Medical doctors, when they begin their careers, take what is called the Hippocratic oath. Attributed to the ancient Greek medical authority Hippocrates, it is still an admirable statement of the ideals of medical practice.
The very first principle to be followed by those in the medical profession is fundamental, to say the least. First, it says, do no harm. That seems like a fairly low bar, but it is in fact a comfort to know that the person who proposes to treat me will start by making sure that what he or she does is not going to hurt me.
It would be a truly wonderful thing if that were the first principle of our elected officials. Sadly, it almost seems that the present majority is doing exactly the opposite. They have taken several actions to strike down protections of the environment. They have proposed eliminating health insurance for millions of people and raising rates on those who do have insurance. They have slashed regulations protecting the people against financial predators. They have slashed regulations protecting workers. They have sold off public lands for private gain, and they have raised the price of visiting those lands and reduced the public services on those lands. They have approved the appointment of judges who are incompetent at best, and radically biased against people’s rights at worst. They have restricted the right to vote. They have restricted, and in some cases eliminated, the right of workers to bargain collectively.
It is, frankly, difficult to find a piece of legislation, or a presidential action, that has actually helped the people. Who are they serving? Certainly the exceedingly wealthy, that much is obvious. Why? Because the exceedingly wealthy give these elected officials the money they need to get re-elected. Certainly that odd bunch commonly referred to as the “Trump base.” Why? Because, by definition, they voted for Trump.
For all the rest of the American people, the best these elected officials can do is rationalize and equivocate. Yes, the tax plan serves the exceedingly wealthy. But just you wait! All that money is going to trickle down to the average guy! Yes, the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act seems to eliminate insurance for millions and raise the price of insurance for others. But “believe me”, we’re going to provide better insurance, and we are going to insure everyone! It has to come to the point that no one can be believed, and no one can be trusted to do anything to help us.
Let us start again. Let us do that by finding people — Republican, Democrat, Independent — who are first and foremost honest people, and who prove themselves dedicated solely to the interests of the people, of all the people. And we should, before they do anything, make this basic promise: primum non nocere, the first thing is: do no harm.