This doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Schiavo case, but I thought John Derbyshire’s choice of analogies was somewhat amusing.
—[Reader] Why don’t you just come right out and say you want to kill Terri Schiavo?
—[JD] Because I am a person who tries to be scrupulous in my use of language. If I hear someone say: “I want to kill X,” that signifies to me that the speaker is in a certain state of mind. I am not at all in that state of mind. Fooling around with words gets us nowhere. Strictly speaking, keeping children confined in schools all day is a form of imprisonment. Strictly speaking, clipping my fingernails is a form of self-mutilation. (I believe there is a Hindu sect that refuses to clip fingernails on precisely these grounds.) Would you, or any sane person, actually use the words “imprisonment” and “self-mutilation” in those contexts? Of course not.
Apparently I am not sane, as I would ABSOLUTELY use the word “imprisonment” to refer to those hapless children sentenced to ride on the infamous Yellow Bus. I’d also use the words “brainwashed”, “intellectually crippled” and “scholastically deprived” as well.
And starving someone certainly is killing them. I doubt Derbyshire would have the same delicacy about it being a question of murder were someone to starve their infant daughter instead of their brain-damaged wife. Although it’s not fair to accuse him of wanting to kill Mrs. Schiavo either; like most Americans he simply doesn’t have a problem with someone else killing her. I can’t take too much exception to that, there’s a lot of people whose demise at another’s hand would not cause me to shed a single tear.