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Joseph Cramer, M.D.: Stand and move the world: Do we stand for something or nothing

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 4:37 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: My cousin's husband, Scott Loveless, about whom I wrote last week, passed away from his cancer on the night of Tuesday, March 20 — 12 hours before the article about him and our trophies was published.

Archimedes bragged that if he had a place to stand, he could move the earth. Of course he was boasting about the power of leverage. Using the physics of a fulcrum and a lever, a person can move enormous weights. It matters where one stands.

While Archimedes was extolling the wonder of mechanics, he was also right about how a person can move the world depending upon where he or she stands.

By standing at different spots, a person gains a totally different perspective of the earth and its inhabitants.

Stand still to inhale the beauty of rolling verdant hills or the waves crashing on a rocky shore. Stand looking up into the night sky and count the infinite stars of the universe. Stand gazing into the eyes of a baby child.

Stand in the food line at the homeless shelter; stand in front of a class of students who are failing; stand in an unemployment line for the 17th month in a row or stand watching the sheriff padlock your house on behalf of the bank. Stand by the gravesite of someone who died of prescription drug overdose or a preventable disease caused by smoking; stand beside a widow of war as she is handed a folded flag by the military honor guard; stand in the emergency department entrance without health insurance and wonder through the waves of pain how you are going to pay for the care.

This standing in another’s shoes is means of seeing further. When we stand with the downtrodden, we may actually have to kneel. Standing is a position of principle but it is also a concept of compassion and more global understanding.

There are numerous examples in recent times of people standing in deadly places. Our Syrian brothers and sisters are standing right now for freedom only to have, by U.N. estimates, more than 8,000 cut down. This number exceeds the combined U.S. military fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Muslims are paying with their lives at more than double the human cost than we as a nation lost on 9/11.

The downing of the Twin Towers was hideous evil perpetrated by radical Islamic madmen. Now the followers of the same god and prophet suffer death for freedom by standing up against their tyrannical regimes.

The Syrians follow the Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians. There are continued protests against the Soviet-like suppression of free expression under Vladimir Putin. Before them, Chinese in Tiananmen Square stood for liberty of thought and expression.

These our fellow brothers stand up to bullies. They move the world. One of the most dramatic images was the one man who stood in front of a column of Chinese People’s Liberation Army tanks. The tanks would move; he would counter and stand blocking their way. Years later, the symbolism is still powerful: One man standing against the might of steel and firepower of suppression.

We need more who stand for something, yet standing still is not progress, and standing in holes is not elevating. In our country, we seem to be stuck in our individual depressions. If we can’t see an opponent’s point of view, then we need to move closer to understand.

It is like the stagnant strategies of World War I. Individuals are becoming deeply entrenched. Everyone says they are standing on their principles and therefore should be cheered. However, if they were standing on more noble heights, they could see they are just killing each other.

We lob ideological shells over the no-man’s-land. Our political generals spy across the divide and shout half-truths. It is not leadership to stare and yell. It is leadership to bring people together. This means get out of the trenches and the muck. Remove the barbed-wire barriers and throw down the guns.

If Archimedes could have found a place to stand, he could move the earth. Where do we stand, and what are we moving?

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.

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