By Dr. Jim Ferguson

The old saw goes, “A writer’s life is his capital.” In other words, we write about our experiences and from our memories. Apparently, Stephen King and I share something; it’s just that the reflections from his memories are so scary.

I find it odd that after ten years of weekly columns I’ve never experienced writer’s block. Perhaps it’s because I write as an avocation rather than as a job, so there’s less pressure to produce. Actually, I think it’s because a lot of things interest me, and the Focus affords free reign to express my interests and observations. And, I have a lot of material because I have been blessed with a full life.

Times are different now than when I was growing up, and different than when I was practicing medicine full time. For more than forty years I made hospital rounds in a white coat and attended my office patients in a starched shirt and tie.

Recently, I was glad to read about the “white coat ceremony” at a medical school. Apparently this “right of passage” for medical students still exists. As a senior medical student, I recall being awarded the coveted white coat, symbolizing the stature of a clinician, though it would be many years before I actually made the grade. These days, few doctors wear the white coat – except in Gary Larson cartoons. Even fewer wear starched shirts or ties.

It seems that our culture’s more relaxed attire coincides with the devolution of language and social mores. This may be nothing but an association instead of cause and effect, but I wonder as the “F-bomb” is repeatedly dropped and “twirking” or gangster rap have become the marks of an artist. My father taught me that a person’s first impression of you was extremely important. I’ve taught that concept to medical students, interns and residents for more than forty years, but perhaps this notion is now passé. Does your doctor’s appearance and demeanor engender trust and confidence?

Some years ago my wife Becky wrote a song entitled, Matters of the Heart. The song describes me with a “starched collar” and Becky in “sneakers and tees,” but at the end of the day we share “matters of the heart.” Actually, semi- retirement often finds me in casual attire alongside my lovely wife, who I attest, as they say down south, “She cleans up right nice.”

One of the advantages of our smaller retirement home is there are fewer places to look for lost items. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found my blue jeans apparently misplaced during the move over a year ago. And that’s where my fall shopping experience began.

Fergism #14 (aka axiom) is “Women shop; men buy.” So when I gave up searching for my jeans, Becky suggested I look for jeans and work trousers at KARM (Knox Area Rescue Ministries). Becky and I have taken truckloads of household wares, furniture and clothing to this worthy charitable organization, but I had never bought anything in the KARM store. Becky explained to me I would need a personal shopper to assist me with a thrift store experience. Actually, it was a painless exercise, even for a man who is quickly impatient. I rapidly found two pairs of jeans which were almost new and already broken in! Is this not a great country?

There is more to all of us than our apparel and appearance. Making snap judgements of people based on their appearance is problematic and often erroneous. Identity politics is especially troublesome as people apply labels to others based on skin color or perceived creed. A recent example is the attempt to brand the Republican candidate for Governor of Florida as a racist because he used the idiom “monkey it up,” referring to progressive policies of raising taxes and hurting a resurgent economy. Apparently, the Democrats see their candidate as a black man and chose to politicize a common idiom as racist, despite the fact that no less than a dozen prominent Democrats have used the same monkey idiom.

Perhaps I should change my picture or omit it all together to avoid being stigmatized as an older white guy and a patriarchal oppressor of women and minorities. You smirk, but it’s done everyday in progressive university curriculums, in media ad hominem (personal) attacks and with politicians who bend over to curry the favor of the hip and politically correct crowd. Uh, did I just use a crude or politically incorrect idiom? And who judges it incorrect or my intent? Apparently, social media giants like Google, FaceBook and Twitter fancy themselves as the arbiters of appropriate ideas, and conservatism is not one of these.

Let’s pull back the curtain, to use another idiom from the Wizard of Oz, and define conservatism for Google and academia who find it so troublesome that they need to suppress this dangerous philosophy. Conservatism advocates traditions and social stability. The term derives from the Latin word conservare, meaning to preserve. There are many subsets of conservatism. Examples are: religious conservatives like Billy Graham; fiscal conservatives like Congressman Jimmy Duncan; Constitutional conservatives like Antonin Scalia; governmental or political conservatives like Ronald Reagan or Rush Limbaugh. Like me, most conservatives believe in personal responsibility and accountability, smaller government, lower taxes, national and border security. Progressives and socialists like Bernie Sanders believe in the opposite, and embrace sanctuary cities and the abolishment of ICE.

I am not patriarchal or an ogre because I am an older white guy. I don’t judge people because of their skin color, but I do discern how they act and speak. I read extensively, listen to diverse perspectives and then make up my own mind.

I’m a fan of Google’s search engine, but I decry their censorship of conservative opinions. However, I’m opposed to government intervention with the social media giants or even CNN. I’m a free market guy, so I’ve changed my search engine to DuckDuckGo, just like I no longer watch “fake news” on CNN or NFL football. As a conservative, I believe in accountability, not only for Google, but for governmental agencies like the FBI and DOJ. And I’m responsible for my words, my perspectives and my actions.

Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s defined the Universal Law of God as the highest order of accountability. This was followed by Divine Laws such as the Ten Commandments. Next comes nature’s laws and lastly man’s (positive) laws. Though we live and act in this temporal reality, our essence is ultimately accountable to the Creator.