Some Maudlin Thoughts on the 4th of July – A Comment to Steve Schmidt

Hey Steve –

I read your piece – and it was beautiful – on our country and the 4th of July. Riffing from your piece, these are my thoughts on this day.

Im older. I’ve some years left – I hope – but there is seriously more time behind me than in front.

I’ve spent my life in service to our people. Doing medicine here and abroad. I’ve lived through our three great pandemics – HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS-CoV-2 – and never turned away. Never left the people who came for help.

I’ve had 19 year old kids and 85 year old seniors die, almost literally, in my arms.

Although medicine, teaching and research were my “day job”, I could never separate the political life from my work life. So unas much as I could, I’ve been actively involved in our political life; usually on the losing side. I’ve been of the Left for 50 years. The older I become, the more radical I emerge.

Justice – economic and political – fairness, decency, the operationalization of which demands strong unions, strong communities, tax-funded education, healthcare, housing….basically a country and government that cares for its people. All it’s people. And the planet on which we depend.

None of this is happening. In fact, the last 50 years has shown – to my eye – a progressive deterioration. 

Will we get better? I’ve no idea. I appreciate Steve’s romantic view- I say this with complete respect – of our country. Maybe one day we’ll be worth such a soft, romantic view. 

But not now. Sadly, not now. 

This 4th of July, I’ll remember some of the patriots that founded our country. Thomas Paine especially. And the Native Americans who were exterminated. And the Mexican War, the Spanish-American- Cuban war, the Philippines. Chile, Guatemala, Irán, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Iraq….

I’ll remember the hope in our country that was FDRs administration. I’ll remember the southern racists he put up with that took ethnic justice off the table. 

I’ll remember – I’ll be thinking intensively – of our christo-fascist Supreme Court and their followers who just condemned women to death or second class status. The same SCOTUS who stripped the EPA – and other agencies – of their power to function. In the EPAs case, to save our planet.

I’ll be thinking about failure. About how many in my generation tried to stop the illegal war against VietNam, tried to make our world better. More just. We failed.

I’ll be thinking of the first time I was called what is euphemistically termed the “N-word” by some idiot. Was he blind? I was just a brown kid. I’ll remember – I often remember these days – being in the shower as a 10-12 year old boy – with a really stiff scrub brush. Trying. To. Scrub. The. Brown. Off. I’ll be thinking of the damage racism, white supremacy, does to us all. Of course it causes damage to the POC, but it damages the racist as well. Not just in the past, now.

I’ll be thinking of my dad – a Chief on the USS Yorktown; my mom – a Coast Guardswoman; my Uncle Tom – who returned from the Pacific campaign changed. And not for the better. My Uncle Joe, who married an Africa American woman after leaving the farm in North Dakota and who was not welcome in Williston.

I’ll be thinking of and remembering the mother of the 19 year old young man who, after we declared him dead, took my hand – she was present for the resuscitation- and asked: “Are you ok?” Her son had just died and she was worried about me.

Of the husband of the young woman who had died in childbirth in Northeastern Nigeria who hugged me and made sure I was ok.

I’ll be thinking of this, these and others.

Mostly I will be thinking of our kids and grandkids. Of how it could have been different. Of our people. They – we – deserve so much better.

Happy 4th Steve, and all who read this.

About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
This entry was posted in Current Events, Democracy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply