Thursday, December 16, 2010


What we do in life echoes in eternity.

When I was in school, I desperately wanted to help. I felt helpless as I cried as Marines stormed Fallujah. I was saddened by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. I was broken by the death in New Orleans. These moments shaped a lot of thoughts that I had.

I had this dream when I was in Med School, I was living in the corner of the living room on and extra mattress with a couple other students. My dream showed me that despite all my expensive learning, that what hurts people most often is their own actions. That all the medicine in the world will not stop or cure a person’s desires to eat themselves into an early grave.

More importantly, is that really the goal of medicine? Should we try to reshape someone into what the textbook says is healthy?

I came to the conclusion that perhaps its not. My goal in medicine should be to empower the individual and to help them back onto their feet when they fall. I am not here to judge, I am not here to tell you what to do with your life. I am here to put a couple sutures in a cut, I am here to tell you news that you may not like, but what you do with that is your own choice.

I reached a point in my life where I could have done a lot of different things. I had a lot of paths open in front of me. I chose the military because I wanted to plug a hole in a kid. I wanted to be able to go out there, and save a life. Ego? Perhaps. I felt that as a member of the medical community, that I own a certain amount of the risk involved in caring for the troops. Agree, disagree, it does not really matter the citizens send the troops over to risk their lives for a cause. I don’t even have to care about the cause; my cause is to see young Americans come home.

A bigger life goal for me as a practitioner of medicine is to take this knowledge that I have accumulated over the past years and give out of that knowledge. That is why I am in medicine.

I assumed that I would be able to help the local people when I came here. I assumed that I would be able to go out and serve people. Reality is never what we expect. I will not leave this camp. Part of me does not want to. I don’t know that I would stick my neck out for any of these people. Mostly because I know that, if they wanted to, they would have no problems killing me or my men. That knowledge makes me much less willing to risk anything for them.

I had a realization yesterday. That in my daily activities, I am one of the few people here that has interactions with the local population. That what I do with them is the face of what the US is viewed as. To be cheesy, I am the face of the US to these people. I don’t particularly want that burden. But on the other hand, it is what I wanted to do. It’s the primary reason I wanted to be in medicine. I want to serve those who truly have the need. Yet here I am presented with that opportunity and I shy away from it.

I struggle with that. I am not really sure what to do about it. I don’t particularly like my patients. I don’t like what they have done and I don’t like what they will do. The hopeless romantic in me wants to say that I can change this cycle. These people have been abused and killed by imperialistic outsiders for as long as any one cares to remember. Are we really that different? No, probably not. Of course we think that we are doing good things here, but for every good thing we do, we usually end up doing something bad as well. The problem is that it takes 100 good things to ease the sting of the one bad thing. In that respect, we are loosing.

We sit here out in the middle of the desert and hide in our bases and send out aircraft and drive around an awful lot. We kill and are killed. In the end, most people here don’t even have a clue where America is or why the hell we are here. All they know is that we are just another in the long line of empires that are here and don’t really belong.

Is it truly that hard to imagine that they would rise up against us? They are ignorant. They don’t have any formal education, and don’t particularly want any. What is the point of learning to read when the only thing that you have to read are books that outsiders bring in.

They are ripe for manipulation. We want to manipulate them into something more western and there are other forces that want to manipulate them into their image. That’s what this whole thing is about. The problem is that these people will never be American, they are starting from a world away and don’t have a desire to change.

Do your job.


t. said...

I can't even imagine your frustration. How much longer are you there?

Emergingjourney said...

About half way home.