Sunday, February 27, 2022

American Anger and Rage - A New Epidemic

 A doctor arrives just a few minutes late to his office and is warned by his staff that the patient slammed the exam room door and starting swearing.   A passenger on an airplane erupts in anger and has to be physically restrained.  Parents at school board meetings are foaming at the mouth objecting to revisions in the curriculum.  An angry mob storms the seat of our democracy attacking law enforcement professionals, an event that is later referred to as ‘legitimate political discourse’.

So much anger.

Where did all of this rage come from?  Is there a pathway back to civility?

Anger today is more prevalent and intense than I have ever seen in my lifetime.  Moreover, it has spread over the landscape like hot flowing lava reaching regions that were heretofore anger-free zones.  Violence on an airplane?  Really?  In years past, there was a time and a place for anger.  Here are a few examples when anger was understandable.

A coworker who is related to the boss gets the promotion that you deserved.

You are a rabid football fan.  Your team loses a Super Bowl opportunity because the referee makes a terrible call.

You discover that your business partner has been quietly but steadily stealing from you.

Your neighbor argues that your political views are neanderthal.

These examples make sense to us.  We can likely relate to them personally.  But now, no corner of society is spared from anger.  Indeed, it’s a national epidemic and there is no vaccine on the horizon.  (I’ve heard a rumor that ivermectin may soothe the savage beast but this has not been substantiated.)

Children Learn the Art of Finger-pointing at a Young Age

I suspect that there’s a psychological benefit that many angry people enjoy.  It is a method to avoid personal responsibility by claiming that others are responsible for some misfortune.  It is so much easier to cast blame elsewhere than to do the hard work of building and healing and self-improvement. 

It’s the politicians’ fault!

These immigrants are ruining the country!

It’s Fauci’s fault!

It’s the radical woke left’s fault!

It’s the radical right’s fault!

And, as we have all seen, it’s easy for politicians and others to exploit and validate this anger for political advancement.  Some might suggest that anger and grievance can even propel a candidate elected to the American presidency, although this notion seems too incredible to even contemplate.

Of course, sometimes anger is the appropriate emotion.  We have all been angry.  But just as often, angrily blaming others is really just a deflection of responsibility, even though it might feel good at the time.  At the very least, it’s an abdication of civility.

One process that anger reliably sabotages is dialogue.

How often have you heard a triad of remarks like these?  

It was my fault. 

I screwed up.  

I’ll try to be better next time.




Sunday, February 20, 2022

Russian Skater Doping Scandal Stains Olympics

I have been much less enthralled this year in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.  And I’m not alone.  There are many reasons for this global Olympic ennui.  International publicity on China’s horrendous human rights record resulted in several nations, including ours, issuing diplomatic boycotts.  The Peng Shuai affair was also a turn off when this Chinese tennis athlete made an accusation of sexual harassment against a Chinese government official.  Then, she disappeared and issued a statement denying her allegation.  Sounds like she was being squeezed in a Chinese Olympic vice.  The shameless spinelessness of the International Olympic Committee is itself a reason to boycott watching the games.  And Americans and folks abroad have been absorbed with the ongoing pandemic and worsening economic realities.  Many are preoccupied with inflation or rising crime or an imminent war in Europe.  For them, watching the Olympics isn’t even on the list.

And to those who have tuned in, they have been treated to the Kamila Valieva affair, a debacle that will be remembered for decades.  She is a 15-year-old Russian virtuoso skater.  She failed a drug test.  And yet she was permitted to continue competing deferring the investigation and ultimate judgement until months or years after the games conclude.  

5 Rings Representing


The correct decision, of course, would have been to suspend her from the games.  Such a decision would have spared the bulk of the following consequences that predictably occurred.

The integrity of the Olympic Games has been further tarnished.

It disrespects all of the clean athletes who have complied with the rules.

Those who earned medals in events along with Valieva had no medal ceremony, the dream of every Olympic athlete.  If Valieva is ultimately disqualified, will the remaining winners receive their medals in an Amazon delivery dropped at their front doors?

It communicates to all of us that integrity in our lives is an elastic concept. 

Valieva completely dominated all of the attention of the Olympics instead of the competitions and the athletes.  What a shame for everyone involved.  How might families and supporters of Olympic athletes feel about this?

It was another example of Russia receiving an undeserved free pass.  Remember Sochi 2014?  Is changing the name of their team to the Russia Olympic Committee an adequate consequence for years of state sponsored doping?

And, it was unfair to Valieva who will now be stigmatized forever.  And who can predict the personal health consequences that she may suffer in the future over this horrendous affair.  For coming attractions, after her final skate when she fell repeatedly, her coach at the sidelines glared at her and harshly said, “Why did you let it go?  Why did you stop fighting?  Explain”. 

