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Let’s Do This!

(I wrote this for the Urban News in October 2020.)

It should come to no surprise to anyone who reads this that I’m a trauma surgeon. Why am I a trauma surgeon? Because I love taking care of people in need.

There is almost no one more needy than someone who is having a normal day and then something awful happens. They were in a car crash; they fell off a roof; they fell off their bike; or, God forbid, they got shot. Trauma patients need help. I guess you could look at my job as someone who repairs injuries and protects patients from further harm.

Harm

The President of the United States takes an oath to protect the American people. I understand that on the one hand, such a broad promise to protect all Americans can never be kept. Right now, as I’m typing this, someone is downing a drink and is getting ready to drive—and putting themselves and others in harm’s way. Somewhere else an angry husband is threatening his wife, and a child is about to run out into the street into the path of an oncoming car.

So, we can have unrealistic expectations of what our presidents can do. Yet, when a pandemic comes, we expect our president to do everything in his/her power to protect us from whatever this evil is. We expect them to mobilize the resources of the federal government. We expect that personal protective equipment will be available to all medical personnel. We expect that patients who require medications to save their lives will get them.

Unfortunately, under President Donald Trump, none of this happened. Hospitals have run out of shoe covers, operating room caps, and the all-important N-95 masks. Some hospitals even ran out of ventilators. The president’s son-in-law even refused to distribute some equipment where it was needed, saying “It’s ours.” And Americans died.

Just the other day, the Wall Street Journal covered a New Jersey nursing home, Menlo Park, in which 101 nursing home residents died from Covid19. Residents were not encouraged to wear masks. The nursing home did not isolate infected patients from those who were not infected. Nor did they encourage (much less enforce) social distancing.

This nursing home was, in my opinion, incompetent. This nursing home was reckless. And more than 100 nursing home residents died because of this recklessness.

Yet, sadly, we have seen this exact same behavior from our president. He is having rallies (which is not safe). He is having announcement parties at the White House with over 500 guests (which is also not safe). He is not wearing a mask. He does not encourage others to wear masks. There is no social distancing. So, the fact that the White House became a “super spreader” location should come as no surprise to anyone.

Donald Trump and the White House have ignored medical advice. Over 20 people, including the First Lady, Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, two or three GOP senators (including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis), the White House press secretary, former advisor Kellyanne Conway, and former NJ Governor Chris Christie have all tested positive for the coronavirus.

Irresponsible Recklessness

Donald Trump has given progressives ample reasons for us not to support him and his reelection. He pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal which was working. He did his best to destabilize NATO, comprising our closest allies, while aligning us with our deadliest rival, Russia.

Trump pulled us out of NAFTA, only to rewrite a deal that looked almost exactly like NAFTA. He started a trade war with China with no stated objective and hurt American farmers with trade policy—and then used taxpayer money to keep those famers from blaming him. Furthermore, Trump is openly a racist and a sexist. I think that he is also a rapist—and there’s ample evidence that he’s a crook, a tax-cheat, and a money-launderer. Progressives have a lot of reasons to vote for anyone who is not Trump.

The beauty of Donald Trump’s response to his own Covid 19 infection underscores his own irresponsible recklessness. (more…)

By |2020-11-02T20:46:25-04:00November 2nd, 2020|Civil Rights, Domestic Issues, Elections|0 Comments

Law and Order

(I wrote this for the Urban News in September 2020.)

Tens of thousands of Americans recently descended onto Washington DC to reenact the March on Washington in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The purpose of this march was to rekindle the feeling and the momentum that were present back in 1963. While George Floyd May 25th death while being detained by the Minneapolis police may have been the catalyst that started the protests around the country, he has been far from the only person of color to die in police custody. Jacob Blake is the latest in a long line of men of color who get detained by the police for some minor reason (or none) and somehow end up getting shot.

