Fight Fear Through Engagement
The rhetoric of fear and stigma are inevitably amplified every four years by the impending U.S. presidential elections. While we must remain vigilant, we must also temper our trepidation with the understanding that the jockeying for political prestige, prominence, and electoral power are not always a reflection of dire consequences to come. As comedian Groucho Marx once observed:
The bombastic pronouncements seized upon by the media as we approach November 2016, should neither be taken at face value, nor completely ignored.
While they may not truly reflect a future legislative reality, they do represent the baser instincts with which we will no doubt have to contend as we strive for public health equity and a just and equitable society for all.
In an election year, we see the best and worst of America. We see the common values, the desire for a better life, the concern for our neighbors and friends, and our visions for our communities, but we also are reminded of the pernicious influence of hate, fear, and stigma on many aspects of the public health system. Our impulse may be to decry demagoguery where we see it, but one of the hallmarks of the American system is the function of public engagement. We cannot fashion an equitable system where we are unwilling to participate. Engagement is the key. We cannot change the minds of people we are unwilling to talk to.
This is particularly essential in the world of public health, where arbitrary political boundaries and ideologies can actually impact the spread of disease, epidemic health issues, and the fundamental problems that plague all marginal and marginalized communities that nonetheless share the common desire for a life free from basic concerns such as adequate nutrition, health, and sufficient attention to the impact of trauma.