Guest Opinion: Nostalgia & Politics

People are now being told to avoid labelling of any kind whatsoever. Discrimination is always bad. Not being able to describe things can also be bad. The “woke” movement preaches that some people are “awake” and enlightened about social injustice. If you are “not woke” then you are obviously inferior and despicable in the eyes of “woke” people. Concerns about these trends are paradoxically not tolerated.

Medical school students used to be taught to identify and describe patients we were trying to take care of. For example, while describing a hypothetical patient (name him Jerry Kessler, if you want) as a “69-year-old married Caucasian male” who reported having had a sore throat, back pain, chest pain, etc. Then the medical student would add other pertinent comments about the chief complaint, history of present illness, past medical history, health habits, etc. None of these descriptors were intended to be derogatory, even if later in the report it said that this was an “alert, oriented, cooperative, and mildly obese male in no acute distress.”

Doctors are now being advised to avoid all these labels completely. We probably should refer to said patient as “a human being” who has a sore throat, etc. Stating a person’s age is an example of ageism. Stating ethnicity reflects racism. Stating biologic sex is genderism. In the future the phrase “human being” could also be construed as derogatory to other entities: dogs, cats, falcons, rocks, etc. If I use these humanoid terms in the future, I might even lose my medical license. For example, in California trying to intentionally infect someone with HIV has now been downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor. On the other hand, if you intentionally “misgender” someone it is a punishable crime with fines up to $20,000 recently issued. You could actually go to jail for that verbal offense. Avoid apologizing excessively if you accidentally misgender someone because that can be regarded as offensive.

For old guys like me, this is all very confusing. Just about every ethnicity, religion, non-religion, political affiliation, and gender identity is represented in my extended family. Where is a person to find guidance on how to manage matters during these confusing times? One traditional source (The Bible) repeatedly says that all “brothers and sisters” should be loved. I hope those words are no longer regarded as sexist. We are also told to “love our enemies.” Those who profess to be Christian are told that we are all sinners no matter how hard we try to be good. In a similar manner, the belief that I could ever be perfect at attaining goodness or knowledge in all things is “a vanity and chase after wind.” Be that as it may, I apologize for my past and future offenses. That is a fact and not an excuse.

The new spoken and unspoken rules of society are sad, true, and confusing. George Orwell, in his classic book, 1984, predicted the future with amazing accuracy. That dystopian society used “Newspeak” and “Big Brother” as ways to keep citizens in line. It is not clear who is writing the rules for political correctness in our times. The similarities between the world today and this book are many and depressing. The predictions of 1948 were already happening in 1984 and are essentially fact at this time.

As a child, my parents – and the community I lived in – taught me that faith, family, country, and hard work were the important things in life. Even as one of eight kids in a lower middle-class family (the son of a mailman, part-time landscaper, and part-time janitor) I do not recall any significant discrimination against me. When I was occasionally teased for being from a family that scraped by financially, and had to do without some material things, it did not seem like oppression to me. We did experience some real challenges, however. In 1968 my dad died after I had just turned 14. I was fatherless from then on, which is a huge problem in today’s world. I later realized that hardships in my life were not unlike hardships that others have had to bear.

Thank God my mother guided our family through those difficult times. My mother died peacefully at home, at the age of 89, just a few days before Christmas in 2009. Most people recently celebrated “Happy Mother’s Day”. We recognize and honor all the sacrifices mothers have lovingly made for their families. I hope this holiday never gets renamed “Happy Birthing Persons’ Day”.

Whatever obstacles I encountered in my life motivated me to “try hard,” as my parents repeatedly told me. I never felt like I was a “victim” despite having been from the wrong side of Larpenteur Avenue in Greater East St. Paul, MN. I don’t feel like I had “white privilege” by virtue of having been raised in a lower middle class blue color neighborhood. I had one pair of pants, a tie, and one shirt to wear every day to the Catholic grade school I attended. I didn’t mind cleaning toilets with my janitor dad to help pay for our private school education – where “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Religion” were emphasized. I received a justifiable number of spankings to my backsides (from my dad) and ruler slaps (from the nuns) across the knuckles. I believe the discipline that was imposed on me put me two years ahead, from an academic standpoint, when I later transferred to a public school. That advantage catapulted me into college and then medical school. I hope that those who have been victimized, in one way or another, do not make things worse by “volunteering” for victimhood the rest of their lives. I might be regarded as nostalgic, but I pray that our country becomes more like it was when I was a child.


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