The Medal of Honor………

On the 31st of July, President Trump will decorate an unassuming gentleman named Jim McCloughan for his gallantry during a vicious fight that occurred in Vietnam on May 15-17, 1969.  Jim was a combat medic and is credited with saving the lives of 10 soldiers in spite of being wounded himself.  Jim will be presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor, a distinction that relatively few have earned over the course of American History.  What about this medal, you might ask?  Hopefully, after reading this post, my readers will have a better understanding of what that soft blue ribbon really is all about.

Medals and such, certainly predate America.  Napoleon Bonaparte, a warrior of some accomplishment, once remarked, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon”.  I can personally attest that few folks, in the heat of battle, are thinking about a ribbon, instead their minds are occupied with the nuances of the dance with death they are engaged in, focused on the destruction of their enemy and preservation of the life of the man or woman next to them, as well as themselves.  The medals come later and serve to remind the recipient of what he or she was once capable of as a member of America’s military.  Most, unfortunately, did not live to bask in this afterglow.

The Medal of Honor came into being as the result off a Bill introduced into congress in 1861 by Iowa Senator J.W. Grimes.  President Lincoln inked this bill into law and the Medal of Honor came into existence.  The requirements for winning this award have evolved over time, necessary to remove earlier nuisances such as racial and ethnic preclusion to earning this award, and the verification processes that are necessary to insure the medal is truly earned.  Today, the standard can be summed up as, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict with an opposing armed force”.  History has clearly shown that many warriors have performed at this level and, perhaps, earned this recognition without so much as a lesser award or acknowledgement.  This is the nature of combat where not every action is recorded or recorded accurately.  This disclaimer aside, let’s look at a few numbers.

When Jim McCloughan is draped in this blue ribbon, he will be the 3,499th recipient of America’s highest combat honor.  He will be one of 67 living recipients walking among us.  Over the course of history, there have been 19 folks, consummate warriors one might say, that have won two Medals of Honor.  Among that distinguished group is Lt. Tom Custer, Gen. George Custer’ brother, who won his medals during the Civil War. There were only two double recipients during the Civil War, and by law, it is now impossible to win two Medals of Honor.  The Civil War saw a proliferation of awards, with the battle of Vicksburg resulting in the award of 123 Medals of Honor, 96 of which were as the result of fighting during a single day!  We should remember that during this Great War, the fighting was often close enough to result in the mixing of blood from both sides in violent hand to hand fighting.  The actual numbers of medals won during each war is a moving target, as cases are under review perpetually, thus skewing the numbers as awards are upgraded and rules changed.  As an example, President George H.W. Bush awarded a Medal of Honor to a black soldier from WWI, presumably to call attention to the efforts of black soldiers in a time when such things did not happen, no matter the degree of gallantry. In a further effort to remove racism from the Medal of Honor realm, President Bill Clinton awarded 6 Medals of Honor, posthumously,  to 6 black soldiers from WWII, in ceremonies in 1997.  Again, in an effort to treat all soldiers fairly, regardless of their race or ethnic backgrounds, President Obama awarded 24 Medal of Honor to mostly Jewish and Hispanic soldiers for their actions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  It should be noted that reviews of the actions of these soldiers began in 1991.  Obama conducted these ceremonies on the 18th of March, 2014.  Finally, we come to the women who have won this prestigious award, numbering exactly one.  A female medical doctor, Dr. Mary Walker, won the Medal of Honor during the civil War, which was subsequently stripped from the record and then reinstated at a later date.  Her gallantry during this war is NOT a matter of controversy, leaving only gender to cause her problems.  I am certain that as our country evolves, various women will exhibit the courage and gallantry necessary to earn this award, particularly in view of the changing roles of women in armed conflict.  Before leaving the realm of numbers, I should mention that during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a total of 16 Medals of Honor were conferred, with 11 of them being posthumously.  Finally, I wanted to recognize the coast Guard who has seen the conference of one Medal of Honor to a member, during the battle of Guadalcanal, for his actions along side the Marines who further cemented their legacy as supreme warriors.

On July 31st, when the media presumably features a combat medic who exhibited courage and a sense of mission on an extraordinary plain, I trust America will tune in, and remember that when the going gets tough, really tough, we have among us folks who would rather die than to abandon their mission.  Please also remember your brothers, sisters, uncles, parents and grandparents who were there and fought with tenacity but were not fortunate enough to have their gallantry recorded and recognized.  A Medal of Honor recipient will not, by himself, win a war, but does serve as a reminder that when cornered, an America warrior will respond and fight to death for this Republic.

The Milwaukee 8

Americans are leery of the Madison Avenue crowd.  We are very susceptible to the hype and circumstance these gifted folks can bring to the table to justify grabbing your checkbook and dashing out the door to upgrade everything from the family chariot to the television, with interim stops to check the latest offerings at Lowes in the lawn care department, where one could peruse the latest zero turn mower in either green or red paint.  Recently, I decided to replace the toilet seats in our home and was faced with a bewildering array of choices from seats with built in night lights to seats that close themselves quietly with just a gentle nudge from folks vacating the throne.  So, it should come as no surprise that I was cautious when considering the latest offering from a distinctly American producer of motorcycles, Harley-Davidson.  The 2017 Harley-Davidson touring and trike models are being delivered with a new rendition of the fable V-twin engine, which has been designated the Milwaukee 8.  This engine looked very much like the existing and proven Harley-Davidson offering that was powering my current iron horse and I avoided stopping at a dealership for a test ride.  Finally, after sorting through pounds of advertising stuffed into my mailbox on an almost daily basis, I relented, grabbed my helmet and stopped at Denny’s Harley-Davidson for a test drive of a new Street Glide, equipped with the Milwaukee 8 engine.  The Street Glide and Milwaukee 8 engine is now sharing space with Sharon’s Mini Cooper in our garage.  

One doesn’t have to be a motorcycle fan to appreciate American ingenuity and engineering.  Set aside your adversion to the noisy and seemingly impractical mode of transportation that invokes images of leather clad, long haired demons tearing up and down quiet neighborhood streets long enough to consider the folks who enjoy the thrill of a law abiding ride through the countryside with nothing more on their minds than a good bar-b-cue sandwich and the camaraderie of like minded folks who are going in the opposite direction for a pizza near where you just left.  Most of us are addicted to internal combustion engines, and what better way to surrender to this addiction than astride a motorcycle, particularly the distinctive offerings from our own Harley-Davidson Motor Co.  Let’s talk technical for a bit and perhaps you can see why I was pleasantly surprised when I cranked the big Milwaukee 8 for the first time.

The Milwaukee 8 is based on a legendary V-twin engine that has kept Harley-Davidson at or on top of the motorcycle world for decades.  It produces 10% more torque than the engine it replaces, and folks, these V-twins are all about torque.  This improvement is courtesy of a higher compression ratio and increase in valves to four from the previous two per cyclinder.  This engine breathes better.  As in aircraft engines, the Milwaukee 8 features two spark plugs per cylinder which serves to increase burn efficiency thus contributing to the infamous, broad, flat power curve and incredible low end torque.  The old twin cam configuration is replaced with a single cam, thus preserving the already tremendous weight to horsepower ratio.  This engine is both balanced and rubber mounted to reduce the vibration inherent to a V-twin, and is both air and oil cooled as opposed to the generally air cooled engine it replaces.  From a performance standpoint, this engine is 11% quicker from 0-60 MPH and another 11% quicker from 60-80 MPH than it’s predecessors.  The idle speed has been reduced and rider comfort increased by the reconfiguration of the exhaust system to move the catalytic converter further back in the exhaust chain.  The charging system has been redesigned to deliver 50% more power, important in this age of electronic communications and sound equipment, which also powers the dual spark plug ignition.  Clutch lever effort has been reduced by 7%, important to guys like me with bionic thumbs, and the bike is equipped with an slipper and assist clutch to help in managing the increased power.  What does all of this techno stuff mean?  

The acceleration, already strong from this great engine, is stronger.  A lot stronger.  The engine is quieter while still delivering the mellow Harley-Davidson exhaust note, a pleasant, resonating, familiar sound to discerning ears.  The Milwaukee 8 and refined drivetrain deliver a rather dramatic increase in acceleration and overall performance, while running cooler and with far less vibration. We are talking about nearly 800 pounds of motorcycle here that possesses cat like quickness and touring comfort, two considerations that typically are not found together in a single motorcycle. Move over BMW.  Harley-Davidson has engineered their way into your world of sophistication and refinement, while maintaining the originality that establishes them as a leader in the world of motorcycles.

