As I thought of Martin Luther King this past week, I realized that I am old enough to remember his famous speech, his nonviolent crusade that led to civil rights legislation, and then his assassination. He was able to help change the laws and the mind set of how people look at and treat one another. He did this without looting and burning down buildings. He was able to achieve this through peaceful demonstrations that brought attention to the injustice many experienced at that time. As I was growing up I was impacted by the assassinations of President Kennedy, then Martin Luther King, and then Robert Kennedy. Three famous men experienced violent deaths within a few years. These were healthy people who did not have the opportunity to live their lives due to the actions of another person.
Much has changed over the last 50 years but we still have healthy people losing their lives due to the criminal actions of evil people including terrorists. Our health and safety is dependent on a civilized society that has laws and has those laws enforced. Today, in certain parts of the United States there is serious danger to health due to violence. In Chicago there are thousands of shootings and hundreds of murders every year. It has been shown that health outcomes are related to where we live.
Not only is health and safety dependent on civilized behavior, it is dependent on law enforcement that is able and willing to enforce the laws. It is also dependent on our military to protect us from terrorists who would be happy to see Americans dead. We are privileged to live in a country where most people respect one another’s rights and properties. We have freedom and opportunity to choose how we want to live as long as those choices do not infringe on the rights of others. Without law enforcement and the military we would be more likely to lose our life or be hurt at the hands of evil people even though we are healthy.
Since there are bad people out there, we need laws enforced. Law enforcement officers may not be perfect but can you imagine what it would be like without men and women to enforce the laws? I think it is safe to say that without law enforcement we would be much more concerned about our safety than we would be about our blood pressure and cholesterol.
Some of the greatest advances in the health of the population are not necessarily provided by doctors and hospitals. Things like sanitation, clean water, modern agriculture, modern safe transportation, and law enforcement have probably done more to increase life expectancy in the United States than medical care.
Lately, some people have been critical of law enforcement. Law enforcement officers have a difficult job. They have to make quick decisions in dangerous situations. I believe that people who respect the authority of police, obey the orders that are given, and cooperate will be safe. I would expect that if I did not do what an officer told me to do that bad things could happen. I appreciate what law enforcement does since they are crucial to maintaining a safe and healthy place to live. They need our support and gratitude. So if you see a police officer or soldier, thank them for helping make this a safe and healthier place to live. Stay healthy my friends.
By: P. Michael Shattuck, M.D. – Community Health Network Family Physician