A Slap in the Face

At this year’s Oscars, Chris Rock was the master of ceremonies. As everybody knows, he is a comedian, maybe even the best comedian of his generation. He made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, also a movie star.

It was a bald joke—a joke about baldness. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia. This means that she is losing her hair. Her hair is currently cut extremely short.

The joke wasn’t that funny, but it’s not unusual for comedians to sometimes miss the mark with a joke. Will Smith became furious. He charged the stage from the audience and slapped Chris Rock on national television.

I’m sorry. I really don’t care. The fact that a joke goes sour is not a surprise. The fact that a highly paid actor cannot keep his emotions in check is also not a surprise. I have little interest in whatever beef two millionaires have against each other.

Neither of these two talented men is going to bring down gas prices. They are not going to fix inflation. They are not going to help the Senate pass a voting rights bill. They are not going to force Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute Donald Trump or the prominent Republicans who orchestrated and carried out the January 6th insurrection.

The joke was in poor taste, but still, Chris Rock should not have been assaulted. Will Smith should be held accountable—and he now has, by being banned for 10 years from the Academy. Fine. Let’s get to things that really matter.

Ukraine Update

At the time of writing, this war has dragged on for approximately five weeks. The conventional wisdom that Ukraine was going to fold like a lawn chair was wrong. Somehow, against all odds, they have stopped the Russian advance towards their capital Kyiv. It’s unclear exactly what the biggest surprise has been—the fact that Ukrainian people have put up tenacious resistance, or the fact that the Russian army is not this great juggernaut that we were led to believe.

Even early in the war, there were signs that the Russian army was not going to be all that effective. Almost from day one, the Russian army had problems with supplies. Their tanks breaking down and being mired in mud was like World War II. But, to me, the biggest sign that Russia really could not handle the Ukrainian Army was the fact that Russia very quickly started targeting the civilian population: schools, Red Cross headquarters, humanitarian corridors, nuclear plants, and apartment buildings. I think this was a deliberate act. I think this is a war crime.

This war has created a huge humanitarian crisis, both inside Ukraine and across Europe. The latest estimates are that around 4.5 million Ukrainian refugees—10% of the country’s entire population—have flooded into the surrounding countries.

None of the surrounding countries are rich. To be honest, I’m not sure any country has the resources readily available to admit 300,000 refugees, right now. It’s a huge problem. (Imagine if 34,000,000 Americans poured into Mexico and Canada over a period of a month!)

The United States and the European Union have pledged money, food, and supplies, and none of this is happening fast enough. On the other hand, inside Ukraine there’ve been some cities that have been under siege for weeks. Mariupol has been pounded for over a week. Residents are trapped. Escape routes have been cut off. Food and supplies are running low. I doubt there is any heat or running water. This is a huge problem.

I stand by what I said last month. Putin is a bully, and You cannot confront a bully with words. You need to use either the threat of force—a serious threat backed up by strength and determination—or you actually need to use force.

Poland wanted to give Ukraine some of their old MIG fighters. The United States said no. The United States, its NATO allies, and others, are worried about a direct confrontation with Russia getting out of control. They are worried about a nuclear war.

There is no doubt that a nuclear strike is possible, given who Putin is. He’s a bully, an autocrat, a tyrant, a white nationalist, and—though we can’t diagnose this from a distance—quite possibly an actual madman.

But knowing who, if not what, Putin is, our question should be, Who are we as a nation? Do we really support democracy? Do we truly believe in freedom?

If so, we need to take a more active role in this unnecessary war. We need to send Patriot missiles so that Ukrainians can shoot down Russian missiles, like the one that just hit a train station and killed over 50 civilians, in midair. We need to send F-14, F-16, and F-22 fighter jets to Ukraine so they can enforce their own no-fly zone.

If Russia looks at this as an act of war, then so be it. I think that we need to do everything we can to save lives and to stop this war—this illegal, unjust, senseless war—as quickly as possible. Anything less is a slap in the face to democracy, liberty and freedom.

Covid is not dead

I know everybody is acting as if the pandemic that has gripped the world for the last two years is over. If it’s over, I did not get the memo.

On April 2, 2022, there were over 27,000 new cases of coronavirus in the United States. There were 651 deaths. In the United States, we’ve had over 982,000 deaths since the beginning of Covid. We weathered the initial surge. Then we had the delta variant which was extremely deadly. Just as the cases were beginning to drop off from the delta variant, we were slammed with the omicron variant.

Two new variants seem to be sweeping through Europe: BA.1 and BA.2. Oh, and there is a BA.3 on its way. We should know by now that whatever happens in Europe soon happens in the United States. Coronavirus cases in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are up 30% in the past week. Get ready! Because even though new peaks haven’t reached North Carolina—they will.

I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m not saying this to rain on your parade. Instead, I’m saying this so that you and your loved ones can make level-headed decisions in the days ahead.

I’m continuing to wear my mask. I suggest that you do also. Continue social distancing. Wash your hands frequently. Get vaccinated. If you are ready vaccinated, get your booster shot. If you’re like me, you got your booster back in September or October of last year. We know that the booster shot gives you outstanding protection for the first three months or so.

But by six to eight months, a lot of the effectiveness of the booster has waned. Just recently the FDA and the CDC approved a second booster. I plan on getting my second booster next week. Do as much as you can to protect your family and yourself. We have lost way too many Americans. Stay on your toes. Get your second booster.

A couple of things

  • In college basketball, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Duke Blue Devils in an epic semifinal game in March Madness. I have always enjoyed watching Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski’s coach. He is one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. And this was his last game—a great way to step into retirement.
  • Herschel Walker may be one of the worst gubernatorial candidates in modern history. One of the highlights of his awful campaign is that he’s been lying about his record at the University of Georgia. He has said on multiple occasions that he graduated in the top 1% of his class. Be serious! Come on, be serious! Nothing that Herschel Walker has shown me over four decades would suggest that he spent a lot of time reading books or studying. The idea is laughable. Herschel Walker may be a nice guy, and he was a great athlete. But according to The Atlanta Constitution, he never even graduated from college, much less in the top 1%!
  • Representative Madison Cawthorn is an embarrassment. Like Herschel Walker, he lied about his college education (he dropped out after one semester), was accused of sexual misbehavior by more than a dozen fellow students, lied about being admitted to the US Naval Academy… Cawthorn has done a ton of things that are awful, but calling President Zelensky (Ukraine) a thug should be the last straw. Hendersonville deserves better. Western North Carolina deserves better. The United States Congress deserves better. Dare I say it: We the American People deserve better. Madison Cawthorn is the slap in the face that none of us deserve.
  • I’m not sure what US Attorney General Merrick Garland is thinking. We now have evidence that January 6th was not a spontaneous attack on our Capitol. Instead, it was planned. Household republican names were active in planning. Not just the guy wearing the horns but prominent republicans – Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Stephen Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was heavily involved. As a Democrat who believes in Democracy and the constitution, I’m demanding that Merrick Garland do something!
  • How did the four men who planned on kidnaping and killing Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, get off scot-free? Did these guys get entrapped by the FBI? The whole ordeal is very confusing to me. The picture the media painted was very cut and dry. Extremists hated Whitmer’s mask mandate and so they decided to act. Was the media wrong? Was the story more complex? I don’t understand.

Let us pledge to do better
Sometimes, it seems half the world is getting a slap in the face from the other half! We have got to do better!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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