Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anti-Abortion Terrorists

The murder of Dr. George Tiller and subsequent discussions have me recalling incidents where my own ob/gyn has feared for his life.
Dr. Tiller was in the foyer of his church when a 51-year-old man shot and killed Tiller for performing abortions. A radical pro-lifer felt justified in killing a physician - a grown, well-educated man that was meeting a medical need in a legal and safe manner. Such vigilantism is pious and sacrilegious, going against the very nature of pro-life mantras. Members of pro-life organizations speak of perpetuating life, yet they have no concern for quality of life. Jim Buie addresses the issue using a very personal example, with his recent article in Newsweek.
When I first met my gynecologist, I was impressed with the questions he asked. He wanted to know about me, what I wanted for the future and whether I had concerns. It wasn't the usual rubber stamp process and he looked me directly in the eyes. When I became pregnant with my second child, he became well-informed about my first pregnancy and considered me high-risk. While I knew he deeply cared about my baby, I also knew he focused on me as the patient. I did not become a mere host, secondary to the potential developing person.
I never felt rushed in his presence. During one visit, when I had questions, he put down the pen and file, sat down, looked at me squarely and said - "okay - what's on your mind." He was paged three times for a phone call and never flinched, never took his eyes off of me. The nurse poked her head in the room, and said, "Dr. X is on the phone for you!" My doctor calmly said, "Tell him I will call him back." Complete focus - what every patient dreams of - was mine.
His care and concern stayed with me and when I found out a local group of anti-abortionists were harassing my doctor (one of only two physicians performing abortions in the area at that time) and his family, I was livid. I cheered when the local paper reported he was filing a law suit and called his answering service to leave a message of support. Even the operator seemed pleasantly surprised at my message of goodwill, indicating she had been fielding a majority of hate calls.
Because of the intrusions he has suffered at the hands of zealots, I have respected his privacy and avoided asking direct questions about his experience. Still, I learned that protesters gathered regularly at his home, blocking the driveway, following his children, and presenting in a threatening manner. He finally moved to a gated community where all visitors are screened.
In an interesting twist, my mother recently moved to a retirement community and her next door neighbor happens to be one of the protesters sued by my physician. I haven't dared inform the neighbor of the odd connection. I know her as a wonderful woman who has a heart of gold, yet mom has held witness to this neighbor's piousness when she gets on her anti-abortion soapbox. She believes innocent children are being taken to slaughter by the millions and lets her opinion be known whenever possible.
In her mind, the protesters quietly pray for divine intervention. Yet, medical professionals have died at the hands of zealots justifying their actions in God's name with the belief that abortion is wrong. Instinct has us learn to avoid danger by avoiding those who could potentially cause harm. To stalk someone and then gaze in disbelief when accused of harassment and threatening behaviors is incredulous.
Regardless of individual beliefs, we can not begin to understand the decision that is made by each woman pursuing an abortion. To further compound the issue by interfering with a woman's right to quality medical care is barbaric. Most of all, doctors should not have to fear for their lives to provide those rights.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vortex of violence

Bob Sweeney: There was a moment... when I used to blame everything and everyone... for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me, that I saw happen to my people. Used to blame everybody. Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God. I didn't get no answers 'cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.
Derek Vinyard: Like what?
Bob Sweeney: Has anything you've done made your life better?

Today concludes a week filled with irony in actions that merged history with present day. An 88-year-old white supremacist (allegedly shot and) killed an African-American guard at the entrance of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC two days before what would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday. The play "Anne and Emmitt" - an imagined dialogue between Anne Frank and Emmitt Till - was to open at the museum the same evening of the shooting, but of course was postponed.
Whether coincidence or deliberately planned, FX network ran "American History X" several times this weekend. If you haven't seen the movie, find it, buy it, rent it - but be prepared to be shocked. Breaking all taboos, the movie lays racism, supremacy and hatred on the line and adds on heavy violence and language.
The message is strong - if only it could be required for all high school students. Then again, maybe it takes a certain level of intelligence to understand the movie's message - an intelligence that von Brunn lacks.
The main character's younger brother writes a paper, concluding with a quote from Abraham Lincoln:
Danny Vinyard: So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned - my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it. Derek says it's always good to end a paper with a quote.
He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can't top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you'd like. 'We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'

A turning point in the film, Derek Vineyard (Edward Norton) symbolically sheds his negativity, with flashbacks of himself and his younger brother at the beach. The swastika remains, perhaps as a scar of his internal battle that led to his hatred.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fire department focus of flaming

An article in today's News & Record reports that the City of Greensboro's hiring practices may be discriminating against minorities seeking jobs with the fire and police departments. Judging by readers' commentary, I'd say a diverse population has come to a consensus: the article itself is lacking fair representation.
Casting a shadow over the ceremony for 19 graduates of the fire department's training program, the reporter spouts statistics proving the diversity of the department is not reflective of the city's population. While the writer focuses on race, she fails to note the lacking diversity of women and that more than 16 percent of the population is over the age of 60. Do we want older firefighters, too? The "right" people can not be forced to apply for specific jobs.
One possible reason given for the imbalance is the fact that minorities are not passing the entrance exams. Applicants are required to answer half the questions correctly. Only 50 percent, folks! Most schools consider a grade below 60 as failing. I doubt the city is issuing SATs but if tests go beyond the scope of job needs, then revision may be appropriate. However, keep in mind that mathematical reasoning coincides with critical thinking skills. Firefighting is not just spraying water on flames. Precise science and related aptitudes are required.
Greensboro's fire department maintains excellent Accreditation and ISO ratings because of their operational standards, which includes hiring policies. I, along with a majority of other article commentators, want the best of the best coming to the rescue when flames are lapping at our heels and consuming our homes.
When someone is willing to fight for lives and property; when he (or she) puts his body and mind through extensive training; when he takes an oath and graduates with a class of others who comparably excel - that firefighter deserves recognition that goes beyond any demographic label. - Medical Fire Shields