Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Health care professionals accost patients about politics

As an example of how divided our society has become, take my experience yesterday. I went to the eye clinic at the big university medical center to see about getting contact lenses. The optometrist I saw asked me if I had seen the news that day, and when I replied that I hadn't, he told me there had been panicked selling on the stock market. He then proceeded to denounce the House Republicans for killing the bailout bill. I said I don't know, maybe we should just let the chips fall where they may, force the banks to face the consequences of their mistakes. He said that wasn't an option, we can't have the system crash, institutions like the medical center itself depend on being able to take out short-term overnight loans and we'd go out of business if these banks did.

Is it just me, or does this come too close to starting a political argument in a setting where it shouldn't be considered appropriate? I'm sure political disagreements are as old as civilization itself, but I don't have the impression that people did things like this 50 years ago. But as our society has become more and more liberal, the left has felt more and more empowered to drive non-liberal beliefs out of the realm of respectability. I'm reminded of my former co-worker who thought everyone who owned guns or went to church lived in Kentucky, and my classmates who often make much more explicitly liberal statements in public in a way that indicates they assume everyone present agrees with them. We are witnessing the "I don't know how Nixon won; no one I know voted for him" effect writ large.


Laurel Loflund said...

The Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette, in its email newsletter, said this about talking about politics:

"Politically Polite

We have all been taught that politics is not a topic of conversation that is considered to be polite to engage in.....however, today, it is one of the hottest topics. How do we handle this topic politely?

Politics can be a controversial and an emotional subject for many. For this reason, it has always been considered to not be a suggested topic of conversation. But in today's world, politics is as hot a topic as ever.

So can you remain politically polite...what is that?

It is possible to discuss politics and remain politically polite....it is possibly achieved by speaking only about the positive aspects of the candidates, as in "Senator Obama speaks very well" or "Governor Palin, seems to relate to people well." Speaking positively about all candidates is a way to speak well and be politically polite.

Even if someone does not agree with your positive comments, that is ok....you have not been politically impolite by bashing anyone....if someone disagrees with you, you can always say...that is the great thing about this country, it is big enough for all our views."

That being said, I have notice in my own work environment (public school) that the lefties feel perfectly fine about ranting about politics from their point of view, while the conservative teachers (yes, they do exist!) feel very timid about voicing their opinions. I asked one of them one day why they thought that might be, and they were truly puzzled.

My theory is they have been thoroughly cowed by the vehemence of the left, and in some private place in their minds, think "What's the use?" And then shut up forever.

Not a survival mechanism for the group, mind you, but a survival mechanism for the individual.

And no, Hermes, I don't recall conversations like this when I was young, which was, thank heavens, a little less than fifty years ago.

God bless,

Laurel Loflund said...

...that *notice should be *noticed.



stephenhopewell said...

I wonder if the optometrist assumed you were a fellow liberal because of your profession, age, appearance, etc.?

Hermes, I think you mentioned once how it's gotten harder to express opinions now that you've become more traditionalist. I have the same problem. A few years ago, I would occasionally risk "neocon" types of comments, but traditionalist views on sexuality or race are another matter entirely.

Apropos of Laurel's comment, I think in a society where people share roughly the same values, it should be possible to discuss politics in a civil and even lively manner (even Lincoln/Douglas were not so far apart). But in our divided society where various groups and people have truly incompatible values, it becomes necessary to have "political politeness."

But maybe the difference is if you're, say, flamboyantly gay, you may privately offend people but you won't risk persecution. (Leftists and radicals always think they are being "courageous.") If you express conservative views, that's another matter.

Hermes said...

Yes, I think liberals tend to assume that all relatively young, educated people are liberal. This can be explained by realizing that liberals believe not only that liberal views are correct and conservative ones incorrect, but also that conservatives don't hold conservative views for a good reason; rather, the only possible reasons for holding conservative views are malice, ignorance (i.e., lack of education,) or being old enough to have come of age in unenlightned, pre-1960's society. Now, most people don't expect medical students to be malicious, plus I not only am a college graduate but was able to get into medical school, and grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Therefore I must be a liberal.

A perfect example of the phenomenon Stephen is talking about--having argued with liberals while a mainstream conservative but feeling that as a traditionalist it's no longer safe to do so--is the subject that came up in my weekly liberalism seminar last week. One of the most outspoken liberal students in my class mentioned that the medical center (same one where I went to the eye clinic) had recently debated introducing a policy of offering all patients assistance with voter registration at every appointment. Another liberal young woman said that at the institution where she volunteers (I believe it's a nursing home), some people have expressed discomfort with a similar policy there, saying they just think it's not within the scope of their jobs to help people vote, but she thinks, well, at least you're empowering people, right? The first liberal young woman, predictably, replied that when she hears people express such reservations she always wonders if maybe it's perhaps because they don't want CERTAIN PEOPLE voting, hmm?

When I was more of a mainstream conservative I might have chimed in with something along the lines of the people who say it's just not our job, and yeah, it would be great to get more people to vote, but maybe charitable organizations that are explicitly directed toward that purpose can step in and do a better job of it. That would, of course, have appeared a weak argument, and while the liberals present may have given me the benefit of the doubt in terms of not believing me to be a racist, they would have thought I really didn't have any good reason to hold such a view. As a traditionalist, however, I didn't feel I could risk saying anything. My views being what they are, I cannot honestly discuss the topic without, say, the concept of innate racial differences coming up, and I have no doubt that the first liberal young woman would be all too happy to bring the full force of the left-wing inquisition to bear upon me, resulting in who can say what disciplinary action--expulsion, for all I know. So, I have no choice but to keep silent.

I also have had the idea that these problems are caused by increased diversity. If we were a white, Western European, Christian society, we could have a reasonable debate about what the level of taxation should be or to what extent the government should meet people's material needs. But in a society that includes both us Western traditionalists and, say, Somalian immigrants who have absolutely nothing in common with us, there's no common ground on which to debate; all anyone can do is clamor and fight for the interests of his own group.

Dan Kurt said...

re:"I went to the eye clinic at the big university medical center to see about getting contact lenses. The optometrist I saw asked me if I had seen the news that day" Hermes

You consider an optometrist as an equal to an OPHTHALMOLOGIST! Wow.

When I was, many, many years ago, in College it was obvious that becoming an optometrist was what one did if one could not get into Medical School, Dental School, Veterinary School, Law School or Graduate School. The bottom of the barrel was where the future optometrist was found along with future podiatrists and chiropractors. It appears that things haven't changed.

Dan Kurt

Hermes said...

Where did I say I consider an optometrist the equivalent of an opthalmalogist? I simply said it was an optometrist I saw.

I'm not familiar with the history of optometry, but I'm not sure optometrists are analogous to the nurse practitioners that are starting to give doctors a run for their money. Yes, in recent years optometrists have begun to push the limits of their scope of practice by agitating for the ability to perform surgery, but I don't have the impression that ophthalmalogists have ever had an exclusive claim on what optometrists traditionally do. In my experience, opthalmalogists typically don't want to do vision exams and routine eye care; they consider it beneath them and a waste of their medical and surgical training. In every ophthalmalogy practice I've been too, there have been optometrists on staff for the purpose of doing vision exams and prescribing corrective lenses so the physicians can concentrate on cataract surgery, evaluation and treatment of glaucoma, etc. The opthalmalogists I've known frankly don't seem to appreciate patients insisting on seeing them solely for routine vision care.

Dan Kurt said...

re: " hermes said...
Where did I say I consider an optometrist the equivalent of an ophthalmologist? I simply said it was an optometrist I saw."

The fact that you would intrust your eyes to an optometrist signifies that you see no real difference between the two types of examiners.

re: "I don't have the impression that ophthalmologists have ever had an exclusive claim on what optometrists traditionally do."

It is the other way around. Optometrists were late in the game by centuries in the examination of eyes. Optometrists started out as Jewelers and moved into "medicine" by mainly stealth and political connections.

Hermes, since you are a medical student why not show a copy of my post and your post to one of your Professors of Ophthalmology and get their opinion on this and post the result.

I personally have had ( except when I was in the Navy ) exams by Ophthalmologists and none of them ever gave me the impression that an eye exam was beneath them. My exam last November was done by an Ophthalmologist who seemed pleased to do the job. He is a fellowship trained specialist but does general ophthalmology as well as pediatric ophthalmology.

Laurel Loflund said...

Dan Kurt,

I second Hermes' experience with ophthalmologists. In recent years mine added an optometrist to her staff to conduct the simple portion of examinations and limited her own involvement to examination of the inner eye (I had a retina tear years ago that has to be monitored regularly).

This was not the case in my youth, when ophthalmologists took care of the whole examination. I suspect the changes have come about in the last twenty years.

God bless,

Dan Kurt said...

re: "In recent years mine added an optometrist to her staff to conduct the simple portion of examinations and limited her own involvement to examination of the inner eye (I had a retina tear years ago that has to be monitored regularly). by laurel loflund"

Do you remember the "Where's the Beef?" ad from years ago. "Where's the exam?" should be your question to your Ophthalmologist. You are being short changed by allowing your exam to be done by a lesser qualified individual. You even admit to having had a retinal tear in the past.

Yes, we are a nation of sheep.


stephenhopewell said...

(Jumping in the middle of a different thread)

Hermes, your experience sounds TOO much like mine! I have been asked recently to assist in voter registration....

Anyway, I don't think we should allow ourselves to be demoralized. Things have to right themselves eventually.

Laurel Loflund said...

Dan, she DOES examine my eyes. Just not the mostly automated stick-the-head-in-the -harness-and-watch-the-little-balloon while the measurements are taken for the actual prescription.

This isn't a "Where's the Beef" situation. She spends a lot more time carefully examining my inner eye (retina, etc.) than the optometrist does with the machine.

God bless,

Smith/Wesson said...

I get this all the time. I'm convinced I go to the most liberal medical school in the country. The professors are becoming more brazen by the day in their support for Obama and democrats in general. Vitriol spouted toward "red staters" is so prevalent that it's in the lecture notes. People talk as if being liberal is the default position. Fellow students and faculty physicians alike are excited by the prospect of being indentured servants to a socialist state. I'm not optimistic.

Adam T. said...

People talk as if being liberal is the default position.

Yes, they do, and they do at my school too (though not nearly to the extent that it seems they do your guys' schools!). Just today - the Canadian election is today - I overheard one of my classmates say, 'Well, you know, our issues just aren't the same as they are in the States! All we really have to care about is the environment! We don't have to care about all those crazy things they care about down there.'

But guys, I've said this before and I'll say it again: you need to remember that these people (medical students) are not in any way, shape or form representative of, well - anything. They are people, first of all, who by and large don`t have families to think of, and not only that, but in fact will be having families much later in life than the average. They are people who, on the whole, have had life handed to them on a silver platter without ever having to really work (other than at schoolwork). Most of them have never known blue-collar type work, or really had to worry about money or living in a bad neighbourhood, or anything. They are not normal, everyday people. Moreover, some of them may change, too, as they mature and have families. They`ll be more likely to someday become conservative if you make a good impression on them now.

Adam T. said...

My point, I guess, is to say that for a conservative in academia it`s easy to get discouraged, but don`t. It`s not actually that hard to understand why your classmates are mostly liberals when you consider the background they`re almost all coming from.

And by the way, are you really telling me there are no other conservatives in your class(es)? Is there no chapter of the Christian Medical & Dental Society at your school? Why don`t you start one?

Adam T. said...

(I also heard a girl say that the only reason Bush hasn't been assassinated is that assassins are all Republicans. This was in the context of a discussion on a potential Obama assassination.)

Laurel Loflund said...