I stopped at Denny’s to reinforce my skepticism concerning the introduction of the Milwaukee 8 and came home owning one.  You have to love America!  (As a side note, I also purchased the self closing toilet seat, a marvel that takes precisely 10 seconds to close, with no slamming of a dropped seat!).  What will they think of next?

Motorcycles, Mortality and the Countryside……..

As motorcyclists go, I am in the ranks of the relatively inexperienced.  While in high school I was the proud owner of two of Honda’s finest, a Super 90 and a 160 Scrambler, hardly the macho image producers of today’s super bikes and heavy cruisers.  I scooted around Waynesville on these diminutive iron horses (ponies, actually), enjoying the low speed trips to work and school.  The business of raising a family as a working man left me with little time and money to indulge this fascination with motorcycles in the early years after a stint in the Army and and while a young trooper.  Later I said, and later is now and I am enjoying the open road on my recently acquired second Harley Davidson, replacing the Heritage Soft-Tail Deluxe with a velocity red tourer, the Street Glide.  Springfield, Missouri is a great point of origin for motorcycle junkets, and I am enjoying the break-in of the Glide with jaunts into the Ozark hills.  The calculated risk of riding a motorcycle (you are 27 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than in a car crash) is offset by the sights and smells of the countryside, enjoyed at relatively low speeds and and with an awareness of just what, exactly, can happen when you drop your guard. Let’s have a look at this business from a rider’s perspective.  

In 2015, 4,976 motorcyclists were killed on America’s roads.  There can be no question that a number of these good folks were killed through no fault of their own, such as when rear-ended by a car while waiting for a light at an intersection, however; the vast majority of riders contribute to their own demise by failing to recognize the events that are particularly dangerous to them, which has prompted this discourse.  Statistically speaking, most motorcycle fatalities occur during daylight hours, no surprise as that is when most riding occurs.  A whopping 37% of fatalities occur in a curve, where speed and inattention will earn you a ride in an ambulance.  Excessive speed is a contributing factor in just over 35% of fatalities, although 30% of all accidents occur at speeds less than 30 MPH. The age of the rider is a negligible factor, with the average age of riders killed being 42.  It isn’t surprising that inexperience is a big contributing factor with riders with under 6 months experiencing crashes at an alarming rate.  Flatly stated, alcohol and motorcycles are a deadly mix.  An astounding 42% of riders killed on motorcycles had a BAC of .08 or higher.  Drinking and riding are the equivalent to climbing into the back of a van with a handful of Seconal capsules and a smiling Jack Kevorkian.  

My personal philosophy when riding is that if it is a vehicle that you can see, and if it is occupied by a driver, it presents a threat and extra vigilance is indicated.  So, you ask, what are the issues that seem to surface in most motorcycle crashes.  Here we go!

1.  Oncoming traffic.  In this age of cell phones and other perpetual distractions, take nothing for granted here.

2.  Turning cars.

3.  Panic stops.  A factor mitigated by ABS and linked brakes.  My insurance company LOVES ABS brakes.

4.  Gravel on the roadway.  (Yesterday, I noticed a substance on the road ahead of me and braked in anticipation.  It was animal fat, obviously spilled from a tankage hauler as he was entering the road, from a side road. This could have been disastrous.) Gravel and sand are very unforgiving when you are surprised by it.

5.  Speed into a corner.  Experience is key to negotiating twisties.

6.  Opening car doors in an urban environment.

7.  Changing lanes.  Motorcycles are not easily seen by vehicles changing lanes.

8.  Vehicles behind you.  

9.  Wet roads.  

10.  Drinking alcohol

11.  Animals, both domestic and wild, in the roadway.  Hitting them is one thing, the loss of control avoiding them is often more devastating.

Weaving and generally tempting fate with cute maneuvering in traffic also takes it’s toll on motorcyclists.  I was surprised to note that California is the only jurisdiction in America that permits lane splitting by motorcycles, yet another dubious distinction for the Golden State.

