The disintegration of America’s rule of law.
Huh? Our nation, government, culture and social fabric are all based on the rule of law, are you sure you mean this statement?
Indeed, I am. There are three primary reasons:
Terry and I were sitting at TJ’s, the bar across from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital where he was a twenty-six-year-old fourth year medical student at Columbia University and I was seventeen. In New York City for my first three month pediatrics rotation for nursing school.
I laughed when he said that…hard. Not much less than a belly laugh.
Of course, Terry was annoyed at my reaction. So, I explained-making it worse. Because just maybe, I had wholly missed what had been going on between the two of us.
“You’ve never even seen cotton! Your father is a wealthy internist in Brooklyn who most likely has never even seen a cotton plant!” I knew how expensive Columbia medical school was and that my dad could never afford to pay my way for a single semester.
It was during another time of civil unrest, riots and widespread summer made hotter by violence and fires. We had been discussing the protests and reasons for them.
Terry’s response surprised-shocked- me. Angrily, he said, “Okay, Lin, just what do you think Tom and Nan Carney will say when you bring home a black man to Sharon, Massachusetts? Think they will be happy with the man Lin has brought home for them to meet?”
We were friends, I thought, no more than that. He was interesting, older, and fun to talk with and, I admit, I liked the stares we provoked when together. Terry was quite literally, tall, dark- black- and handsome. I was white, very blonde and blown away by the fact that someone that good-looking liked to be with me.
But bringing him home to meet my parents?
Where did that come from?
Since I had absolutely no experience with dating in high school or with men period, there may have been clues but they sailed miles over my head. Our ‘dates’ were animated conversations, aside from one kiss which I did not know what to do with. Amazement, shock, and confusion were so all consuming that I merely stared at him, open-mouthed and mute. Terry stormed out of TJ’s.
For obvious reasons, that experience has come back to my mind and only now, pondering what happened between us, I realize that he might have been far more interested in me than I had any clue of. My shock at his question had nothing to do with his race but with his abrupt transition from ‘buddies” to something that sounded quite serious…like meeting parents. And I realize I had hurt-even insulted him. And had no clue I was doing so.
Today, I’d be called a racist…perhaps only one of many labels. I think of the truth of what Norman Cousins once wrote- effective communication is the most difficult undertaking on earth.
I have a love/hate relationship with rules, regulations and laws…the latter (hate) being the catalyst for ‘the disintegration of America’s rule of law.’ Where many consider the passage of a law the end game, the fact is that the new regulation changes behavior only if there are strong penalties not to [engage in the prohibited activity] and/or inducements to perform the desired one. And that the new rule must be monitored and enforced, constantly.
Very tricky stuff.
I decided to get my doctorate because they elected me Chair of the Ethics Committee. Surrounded by MD/PhD’s, plain MD’s and PhD’s, I figured I had no choice…never dreaming it would take almost ten years. But I had an agenda. I had witnessed something I’d never seen before. Patients who were labeled DNR but who remained on vents, dialysis, and all the plethora of interventions at the disposal of American medicine. I sought to fix that- stop the suffering of all these people who could not seem to die.
My dissertation-fondly called my dissertation from hell- was on that subject. Through the research, I learned first-hand that all the policies in my ethics arsenal hardly touched the decisions of the doctors at the medical center where I worked. Unless, their hearts and minds were assured they would not get sued by a “cousin showing up from Oklahoma.”
While writing the qualitative portion of the dissertation, I found a book called Going By the Book: The Problem of Regulatory Unreasonableness. The book seemed to describe almost perfectly the over regulated culture of academic medicine-hospitals in general. The authors state that many of our OSHA regulations were created by an accident with a less than .001 chance of recurrence. But the costly regulations persist and accumulate. And describe at length the almost universal rigidity of the inspectors, an inflexibility which often threatened the goal of the regulation.
Our rule of law has been “freed” from the original constraints imposed by the founding fathers: the moral code of faith and religion. Our nation has been transformed into the anvil for the endless list of rights without corresponding obligations.
In another article on the slippery slope of the law, I wrote this:
I think you know- I think we all know.
John Adams explains:
“We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
What most of us do every day but harder. Pray, trust, fast, look for openings to share Who and what we know. No law, ordinance, or riot can omit hatred and evil from the heart of man. Only one Person can do this- the man-God Jesus.
Look to those who went before us. Those heroic men and women who shine in the darkness. Like Jessica Powers- remember her Hallmark cards?
[…] and the “rights of the patient to know” at the Institutional Ethics Committee meeting which I then chaired, he drawled, “I no longer tell my patients how long they have left. I learned the hard way that […]