'No Substantial Likelihood of Success': The Curse Pronounced by a New God

In rejecting Mr. and Mrs. Robert Schindler’s appeal to save their braindamaged daughter, Terri Schiavo, from certain death by court-ordered dehydration and starvation, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore wrapped himself in his black robe and announced imperiously from his court in Tampa, Florida, that he had denied their petition, because it had no “substantial likelihood of success.” We should rejoice that Honorable Judge Whittemore was not in the position, prior to his appointment by President Bill Clinton, to share with the world his frightening omniscience. Had the godlike federal jurist been around for a few eons, think of all the other mere humans who would have been compelled to accept “The Whittemore Curse” and curb their thirst and hunger for victory and survival. Had these frustrated souls been instructed that their future was so dire, history never would have recorded the following miracles of human triumph:

  • With no substantial likelihood of success, enslaved Jews never would have chanced a dash to freedom from Egypt by walking across the parted Red Sea.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, a ragtag bunch of young Americans (mostly teenage amateurs) never would have played the Soviet Union’s juggernaut hockey team of polished professionals and defeated them in the middle of the titanic Cold War, in 1980.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, ex-actor Ronald Reagan never would have climbed from being a summertime pool lifeguard in Illinois to being elected the 40th President of the United States, also in 1980, and eventually delivering the coup de grâce to the entire Soviet Empire.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Vietnam’s Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap never would have adopted stealth and asymmetrical tactics to defeat and drive out the American military, the greatest armed forces on the face of the earth.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Scots scientist Alexander Fleming never would have tried to turn mold on food into medical science’s greatest agent to fight bacterial infection, penicillin.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Rosa Parks never would have refused to take her assigned seat in the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus and thus help her fellow and sister American blacks overturn racial segregation.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Strom Thurmond never would have mounted a campaign against a powerful political shoo-in to become in 1954 the first person ever elected to the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate; out-of-his-league President Harry Truman never would have sought reelection against potent, crime-busting Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey in 1948, and college professor Paul Wellstone never would have ridden a shoestring budget and a rickety green bus to Senate victory over Minnesota’s establishment in 1990.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Wilbur and Orville, the Wright brothers, never would have turned their bicycle shop into an airplane factory.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Christopher Columbus never would have sailed to the New World and captured it as a base for Christendom.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, a deaf Ludwig van Beethoven never would have produced nine symphonies, one opera, 32 piano sonatas, five concertos, 16 string quartets, and 16 sonatas for one instrument and piano.
  • With no substantial likelihood of success, Jesus, a young carpenter in Nazareth who began preaching at age 30, never would have begun His ultimate journey to reveal himself as the Son of God and God Incarnate. May the one and only God bless Terri Schiavo as she slips slowly into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, thanks to a new god before whom she was not allowed to communicate, a new god before whom she never had to bow–thank God.