There I go again, being me

Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do when I go to town hall meetings or talk to leaders in different areas. I engage them. I ask questions. I speak out. Tonight, I went to a town hall meeting hosted by the local media. The room was packed with people, older people. Many of them decried the movement away from traditional media and toward digital sources of information. They also spoke out against their perception that their all-American town is in decline. They pointed out to the empty buildings downtown as well as some of the societal ills (e.g. running red lights). It was interesting to me to see the reactions of some of the city leaders who were there. Their faces spoke out a lot.

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It was an older, wiser crowd

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Then I raised my hand. The woman moderating the discussions came over. After I said and spelled-out my name, I gave my comment. I asked the members of the media who were there why they seem to always want to give equal weight to anti-science and denialist forces when it comes to discussions about science in the public interest. I used as an example the recent, and controversial, discussion on the newspaper about whether or not a nearby township should do away with fluoride in the water. For some reason, the media that reported on the discussions about the fluoride just felt it necessary to include the conspiracy theories and misinformation about fluoride that people gave in their testimony before the township supervisors.

The town’s newspaper editor addressed my question. Actually, he had already addressed it before in a blog post, but he did it again for the people who didn’t read his post. Basically, his editorial staff has a discussion about how much of “the other side” to include. It’s his stance that things that are non-scientific (e.g. conspiracy theories) should not be given equal weight. Nevertheless, there is always an inclination from the media to want to tell “both sides”.

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Everyone got a chance to say something

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Nothing gets my blood boiling like the “both sides” explanation. But I won’t dwell into that too much.

What I wanted to write about tonight is the fact that I’m always trying to make a difference, to make people aware that there is a problem that needs addressed. My goal for tonight was to make people in this town aware that we need to teach science and use it as a tool to keep bad public policy, and thus public health, from happening. One of the ways to solve many of this town’s problems is to take off the blinders of assumptions or preconceived notions and just go with what has been proven to work. Sadly, too many people hold strong to whatever they think works, not necessarily what they know works… Or what we all know works.

I do this because there is too much of my paternal grandfather and my mother in me. Grandpa was quietly outspoken. He didn’t scream or yell to get his point across. He went to protests and political rallies, yes, but he didn’t try to make himself the center of attention. Then there’s Mom. She is very outspoken. She cannot be witness to an injustice or something that is not working and stay quiet. She will intervene and do what is right no matter the consequences, many times to her own detriment. I am very happy and proud to be their child.

And so, this is why I do what I do. And I will continue to do it.

Because it’s who I am.

I'm a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen