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At Stake Is the Struggle for Democracy

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.

Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., "A Christmas Sermon on Peace"

Recently, I met with my cardiologist, his physician assistant (PA), and I was not accompanied by any family members, as family and friends, for that matter, live outside the state. The doctor referred to the results of three cardio-related tests, particularly as the tests related to the size of an aneurysm in my aorta. It's still 4.2 cm. No change from last year. Surgery isn't necessary.

I'm sitting on the edge of the examining, between the cardiologist and the PA, both men. The doctor is middle-aged and the PA is younger. All three of us are "people of color." I have that history of having ancestors who were dehumanized, enslaved, tortured, lynched, disenfranchised, criminalized, and incarcerated. Survivors were expected to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, given our rejection of the "civilizing" powers of enslavement. I remember observing the two men, thinking how much their words and conduct seemed to be choreographed.

The month before, after my visit to the same cardiologist's office, I read a narrative in my My Chart. Under the heading, "The Plan," the narrative stated that I was seen by the cardiologist (named), along with the physician assistant. Apparently, family members were present, in the room or somewhere in the building. A "treatment plan" was presented to me. I agreed to the "risks and benefits" of some unnamed "procedure" or "therapeutic regime." "Alternative" recommendations were mentioned, and I agreed to "proceed" with the doctor and PA's, that is, "our," recommendations.

The passage is signed by the PA.

The problem is that this narrative is as true as that one in which Trump won the 2020 presidential election last November.

When I read the name of the cardiologist and then saw the phrase, "any family members present," I thought, this is clearly a lie. The following statements about a "procedure" I agreed to after hearing from the doctor about the "benefits and risks," that was alarming. In two and a half years, I'll be seventy. And I have this aneurysm.

Maybe, I misread the previous paragraph regarding the size of the aneurysm! Maybe something is wrong, anyway. Surgery is imminent!

It's a Friday afternoon, and I'm trying to reach the doctor's office. I start thinking about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments. Henrietta Lacks. What procedure did I agree to?

I remembered more than thirty years ago, the lack of concern the young doctor showed toward my mother, dying of cancer, then. That doctor, at the time, serving at a prestigious institution in Chicago, prescribed codeine to a woman who suffered from heart palpitations...

I remember that day last month, asking the PA where was the doctor? He informed me that the doctor was at a meeting. He offered to reschedule when the doctor would be available, but I declined. Did it make a difference?

The PA sat at the desk, in front of the computer, and I sat on the edge of the examining table then, too. The gap was wide enough to encompass an ocean. The face that looked back at me didn't see me. How could he? I don't think either the younger PA nor the older cardiologist saw me the second time.

The two were just doing their jobs. Nothing out of the ordinary.

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Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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