alive.

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