By Cory Franklin
“Everything I was sure, or was taught to be sure, was impossible has happened” — Winston Churchill
Looking back now, I ask myself: How could I have been so wrong about so many things?
I was wrong about: Patriotism and love for your country, no matter what its faults.
In grade school, I learned the famous quotation, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” That was the appropriate quote, not the abbreviated jingoistic version “my country right or wrong” that people often like to mock. In high school, I learned Sir Walter Scott’s poem that begins, “Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!” But that was then. A recent poll showed that more than 50% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans said they would not defend our country if it was attacked.
I must have learned the wrong lesson about patriotism. I am sorry for my error.
I was wrong about: Fair play.
I believed the sine qua non of athletic competition was fair play. Fair rules do not guarantee a preordained victor, and without fair rules, sports were not really competition but just another spectacle. Now, however, someone with a man’s body, strength and athleticism can swim against women. And in interviews, that swimmer demonstrates an utter disregard for any semblance of fairness. Doesn’t care. And his coach and the governing bodies of the sport don’t care either.
I was wrong about fair play, and I apologize.
I was wrong about: Stealing
If something belonged to someone else, it was wrong for you to take it. At least that’s what I thought. But I see now that in San Francisco, Chicago, and other major urban centers, people can walk into drug stores or high-end emporia and just take things that don’t belong to them. They don’t pay and no one cares very much. Even those responsible for law enforcement don’t seem to care or do much to prevent it.
I was in error about stealing. Sorry.
I was wrong about: Society’s role in discouraging people from taking drugs.
I was brought up on stories like Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm and Neil Young’s song The Needle and the Damage Done. The message was clear – drugs destroyed people’s lives. Society might not be successful – people will always find a way to take drugs – but society had a duty to do what it could to discourage people from taking drugs. But now we apparently encourage people to take drugs, in the name of the concept of “harm reduction.” Drug addicts are given needles, syringes, and safe places to shoot (and there is talk about giving them “safe” drugs). And more and more cities are adopting this approach.
Again, I was wrong. Mea culpa
I was wrong about: Virtues such as humility, modesty, and character.
I learned in school learned in school that these were the values children and adults were supposed to emulate. But we elected as president Donald Trump, who is basically the antithesis of these values. Then we elected Joe Biden, who, despite what the media and his partisans say, is not much different than Trump, just not as nakedly self-centered and bombastic.
If such men could be elected president, I was wrong again.
I was wrong about: Science being a dispassionate and neutral fact-finding process.
In school, I studied about truly brilliant men like Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman, who didn’t give a fig about public opinion, just science. I remember the story of the Nazis enlisting prominent physicists to denounce Einstein and his “Jewish physics”, including the theory of relativity in the book One Hundred Authors Against Einstein. When asked about so many scientists martialed against him, Einstein replied: Why employ 100 scientists when just one fact would do? But here in the US two top Government scientists, Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, have exchanged emails criticizing “The Great Barrington Declaration,” a statement by other prominent scientists urging focused measures against COVID. Dr. Collins told Dr. Fauci, “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take-down of its premises.
If our leading scientists handle controversy like that, then I must have learned the wrong lesson about science.
I was wrong about: Freedom of speech, especially in an academic environment.
I was told that the university was a place of healthy debate because professors could speak their minds and basically give voice to any opinion, no matter how out of bounds, without fear of retaliation or professional punishment. But more and more universities are flouting their own free speech policies, going so far as to censor or discipline professors who present unfashionable views. Even our most prestigious universities are doing this.
I thought free speech stood for something, but I was wrong.
I was wrong about so much that it bothers me no end. But what bothers me even more is how am I ever going to explain to my grandchildren what is right?
Cory Franklin is a doctor who was director of medical intensive care at Cook County Hospital in Chicago for over 25 years. An editorial board contributor to the Chicago Tribune op-ed page, he writes freelance medical and non-medical articles. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Post, Guardian, Washington Post and has been excerpted in the New York Review of Books. Cory was also Harrison Ford’s technical adviser and one of the role models for the character Ford played in the 1993 movie, “The Fugitive.” His YouTube podcast Rememberingthepassed has received 900,000 hits to date. He published Chicago Flashbulbs in 2013, Cook County ICU: 30 Years Of Unforgettable Patients And Odd Cases in 2015, and most recently coauthored, A Guide to Writing College Admission Essays: Practical Advice for Students and Parents in 2021.