The Christian Medical and Dental Society has been a good resource when I was looking for a new physician, and they have some good information about end of life care (my father is dying) and advanced directive documents from a Christian point of view are available at


I've put the preview into the tinyurl because the site page's url is very, very long, and some folks might want to see what they're clicking on beforehand when using a tinyurl.

"What is an Advance Directive? How do most Christians view having an Advance Directive? Do I have a right to refuse treatment? These questions and more are answered in the Advance Directive for Health Care: A Christian's Guide. In addition, a link is provided for you to download an official Advance Directive for you to discuss with your family to make your end-of-life wishes known."

Great organization.

God bless,

Hermes said...

On the optometrist thing, while I definitely don't want doctors to lose their scope of practice to other "practicioners," and think it's disgraceful that we have already ceded so much ground, I have to admit that I don't see the vision exam--what is typically called refraction, where they flip a series of lenses in front of your eyes and keep asking "is 1 or 2 better?"--as requiring four years of medical school and five years of ophthalmology residency. If I had a medical eye problem, then yes, I would certainly want to see an ophthalmologist.

On the liberalism of medical school:

smith/wesson, it sounds like your school is even more liberal than mine. We don't get lecture notes, so I can't speak to whether invective against red-staters would appear there, but I haven't heard too many politically-oriented comments from professors. Once in a great while, yes, but it's only happened a handful of times since the start of first year. As I thought about this more, I realized that I think it's the students who are more liberal. In the "touchy-feely" part of our curriculum, in addition to the weekly liberalism seminar I've mentioned, we sometimes have lectures from, say, economics, law, and bioethics professors, on topics such as how the two mainstream presidential candidates' health care policies compare. And they have all been pretty fair; they have honestly pointed out what from their point of view are pros and cons of both McCain's and Obama's policies. Not that a sane and civil attitude toward McCain is an indicator of conservatism, of course, but it's certainly more than one hears from most of the students in my class, or at least the more outspoken ones, who subscribe to a Daily Kos-like view of the world where Republicans are pure evil and Democrats are pure good, or, if they're bad, it's only because they're not liberal enough.

Adam T., perhaps I shouldn't reveal this, but not only is there a CMDA chapter at my school, but I am one of the leaders of it this year! But, why do you assume that CMDA is conservative? One of the recurring themes of this blog (if I post often enough to say that there are recurring themes) is how contemporary "conservative" evangelicalism is itself largely liberal. Yes, evangelicals, and CMDA, are against abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. But they are not necessarily (especially the ones in liberal environments like academia) anti-immigration, or pro-military, or pro-low taxes, or pro-race realism, or anti-affirmative action, or anti-socialism, or any of the other positions that USED to define conservatism. I've met anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-euthanasia evangelicals who were heavily into "social justice" and "racial reconciliation," who supported heavier environmental regulation and socialized medicine and all the rest of it. If I were to pipe up and say that I'm against voter registration drives, and that yes, frankly, it doesn't exactly break my heart to see poor illiterate non-whites with an angry grievance against America not voting, I'd be run out of town on a rail, no less by the CMDA people than by the outspoken hard leftists.

In retrospect, applying for leadership is not something I'd choose to do again, but I only have a few more months of it so I'm riding it out. I did it because they seemed to be having trouble finding leaders, and I devevloped that evangelical sense that if there's something you don't really want to do and seems to "stretch" you too much, but others are asking you to do it, it must be because God is calling you to do it, a line of thinking I subscribe to less and less all the time.

Adam T. said...

I've met anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, anti-euthanasia evangelicals who were heavily into "social justice" and "racial reconciliation," who supported heavier environmental regulation and socialized medicine and all the rest of it.

Okay, when you put it that way, I see what you mean.

Laurel Loflund said...

Yes, Hermes, I see what you mean. In fact, in many otherwise sensible churches the same sad dichotomy occurs.

God bless and save us all,

SavvyD said...

Why get contacts? Glasses are hot when the style is chosen wisely. Just not aviators. They only work as sunglasses.