Oct 17

"Time and tide wait for no man", declared Geoffrey Chaucer, back in the day.

And boy am I feelin' it.

I turned 50 this year, and as much as I'd like to subscribe to the pithy "50 is the new 40" maxim, I'm afraid it's simply a bromide framed to help us ignore the realities and indignities of aging.

If you, faithful reader, are of similar vintage, you know precisely what it's like to wander the house, befuddled, searching endlessly for those newly acquired reading glasses, only to find them perched precariously atop your receding hairline.  And then to discover that you can't find the book for which you needed the darn glasses in the first place.

I could go on and on - lost keys, misplaced children, that time I found myself half-way to Banff after I simply went out to buy a gallon of milk - but I'll spare you the weary details.

At least I'm getting wiser, I tell myself.

Which brings me to the news this morning that Finance Minister Bill Morneau failed to disclose, for two years, property that he owns in Europe via one of his private corporations.

I must confess to a twinge of annoyance, at first, when I read through the story.  I mean, it's almost too easy to get a hate-on for a man who can so casually own a villa in the south of France that he actually completely forgets that he has it.

But then, upon some further reflection, a bit of my age-acquired wisdom surfaced.

The finance minister is, after all, 54 years old.  And the fact that he is stratospherically richer than me shields him not one iota from the absent-mindedness that creeps up on all of us.  "Time and tide wait for no man."

So he misplaced a villa.  Big deal.  Could happen to any of us.  "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone," we are rightly advised in the Gospel according to John.

The Mayans lost entire civilizations as they got older, for crying out loud.

So back off, I say.  Leave the man in peace.

Oct 17

It was a glorious early morning today in Calgary, crisp and clear, with an enormous harvest moon glowing orange just above the western horizon, crowned by millions of stars just beginning to wink out in obeisance of dawn.

Despite the grandeur, I found myself imbued with a touch of melancholy as I drove my eldest daughter to her 7 am volleyball practice.

The vestiges of my most recent emergency department shift, completed only eight hours earlier, were still clinging to me, I suppose.  The ancient notion that full moons are attended by evil spirits seemed almost a verifiable truth, as my caseload was heavily peppered with troubled children caught in the crossfire of family strife, suicidal youth, and capped by a five-year-old boy whose skull was fractured by his very own father.

Not easy to shake that stuff, despite the magnificence of the heavens.

I'm also perhaps still a bit wounded by a comment made a few days ago by someone close to me, who ventured this nugget:  "I remember when you used to care about underprivileged people."

This in response to my recent and frequent posts in support of the thousands of Canadian doctors upset about tax changes being foisted upon them by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.  Apparently, since I've had the audacity to stand up for our profession, to protest that we are not tax dodgers and tax cheats, to decry the daily demonizing of physicians in our venerable House of Commons, that makes me a grubby, petty capitalist concerned primarily with lining my deep pockets with the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers.

And this week brings the dispiriting news that the divisive and dishonest class warfare techniques employed by our current government have been successful in deceiving our fellow citizens: 49% of Canadians evidently are in agreement that "fat-cat doctors" and small business owners are not paying their "fair share" of taxes.

So I can be forgiven a bit of melancholy, I think.

With all that good cheer as a backdrop, I turned my attention today to a revision of my high school "Career Days" speech.

In the halcyon days of yore, before our trust-fund-endowed leaders exposed us for what we are, doctors were esteemed as leaders; as people of achievement and integrity; as holder of positions to which young people might actually aspire.

My invitation to "Career Days" has not yet been rescinded, however, and so an adaptation of my usual remarks is in order.  Needed inspiration comes from an excellent piece penned by Elliot Levine entitled "Mr. Morneau, your analysis is incomplete."

The eloquence angle needs some work - I've never been accused of being overly polished - but here's the thrust of the matter:

"Thank you once again for inviting me to speak to you.  

My message to you today is simple:  

Don't "reach for the top."

Don't strive to excel.

Don't "try, and try again, if at first you don't succeed."

Don't become entrepreneurs.

Don't dare to think that you can build a successful small business.

And certainly don't dream of becoming a doctor.

Don't sacrifice years of your life in unnecessary toil or sacrifice or study.

Imagination, innovation, perseverance, ingenuity... all those things are overrated.

Instead, become a civil servant.  

All of your needs will be met.  You will want for nothing.  

Secure income, paid vacations, fully financed and elongated maternity leave, reasonable and regular working hours, excellent health and dental benefits, complementary self-improvement courses, and, in the end, a platinum pension, fully indexed to the rate of inflation,  to nourish your golden sunset years.  All these things can be yours.

You'll be able to rest, blissfully and securely, in the everlasting arms of our government.

Just one tiny note of caution:  don't get sick.   Because we will no longer be training doctors, after all.

Don't worry overly much about that last bit.  I have it on good authority that "wikiHow" is set to publish a new piece, entitled "How to remove your own appendix."  It's called the Morneau technique.  Good luck with that.

For everything else, we have the peerless Dr. Google, under whose expert guidance all symptom pathways lead assuredly to death.  There is, after all, nothing more certain in life than death, and, under this government: Much. Higher. Taxes.

Thank you, and good luck.  You're gonna need it."

Oct 17

This morning, in off-the-cuff remarks to the media, President Donald Trump pronounced what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night to be “in many ways a miracle”.

Fifty-eight dead.  More than 500 injured.  Immeasurable horror and grief and misery, untold pain to come, as families try to come to terms with the naked evil that ripped apart their lives and stripped away their loved ones.

A “miracle”?

Kudos, of course, to the intrepid police officers and SWAT teams that scrambled, in the teeth of great danger, to locate the madman and put an end to the carnage.  They are owed an enormous debt of gratitude for their valor.  Absolutely.

But a miracle?

This uttered by an American president both ardently supportive of and staunchly supported by the National Rifle Association, an organization doggedly determined to protect the rights of Americans to carry assault weapons.

A host of different descriptors come to mind:  reprehensible; disgusting; deplorable; disgraceful; blameworthy; shameful; repugnant; unforgivable.

Pick one.  Pick them all, actually - they all apply.

I suppose it is a “miracle” of sorts that the American president, US congressional leaders, and a great swath of the American citizenry continue to defend their Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”, while depraved countrymen use said weapons to execute thousands of Americans in massacre after massacre after massacre, from schools to army bases to nightclubs to churches to music festivals.

It’s a miracle that this continues in a civilized, developed society - if by that one means “unbelievable” or “unfathomable”.

Defenders of the “right to carry” should be mandated to spend serious time in the trauma bay of any large American hospital, to bear intimate witness to the unrelenting waves of critically wounded gunshot victims as they crash through the doors, bleeding and broken and dying.

They should be forced to trudge alongside the families of those who are murdered, as they “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, as they descend into a black hole of grief and despair, never again to see their sons, their daughters, their mothers, their fathers…

Perhaps then, at long last, the enormity of this malignant stain on the fabric of American society would gain some purchase on their souls.

Now that would be a miracle.