Caring that we get things right

Dear President Trump,

All sorts of things are going on in the news this morning. First, it looks like your trade deal with Mexico and Canada is getting a nice boost from Speaker Pelosi (fortunately after stronger supports for unions and workers’ rights were added). Second, despite your bogus complaints about the “do-nothing Democrats,” Pelosi can clearly walk and chew gum at the same time because, wait for it – at the same time that she’s leading the Dems on the trade agreement, she’s working with the Judiciary Committee to pull together articles of impeachment for you. Third, the WP has a lengthy, but still tip-of-the-iceberg, expose on the nearly two-decade governmental deception effort around the war in Afghanistan. Just another day in the Republic, eh?

Regarding the war, the reporter, Craig Whitlock, didn’t point out the sick irony of its moniker, which even you must know is Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). I remember when the war started it chaffed to have to use that acronym, or the one for the war in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom; OIF), since the likelihood that the wars would result in any freedom, let alone enduring freedom, was absolutely nil (newsflash: killing, conquering, and dominating aren’t conducive to freedom). And don’t get me started on “Operation New Dawn” – the propaganda machine was working overtime on that one, for sure. Back to Afghanistan, though, it’s too bad Whitlock left off mentioning “OEF” since I think it puts all the blunders, failure, and lies in awful relief.

I don’t want to focus solely on negative stuff today so I’m going to switch gears and tell you about another Good News Network story I read yesterday. This one is about a teenager named Macinley Butson who lives in Wollongong, New South Wales. Butson has always been a science nerd and she started inventing things as a little girl. When someone in her family died from breast cancer she decided to try and figure out something that would help other cancer victims. The story doesn’t say why she focused on the therapeutic radiation that can adversely affect healthy tissue, but that was where she put her attention, eventually coming up with a radiation shield made of copper scale-mail to protect the unaffected breast during treatments. You should check out the pictures – it’s really ingenious and it’s beautiful.

The part of the story I love the most has to do with her scientific process. She set up a way of measuring how well lead, aluminum, and copper shield from the type radiation one receives during cancer treatment (she clearly had access to scientific equipment most mere mortals can’t even dream of). Her measurements indicated that copper did a much, much better job than lead, reducing the surface radiation reaching the skin by 75% relative to lead. In the embedded video she talked about seeing her results and figuring she must have done something wrong given the received wisdom that lead should perform best since it’s the default shielding metal. She did the studies all over again a bunch of times to double-, triple-, quadruple-check herself. She carried out really solid science and ultimately came up with something that will be a game-changer.

I’m happy for her and for all of us who are likely to benefit from her amazing work, but the reason to lift her up to you is that she embodies the sort of rigor, care, perseverance, and humility that you could use many doses of – no shielding necessary! She was seeing something no one else had seen that contravened the standard approach and she neither gave up on her work nor did she brazenly go with her first set of observations. To me, the take-home is that how we approach our work, especially that which affects others, truly matters.

May our government (meaning the people in it) truly value safety.
May we all be willing to approach our jobs with integrity and humility.
May we celebrate outside-the-box thinking that supports health and well-being.
May we stop treating war as a go-to option.

Tracy Simpson

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