By Dr. Jim Ferguson
It is Independence Day (July 4th) as I pen this essay. Actually, I don’t use a pen, but move electrons around on my laptop to make words to express my gratitude to all those who have ever served in the military and who guard my freedom.
I graduated from high school in 1969 and like others my age dutifully registered with the Selective Service System. Because the Vietnam War was winding down, the government needed fewer soldiers and a decision was made to replace the draft with a lottery. I didn’t join anti-war protests or burn my draft card. I suspect I would have been granted a student deferment because I was already attending the University of Tennessee. However, I drew a high number in the December 1969 lottery and my services weren’t needed, nor were my younger brothers as they came of age. Nonetheless, the Ferguson clan honors men like my father (and women) who make America possible (and great) through their sacrifice of service. We must never forget.
Storytelling is an effective means of communication. I especially like an old hymn which begins “I love to tell the story…” The reason it is necessary to retell stories from the Bible and to remember our national heritage is analogous to a principle of physics known as entropy. This fundamental process described in the Second Law of Thermodynamics is surprisingly operative in everything, and is simply understood as a spinning top winds down (loses energy) and eventually falls over. If we fail to educate our children or no longer tell the “old, old stories” or recount our heritage, the memories will dissipate and eventually will cease to exist in our lives. I picture this as spiritual and national entropy.
Recently, I wrote a letter to a friend. This was not an email, a text and certainly not a Tweet. It was an old fashion letter. People used to write letters to each other all the time. Beautiful examples are the letters John Adams and his wife wrote to each other. And the correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and Adams after they left the swamp of Washington is also notable. Yes, Washington D.C. was a political swamp in the early 1800s just as it is now. Perhaps if Washington hadn’t been built on a miasmic swamp things would be better now. . . Nah, I don’t believe stagnant water is the problem.
In his June 2018 Congressional newsletter, Congressman Jimmy Duncan called my attention to several concerns which I also share and have written about. I’ll miss the Congressman’s newsletter and common sense observations when he leaves office at the end of this session of Congress.
Future historians will reflect on and undoubtedly say that our time was the information and communication age. The Internet and personal computers have literally opened new “Windows” on the world for us all. For a curious guy like me, the Internet and my iPhone allow me to find answers to the almost limitless questions I have. However, I’ve learned that the “answers” must be sifted through my experience and logic and the factoids Google shows me should not be accepted as dogma.
Technology and the Net are wonderful tools and connect me to events and people around the world. Previous generations might never hear of a volcanic eruption in Hawaii or only learn of flowing lava days or weeks later in newspapers. I can also be with family through FaceTime or Skype. I can interact with the medical students I teach all over the country with interactive seminars using a Net based audiovisual technology called Blackboard. I can stay in touch with my patients and friends through cell phone, email, instagram and text or stay in contact with designated “friends,” on social media such as FaceBook.
I have often dreamed of a job which allows me to spend several hours a day researching my interests and writing. I never got that job offer. No matter, I can now spend several hours every day looking at the powerful computer screen in my hand. However, I’ve become wiser now and understand that surfing the Net may actually disconnect me from those I love. It is not worth being informed when you sacrifice personal relationships.
I’m a bookish guy and I’ll admit I am occasionally guilty of listening to the Net’s Siren song. In the Odyssey, Ulysses resisted the Siren’s enticement by lashing himself to the mast of his ship and filling the ears of his crewmen with wax. The danger of the so-called “anti-social” media is real. I feel sorry for couples I see in restaurants, staring at their smartphones instead of talking to each other. Maybe restaurants should collect cell phones like western saloons once collected the handguns of patrons.
Congressman Duncan references several studies of millennials feeling alone and the correlation between time on social media and depression and suicide. Another study laments that the “art of conversation is dying” as social media draws “people across the country and around the world [“together” yet] isolating us from our own neighbors.”
I don’t partake of the cesspool of Twitter so my comments are second hand. However, years ago I was a columnist for the News Sentinel and I have experienced the bile of the Sentinel’s chat room. Duncan quotes Congressman Phil Roe, who noted how people will say things anonymously on Twitter which they would never say face-to-face. Unfortunately, unhinged liberal-progressives are now so filled with hate, stoked by Maxine Waters and others, that they are now getting in the face and threatening others they disagree with. Someone is going to get injured by these assaults which can only escalate to battery.
So how do we right the ship of our State? I don’t think the solution will come from the top down. I do not believe government or Washington can heal our broken land. We may be seeing the beginning of a cure in this war which rages between red and blue. The ancient prophet Micah articulated God’s directive that we are to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.” But can human mercy be extended without a victor and a vanquished? I believe a contrite heart and a forgiving spirit are necessary for mercy. This is the pathway to healing – from the inside out.