TRYING TO BE CIVIL DURING A CIVIL WAR


Twenty-five years ago, I went to trial for alleged malpractice.  During the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer kept quoting a neurology book, trying to make it appear that I practiced below the standard.  Each time, I asked to see the passage, and each time, I read the paragraph before and after the lawyer’s quotation.  He was quoting out of context.  He was lying, to make a point.  The third time I asked for the book, he literally threw it at me, on the stand.  Several jurors actually gasped.  For the first time, I thought I might not lose.  I didn’t, but of course in a malpractice trial, a physician never wins: it is lose or not lose.

I question whether the U of A’s new to promote civility will be successful.  I will try to be civil in my comments.

I find it difficult to be civil to those who did not serve this country in uniform, but are quick to support our military in our many misadventures that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.  I was among the 16% of Americans in 2003 who thought invading Iraq was a bad idea.  I was right.  I am often right on the big issues, not that it matters much.  The bullies and the jerks usually win.

I find it difficult to be civil to bullies who use ideology, rather than facts, to call those who disagree with them unpatriotic, and sold a war that has been so costly.  These bullies polarized the country.  Worse, the media supported them in the name of “balance.”  We allowed the debate on health care to be uncivil, allowing words like “death panels” into the national discourse.  My opinion piece was entirely civil, factual, and appropriate, since I have dealt with death and dying many times when my colleagues were quite happy that I, and not they, would.

During the last total lunar eclipse, CNN interviewed two astrologers, no astronomers, because the eclipse happened to occur near the solstice.  Is this what America has come to?  I will ask:  what does a total lunar eclipse require, and why does it occur?  Can you tell me why we have seasons?  Can you tell me how you would determine the number of square feet in an acre and how many square kilometers equal a square mile?  Can you tell me what case follows the word “between”?  Do you know where Guadalcanal is, why it was important and what Marine Division has it on their emblem?

I find myself difficult to be civil to those who disparage science, want to take us back several centuries, at the same time enjoying their cell phones, cars, food and water so safe we don’t think about it.  I find it difficult to be civil when I am in a minority of Americans who believe global climate disruption is occurring and man caused.  And I will not argue this with anybody, unless they (1) avoid all use of pejorative language, (2) use statistical terminology and (3) state the consequences if they should be wrong.  I have yet to find anybody who can do this. I find it difficult to disagree so without being disagreeable, for I see these people and others destroying a country that I served as an officer in uniform, and at least 98% of Americans have not.

I find it difficult to be civil, when 10 years ago I proposed a reporting and counting system for medical errors, which failed.   And do we know the scope of the problem in 2011, and have we improved our care?

I find it difficult to be civil to those who received complete data on 6th grader obesity–from 5 middle schools–promised to help, and didn’t.  Tucson has a grant to deal with this problem, when with a few volunteers from PCMS and the school of nursing, we could have obtained data from every middle school in the county–free, since I would not have charged for my data analysis.

Do we have any data this year?  None that I know.  The principal at one of those middle schools yelled at me, uncivil, although we were helping him meet his mandate.  What is happening in his school?  Is the median BMI still at the 89th percentile, rather than the 50th?  Are 14% of his students still above the 95th percentile and 7% above the 99th percentile, 3 and 7 times the expected values, respectively?  Is his school representative of the county?  Does anybody care?

What we need in America are volunteers, service, ideas, hard data, willingness to say “I was wrong,” and polite, respectful discussions with willingness to listen.   It is time we say “no more” to those who deliberately lie to push an agenda.  It is time that we and the media gasp, like the jurors did in January 1986, call these bullies out on their lies, because equal time requires equal facts.  Bullies must be stopped, whether high school students, lawyers or fat old non-veterans who deliberately lie on the public airwaves.

I took my skills out of medicine to other fields.  I now wonder whether I take myself and my skills out of this country, which I see as in major decline, because of lack of MY “family values”:  education, politeness, population control, caring for the Earth and all its living beings.

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