I enjoy motorcycling and work hard to mitigate the risks associated with it.  The enthusiasts that I associate with are far removed from the one percenters that earn their noteriety with shenanigans and stupidity.   We are the folks who wear helmets, boots and gloves and, in my case, a dorky neon reflective vest that has Harley Davidson emblazoned across the back.  I love the smells of the countryside and the rush of the wind as I enjoy the multisensory experience that cycling offers (notwithstanding the occasional slamming odor of a road kill that is aged to perfection).  I realize that I won’t be able to jerk around a 800 pound Harley forever and am already damned careful how and where I park it when I stop for a cool drink and lunch.  I am also very aware that you cannot mitigate what you don’t know anything about……

  As long as I can………I will smile at the cough of a big V-Twin as it comes to life, and the anticipation of the adventure that is about to unfold.

A Memorial Day Conversation with Dad…….

Good afternoon Colonel, it’s a beautiful day here in Missouri, a perfect day to honor the men and women who have gone before us, their work guaranteeing the sanctity of America, done.  I can only imagine the conversations between you and your fellow soldiers as you sit around the gilded barracks reserved for that special group of folks we call military veterans.  Knowing the tremendous value that you placed on intelligence, I know that you are aware of the acknowledgement of your efforts by America on this day we set aside for you and yours.

It doesn’t seem possible that 44 Memorial Days have passed since you lost the fight with cancer.  We still talk about the service that day, the crispness and respect shown you by the cadre of Special Forces troopers who bore your casket, each personally selected by you in the months prior to your death.  It was quiet at the National Cemetary, a quiet that was broken only by the rifle salute and playing of Taps, the precision of the troopers was moving……something I am sure you were proud of.  A review of your citations and awards, the airborne units you were most comfortable with and the various commands that you held, strongly support the notion that cancer was likely the only fight you lost.  I, for one, have not forgotten your innate ability to go from the smiling, affable fellow you were most of the time, to the narrow eyed, calm and calculated demon you could be.  I haven’t forgotten Uncle Herman’s, also a military veteran, description of you as the most dangerous man he has ever known.  These qualities served you well at the Chosin Reservoir and the highlands of Vietnam.  I recall a conversation at Ft. Leonard Wood shortly after our arrival there about the bitter cold.  My complaint about the snow and cold prompted a smile from you and the remark that cold is a relative thing and is never a problem when you can dodge inside and warm up….a luxury you did not have in the fight at the Chosin Reservoir where you earned your battlefield commission and silver star. I also recall your avoidance of air conditioning on Okinawa, where you began your tour as a Battalion commander in the 173d Airborne Brigade.  You were in between tours in Vietnam and had been acclimated to the heat of the jungle.  I can also recall you being delivered to our quarters on Okinawa, pretty well blitzed after attending a ritual referred to as “Prop Blast”, a particular right of passage in airborne circles.  I suppose the adage “fight hard and play hard” was in play here.

I only saw you cry one time in our short time together.  I will never forget your coming home and telling our family that “some sorry son of a bitch” just shot the President.  John Kennedy, another veteran of great accomplishment, is generally acknowledged to be the father, if not patron saint, of Special Warfare and, by extension,  Special Forces. You led a parade in the President’s honor, of which pictures still exist. Your emotion, in this instance, was reflective of your love for America and your incredible sense of duty.  I have to be honest here, your referral to President Kennedy’s killer in obscene terms was a true reflection of your rather profane way of conversing, a trait that I have carried on with little dignity and sense of decorum.  In fact, your diminutive daughters, on rare occasion, can also turn the air blue with a profane precision that would bring a smile to your face.  Apples falling close to the tree comes to mind.

Well, dad, excuse me, Colonel, a short briefing on the state of America is in order. We are still the finest Republic on the face of the earth and we are in a bit of a patriotic era.  We have a President who appears to be hell bent on restoring prominence to the military and a Congress that, for the most part, is supportive.  We are still turning out veterans who are willing to fight and die for this country, who are being led by mostly competent officers.  The ceremony today, at the Tomb of the Unknown, was moving and served to remind those who care about such matters, that blood must always be shed to protect this country. As I do every Memorial Day, I want to offer my deep appreciation to you and your troopers on this day.  Later today, as I enjoy a thick steak on the grill, we will raise a glass to you and the veterans you are with. Your ability to raise a particularly nasty kind of hell on the battlefield has guaranteed the peace we are enjoying.

