The Forces of Freedom

By J.P. Leonard, D.D.S.

 

                Caesar had his Brutus; vindictive forceps get the neglected first permanent molars; and Leap Year vexes us with election campaigns!

In the good old days, before everybody ran for public office, baseball used to be referred to as the National pastime. Today, the new national pastime appears to be merely a series of ward-huddles, attended by party partisans who have been rustled out of their easy chairs by the urge to save the country for the current crop of “natural born leaders.”

At this point, some of our gentle readers may deem it proper to politely hoist their eyebrows in disdain and prepare to pass over this article because it sounds like a “common political discussion.” Gladly, we divorce them with the blunt statement that they are hopeless cynics. This article is not intended to be interesting for pussyfooters who are placidly practicing dentistry with a bale of cotton and an itching palm!

Dentistry has reached a stage of development, where it is essential for the alert members of the profession to become interested in, and educated about, political campaigns and their many reverberations that affect the future of the dental profession. The heretofore meek private practitioner is greatly concerned about the limitless possibilities of reform which are lurking behind the dark clouds of socialized dentistry already visible over the near horizon.

Variety of the Spice of Life

Whatever your political creed may be is chiefly a matter of environment and temperament. Lord McCauley claimed that men divide naturally into two groups: one devoted to order and the other to progress. In other words, some men like change for its own sake and others fear it; so, here you have a natural division into Liberals and Conservatives.

Another theory that has been advanced, and has many followers, is that the whole matter is one of what might be termed “mental age.” As normal man goes thru four stages of political opinion, namely; 1—Radical: 2—Liberal; 3—Conservative; and 4—Absolutist. The mental age loophole will assist in explaining away any individual contradictions to this statement. For instance, under this set-up a young man who held conservative political views would apparently have a very advanced mental age; while the old man who remained radical might truly be called “childish.”

The Importance of Your Ballot

It will be apparent, to anyone interested enough to dig up the historical facts and figures, that we did not start out as a democratic, representative form of government, in which the people participated widely. Only about 8 percent of the adult men living in the young republic had a right to vote when this nation started its own government.

Alexander Hamilton told the members of the Constitutional Convention that “the people seldom judge or determine right.” This opinion was shared by a majority of the delegates present. Therefore, the federal government did not confer on the people the right to vote. That was left to the sovereign states and it is still one of their cherished functions.

Our founding forefathers specifically guarded against the people voting for president direct, and hedged the congress with protection. No one could vote for a representative in congress who was not qualified to vote for members of a state legislature, and there was no direct election of senators.

Today, almost universal suffrage prevails in the United States. Millions of Negroes were given the voting privilege thru the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued as a war measure by President Lincoln, January 1, 1863. The Nineteenth Amendment. Conferring suffrage to women was ratified August 18, 1920, and the Indians were declared qualified in 1924.

Today, only a small fraction of the electorate are specifically barred from voting. Residents of penal institutions and paroled persons who have been convicted of certain crimes are disenfranchised. Asiatics are excluded also. Some states deny suffrage to men in the military or naval service of our government. (Personally, I think such a ruling is ridiculous and asinine.) Georgia and South Carolina are definite in their stand against miscegenation and in these states the racial perverts are automatically disfranchised.

Those of us who claim to be intelligent and patriotic citizens should value our right of suffrage more highly than we do ordinarily. We should use our ballot privilege at all times and be more alert to bring it to bear on the important issues of the times.

Figures that Speak for Themselves

From infancy to the grave, we, as citizens of the greatest republic on the face of the earth hear, read, talk and think considerable about our “God given heritage of voting as free and equal men.” As a matter of fact we never yet have had a complete true vote of the American people. Permit me to quote you some interesting figures.

According to the 1930 census, there were 72,943,624 people in the United States who were twenty-one years of age and older. However, in the 1932 presidential election only 39,816,522 ballots were cast!

