Editorial: Choosing from a menu of enemies

November 1, 2001

Threats from individuals and groups that harness hate to destroy now take priority over threats from sharks and predictable yearly bouts with infectious diseases. It is vital, however, that we--and our nation's leaders--not forget that the issues that were important on September 10 have not disappeared.

 

EDITORIAL

Choosing from a menu of enemies

On September 10, 2001, we were worried about whether the national economy was entering a depression. We wondered whether there would be legislation to improve the education of children in the United States; whether there would be enough influenza vaccine for the coming winter; and whether shark attacks on humans off East Coast beaches were really on the rise.

All that changed on the morning of September 11. A recession may have been officially declared by the time this essay is published; concern about influenza vaccine has been replaced by hoarding of ciprofloxacin in preparation for exposure to anthrax; and money that would have been used to educate children is being redirected to an effort that is likely to put many of those children into military uniform.

Threats from individuals and groups that harness hate to destroy now take priority over threats from sharks and predictable yearly bouts with infectious diseases. It is vital, however, that we—and our nation's leaders—not forget that the issues that were important on September 10 have not disappeared.

At my son's school, as part of an annual fundraising, students are soliciting donations for each chicken wing they will eat at a school wing-eating party. They had planned to donate the proceeds to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity because students from the school have been involved in building a house for a local family under the auspices of Habitat. Instead, students have now voted to donate the funds they raise to the American Red Cross to help victims of the World Trade Center disaster. Something about that choice disturbs me; certainly, families of the victims in New York, and in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, deserve support, but does their tragedy somehow diminish the need of families in our city?

The problems of September 10 have not disappeared. Some, such as the fear of sharks, have been put into perspective. (Just stay out of shark-infested waters, for goodness sake!) Others must still be addressed, and will remain after this international crisis is behind us. Choices will, of course, have to be made, but urgent concern over predicting and preventing every theoretical threat must not preclude us from dealing with real, persistent problems that have been here all along: inadequate education, HIV, tobacco and other substance abuse, poverty, and, yes, influenza. When we finish with terrorism, let's not forget that those villains are waiting to be conquered.

Julia A. McMillan, MD, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, is professor of pediatrics, vice chair for pediatric education, and director of the residency training program, Johns Hopkins University Medical School, Baltimore.

 



Julia McMillan. Editorial: Choosing from a menu of enemies.

Contemporary Pediatrics

2001;11:9.