I miss you…….

Memorial Day, Valor and General George S. Patton, Jr……..

Recently, my good friend Paul Corbin offered several quotations from Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., the infamous American General described by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower as essential to our victory in World War II.  As mention of Gen. Patton often does, these quotations prompted a range of responses ranging from laudatory to condemnatory and I thought it appropriate as we enter the Memorial Day weekend to offer my perspectives.  I am the son of a consummate military leader and warrior, and find the parallels between Patton and my father to be, not surprisingly, very close.  Combat will test the mettle of any rational human being, and I arch an eyebrow at the opinions of those not truly tested in the hell of battle.  It is a unique experience and will quickly strip an individual down to what he or she is really made of.

Valor is a concept that fairly seethes through the military culture.  There exists a number of definitions for “Valor”, but each of them will encompass concepts such as honor, dignity, gallantry, bravery, strength and courage.  These traits are absolutely necessary to successfully negotiate a combat setting whether or not the experience is remembered by the participant or memorialized in the citations presented to the next of kin.  In fairness, valor is but one of many traits that serves the warrior, but my father, and certainly Patton, placed an inordinately high premium on valor when assessing the value of an individual. Indeed, in my profession of policing, a lack of courage will earn the individual a quick ostracism by his peers and commanders. Gen. Patton once remarked, “Americans despise cowards……the very idea of losing is hateful to an American”.  Col. Johnson, dad to me, believed that fear was perfectly normal………however; individual reasponses to fear are what separates fighters from shirkers.

One of the folks responding to Paul Corbin’s post asked if Patton was the same  “a..hole”  who slapped a soldier during the war.  The succinct answer is yes, he did slap two soldiers while visiting two different field hospitals in Sicily.  I have no way of knowing this, but I suspect the General went to his relatively early grave regretting slapping these fellows, not because he believed it wrong, but for the notoriety it caused him. Patton was visiting his wounded warriors when Pvt. Charles Kuhl, suffering from what was believed to be “exhaustion and anxiety” told the General, “I guess I can’t take it sir”, referring to combat.  Patton slapped him with his gloves. While the doctors may have diagnosed the quivering anxiety as battle exhaustion, Patton viewed it as a lack of valor.  A week later, in another field hospital, Patton encountered another soldier, Pvt. Paul Bennett, who was crying and shaking with fear.  This soldier, upon Patton’s inquiry, replied, “It’s my nerves, sir, I can’t stand the shelling anymore.” This soldier was promptly backhanded by the General.  Both of these soldiers were fortunate to be fighting on the American side, as their conduct in the German Army would have been promptly handled with a bullet in the back of their heads.  Patton was, indeed, the General who slapped these hapless soldiers.  To Patton, their problems stemmed from a lack of valor, irrespective of what medical malady precipitated this countenance.

Gen. George Patton and Col. S.R Johnson were not afraid of death.  Patton’s pragmatic view of death could be summed up in another quotation: “You are not all going to die.  Only two percent of you right here today will die in a major battle.  Death must not be feared.  Death in time, comes to every man”.  These words were delivered in a speech to his troops before a particularly bloody campaign.

Patton, for his transgressions, was made to apologize to the 3rd Army, which he did in a series of three short presentations.  The last of these presentations was met by a chorus of chants from the troops, “No General, no, no, General no” when it came time to apologize.  His troops would not permit the general to apologize…..believing it beneath the dignity of perhaps one of the best fighting generals this country has ever produced.  These troops were valorous, and damned proud of it.

On June 5, 1944, the General in a speech to his troops, remarked, “The real hero is the man who fights when he is scared.  Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire.  For some, it takes days.  But a real man will never let his fear of death overwhelm his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.”  General Patton was a fighting General, accustomed to the front lines, and deeply respected by his enemies.  

