by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
In The Wizard of Oz, the children’s tale and famous movie, our four heroes all want something from the great Wizard.
Dorothy wants to go home. The Lion wants courage. The Scarecrow wants a brain, and the Tin Man wants a heart. Today, it seems that we all need a heart. We need empathy.
The Land of Canaan
This is really a small strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean. This piece of land is mentioned in the Torah. This land is mentioned in the Bible. This land is even mentioned in the Koran. After World War II, an area was carved out of this land to create the state of Israel. Israel is surrounded by Lebanon and Syria to the north, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to its south. The Mediterranean Ocean is to its west.
On October 7, Hamas, a Palestinian militant group funded by Iran, based in Gaza, attacked Israel on multiple fronts. They launched rockets (over 3,000 of them). They used paragliders to get deep into Israeli territory. They used cars, trucks, and motorcycles to attack outlying Israeli communities. They even attacked a military base. They killed men, women, and children. They killed Israeli soldiers as well as police officers.
The purpose of the attack was to cause chaos and panic. They killed over 1,300 Israelis. They also took over 200 people hostage. Then, they disappeared back into Gaza.
The Israeli response was predictable. They vowed to destroy, eliminate, and extinguish any remnants of Hamas. For the next 2-½ weeks, Israel bombed and shelled northern Gaza. This was followed by a slow and methodical ground invasion. Millions of people have been herded from the north to the south. There has been a small humanitarian corridor opened between Egypt and Gaza, but only a few trucks of humanitarian aid have entered Gaza. This is allowing some fraction of the aid that is truly needed.
This is a disaster of epic proportions. Most Americans would agree that Israel has a right to exist and has a right to defend itself. On the other hand, it seems to me that Palestinians have a right to freedom and autonomy as well. But the stated goal of Israel is to eliminate Hamas.
Don’t know how you do that? I have no idea. I know we tried to eliminate the Taliban 20 years ago. How did that work out?
The reality is that it is nearly impossible to eliminate a group of militants who blend in with the local people. This is a fact. Think of the Viet Cong during our war in Vietnam. Unless you’re willing to eliminate all the local people, every last one of them—and that’s called genocide—I don’t know how you eliminate only the militants. According to some estimates, there have already been over 8,000 Palestinians killed.
How many of them were militants? How many were innocent bystanders? How many of them were families in the wrong place at the wrong time? How many of them were in “safe shelters” where they had gone for refuge?
I don’t know, and I doubt any government knows, either. What I do know is this: If you have a heart, if you have empathy, it seems like we must pray for and work for peace.
Another Mass Shooting
A 40-year-old American went into a bowling alley and then into a bar. (No this isn’t a joke.) He opened fire and killed 18 people and wounded another 13. The weapon used appears to be an AK-47. The perpetrator had a psychotic break of some sort.
Sooner or later, we have to say enough! We’ve seen enough shootings and gun violence in this country. We need universal healthcare. We need more psychologists and psychiatrists. We need more mental health institutions. With universal healthcare, people who are struggling can get the help that they need.
And there are simply too many guns. They are too easy to obtain.
We need stricter gun laws. We need better background checks. There should be a 14-day waiting period. We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We need to be able to keep guns out of the hands of people who are struggling with severe mental illness.
This shouldn’t be hard. This is not a slippery slope. I have no desire to take everybody’s gun. I simply want to make America a safer place. I would like to live in a country with less gun violence.
If you have a heart… if you have empathy, you know we must fix our gun violence problem. People who love guns and people who hate guns need to come together. We can figure this out!
After more than a month of fumbling and bumbling, the Republican Party chose Mike Johnson to be their new Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mike Johnson is from Louisiana. He is not a household name. As a matter of fact, he is from Shreveport, Louisiana, where I spent more than eight years learning the craft of surgery. I do not know Representative Johnson. Few people do.
Democrats and the Democratic Party have been busily digging into his past, looking for golden nuggets. Mike Johnson seems to be one of those Southern gentlemen who is always smiling and never raises his voice. Yet, when you look, there really is some ugliness underneath the hood.
Mike Johnson supported conversion therapy. (This is an intensive psychologic therapy that is supposed to turn gays and lesbians into “normal” straight folks. No, it really doesn’t work. It can lead to suicide and other mental disorders. It should never be done.)
Of course, he’s an election denier. He has waffled on aid to Ukraine. He seemed to have supported aid when the conflict first broke out. More recently, he has voted against spending bills sending aid to Ukraine.
He has recently stated that if you really want to know where he stands, you should just read the Bible. (As if two people reading the Bible will come away with the same ideas. People have been fighting over the meaning of the Bible for centuries.) And lest we forget, no matter how much any of us turns to the Bible (or any other holy book) to govern our own lives, it is unconstitutional to use the Bible to govern other people’s lives or the country as a whole.
I’m sorry, the news is very depressing. I need to embrace something that is joyous and uplifting. Simone Biles. She is a 26-year-old gymnast who is probably the greatest athlete of her generation. She needs to be mentioned with Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, and other truly great athletes of the 20th century. She is the most decorated gymnast in history. Yes, I admit, I don’t sit around watching gymnastics, but when she is on, I turn on the TV. When she is on, something great is going to happen.
Simone Biles recently competed in the World Championships. She placed first. I could try to explain this complex Yurchenko double pike. I heard it described, and I couldn’t believe that someone would actually try this. Then I saw it, and it was simply a thing of beauty. She is an outstanding reminder that hard work with the right instruction can equal greatness.
Trump and Winning
If you are one who believes in the rule of law, this has been a good month for you. Three Trump co-defendants have pled guilty in the Georgia case. Three!!! (Including former Biltmore Forest-Asheville resident Sydney Powell!) And Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in the federal January 6 case. Finally, three states are moving forward with three separate cases to remove Trump from the ballot based on the 14th Amendment. Things are looking bad for Trump and good for our democracy.
I love winning. Don’t you? Ohio voters added abortion rights to their state constitution. Kentucky re-elected Andy Beshear as their Democratic governor. He won over a Trump-endorsed candidate. Beshear won by a larger margin than he did four years ago. Virginia voted to keep the Senate in Democratic hands and flipped the House to the Dems. Yusef Salaam, member of the Exonerated Central Park Five, won a New York City Council seat. Think about all that Salaam has been through. It is humbling that he wants to make the world a better place.
The goodness and simplicity of The Wizard of Oz should be emphasized. This 1939 movie was not perfect. Yet it was heartwarming. The songs are familiar to almost everyone. As a matter of fact, most of us know the dance moves. Sometimes, just sitting down and watching a good, old movie can recharge our battery. And yes, we’re going to need our batteries at full charge in the coming year, to get people registered and get out the vote. It will take time, and effort, and money, and the determination to prevail for the good of our democracy.
So, watch The Wizard of Oz. Relax. Enjoy it. And recharge yourself. Because once we’ve done that, we’ll have to be ready to roll up our sleeves and fight that good fight, once again.
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.