It’s not relevant if Valieva was unaware that she had ingested a banned substance.  By the rules, she was ineligible regardless of how the drug found its way into her body.

In an analogous situation, the Australians deported Novak Djokovic who did not comply with the nation’s COVID-19 protocols.  Afterwards, the Australian Open proceeded without incident.  I give the Aussies a Gold Medal for this. 




Sunday, February 13, 2022

Canadian Truckers Protest for Freedom! No End in Sight

During the pandemic, which has not yet ended, we’ve all heard lots of chatter about freedom.  Folks are figuratively burning their masks as a statement of their personal freedom.  We have seen patrons packed into bars and other venues, against the advice of medical professionals, claiming they have the freedom to congregate.  Political leaders in some states have banned mask mandates in schools arguing that parents have the freedom to make their own decisions regarding their kids. And the fundamental reason given by so many anti-vaxers and government skeptics is that they have the freedom to accept or reject any medical intervention. 

These arguments are framed as pro-freedom positions in an effort to make it difficult for opponents to challenge them.  Who wants to be seen protesting against freedom? 

Not surprisingly, and as I have posted previously on this blog, these issues are more complex.  Freedom is not absolute.  That’s why we have laws, regulations and societal mores to encourage and restrict certain actions and behaviors.  You might believe that you have a right to withhold a measles vaccine from your kid.  But, this collides against the rights of the rest of us to avoid this highly contagious infection.  You may believe in your constitutional right to assemble, but this right does not permit you to do so on private property.  You get the idea.

Look what’s happening in our neighbor to the north.  Truckers in Canada are clogging up bridges and roads over the past few weeks all in defense of freedom!  As an aside, this behavior seems so incongruent with our impression of docile and polite Canadians. Wonder who might have influenced them to take to the streets?  They call their movement Freedom Convoy 2022. 

Should We Loan This Flag to Canada?

I guess the truckers and their supporters who are against the lockdown mentality give themselves a pass after they have locked down hundreds of their trucks throughout the country at the expense of everyone. 

A day before writing this, a Canadian judge ordered trucks in the Ambassador Bridge region to disperse or face consequences.  So far, the trucks are still in neutral.

What about the rights of thousands of businesses on both sides of the border to earn a living? What about the rights of tens of thousands of customers on both sides of the border to be able to purchase products?  What about the rights of all of us to avoid further inflation as a result of supply line disruptions?  What about the rights of ordinary folks to be able to use their own roads and bridges?

And they are defying a court order?  I thought that these fans of freedom were strong defenders of the rule of law.

Freedom is a balance between one man’s rights against another.  If freedoms become absolute, then we will have absolute chaos.  




Sunday, February 6, 2022

My Right to Refuse a COVID-19 Vaccine

I’m long on the record that we need to recalibrate the balance between individual freedom and society’s rights.  Personal freedom is often at the direct expense of society’s rights and expectations.  For example, an individual may argue that he has a right to air travel without having to proffer a government authorized ID or to submit to a search of his luggage. On this example, I think most of us would argue that society’s rights would prevail.

And there needs to be personal responsibility and accountability when one exercises particular personal freedoms.  If you want to ride a motorcycle, for example, then your insurance risks should be priced accordingly.  And if you don’t want to wear a helmet while riding, then you and other helmetless riders need to share in this risk so the rest of us don’t have to pay when an unwelcome event occurs on your ride. 

As in everything else in life, this terrain can become murky.  If a patient declines surgery that her medical team unanimously recommends, and as a result a long and expensive hospital stay ensues, would we hold her to be financially responsible?  No, we would not, but it does pose ethical questions.

Choosing Death Over a Vaccine!

Recently, an individual on kidney dialysis was deemed to be ineligible for transplant after refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.  Another patient was denied a heart transplant for the same reason.

Of course, these patients have the right to refuse the vaccine and any medical intervention.  I suspect that most of us in their circumstances would have decided the matter differently. The cardiac patient will likely die and the renal patient will face a shorter lifetime suffering under dialysis. And because of these 2 patient’s decisions, the rest of us must pick up the lifelong costs of dialysis, hospitalizations, etc.  Of course, society will absorb all of these avoidable costs which does bring up an issue of fairness.

Transplant physicians are empowered to establish medical criteria that must be abided by transplant candidates.  They have a responsibility to maximize the probability that the transplanted organs will successfully endure. 

In the current political climate, I’m surprised that no politician has railed from a podium demanding a law that would prohibit medical professionals from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine.

What would we think of another country, whose policies we would ordinarily decry, who mandated 100% vaccinations and have very low rates of illness, death, hospitalizations and economic disruption?  I’m not advocating for authoritarianism, but personal freedom can exact steep costs on society.  Are you ready for a conversation to consider a recalibration of our rights?