Making America Great

"Greatness lies not in being strong..."

Making America Great

“Greatness lies not in being strong,
but in the right use of strength.”
Henry Ward Beecher

Among all of the talk of bringing greatness back to America, I found myself thinking about my career. It has not been made clear at what time in the past our country was better or greater than it is now. My mind wandered… Some memories from my life came up.
The young woman who wanted to be an attorney. She had married soon after she finished college. She went to work so that her husband could finish school. Once he was done she studied law in the evenings; she worked full-time and somehow managed to raise a child at the same time. Once she graduated and passed the bar exam she decided that starting her own law firm would be too stressful, and the jobs that established firms offered her would take too much of her family time from her. She went to work for a large corporation as in-house counsel.
She dove into her duties. After six months on the job she noticed that the corporate office was not following the law when they hired new employees. She dug into the matter some more. The evidence was clear. With much alarm she notified her boss.
He ignored her. It became clear to her that he was well aware of the wrongdoing, but by behaving illegally he was saving a lot of money for the company. His balance sheet looked great. She talked to him again. No response. She sent a certified letter, just to cover herself in the event that the case was ever prosecuted. In the middle of this controversy, as she was leaving work late one evening, she noticed her boss fondling and kissing an employee.
The next day she warned him again, this time about two misconducts instead of one. She made it very clear that she could not be a party to this behavior. When she arrived at work a day later she was told that her office had been moved. To the top floor of a bar, located ten blocks away, that was rumored to house prostitutes. She was no longer invited to board meetings. Her pay was cut.
She sued; she spent weeks preparing all pertinent documents. The judge dismissed her complaints. She had trouble finding any corporate job after this.
The nurses at one of the hospitals that I used to practice in. There was this one doctor that would sexually touch them if they happened to find themselves alone in the elevator with him. It got to the point that if he got in while they were riding the elevator, they would get out. They complained. The nursing supervisor told them that this man brought a lot of business into the hospital. That boys would be boys. Nothing happened to him.
The young woman who was undergoing a pelvic exam in the low income clinic while I was a trainee. The GYN resident was in a hurry, and in a bad mood. He was not gentle when he inserted the speculum. She winced in pain.
“Come on! You’ve had bigger things in here,” he said. She was poor and in need of attention. No complaint was lodged.
The male nurse who was solicited by one of our “star” physicians. Twice. He lodged a complaint. The hospital did not want to scare the doctor off. The nurse was transferred to a different floor. Nothing happened to the doctor.
The GYN who routinely asked his cute patients on a date. He was married; so were most of his patients. The hospital loved him. The busy surgeon who carried a years-long affair with an OR nurse. When his wife found out and laid down the law, he had the hospital pay his lover so that she would agree to find another job.
During my years in med school sexist and racist jokes were rampant. There were a few Puerto Rican jokes also. The few women in my class grinned and bore the humiliation. That was considered part of the training; another way that they could become tough.
When I first came to this country Black people had to ride on the back of the bus. Until one year before I started med school Barnes Hospital forced all of its Black patients onto a basement ward, where you could see pipes in the ceiling and the level of service was different.
I could go on and on, but I already have. The topic of political correctness comes up; oodles of people feel that we have gone too far. Then I see how there is no way; no way that any of these incidents could happen today without grave consequences to the jerks who perpetrated them. At a time when America was supposedly great.
There is room for improvement in the way we talk to each other; I’ll be the first to admit. Yes; sometimes we feel that we must walk on eggshells.
But under no circumstances will I long for a period of greatness that never was. We will not walk backwards. Because it would not be the right use of strength.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Javier Alberdi

    Buena reflexión, Paco. El problema es que muchos de los que hablan de volver a tener poder… están hablando de que no les gustan cosas que les pasan ahora, o están buscando una forma de conseguir un carguito… El primer grupo es más fácil de comprender. El segundo es un grupo de sinvergüenzas, pero normalmente muy bien preparados y viviendo muy bien. Un abrazo. Javier

