Friday, October 18, 2013

                          What Was Dr. Carson Thinking, or Was He Thinking?

Ben Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon,  is brilliant.  That no one can deny.  Anyone who can separate twins conjoined at the chest who both live is brilliant.  His accomplishments are all the more impressive given the conditions in which he grew up (you know the story -- mother could not read; always short of money). To reach the apex of his profession, Dr. Carson undoubtedly read widely and mastered the skill of researching thoroughly. But recent statements Dr. Carson made comparing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, as he called it) to slavery call into question Dr. Carson's state of mind and/or the limits of his training.

In a video that is being widely circulated, Dr. Carson said that "Obamacare" is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.  To applause, he went on to say, "it is slavery" because Americans are subservient to the government.  Dr. Carson's comparison of the Affordable Care Act to slavery in any way makes one question whether he has read even cursorily about slavery, or whether his research skills were limited to medical and scientific research, or whether Dr. Carson was even thinking. 

Dr. Carson's ill-informed statements dishonor the lives of all who experienced the horrors of slavery in this nation.  If Dr. Carson's thinking has not been medically impaired, he should take a crash course in the history of slavery in this country.  He can start with reading "Twelve Years a Slave" and "Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl."  Meanwhile, Dr. Carson should consider these facts before he continues to pontificate on how the Affordable Care Act "is slavery": slaves were property and had no rights a white person was obligated to respect; most slaves lived in shacks, with no furniture and only the dirt as a floor; slaves routinely were beaten and subjected to other horrific acts of violence; slave women routinely had their children taken from them and sold to another slave master; slaves routinely were auctioned off like animals, with their dignity further assaulted by being paraded on the auction block in the nude; slaves were forced to work in horrendous conditions, from sun up to sun down, without pay; slaves were forced to work even when sick and were not given medical care; slave women were raped with impunity. This is but a sampling of the inhumane treatment slaves were forced to endure. 

I do not need to go into the details of the Affordable Care Act to try to demonstrate that Dr. Carson's comparison was beyond ignorant.  The fact that the Act offers all, irrespective of ethnic background, the chance to purchase insurance is an option slaves would not have had. Those of us who are descendants of slaves or who are African Americans need to be especially careful not to trivialize slavery by comparing policies or acts with which we disagree to slavery.  The institution of slavery is one of the two most horrific tragedies that have occurred in this country, and many descendants of slaves are still suffering from the effects of their ancestors having been slaves.  Further, those who are highly educated and have achieved a platform by virtue of their professional accomplishments need to be especially careful about making reckless, ill-informed statements.

This is not simply a matter of freedom of speech.  Any thinking person of whatever ethnic or political background should speak out against such careless statements whenever they are made.

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