Thursday, March 31, 2005

Disturbing accusations

We've all heard them by now, the most disturbing accusations of all regarding the Schiavo tragedy:

No one has investigated nor seems to even care that the night that this happened to Terri they had had a huge fight. She had confided to family members and friends that he had become abusive and controlling. She was advised not to go home that night but to spend the night with a girlfriend but she went home. Hours later he called Bob Schindler saying Terri was on the floor hurt. He did not call 911 first.

In recent years, the Schindlers have repeatedly publicly accused Michael of strangling their daughter and the press has reported it widely. This is disturbing if it is true, and disturbing if it is not true.

I'm not sure who allegedly advised her not to go home that night. All I know is that, if I were that person, I would have been at Terri's side---or at least on the phone---first thing the next morning to make sure she was OK. Once I found out that she was in the hospital, unresponsive, I would have been in contact with the police immediately, filing a report. I would have been at the hospital, pointing out the marks of strangulation that every doctor and nurse mysteriously missed. I would have told the Schindlers everything I knew. I would not have been silent for a moment.

But that's not what happened. Instead, no mention of strangling and abuse was raised until years later. In the meantime, Michael called the Schindlers "Mom" and "Dad"; they cared for Terri together; they even moved in together. Is this how you would treat the person who tried to murder your daughter?

And, during all these years, the person who warned Terri that night remained silent. Perhaps he/she forgot the whole thing. Perhaps he/she was too busy to do or say anything. Perhaps he/she thought it was none of his/her business. I don't know. But, somehow, years later, after the Schindler-Schiavo feuding began, this person came forward and suddently decided to speak out.

If it's true, I'd like to know who this person is and why they hated Terri so much. Because I find such silence and complicity in attempted murder to be hateful.

If it's not true, then the false accuser is immoral beyond words.

But there is another question I cannot shake: if Terry was strangled, why did not one doctor or nurse in the emergency room notice this?

I wonder how many of my readers have ever had someone's hands around their throats in an attempt to choke them. I have.

My choking story

When I was a brown belt, training for my black belt in the martial arts, I decided to put some of the self-defense techniques I'd learned to the test. Warning: do not try this at home! I would not advise that anyone do what I am about to describe.

I trusted my instructor implicitly. He is a grandmaster, the founder of his own system, and has been teaching publicly for 45 years. Besides, he said he loved me like a daughter. I trusted him with my life and trusted his skills and abilities to do what I was going to ask him to do.

What I asked him to do was to choke me. Of course, I wanted to survive the attempt, and I knew he wouldn't accidentally crush my windpipe or injure me in any way. To make a long story short, one day I stood in the training hall and he put his hands around my neck and choked me enough to cut off my air, while also putting pressure on my carotoid arteries.

Obviously I survived. But what if my faith in his skills had been misplaced? What if he hadn't known his own strength and had accidentally caused me severe injury? What if he had not loved me like a daughter but had secretly been hoping for the chance to kill his pesky student? If I had survived his murder attempt, he could have had me rushed to the hospital, claiming that I had myseriously collapsed while working out. Perhaps I had bulimia. Perhaps my asthma-like symptoms were really a heart condition.

No doctor or nurse, after the most cursory glance in my direction, would have believed him for a minute. They would have demanded, "Oh yeah, buddy? Then how do you explain the strangulation marks around her neck?"

You see, after our training exercise, which involved one controlled attempt at applying a choke, rather than an attempt to choke or strangle me to death, I left the training hall worried that someone was going to think I was the victim of attempted murder. (One of the dubious pleasures of training in the martial arts is having to explain to concerned non-martial-artists that my assorted bruises do not mean that I am the victim of abuse.)

Doctors and nurses are trained to notice these things. I was relieved that, when I was rushed to the hospital after having what we now refer to as my "fake heart attack", that I hadn't been practicing any front choke escapes recently. It was bad enough to have to explain the bruises on my arms. Being dressed in my martial arts uniform at the time helped.

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