By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Rush Limbaugh once said, “Liberals are always liberals first.” What I think he meant was that certain principles are preeminent in each of us.  I’ll use myself as an example. I am a Christian first and Becky’s husband. And because I do not have gender dysphoria, I identify as a man.

Continuing my hierarchy, I next envision myself as a Conservative. My persona once claimed Doctor of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics quite high on my list of defining characteristics, but I’m retired from medicine. Occasionally, people still ask my medical opinion, but less these days, and rightly so because I now identify more as a writer than as a doctor.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about identity and computer operating systems, as well as their applications we call apps. The operating system of a computer is just that; it is the program system on a computer that controls the mechanisms of the device and the downloaded (added) software applications. Examples of operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Apple’s macOS, or Apple’s smartphone iOS or Google’s Android. By comparison, the human brain/mind is an infinitely more sophisticated operating system for thought processes and experiential “applications.”

The 17th-century English philosopher John Locke postulated that at birth the human mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) because we have yet to receive “impressions gained from experience.” Philosophically, I understand what Locke is saying, but modern neuroscience has revealed that the human brain and nervous system are evident in the first trimester of pregnancy. And by two months there is sufficient neural integration in the brain to send signals out through the developing nervous system to produce muscular movement. It’s unclear to me when the developing child begins to have “experiences” as described by Locke. However, it is logical to conclude and demonstrable that some order of experiences occurs during pregnancy. Therefore, I don’t believe a child is born with Locke’s tabula rasa.

When I open my iPhone, numerous apps are displayed which I have added to my device to help me with various functions. I especially find my dictionary, thesaurus and Bible apps helpful, as well as news and weather apps. But I would lead an isolated life without email, text, phone and camera applications, all of which run on my iPhone’s operating system that is far more powerful than the computer on Apollo 13’s Lunar Lander. Without my iPhone and apps, I would certainly have fewer life experiences.

I am now 73 years old and have acquired a lifetime of experiences and educational downloads. Many of these experiences have come through mentors (teachers). My parents were my first mentors, nurturers and protectors. Then I had traditional teachers, sports coaches and those whom I will label as teachers of life’s important lessons. My wife Becky is representative of this latter group. I once wrote about my influential high school chemistry and physics teacher whom, years later, I sought out and thanked for making a difference in my life. I wish I had done better to thank all the mentors who experientially shaped my life.

My older daughter is a middle school English teacher who was the Teacher of the Year in Oregon several years ago. My hat is off to her because middle school is a tough age, and she probably would not have wanted me in her class when I was an underachieving 14-year-old. But I grew up and as a doctor, I became a teacher myself. The word doctor derives from the Latin word docere which means to teach. I have taught patients, medical students, interns, residents and doctor colleagues. And now I teach readers of this column.

I didn’t pay much attention to the broader world for the first 30 years of my life because I was growing up, getting an education, marrying Becky, starting a medical practice and then a family. I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to listen to NPR before it became so woke that their own journalist slams their leftist ideology. However, I’ve paid attention in the last 40 years, and I have never experienced such denigration of America values, damage to the economy with mismanagement and ruinous spending, damage to the military with trans issues and DEI, as well as corruption in the FBI, intelligence government agencies and virtually the entire legal system.

You may be surprised to learn that Donald Trump was not my first or second choice as a presidential candidate in 2016. I never watched an episode of “The Apprentice,” nor did I have any awareness of this New Yorker. However, I voted for him in 2016, not because he was the Republican presidential candidate, but because he was infinitely preferable to Hilary Clinton.

We often hear that “this election is the most important one.” And then life goes on. As a result, we’ve become jaded and consider such political electioneering as hyperbole. However, as we approach November 2024, I am convinced this IS the most important election in my/our lifetime. If Biden is reelected and Democrats control the Congress, the country is finished.

Last week we learned that President Trump and Biden have agreed to two debates. I hate these political jousts. We already know of President Trump’s policies, his presidential track record and vigor. And we know of Biden’s dementia, his terrible presidential record (crime, border, inflation) and his baggage – repeated lying and association with his son’s corrupt business dealings and drug abuse. The contrast between strength and weakness is striking. In fact, the only way Biden stands a chance of winning is to use his corrupt department of justice and the legal system to lock up President Trump. Whether you like President Trump or not, sane Americans can see the injustice of lawfare.

This week, instead of opening with a quote, I’ll close with one from Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” regarding bankruptcy, which applies to our American crisis. When asked how he went bankrupt, the character Mike explained, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

In November we must act before our gradual decline reaches Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, and we awaken November 6th to learn that America is suddenly gone.