I believe we all know people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, those whose actions are the antithesis of their speech. Usually we call this “hypocrisy.” And I suggest that our Congress has been a perfect example of this.
From 2008 on, Congress (and some state senates) have enacted increasingly restrictive legislation regarding gifts that pharmaceutical companies can give to physicians. To be sure, there were wildly expensive gifts and vacations given to some in order to procure their use of costly pharmaceuticals and medical devices. However, many of us only received small tokens.
Pharmaceutical representatives still provide an occasional lunch (they must report this activity to the government), at which time they provide samples for my patients, discount coupons and product literature. However, they can no longer shower me with gifts like my Seroquel pen, green squishy Effexor XR brain and the Lexapro stapler from many years ago that still sit on my desk, having never influenced my decision on what to prescribe my patients.
Why then, I’ve asked myself over the years, has Congress found it acceptable to receive millions of dollars from lobbyists, especially the NRA, in order to maintain and expand laws that are obviously dangerous to our country?
When we think about the tragic and recurrent deaths of adults and children as a result of the legal availability of AR-15s and the like, do we believe Congress sees any fault in their acceptance of NRA bribes or recognizes its inconsistency in denying psychiatrists their green, squishy pharmaceutical brains? Of course not.
But some in Congress do suggest one answer to gun violence is to an attempt to identify and assist people at psychological risk, as though, somehow, that’s feasible and realistic. Much as I wish that were true, I believe most of my colleagues would disagree.
In the end, why would a parent leave a butane lighter on a table, accessible to a small child? What would we think if those parents replaced the lighter with a welding torch? Would it be responsible to simply educate that child about the risks of fire but leave the lighter or torch on the table and walk away? Or should a parent act solely by trying to determine if his/her child is likely to act impulsively and try to keep him/her away from the welding torch on the table?
Of course, the answer is that none of these actions would provide adequate protection. And neither would just eliminating bump stocks or creating a system that attempts to identify and prevent psychologically impaired, at-risk individuals from access to AR-15s and other weapons of mass destruction.
I hope members of Congress will end the hypocrisy of forcing others to do that which they refuse to do themselves. No more green squishy brains for me … no more millions in NRA lobbying bribes for them.
Brad Greenspan is a psychiatrist in private practice in Bannockburn. Previously, he served as medical director of psychiatric services at Northshore University HealthSystem-Highland Park Hospital and medical director of consultation-liaison psychiatry at Northwestern Medicine-Lake Forest Hospital.