by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Before I go on and on about politics and culture, as I typically do, let me wish you, your family, and your friends happy holidays. Merry Christmas to those who observe the holiday. Also, Happy New Year!
Woohoo! The United Auto Workers won solid new contracts with GM, Ford, and Stellantis (owner of Chrysler). New pay raises. New cost-of-living adjustments. The ink wasn’t dry on these new contracts before Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai announced that they are raising pay at their US plants. Do not tell me that unions are not critical to America. This is going to be a massive boost to the American middle class.
(Former) Representative George Santos has been kicked out of the House of Representatives. After an Ethics committee investigation revealed that his scams had scams—he was using campaign money to gamble, buy expensive clothes, get Botox treatments, and pay off personal debt—even Republicans said that was too much. In a vote of 311 to 144, the House threw Santos out the front door. Well, the House has not done much of anything this session, but they did get this done!
I do not want to spend the whole column talking about Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, he is such a controversial figure that I could easily spend several days discussing his good points and his many bad points. Henry Kissinger died at his house at the age of 100. He was the Secretary of State to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He was more than that. He was a rock star. He was a celebrity. In the late 1970s, he was invited to all the important parties. He went out with some of the most attractive actresses and models. Everybody wanted him on those Sunday morning talk shows.
His story was fascinating. His family fled Nazi Germany. He grew up in New York. He went to Harvard undergrad and grad school. He was so good they kept him on as faculty, which rarely happens at Harvard.
From Harvard, he got into the State Department and worked his way up to Secretary of State—while also serving as Nixon’s National Security Adviser. He had a near-photographic memory of history.
On the good side, he opened relations with China. On the bad side, he made a deal with North Vietnam, which ended the war in Vietnam but left South Vietnam out in the cold. He trivialized the consequences of expanding the war into Cambodia. The carpet bombing of Cambodia was inexcusable. We left Cambodia almost as quickly as we got in. Unfortunately, our destruction of Cambodia destabilized the peacefully elected government and paved the way for the genuinely despicable Khmer Rouge to enter. Oh, there is more that I could say. But I’ll simply say–rest in peace.
The fighting stopped—temporarily. During the pause in the action, there has been an exchange of prisoners/hostages. I don’t know where we go from here.
Of course, Israel and Hamas can start full-scale fighting again. I don’t know what that would accomplish. Northern Gaza has been almost totally flattened. Tunnels have been discovered near hospitals. Somebody—hopefully the United States—is talking to both sides about an endgame.
Now is the time. For decades, we have come up with excuses for why now was not the time. There is never a good time. There is always conflict. There is always disagreement. In order to save more lives, we must come up with a permanent peace solution. Doesn’t that have to be a two-state solution? This Christmas, I’m praying for peace.
Several months ago, I wrote in this space that our current healthcare system really suits no one. The doctors aren’t happy. The nurses aren’t happy. Hospital administrators aren’t all that happy. Insurance companies—well, they seem to be satisfied.
We need a system that works for us. We need to develop a system that puts patients first. A system where doctors can see patients quickly. Doctors can decide what tests to order and what medications to give without jumping through hoops. Sure, the system needs checks and balances. I don’t think that anybody wants a system where doctors run wild.
I watched a health insurance commercial in which some “average guy” told everybody how they needed to check their insurance every year. Somebody asked the obvious question: why? Because, he answered, health coverage changes every year.
My question to the TV is, why? Why would healthcare coverage change? I think that all Americans want basic healthcare coverage, including doctor visits, emergency room visits, coverage of prescription drugs, coverage of medical devices (wheelchairs, walkers, walking boots, crutches, etc.), full dental coverage, hospitalization coverage, and mental health coverage. If these are the basics, why would an insurance company change them?
Well, the answer is that they’re trying to make more money. Therefore, they’ll vary your coverage not based on what you need but on what they want. By the way, why do we have insurance deductibles? We’re already paying premiums for insurance; what is the purpose of deductibles? As far as I can tell, a deductible is a deterrent. The deductible basically tells me not to use my insurance coverage unless I really need it.
That’s nuts. In fact, the only thing that isn’t totally nuts, the only good news, is that more than half a million people in North Carolina finally can get expanded Medicaid coverage. The Republican legislature has delayed this important benefit for citizens of this state for 12 years! They finally gave in. It’s about time.
It was 1982 or 1983. I was a junior or senior at Emory University. President Jimmy Carter had joined the faculty at Emory. I had seen him around campus a couple of times. It’s hard to miss a president of the United States, or a former president of the United States, walking around a university campus with three or four Secret Service agents flanking him.
Anyway, I was invited to dinner with President and Mrs. Carter. It was me and approximately 15 of my student leader companions.
I’ll never forget how nice and gracious both of them were. After dinner, we had a roundtable discussion. We asked questions. The former president and first lady answered the questions. I don’t recall any evasion from them. There were questions about the White House. There were questions about the failed rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran.
I asked about his biggest regret concerning the Israeli–Palestinian situation. He said that his goal was to come up with a permanent solution. He regretted that he never did. As I recall, Rosalynn Carter was not a porcelain statue. She was an active participant in the conversation. I got the feeling that they were a team. They loved each other. They helped each other. They completed each other.
Very few of us live an exemplary life—even celebrities that we put on a pedestal. When we put them under a microscope, many of them fall apart. Rosalynn Carter does not. She grew up in the Baptist Church. She believed in modesty. She believed in helping people experiencing poverty. She fought for better care and better access for the mentally ill. Mental health care improved in this country because of her tenacity. She was instrumental in the expansion of Habitat for Humanity. She founded the Institute for Caregivers. She was a powerful advocate for both women and children. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999.
Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96. Someone said at her funeral that “her life was her eulogy.” I couldn’t agree more. Rest in peace, Mrs. Carter.
I want to ask you to protect your nerves this holiday season. Turn off the mainstream media. Don’t listen to Donald Trump. Spend some time with family and friends. Remember, our time on this earth is short. We need to spend time just loving each other. Whichever one(s) you celebrate, Happy Holidays!
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here, as well as assertions of facts, are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Urban News.