July 18, 2016

The Republican National Convention starts today, and I find myself in a difficult position. I feel compelled to make some statements about the state of our Union; at the same time appropriately constrained by a need to remain nonpartisan in the role I am honored to fill as the president of the New Hampshire Medical Society. My son tells me I am a bleeding heart liberal. I accept that categorization, as opposed as I am to name calling and labeling. I am not, however, a flaming liberal; the difference being that a flaming liberal puts a lot of provocative bumper stickers on his/her car. I mention the above only to indicate the great restraint I am now exercising. 

I am very concerned. It is not news to anyone reading this that our country is terribly polarized, perhaps more so than in any time in my memory (although the polarization between right and left in the 1970’s does come to mind). We seem to be polarized along the traditional “class lines”; white collar v. blue collar, college education v. those without college degrees (or those with college degrees that appear now to be useless), certainly along economic lines as the gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened alarmingly in the last few decades. The struggle for control seems to be driven more by the aforementioned name calling and snarky one-liners than it does by thoughtful discussion regarding differences in opinion and constructive policy (as I reread this, I realize what an understatement this is). What I don’t hear is acknowledgement that there is right and reason on both sides of the issues. Unquestionably there have been segments of the population that have been disadvantaged, left behind by an economy that seems unfettered by a need for social equity. On the other hand, asserting that those disadvantages stem from the faults of others (such as refugees seeking asylum, a globalizing economy) would appear to put us in danger of isolating ourselves in a world where a strong presence at all tables would be the best way to ensure our well-being is being given proper attention. We deserve better than this. 

Where am I going with this? The best I can do is to urge us all to get out and vote. I am sure we all have our own views of how things need to be, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. We do need to make sure our voices are heard. We can and we will live the decision of the American people, but we need to make sure it is really our choice.

John R. Butterly, MD

Please send questions or comments to president@nhms.org.