Memorial Day is upon us.  I stand proudly with those who have endured hostile fire and lived through it. My tears come easily when I think of those who have not endured, who are resting eternally somewhere, and who exhibited valor until the very moment their lives were extinguished in the name of America.  Patton chose to be interred with his beloved troops, in Belgium.  My father is resting with his fellow soldiers in a National Cemetary in South Carolina.  I will rest easily among the leaders there, when my time comes, knowing that valor lurks behind every marker or headstone.

Thank you, General Patton, Col.  Johnson and every man or woman who has donned an American uniform.  I understand and am in awe of you valor…….

Rethinking Dentistry…….

It began simply enough, an individual who has devoted his entire professional life to the prevention of injury and death,  carelessly climbs an extension ladder with a chainsaw, ostensibly to cut a wrist sized limb that was impeding the view of Truman Lake behind his home.  Just as he was reaching for the limb, the ladder shifted and there he was, suspended 10 or so feet off the ground, running saw in hand, thinking this is not going to end well.  It did not, and the careless would-be lumberjack began the slow motion decent to Mother Earth, discarding the saw as he fell.  The pain was immediate, comprehensive and accompanied by a nice bleed from the laceration to his jaw as he kissed the ladder upon impact.  An ambulance ride to the ER and a follow up visit to a second ER the next day confirmed no broken bones, however……the soft tissue damage was such that he eased around on a walker for a couple of weeks and marveled at the brilliant hues of black, yellow and bright red that covered his back from the kidney area to his knees.  The suture line was a testament to the skills of a testy young osteopath at ER #1,  leaving a barely discernible scar.  The kind ER #2 doctor advised the chainsaw crash dummy to seek the skills of a dentist who possessed the panoramic x-ray equipment necessary to ascertain the damage, if any, to the jaw and other facial structure.  He did so and established a long relationship with one Dr. Ronald Massie, a Lake Ozark dentist who is now an integral part of his health care team.  It is said that out of adversity comes opportunity, and the reward, in this instance, is a deep appreciation for the contribution of dentistry to my overall health.  By now, you have guessed that I was the whizzo with the chainsaw. 

The 18th century naturalist, George Cuvier, declared, “Show me your teeth, and I will tell you who you are.”  George was onto something but it has taken awhile to understand this.  Until very recently, traditional medical schools taught that practicing medicine was essentially a science devoted to the body from the tonsils out.  A noted Harvard endocrinologist, William Hsu, refers to the mouth as the black hole of the body because it is a profound mystery to most medical folks. This is not the case with the superb folks who run the nation’s highest rated cardiology program at the Cleveland Clinic, who insisted on a thorough pre-surgical dental examination and clearance from Dr. Massie before they would crack my chest and repair the leaky mitral valve.  These folks get it.  The relationship between overall health and the mouth is finally earning the respect it deserves.  Let’s have a look at some of the implications.

It is now believed that good oral hygiene is directly related to the health of the heart, to metabolism, to the brain and, sorry ladies for this little known tidbit, but the health of a man’s penis!   Men may be able to minimize the effects of poor dental hygiene on the various systems that keep us alive……but few men are willing to risk the functioning of the seemingly center of our existence.  While I am at it, men are not as careful with our health as women, statistically speaking, and this carelessness extends to our trips to the dental surgeons office.  The average man brushes his teeth 1.9 times each day and will lose 5.4 teeth by age 72.  If this same man smokes he can anticipate the loss of 12 teeth by age 72.  Dipping, chewing and smoking greatly increase the incidence of oral and throat cancer and gum disease.  These developing anomalies are easily detected by today’s dentists, especially those who are committed to the premise that oral health is critical to overall health.  Dr. Massie conducts a thorough examination for anomalies that signal a potentially serious problem……such as, but not limited to, cancer.  Dr. Wenche Borgnakke, a University of Michigan periodontal researcher, flatly states that nearly every medical condition has some kind of manifestation in the mouth. Your gums, if not properly taken care of, are the portal for a variety of dangerous bacteria that lead to inflammation in the body and inflammation is related to virtually every disease process that folks suffer through.  There are definitive links between not just heart disease, but strokes, diabetes, perhaps even Alzheimer’s and oral health.  

