NOTE: It’s been a week since my last post. My bad.
I made an honest attempt at reading my entire inbox today. I get exactly 3 million emails a day on my medical school email, as well as a surprising amount of emails on my undergrad email (which I am slowly cutting off) and my personal email. Having gone most of the weekend without checking any of those accounts, then not catching up during Monday and Tuesday, I finally made an effort to catch up. See, while a majority of the emails I get are blasted to my entire class, and are mostly advertisements for events, classes, socials, etc, there are a few IMPORTANT emails that have to be detected. So I missed the one telling me NOT to come to my small group workshop today because the faculty member was sick. Just great.
So, faced with an unexpected afternoon off, I had several options. The most logical choice would be attempting to catch up on the library of biochemical pathways thrown at us during lecture this week, in a last ditch effort to pass Friday’s quiz. More attractive options included going home and sleeping, perhaps later followed by a run. Instead, I found myself reading the newspaper on a bench, enjoying the gorgeous weather outside today. While I may be a millennial, I do have this habit of reading the newspaper every single day (especially the comics and crossword). And so, ironically, I am more caught up on current events than I am lecture material, a situation medical students rarely find themselves in.
While I have the same chance of beating the average on Friday’s quiz that the Jaguars do of beating the Seahawks on Sunday (less than zero, for my non-NFL readers), there’s a lot going on outside the walls of my medical school that is ridiculous/tragic/interesting enough for me comment on. I promise this will be interesting even if you don’t follow the news or current events.
Let’s start small. My medical school is hosting a “poverty simulator” in a few weeks (I actually read that email). Some faculty noticed that most medical students have no experience living in poverty or low-income situations. Really? Gee, who could have known that a bunch of 20-somethings attending a private medical school likely came from middle class families? I picked up on that in my first week of medical school, before I even knew where the cafeteria was. To help us gain empathy for those with lower income, we will do a simulation where we have to pay bills, find childcare, contact agencies, and arrange transportation to a job (as well as maybe finding a job) based on scenarios that are given to us. So how long does the scenario last? 60-90 minutes. The sad part is that many patients in our city are living in poverty, but the best our school can do to help us learn to help them is a 90 minute class on a Friday morning with free breakfast. I’ve spent enough time in free clinics and outreach centers to know that there’s more to poverty than a lecture, but I will still probably go because there will be free food.
Next topic. There was much discussion among my iPad wielding friends last week about a certain article published in the New York Times by one Vladimir Putin. While many were impressed at the open tone of the article, I found it hilariously hypocritical and misleading. He references our alliance during World War 2 as if we were pals back then. We may have been allies, but we certainly weren’t friends. Allies of convenience, if anything, but mostly we shared a common enemy. He also references that the conflict in Syria is fueled by “foreign weapons”. And just who could possibly be supplying weapons to Syria? Who gets implicated every time North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or other unfriendly countries begin acquiring weapons? RUSSIA! Despite this article, we are not friends with Russia. Period. The list goes on, but I will cut to the chase.
He makes one last point that will help me transition to the broader context of this article. He says that it is “dangerous” to encourage any people to consider themselves exceptional. Specifically, he means the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. In my mind that’s an adjective, not a theory. To argue that we aren’t exceptional is a little bit silly. Everything we have done in the last 100 years has been exceptional. We put men on the moon, won a bunch of wars, and provided the driving force for progress in science, medicine, technology, and civilization as we know it. Even things we do poorly are done horrifically. Not only are we the fattest country in the world, we are getting fatter FASTER than any country in the world. Not only are we spending our money quickly, we are spending MORE AND MORE money FASTER than other countr- you get the idea. Even Assad himself said in 2009 that there was “no substitute for the United States of America”. True story. There are very few countries in the world that can blow something up anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours, and no countries that could spend more money doing it.
When you step back even more is when it gets even weirder. It becomes more and more obvious that Obama is terrible at foreign policy. This second term has caused him to wade into the shallow end of international diplomacy, and he is already in way over his head. I like to think of his strategy lately as “leading from somewhere”. First, he declares that we will certainly do something about Syria. Then, he decides to ask Congress first (reversing a 150 year old precedent). Then, when he goes to Britain for help, they say no. Mind you, this is the first time since 1782 that Parliament has said no when the government asked for a declaration of war. That’s crazy! England has a long history of invading countries because there wasn’t anything good on TV.
The next step of hilarity came when an accidental remark turned into serious policy. Kerry (or maybe his hair) mentioned that Syria could just give up the weapons, and suddenly Assad (and suspiciously Russia) seemed ok with it. What? What? Since when has any country ever stockpiled illegal weapons against international law, then decided to just “give them away”. What is going on?
That’s really the crux of the issue. There’s a lot happening here that we don’t know. Lots of the intelligence is classified, and so the reasons that various governments have for making their decisions can’t always be public. It’s in situations like this where we need to be able to trust the people we elected to weather this storm and protect our interests. The problem is that I don’t trust Obama. I have seen enough in his last five years to doubt his motives and ability to handle a situation like this. If he would have appeared on the news in June to announce that Syria was stockpiling chemical weapons and we knew it, so we went in and blew them up, I could have supported that. I could also have supported a similar press conference two weeks ago where he explains that we won’t blow anything up in Syria, but that we will be watching closely and actively working to confiscate the weapons. I have a hard time supporting whatever Obama is trying to do right now. Side note: Putin used to be the director of the KGB, which is a nastier, meaner version of our CIA. Obama was a community organizer in Chicago. Who do you think will out maneuver the other?
Well that went longer than expected….and I’m not even done. If you are still reading this, perhaps I earned a like? Tune in later today for the rest of this long post.