In Blake’s case, like Floyd’s, we have an infamous video. The circumstances leading up to the video are unclear. Mr. Blake was trying to break up a domestic dispute between two women; the police were called; Jacob Blake, unarmed, is seen = walking to the driver-side door of a family-type van. He opens the door to get in—where his sons are waiting for him—and then gets shot seven times in the back. Thankfully, Jacob Blake is alive. Unfortunately, he is paralyzed.

We Need Action

Since the public reaction to George Floyd’s death began early this summer, we have had plenty of protests. We have protested in large cities and small communities. We have had moments of silence. We have also had thought-provoking, emotionally and mentally stimulating speeches. It seems to me, that the time for speeches is over. Now we need a plan to move forward.

Every city needs to establish an Office of Neighborhood Safety—a civilian-led office that works closely with the police department on decreasing violence and increasing safety and well-being in our communities.

Police departments need to be refocused on the core mission which is to promote safety in the community. (This is not DE-funding, but RE-allocating budgets.) Some police funding should be diverted to social services. Police officers should not respond to situations in which someone with mental illness is exhibiting erratic behavior. Let a highly trained social workers attempt to defuse the situation before calling in the police.

All police shootings should be investigated by independent federal agencies and NOT local officials. (This will also require that our federal agencies, especially those under an Attorney General, be thoroughly depoliticized and returned to independence from the White House.) Our goal must be to keep everyone safe and have zero unarmed Americans shot by the police.

David Cornelius Smith

David Cornelius Smith was a 28-year-old gentleman who suffered from some mental issues. The police were called because he was acting erratically. A struggle ensued as the police tried to subdue him, including by tasing him five times—but were still unable to control him. The police finally wrestled Mr. Smith to the ground and pin him, face down. One police officer is on his legs. Another has his knee on Mr. Smith’s neck. After over four minutes, Mr. Smith is not moving. He is also not breathing. The Minneapolis police officers call for an ambulance and David Cornelius Smith dies in the hospital several days later.

This event occurred in September 2010. It involved the same Minneapolis police department that held down George Floyd 10 years later. Back then, there were promises of reform. There was also a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit paid out to Mr. Smith’s family. But still the behavior persists. Still nothing has changed. This is truly depressing.

Yet it is important for us to remember that change is hard. Police departments have been allowed to police our communities as they see fit for decades. We are asking for major reform. This will not come easy. This is a fight that we need to continue on the local, state, and federal levels.

Law and Order

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran a campaign based on “restoring Law and Order.” The country had just completed eight years of Democratic rule under John F. Kennedy (1961-62) and Lyndon Johnson (1963-68). Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April 1968. Bobby Kennedy—running against Johnson—was assassinated in June. Protests and riots broke out throughout the nation. This was against a backdrop of national introspection over the Vietnam War.

But things are vastly different in 2020. Donald Trump is trying to run his reelection campaign based on “law and order.” The idea that Trump—who has ignored the Constitution, bent and broken scores of laws, and run roughshod over Congress and even ignored Supreme Court rulings—can rebrand himself as someone who supports the military and the police, is somewhat ironic. It would almost be amusing if it weren’t so appalling.

Richard Nixon was the challenger in 1968. Donald Trump is the incumbent. Therefore, whatever disorder and lawlessness that exists sprang up under his presidency. Trump has proven time and time again that he does not believe that laws apply to him.

Donald Trump obstructed justice. In the Mueller report, they clearly outlined multiple times in which Donald Trump tried to influence the outcome of the investigation, he and his Attorney General, William Barr, told us that there was no collusion, but we also know that Paul Manafort gave campaign information to a Russian citizen (the US intelligence community believes that the Russian citizen is also a Russian spy). This simple act is in fact collusion.

We also know that Donald Trump solicited the president of Ukraine to help Trump win reelection. This is also against the law. Donald Trump got impeached for this action. Donald Trump just accepted the Republican nomination for president and held a campaign rally on the White House lawn. This is a clear violation of the Hatch act. This is against the law.

Many of the people that have surrounded Trump for the last 36 months have been arrested and thrown in jail for different violations of… the law. It seems a little far-fetched to say that you are the law and order president when you and your cronies are constantly breaking the law.

