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Not Afraid

The presidential election is fast approaching. November 3rd will be a day to remember. Many believe the upcoming election is the most critical election of my generation. Many patients are feeling the collective stress of our citizens regardless of their political persuasion. I have witnessed the viral spread of political propaganda and fearmongering to the point that everyone is most afraid of the election's aftermath, mostly if our country's citizens fail to re-elect Donald Trump.

Patients coming to the Stone Institute are affected in many ways by the political unrest of the country. I am seeing fasting cortisol levels at an all-time high. Weight gain has become a familiar and unwelcome adverse effect from the anger and frustrations expressed by the media's talking heads about our country and its lack of decency, empathy, and fairness in Washington DC.

Many of my patients know that I am a political centrist with left-leaning tendencies regarding life, healthcare, social change, federal and state tax structure, religion, and climate change. Some would refer to me as a 1994 Republican; I am certainly not a member of the Trump party of politics.

For all those who read my declaration about my disturbances with our country's politics, look at what my generation has put up with in the past sixty years. My earliest recollection of having a vote was when our country was in the Vietnam War. My draft number was 135. The military took young men to fight in a corrupt twenty-year-old war, many of whom would return to the US in a body bag if they could find the body. I protested against the war's ideology even though men who were my age now declared that I was unpatriotic. Many of those critics never went to war, nor even served in the military. In America, everyone has an opinion about risk and reward, even if they have never taken a chance in their life. I felt the war was unjustified, spoke up, and the politicians heard thousands of voices in unison—my voice, which was ever-so-soft counted. The military stopped drafting young men when white elite college-bound men were included with the rest of us who were poor and disenfranchised.

From that point on, I have watched our country, the most prosperous of all nations, turn its back on the very people who loved it, gave their lives for it, and cherished the thought of being American. I grew up in an all-black area of Detroit inner-city called Highland Park. I watch my friends go to prison for crimes that seemed petty to me. Many of them had no way to make a living, so they sold marijuana in an era of American culture that did not frown on marijuana use. The government courts found them guilty of tax evasion because they did report their income from selling marijuana to the government. The government put marijuana on the ban list because Nixon desired to stop the Vietnam war protests, giving police a reason to lock up those who smoked during their loud demonstrations against the war. The ban was unnecessary and ultimately landed many young men and women of color in jail for relatively minor non-violent crimes.

My neighbors were some of the most dedicated people to Christ. Their spiritual connections gave them the strength to carry on through the oppressions and denials of everyday prosperity. I remember Caucasoid protestant suburban church members coming into our inner-city environments trying to sell us on their privileged white version of salvation as if anyone who loved God other than their way were atheists and heathens. Even if we saw their light of Jesus, we were not encouraged to attend their churches. I attended the St. John's Armenian Apostolic Church in Southfield. Michigan. The church's administration restricted me from attending Sunday school because I fought a bully in one of my classes. The bully lost the fight; I won my freedom to see people for who they were.

One experience will never leave my memory. In college, I played football. I was told repeatedly by everyone in the school, professors, and fellow students, that football players never go to medical school. My female guidance counselor, Dr. Olexia, told me that my academic achievements and standings in the class, along with my lack of community involvement in any healthcare field, strongly prohibited me from ever matriculating into medical school. She echoed my father's sentiments, who thought I did not have the muster to make it into graduate school, much less medical school.

During football practice one afternoon in the fall of my senior year, I asked coach Racklovitz what he thought about my application to medical school. He smiled, "Son. Football players don't go to medical school. I'll call a friend of mine. He'll get you to try out with the Lions if you don't get in. You could make the special team for sure. How's that sound? Okay?" I looked at the person I trusted the most, "Okay. Sounds okay. I'm going to apply to med-school anyway. Lions will be plan B."

Undaunted by everyone's lack of faith in me and my academic abilities, I applied to eight medical schools. Dr. Olexia insisted I apply to twenty. I did not have the funds to pay for twenty applications. I told her that I believed in destiny. If I were fated to be a physician, eight applications would be plenty. She advised me to apply to graduate schools, get my grade point higher, then reapply since I would not get in after my senior year.

Long story short, in November of my senior year, after football season ended, I was interviewed by the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. In December, I received my acceptance letter. I showed the letter to Dr. Olexia. She asked if I paid them a bribe or did someone in my family pulled a string to get me in. I could not believe that she could not accept that her advice was wrong. I was later accepted into two other medical schools. I chose Michigan State's program. I called Coach Racklovitz and asked for his advice. Try out for the Lions or go to medical school. He laughed, "I'll be damned. You got in. I've never had a football player to go to medical school. You're great. Go to medical school. You could get hurt in football. Go to medical school."

I knew Coach had my best interest in mind. The rest is history.

As much as I have tried, I cannot find why I had the tenacity to continue on my path to becoming a doctor, given the fact that everyone I encountered on my way discouraged me or doubted me in some manner or another. I am blessed to have had the experience of perseverance. People bullied me in church school, elementary, middle, and high school, but I held my own. In each case, I bloodied the nose of every kid that challenged me to a fight. It is hard to imagine, I was quiet and reserved as a child; people sizing me up failed to recognize my strength of mind, body, and heart. Bullies turn me off; their lack of respect for others is despicable.

I cannot remotely know what a person of color, faith, sexual orientation, or creed feels when their entire world around them castigates them, trounces their dreams, and refuses to show any kindness or respect to them what-so-ever. Our country gives everyone the right to free speech. Our government gives everyone the right to justice.

Our country gives every citizen the right to vote. Our government does not give anyone the right to bully others, terrorize others, attack others, and destroy others' hopes; it does not give people the right to create conspiracy theories that make mass chaos dehumanizing narratives or hatred towards others. Ignorance is not a defense for malfeasance of any kind.

Those who believe they have a right and duty to defend the Constitution should know what the Constitution contains in it; all men are created equal, that includes all people big or small, rich or poor, protestant or catholic, black or white, Latino or Asian, Jewish or Christian. Someone who claims to be an originalist and does not abide by the standard is merely a vertically thinking white privileged American who has not acknowledged the social progress we have made as a country over the past two hundred plus years. I grew up economically disenfranchised, but I had a white man's skin color, which gave me an advantage over my black brothers.  I am not in favor of continuing down the road of social oppression of the meek for the powerful and influential greater good. The meek will inherit the Earth after the powerful and influential have destroyed it.

Suppose anyone reading this blog believes the opposite, defined by the idea that they have the right to harm others based on their faith, religion, or twisted philosophical understanding of what it means to be American, passing federal or state laws to disenfranchise the poor or those who disagree with their exclusive perspective. In that case, you are entitled to your opinion.  You cannot coerce me to believe otherwise by threats, or by violence, or by harm-filled speech, or by labeling me someone weak and fanatically socialist.

Please feel free to discuss the issues with me anytime, anywhere. I prefer not to fight; if provoked, I am excellent at defending myself. 

Doc

Posted by Caitlin Chittom at 12:31 PM
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