Just Say No
In an effort to boost profits during uncertain times, many
large retailers opened their doors this Thanksgiving Day. The relatively short
time between a late Thanksgiving and Wednesday Christmas along with yet another
commercial ploy even more offensive to the human senses than the Black Friday running
of the bargain-seeking bulls, gave birth to this idea. It’s terrible.
On Saturday, November 30, Peggy Noonan titled her weekly
column in the Wall Street Journal, “Next Year Stay Home, America”. It is one
thing she notes if shoppers wish to spend a national day of gratitude searching
for reductions in the price of the latest video games. It is quite another to
make attendance at this feast of rampant capitalism mandatory for the workers,
many of whom are already underpaid. People, this is just wrong, as Sister
Noonan clearly notes. The best remedy is for all of us to stay home where we
belong on Thanksgiving and make the retailers eat the overhead of staffing an
empty store. For one day a year, let’s just say no to the accepted American
religion of unbridled commercial gluttony and greed and stick with the old
fashioned form of gluttony around a turkey.
Now this form of mass protest is something that America has
not seen since the 1960s when many people stopped eating lettuce in protest to
the maltreatment of migrant workers who were woefully overworked and underpaid
picking that lettuce. It seems that in our rush to personal satisfaction in the
form of the latest consumer goods, we have forgotten the power of collective
action in denying “the man”. What happened to this great American tradition of
peaceful joint protest manifested as an embargo on certain products?
Now while I am on the subject of collective action and
before someone calls me a communist or worse, a schnorer, let’s turn our gaze
to another group of Americans forced to work under untenable conditions who
used to be treated well, but now are viewed as simply cogs in the corporate
machine. That would be doctors.
In a column in the Houston Chronicle today, December 1, I
relate my protest with the word “providers” being substituted for the word
physician when describing those men and women who went to school for 8 years
and then spent another 3 or more in post-graduate training to qualify for
licenses as physicians and surgeons, many with additional, hard won board certification.
Words matter. It’s not that we think less of the various
members of the care team who extend the reach of physicians to more people in
need. It is that we used to be a special class of people to whom much was given
and much was expected (sort of like SpiderMan in a white coat). Now, as
medicine reaches corporate proportions complete with button down suits running
the operations delivering care, we docs have been left by the sidelines. What
is worse, we have allowed this to happen without the merest of protests. Why?
My theory is like the consumers at Wal-Mart we have become accustomed to and
expectant of a plush life-style and forgot that once in a while you have to
fight for what you believe.
Guess what? Just as Pearl Harbor made the aggression of
totalitarianism no longer deniable to America, ObamaCare makes the encroachment
of the health care-industrial complex into modern medicine a reality beyond
delusional denial. Guys and gals, something like ObamaCare here to stay and was never really the
issue anyway as the economics of health care is a far greater force for us to
reckon with than the Congress of the United States.
If we docs want to have a say in our future lives and the
lives of those who follow us into medicine, we need to speak with one voice and
with a resounding NO! We decide how medicine is to be practiced. We participate
in the better education of our patients and the patients of the future by
demanding health, sex, nutrition, anti-tobacco and physical education in the
schools. We reform health care as politically active Americans and the best of
us run for public office on both sides of the aisle (all three docs in the US
Senate are Republicans).
The time is long over when we can tolerate shopping on
Thanksgiving for wide screen TVs or the relegation of physicians to the assembly
line of one-size-fits-all health care as the academics continue to sell
personalized medicine that no one can afford.
No shopping on Thanksgiving. No docs on the chain gang Who’s