(more…)

By |2020-11-02T20:10:44-04:00October 25th, 2020|Civil Liberty, Civil Rights, Domestic Issues|0 Comments

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

(I wrote this for the Urban News in August 2020.)

In 1971, long before the Sugar Hill Gang made rap popular with “Rapper’s Delight,” there was a poet, philosopher, and jazz artist named Gil Scott-Heron who spoke more than he sang. With a jazzy beat in the background, he stated:
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
By Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle
And leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams, and Spiro Agnew
To eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised
The point of the song was that the revolution was going to be live. Everyone was going to have to participate.dd

Portland, Oregon

After the death of George Floyd, protests rang out throughout our country. Portland, Oregon was no different. The protests started in late May and continued into June. While the rest of the country was settling down, Portland continued to protest. The protesters identified Kendra James, Erin Campbell, Patrick Kimmons, and Quanice Hayes as Black residents who had been killed at the hands of the Portland police over the past several years.

In July, some of the protests turned violent. At about the same time, Donald Trump decided to send in federal troops. It is unclear from the reporting whether there was any consultation with the mayor of Portland or the governor of Oregon. The pretense that Trump used to send in federal troops was to protect “federal buildings.”

These federal troops were wearing no identifiable emblems. For the people of Portland, the stakes were now ramped up. Instead of a couple of hundred protesters, thousands were showing up. The troops—including some from the border patrol with no training in domestic policing—began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Arrests were made, sometimes without reason or probable cause. Cellphone footage of protesters being stuffed into unmarked cars began to circulate on social media. In late July, the governor announced that she had reached an agreement with the White House to withdraw these troops from Oregon.

I’m not sure what was accomplished. I’m not sure why we needed federal troops in an American city. I’m not sure if the whole ordeal was constitutional. I find it sad that Donald Trump’s first instinct is to use force and not to negotiate, or even talk, with protesters.

John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis died of pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. Although many textbooks do not point out the work that John Lewis did during the civil rights movement, he was there, and he was a major player. He was, in fact, considered one of the “big six” leaders of the movement, and the last to die.

The famous Freedom Rides that started in 1961 were an extremely simple concept. Thirteen people (seven Whites and six Blacks) were going to ride a bus from Washington, DC, to New Orleans. The whole purpose of this ride was to pressure the federal government into enforcing the 1960 Supreme Court decision (Boynton v. Virginia) that held that segregated interstate bus travel was unconstitutional.

The bus encountered angry mobs. The Freedom Riders were arrested. They were beaten. They were jailed. John Lewis was one of the original 13 riders. He was there.

A couple of years later, John Lewis became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was among the leaders of the marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. He was severely beaten while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge—beaten by cops with batons, blackjacks, you name it. Again, John Lewis was there, and once again he risked his life for his country—for us.

In 1963 John Lewis spoke at the March on Washington in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At 23, he was the youngest speaker on the dais. Once again, he was there, and he was an inspiration to the half-million people gathered on the Mall.

John Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986, representing metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. In that role, over the next 35 years, he became known as “the conscience of the House.” He called on his fellow representatives, and his fellow citizens, from the most humble to the most exalted, to seek justice, and do the right thing. Whenever he spoke, whomever he encountered, whatever the issue at hand, no matter the anger, frustration, or rancor in the air, he spoke with love, and with joy, and with hope. For he loved his fellow human beings, and believed in his heart that they, too, were capable of that same love.

From my standpoint, John Lewis was a great humanitarian. He fought against injustice everywhere. He worked for equality, and put his life on the line for democracy. He lived as we all should live, making “good trouble” for a cause greater than ourselves. We can take a page from John Lewis’ book. He seemed to always be on the right side of history, and he was always there when and where we needed him to be. (more…)

By |2020-09-23T20:07:00-04:00September 23rd, 2020|Domestic Issues, Newsletter, Obama administration|0 Comments
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