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Dynamic Chiropractic – February 26, 2004, Vol. 22, Issue 05

A Century of Reflections

By Louis Sportelli, DC
Do you remember the news flash, "Saddam has been captured?" That welcome ending to the ongoing saga was met with a variety of reactions throughout the world.

By the time you read this, the Iowa Democratic Caucus will be over and the leading Democratic nominee for the U.S.

presidency in 2004 will be known. The character of the political debates turned into hostile ad hominem attacks on the president, even as the U.S. is at war. Many of the TV "talking heads" and the political pundits are claiming that this is the most hostile and aggressive campaign they have witnessed. It was interesting to see the spin on the many stories about the war and the campaign from various U.S. networks and news organizations around the world.

I wondered if this kind of mixed reaction occurred at other times in our history, and was fortunate to come across a 1941 yearbook from one of the local high schools. It was instructive to read the thoughts and feelings of students in small-town America just before World War II. Sadly, there was no attribution regarding the author of the following article:

There is an old saying that has held true all down through our civilization; it is that 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.' By the same token, the strength of a nation may be measured properly, not by a formidable array of warships or huge armies with tanks, cannons and bombing planes; the real power of a nation must be determined by the morale of the people.

WHITTIER, that famous American patriot, knew the truth of this when he wrote, 'What constitutes a State? Not high raised battlements and labored mounds - it's the men.'

Unfortunately, we have little of which to boast in this respect, with 40% of our young men being rejected from naval and military duty because of various physical impairments brought about principally by the ravages of our economic failure.

That in the past decade, millions of our American children - girls, the future mothers of America; and boys, the future defenders of the nation - were compelled to suffer from undernourishment in a land of super-abundance, is the sad and shameful story we are somewhat reluctant to have passed down into history for future generations of Americans to meditate and ponder upon. And all this while our warehouses were glutted with the necessities and luxuries of life to such an extent that huge quantities of foodstuffs were destroyed and livestock slaughtered, not for consumption, but because of excess. We had too much! Ours is a rich nation, and it seems that wealth should be a blessing, not a curse.

Centuries ago, the Athenians and the Trojans were engaged in a bitter dispute. Earnest attempts to settle their differences proved to no avail, and at last they resorted to force - WAR. In due course, soldiers of the Athenian army were clamoring with fury at the gates of Troy, but they could neither scale the walls nor crash the gate because Troy was firm and resolute in a single purpose - UNITY. This Unity was maintained by the Trojans with the energy born of desperation.

The Athenians were about to raise the siege when some inventive genius among them proposed that a large wooden horse be constructed with room enough in its interior to conceal a squad of carefully picked soldiers. This huge wooden horse, a wonderful piece of work, was moved with great caution to the Gates of Troy.

Unsuspectingly, the curious Trojans emerged to gaze with admiration at the great novelty. Finally, to see it better, they pulled it inside the gate. Deep in the night, the concealed Athenian soldiers emerged from the great horse and opened wide the city's gates to the enemies of Troy.

The irony in this bit of history is that loyal Trojans, not traitors, unwittingly brought about the downfall of Troy. They did not investigate that giant novelty sufficiently to see and understand its sinister purpose. They meant well - but they did not know.

In the U.S. today, there are many citizens with the same curious frame of mind. They are persistent in admitting within our own gates, ideas and untried plans that will turn out to be Trojan horses that will be disastrous to our country, as was the case with the city of Troy. Like the curious and misguided Trojans, they idolize a dazzling illusion that will bring death and destruction upon us, or still worse - Slavery. But they do not know.

THIS is the task of young America. Great is the need for guarding against destructive forces within our gates, and it is shameful that we have not dealt with them more seriously in the past. Where do we stand? Are we placing acquisition above patriotism, and so opening the gates of our beloved country to the enemy? It cannot be denied that we are at present in the throes of a great national adversity. We cannot remain a strong and healthy nation while in our midst there are millions of American families suffering from lack. Naturally, those people are dissatisfied. And where there is dissatisfaction, there is lack of Unity.

WHITTIER is right. The strength of a nation may be determined only by its internal order - by its men. Not some of the men - but all of them.

Wow, it doesn't seem as if much has changed in the 60-plus years since these young high school graduates left the hallowed halls of their high school and were thrust into World War II. My curiosity persisted about the feelings of our nation and how we have changed (or have not changed) in the past 100 years. The Google search engine had an interesting fact sheet about U.S. statistics in 1903 (ah, the miracles of modern technology):

  • The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.
  • Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost 11 dollars.
  • There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads.
  • Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year (no mention of DCs).
  • More than 95 percent of all births in the U.S. took place at home.
  • Ninety percent of all U.S. physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard." (Remember the Abraham Flexner Report of 1910?)
  • Most women only washed their hair once a month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
  • The five leading causes of death in the U.S. were pneumonia and influenza; tuberculosis; diarrhea; heart disease; and stroke.
  • The American flag had 45 stars; Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
  • Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
  • One in 10 U.S. adults couldn't read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • Coca-Cola contained cocaine. Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." (Try using that defense today!)
  • There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.

It makes you think ... What's happened in the past 100 years!

We have come a long way, as history shows - a long way in making technological and economic advancements. Yet, I question, as did Whittier and the young person who quoted him in the school yearbook of 1941, the real power of a nation - its morale.

The status of morale is different from the subject I often talk about, which is the state of morality of our people, society and profession. Morals deal with the inner character; morale deals with the outer spirit. And yet, they are intertwined. If we do not have the morality to do right and respect our fellow human beings, how can we develop the high-spirited sense of dedication, called morale, that enables us to respect honor and hold dear our country, our profession and ourselves? We must realize that loyalty without principle is no more than a pretty Trojan horse that will eventually burst open to reveal an enemy inside.

It seems history is bound to repeat itself not only in the arena of world politics, but in the politics of chiropractic. Like the loyal Trojans who thought they were doing good, yet unwittingly brought about the downfall of Troy, many who proclaim loyalty to a cause unwittingly may bring about the downfall of chiropractic. Many are idolizing a dazzling illusion that may bring destruction to chiropractic and yes, slavery, in the sense that we will not control our own destiny, as primary-care providers, with equality in the health care system.

It appears that a good many doctors of chiropractic have simply given up. This creates the largest population of chiropractors who have resigned themselves to the idea that "nothing can be done." Many have simply fallen into the apathetic mode of "doing my own thing - to hell with everything else." I am convinced it is not because these DCs do not care, as much as it is that they do not have a "cause" that excites them. As Whittier pointed out: "Where there is dissatisfaction, there is a lack of unity." Again, Whittier was right. The strength of this nation and our profession will be determined by its internal order - its people. Not some of them, but all of them.

Where are you? Beware of the Trojan horses within our profession. They come in many disguises, cleverly packaged, nicely framed, with artful messages designed to lure you into the gates. Perhaps it is time to send a message from the silent majority, by each DC doing something (anything); participating in some way (any way - large or small) to advance our collective cause.

Whittier was right!

Louis Sportelli, DC
Palmerton, Pennsylvania

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