So, back in the day when dentistry was practiced by the local barber, who could also bleed you with a nice fat leech, presumably to take your mind off the extraction of a tooth using a pair of pliers that saw earlier service pulling nails from the manure covered hooves of your horse, George Cuvier was right in his suggestion that our mouth was a window into our health.  My suggestion would be that you make your dentist a key member of your health care team, and facilitate the exchange of all health related information between your other medical team members and him or her.  When you are grasping your chest and rapidly closing with the floor, your last thought should not be related to why you didn’t floss regularly……..

It is not too late to rethink dentistry……..

The Human Voice…….

I am not much into the study of the evolution of man, the science that defies the story of creation that we Christians believe is the true origin of the species.  Various theories, mostly based on the detailed examination of bones and other artifacts suggest that humans once sported tails and such, that gradually went away leaving us with the butts we use today to provide somewhat comfortable stadium seating at a sporting event or to raise us to proper table height so as to enjoy a meal. Those same cave men,  that evolutionists believe form the basis for the human race today, were thought to communicate by grunting, pointing and knocking the soup out of one another with clubs.  We had not evolved into the sophisticated linguists that we are today,  speaking one of the estimated 5,000 or so languages in use around our world.  I do believe that most things in our ordered existence are cyclical, thus leading me to the conclusion that we are circling back to the grunts and club swinging days of yesteryear, with the human voice headed to the scrap heap of history,  replaced with the texts, emails and instant photos that can be shot around the world in a matter of seconds.  The voice, with all of the tone and inflection that are characterisitic of speech, is going the way of the dodo.  Kind of sad really.  Let’s give this dying consideration a look.

Human beings have a enormous thirst for information.  We get up most days and reach for the smart phone, IPad, laptop or desk top before we pour the first cup of the ambrosia we call coffee.  The internet provides an inordinate amount of the information we consume, information delivered with the coldness that only plastic, precious metal and electricity can produce. Gone is the tone, inflection and the countenance of the spoken word and the person speaking.  The reader is left to his or her interpretation of the information in front of them which may or may not be the message the sender wanted to convey.  I detested email communication in the office environment when the sender was sitting in his allotted space, perhaps 20 feet away, too lazy to get off his or her rear end to walk down the hall and talk to the person they just emailed.  The convenience of the text or email often left the recipient wondering just exactly what the sender meant to say.  For the most part, a face to face conversation, my strong personal preference, left little doubt as to the intended message.  Let me offer an example.

Your significant other is in surgery for a potentially serious problem and you are passing the time of day in the waiting room perusing your Facebook account when you receive a text from the surgeon that reads “it is over”.  Say what?  Immediately,  you begin providing your interpretation to this message.  Is the surgery over?  Has your significant other survived the procedure?  Did the surgeon find the situation to be hopeless and closed your person of interest up, with no hope of recovery?  These kinds of cryptic exchanges of information occur every day, perhaps not in circumstances as trying as this, but nonetheless just as open to interpretation.  In an effort to enhance the mysterious implications of electronic communication, we have developed little symbols intended to communicate mood and meaning…..emojis, they are called.  Perhaps the surgeon could include a smiley face in his message….or perhaps a picture of hands folded in prayer.  I suspect this is why doctors meet with the family after procedures so as to convey the message and answer any lingering questions….a courtesy we seldom rely upon in our daily communication.  The implications associated with the electronic communication we are embracing today are significant.  Can you imagine a jury being handed a series of emails and texts, with no opportunity to see the accused or plaintiffs in a legal action?  No, I can’t either, however; I also did not anticipate communicating with an associate in an office setting via email when I can hear this same associate stir his coffee just a few feet from my door. 

The human voice is a tremendous thing, so useful in clearly communicating with one another with clarity, conciseness and conviction.  It is frightening to think we may one day conduct the preponderance of our lives via some cold, electronic conveyance with an occasional emoji to set the tone.  If we are less than diligent, the speech classes that I so enjoyed in high school and college will be replaced with classes entitled “Texting 101” and “Emojis 200”.  For me, I will always want to hear it, not just see it.  A spoken exchange can convey anger, hatred, loathing, euphoria, sadness, excitement, enthusiasm, surprise, anticipation….the list goes on.  I’ll take verbal skill any day over effective “emojiing”……..