Dear Tom Delay,

If I end up in a persistent vegetative state, keep your stinking nose out of my business.

The decision about what to do with me will lie strictly with my family, and your input will be even less welcome than Carson Kressley in James Dobson’s bedroom.

You and others in your party keep claiming you’re for “smaller government.” What I didn’t realize until now is that you’re really in favor of small-minded government. Turning the Schiavo case into a national issue to engage your voter base, holding hearings on steroids when you have no authority to do anything — you keep inserting yourself into matters that Congress has no business being in.

I had to laugh this weekend when Terri’s mother, Mary Schindler, told reporters, “There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill (the one you’re pushing to circumvent the 19 courts that have already ruled in this case). Please don’t use my daughter’s suffering for your own personal agenda.”

She meant those comments for her opponents, but they ring even truer for you, Mr. DeLay, as you live up to your surname and exploit a family’s agony for political purposes.

Michael Schiavo was right on the money yesterday when he told CNN, “I am outraged, and I think that every American in this country should also be outraged, that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been adjudicated in the courts for seven years. I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss.”

You can’t have it both ways. You and your colleagues regularly rant about judicial activism and states’ rights. You claim to be the party of law and order. Yet what you’re doing is nothing more than political activism in an attempt to overturn and usurp the laws and courts of the state of Florida.

A Missourian named Pete Busalacchi knows something about this battle. He fought John Ashcroft several years ago when his daughter, Christine, fell into a persistent vegetative state. Ashcroft and several special interest groups tried everything they could to keep Pete from implementing his decision — an awful, horrible choice to have to make, but one that Pete and his family had the sole right to make as Christine’s next of kin. Shame on those who intruded.

I asked Pete on Friday whether Terri Schiavo will be aware enough to suffer with the feeding tube removed. He said that when the same was done with Christine, he asked her doctor if she needed morphine to counteract her pain. The doctor told him that Christine wouldn’t feel any pain because her brain was no longer capable of it — if she were given morphine, it would be only to ease the minds of the family.

Unlike Terri Schiavo, I’ve been smart enough to put my desires in writing, and my immediate family knows my wishes, as I do for them. Should tragedy strike and any of us fall into a persistent vegetative state, neither you Mr. Delay, nor any other politician should lift even one finger to intervene.

There is no victory in cases like this, there is only heartbreak. Shame on you for manipulating this story for your own means.

An American Who Wants To Be Left Alone