Why we need more people like former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy
Mr. President, my children and I have grown to expect your daily assaults on the safety and wellness of the American people. Every morning, when I turn on the car radio, I say, “Let’s see how the president is destroying the world today.”
Yesterday, you fired Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Although this action may seem like a relatively small blip on the destruction radar, the roots of it show its true evil.
Dr. Murthy’s record of service was commendable. As our nation’s “top doctor,” Dr. Murthy led the battle to contain the Ebola and Zika outbreaks in our country. He rallied public-health providers in Flint, Michigan, praising their outcry over the water crisis there and encouraging both educational and medical outreach to Flint’s victims of waterborne lead poisoning. Furthermore, Dr. Murthy turned the country’s attention to a major public-health concern, substance abuse, producing the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.
So what was Dr. Murthy’s fatal flaw, Mr. President? Why would you fire a man so honorably serving the health and wellness of our nation? You fired Dr. Murthy because he had the audacity to call gun violence exactly what it is: a threat to public health.
Dr. Murthy’s opinion about gun violence is not unique. Just ask the trauma surgeons who spend their days and nights patching up gunshot victims in emergency rooms across the country. They agree: our nation needs to take a close look at the connections between gun policy, social dynamics, and firearm violence.
But Dr. Murthy is unique in that he was the first surgeon general to call for research into gun violence as a public-health issue.
Your buddies in the National Rifle Association (NRA), Mr. President, they just couldn’t handle that, could they? After failing to make good on so many of your “first day” promises, you just had to throw them a bone, didn’t you?
Indeed, Republicans have a history of quashing research into the causes of gun violence. In the 1990s, when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) set forward an intention to study violence, the NRA jumped in, accusing the agency of supporting gun control. Congressional Republicans responded to the NRA’s accusation by threatening to pull funding for the CDC if the agency did not drop investigating firearm violence from its agenda.
Mr. President, didn’t you say you were going to be tough on violent crime? How can you be tough on violent crime when you fire the one guy in your administration who wanted to understand and alleviate its root causes?
Never mind. Don’t answer that question. Your answers never make any sense anyway.
But you know who does make sense? Dr. Vivek Murthy. Upon leaving his post as surgeon general, Dr. Murthy offered the following reflections on the lessons he learned during his tenure:
1. Kindness is more than a virtue. It is a source of strength. If we teach our children to be kind and remind each other of the same, we can live from a place of strength, not fear. I have seen this strength manifest every day in the words and actions of people all across our great nation. It is what gives me hope that we can heal during challenging times.
2. We will only be successful in addressing addiction—and other illnesses—when we recognize the humanity within each of us. People are more than their disease. All of us are more than our worst mistakes. We must ensure our nation always reflects a fundamental value: every life matters.
3. Healing happens when we are able to truly talk to and connect with each other. That means listening and understanding. It means assuming good, not the worst. It means pausing before we judge. Building a more connected America will require us to find new ways to talk to each other.
4. The world is locked in a struggle between love and fear. Choose love. Always. It is the world’s oldest medicine. It is what we need to build a nation that is safe and strong for us and our children.
Mr. President, for the American people to thrive, we need a whole lot more people like Dr. Murthy guiding our course, and whole lot less of you.
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
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