That was the largest election ever recorded!

Reduced to fractions that means approximately eight people out of every fifteen eligible actually exercised their right to a voting franchise. Broadly speaking, one-third of out eligible voters never take the time to vote! It would be interesting indeed if there was some way to determine whether or not one-third of the eligible dental vote was never recorded. Let us be tolerant and hope for the best!

Dentistry in the Maelstrom

With the exception of United States Senator Henrik Shipstead and an occasional dentist in the House of Representatives, the dental profession has not been conspicuous or diligent in politics. Generally speaking, most of our brethren assumed an attitude of pious indifference regarding the various political trends. Perhaps such a pose did serve a useful purpose at one time, but nowadays it behooves us all to get better acquainted with our politicians and determine their individual reactions concerning anything that might prove detrimental to dentistry.

Any organization is only as strong as its individual members desire to make it. The dental profession will be judged politically, and treated according to tour sincere manifestations and vigorous protests. As a profession we have to abandon the punitive policies of dignified aloofness and procrastination or we will eventually be totally eclipsed by the smothering forces of social, political, and commercial organizations who are eager to regiment us for their own glory and gain.

In attempting to preach such a doctrine of political alertness, I am crusading, for and with, the dental profession against the present day trends of wanton greed and pampered ignorance. Briefly, the first of these two is exemplified by the “easy money” organizations who profess a monetary lunacy of one sort or another. The second group includes any and all organizations who favor a program of wholesale dental operations at a fee level that would shame Woolworth in his heyday!

Regardless of their political faith (or the lack of any), these organizations have millions of frenzied camp-followers looking for the end of the rainbow (and our necks), led by soap-box orators, and punchdrunk from digesting plenty of misleading propaganda.

The present political campaign is loaded with selfish cross-currents and petty personal grievances which may prove to be dynamite in cellophane packages for the unsuspecting meek dental practitioner who has been content to drift with the stream all these years. If he is really concerned about his own future he will have to learn to paddle his own political boat, with united effort, or drown in the coming tidal wave of socialized medicine and dentistry.

After reading the phraseology and generalities of the Social Security Act we must confess to a few disappointments. The principal one being the complete omission of any specific reference to dentistry as a beneficial means for a happier life. Perhaps the sponsors of the Act did not realize the intrinsic value of oral health as it applies to general health. Anyway, the fact remains that they did not bother to mention any such situation. Perhaps, if the rank and file in our profession had been more aggressive in their past political activities a much different set-up would have been provided. The wheel that squeaks the loudest gets more than its share of grease!

In case the oversight was either deliberate of accidental (and both are possible), then surely, now is the opportune time for the dental profession to raise its vigorous protest. Candidly, I do not see how the obvious health benefits that dentistry alone can provide, could be overlooked by anyone interested enough in human welfare to dig up statistics that portray the fundamental public health needs. However, some people could not dig up the facts for themselves if they were quarantined in a room full of information and equipped with a high-geared fact-finding index!

The bright light of dentistry hidden beneath a bushel for years cast no radiance, and in the sight of the world was overlooked. Let us throw off the mantle of darkness and shine forth on our true merit. We have to do a little pushing on our own account in these modern times if we expect to acquire our correct rating in the eyes of the world.

Dentistry has a place of importance in the health programs of today and the future. Our individual faith in dentistry’s hidden benefits will determine the importance that the world learns to associate with the good name of dentistry. We, today, are the masters of tomorrow’s triumph.

Therefore, let me urge every dentist worthy of his profession to enlist, as a unit, in this worthy program by talking the importance of dental health at every opportunity. Let him talk it to his neighbor; talk it to his fellow practitioner; educate his friends and talk it to his political acquaintances and representatives.

By presenting a unified, harmonious, aggressive front, we can readily become, and be recognized as, a potent force of freedom.

 

J. P. LEONARD, D.D.S.

703 Union Bldg., Davenport Iowa