    Javier Alberdi Alonso Rosalía de Castro 84, 6 C 28035 Madrid Teléfono 34-913730997, 34-633371827

    2016-07-19 21:46 GMT+02:00 Francisco Garriga, M.D. :

    > franciscogarrigamd posted: “”Greatness lies not in being strong…” Making > America Great “Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of > strength.” Henry Ward Beecher Among all of the talk of bringing greatness > back to America, I found myself thinking about my career” >

  2. Gwen Holmes

    Well said! Thank you

  3. franciscogarrigamd

    Thank you; I miss my patients but I am getting a lot done that I could not accomplish before. Always a mixed bag.

  4. Cordell Webb

    This is sort of a eye opener to me. I would have thought professional people would have acted better. I worked in a large machine shop and always felt sorry for women that would have to walk through it. The way a lot of the guys would act and things that were said to them. I don’t remember anyone ever getting in trouble about their actions.

  5. Betty Townsend

    I guess we have all experienced these kind of situations and we haven’t said a word. By keeping our mouths shut we really condoned the problem. As I get “old”er I can’t keep my mouth shut. Just because someone is more “educated” doesn’t mean that they are thoughtful. I have met some that think they or above others. They forget that we are all in this together. Still miss you.

  6. donnyraybob

    Nostalgia is a natural instinct. Our past is what made us who we are today. We long perhaps for what we perceived to be a “simpler” time. Dr Garriga provides examples of what Med school was like when he was there and how that wasn’t always so great. Yet, my youngest daughter, in 3rd year medical school now, can attest to the sad fact that little has changed. She’s actually leaning toward a specialty that will limit her interaction with male patients as well as male doctors. Why? Because the level and frequency of inappropriate comments are intolerable and too rampant to report. The salient difference between now and the past we long for is that the news is now everywhere, all the time, non-stop and rife with gossip, innuendo and speculation. Why? Because the 24/7/365 news cycle demands content. Our melting pot society is a beautiful tapestry of ethnic, nationalist, and religious diversity. We take pride in our past, our ancestry and our traditions. Yet, in that diversity, the lens of understanding, tolerance, empathy, and compassion will vary too. Do we accept those differences, or do we insist on a homogenous society. Our differences can lead to argument, confrontation, insults, slights, negative stereotypes, conflict and pain. But our differences can also lead to intelligent understanding, greater compassion, and a genuine respect for other cultures.

    But what has made America great is that no matter our differences as a people, we always rallied to defend our right to disagree, to pursue our own interests so long as those interests didn’t impringe upon the rights of others. We were allowed to believe what we wished and could express our opinions without the news jumping all over us for appearing intolerant or insensitive. Local government, the government closest to the people could make decisions, enforce policies for the good of the community, and could make laws that reflected the attitudes of that community.

    Yet, modern society would have us all think, speak, write, and act as if there is only one perspective, one point of view. We must all believe in gay marriage or be labeled a homophobe. We must all accept that those who came to our country illegally have the same rights as those who came here legally, or be labeled a racist. We must accept that long-held religious briefs are not acceptable in a progressive society. We must accept and agree that inequality of outcomes is a result of an inequality of opportunity. We must accept that we as citizens are no longer accountable for our bad decisions and that the government must protect us from ourselves. And we must accept that the two-party political system is the only system that can safely handle the levers of our massive government.

    So, I too long for a time when America was great. When we respected the rule of law. When we believed our constitution was the greatest of our institutions, when we could look past our ethnic and religious differences and agree that, despite its many flaws, there was still no greater form of government, no freer a nation, than the United States of Ammerica. We have an immigration problem because people in other countries believe we are still the land of opportunity, even if we fail to see that ourselves.

    1. franciscogarrigamd

      Sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. My daughter had one encounter with inappropriateness during med school and she was able to make it stop on a dime. I agree that the dialogue is much more strident now; I do feel that too many people are born without a reasonable chance to be successful, either because of poverty or poor parenting. We could do more to help our neglected children.