THE BLOG
01/17/2015 12:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ignoring Real Heroes? Terrorism, Ferguson, Ebola

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Last year was not a kind year. Deadly serious issues confronted the nation. It did not go well. Several arenas epitomized these issues more than most.

Healthcare

Cancer in the extended family was our introduction to the US civilian healthcare system and the providers and patients who populate the top tiers of US healthcare. Heroes are everywhere. From case workers striving to piece together some plan that allows a chance for treatment both to ease the pain and to attack the disease to the healthcare providers struggling to care for patients in the worst of health, many of whom will not survive the season.

While I write, across the room sits a prosperous looking patient being stressed by health insurance concerns. Waiting for her chemotherapy treatment to begin, she is told her insurance company claims her healthcare coverage lapsed. The staff worked their magic and righted that wrong. Horrendous, that it is necessary to wage war with insurance companies while desperately fighting the cancer eating you alive. I think of a friend, former congressman Chris Carney, who voted for Obama's healthcare bill knowing it meant he would lose re-election; this type of situation inspired his courage.

Heroes are the professional healthcare providers and support staff, most being paid salaries that will never make them wealthy. They cheerfully provide care to the country's high and low. At the end of the day, the Medicaid patient and the extremely well off share the same fate. Oh, the wealthy may be coddled more in 'nicer rooms' but if they want the best treatment, they will be here.

Police and Justice

Race, militarized police and violence tore the country. Ferguson, Missouri, was the catalyst but the problem was brewing. The militarization of US police forces followed the end of the Vietnam War with similar results. A subtle shift of the police focus from 'serve and protect' to 'defend and suppress' can distract some local police in to forgetting they are part of their community.

The entire Ferguson fiasco went down in 90 seconds. Chaos reigned. Long ago, I was a city cop. My experience leans toward an ill-trained cop that panicked and disaster occurred. But, if a police department loses ties to its community, it becomes an occupying force. This clearly happened in Ferguson. Communities must always evaluate their police. The honest citizens who take to the streets are heroes for demanding justice and they are not alone. Good citizens must seek justice, in the street if necessary.

It takes a special type of person to go out day after day and often see the worst of peoples' lives. Most cops are heroes; they do not want bad cops. Putting cameras on every uniform cop will help good cops two ways: protecting them from false accusations and eliminating bad cops. Good cops predominate. But cowards make heroes' jobs more difficult.

Heroes

Heroes are every individual who goes to work every day and does the best they can to improve the life of neighbors and society. You disagree, uttering they are 'just' doing their job? The secret is how they do their job.

Occasionally, heroes are defined by one significant act such as rescuing wounded comrades or bystanders. As heroic, are those whose daily effort against constant odds aids people and society. Years ago, while a patient at Walter Reed, I realized how nearly insurmountable was the healthcare provider's daily task of caring for our seriously wounded. It takes a very special kind of hero. For example, one who hesitated to write concerning prisoner healthcare because she feared public attacks.

"...I've put off writing about prisoner-patients because I imagined the overwhelming response from readers would be anger at the idea of convicted criminals' receiving free health care that many Americans cannot get or afford, even under the Affordable Care Act..."

The very core of a hero is the sense of selflessness and the urge to help people live or live better.

Cowards abound

Remember when we would all die from Ebola? Politicians and media talking heads called for closed borders and sold great fear. These timid and frightened people even demanded quarantining real healthcare heroes caring for the sick in Africa. "Lock them up" seemed to be their terrified screech.

When did American leadership become so timid and fear ridden? Where was the call for finding a cure and defeating the disease? Where were the political, media and religious leaders stepping forward to call for less fear and more courage?

Healthcare professionals, knowing the risks, still continued to work. I wager with a smile on most faces and a joke on their breath. Professional, everyday heroes showing up doing jobs that needed doing. Yet daily, politicians and media talking heads spread fear and hysteria every step of the way. Blocking progress and impeding their betters.

Timidity and fear spread to the weakest in our society where it often metastases into hate. When did our political, military and religious leadership fail their flocks? Was it the gospel of abundance seemingly adopted by all of them? These same timid and frightened 'leaders' inflamed identical false overblown fears of terrorism. 'What Would Today's American Insecurity Look Like to Someone From 1963?', January 9, 2015, by Tom Engelhardt summed up the failure of national leadership well:

"...In describing all this to that visitor from another America, you would, however, have to add that the Global War on Terror, in which giant ambitions met the most modest of opponents any great power had faced in hundreds of years, didn't work out so well..."

Follow real heroes' example, embrace commitment to others and begin the difficult task of discovering real solutions to real challenges. No strong nation ever long succeeded by embracing the mantra of fear and timidity.