Issues of social injustice, police violence, and sexual abuse continue to gain attention in the media, whether it’s the social activism of NFL players who take a knee or actresses coming forth after being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who assaulted and harassed dozens of women. Weinstein’s abuse brought to light deep cultural problems where harassment can be normalized and ignored until it finally reaches a tipping point in the media—an issue we’ve not attained yet in the chiropractic profession with medical harassment and defamation.
The silent but very visible protests by NFL players again brought to light the issues of police violence and institutional racism, issues our country also has normalized and ignored for too long. Some may disagree with the venue, but there could not have been a better place to grab national attention than on NFL football games. Some may disagree these rich players need to protest, but rich or poor, in principle they are protected by the First Amendment to do so.
Mistakenly, many people think kneeling was disrespectful of the flag, but to the contrary—no one defaced the flag, nor did anyone burn it, spit on it, soil it or make it into a t-shirt as we often see being worn. This act of silent, peaceful protest was no different than Rosa Parks who sat in order to stand up for her civil rights.
Actually, it was an Army vet-friend of Kaepernick who suggested he knell rather than sit on the bench as he initially did. Again, he did not deface the flag, but knelled, which is a sign of reverence as in praying or an act of submission. He never spoke negatively or disrespectfully either. People are reading much more into his act than what actually happened, inflaming the situation as Trump has done to rally his base.
The flap between Donald Trump and the NFL players is eerily reminiscent of the 1960s when Vietnam protectors were told by the Nixon administration “American–love it or leave it,” seeking to silence or get rid of anyone who stood in his way rather than having a debate on the sanity and necessity of the Vietnam War itself. Indeed, this is the essential challenge of being in charge of a democratic government: people have the pesky habit of questioning orders.
As a student at Berkeley during that time, I remember well the wrath against protesters despite our legal right to assemble and protest the war — mass arrests of students and citizens, tear-gas bombs tossed into academic buildings, and the Alameda Sheriff Goon Squad randomly arresting anyone in sight made me feel I was in Russia, not California.
I wrote about such experiences in the Preface to my new book, To Kill a Chiropractor:
From Cal to Chiropractic
When I began my freshman year in 1966 at the University of California at Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement that began in 1963 had morphed into other important issues such civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights and, of course, protests against the Vietnam War. All of these social movements were inflamed by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, two icons for social progress that caused more demonstrations on campus along Telegraph Avenue at Sather Gate.
These political events began my development as a student trying to comprehend the politics of social change and civil disobedience during the late 1960s. There was no escaping activism even if you were apolitical like me. In retrospect, I appreciate how these events changed me from a crew-cut “dumb jock” athlete to a ponytail protester and, circuitously, began to prepare me later for my career as a chiropractor and budding journalist.
I recall the year 1968 as if it were yesterday because it was the year of my sudden introduction to both political activism and chiropractic. I was in my junior year at Berkeley, enduring a tough academic schedule and playing two varsity sports, all the while watching student protests in Sproul Plaza on campus, the epicenter of Berkeley’s famous Free Speech Movement. Indeed, an education at Cal was more than classrooms, term papers, fraternity parties and football games.
Years later most people would agree these protesters were correct to oppose the Vietnam War but, unfortunately, many conservatives at the time clouded their patriotism with a war that was deemed a losing battle unnecessary to our national security while costing the lives of 58,220 American soldiers.
Taking a knee by NFL players is not the first time we’ve seen nonviolent protests. For examples:
- Boston Tea Party, 1773, was one of the earliest documented protests in America with the battle cry of ”No Taxation without Representation.” This act of protest sparked the American Revolution, which ultimately ended in America’s freedom from British rule.
- Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 shared the voices of over 5,000 courageous women speaking out for the right to equal political participation.
- Bonus Army March on Washington when tens of thousands of protesters, many of them World War I veterans and their families, descended on Washington in the summer of 1932 to pressure Congress to pass legislation awarding them deferred bonuses they desperately needed to weather the Depression.
- March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington helped pass the Civil Rights Act.
- Montgomery Bus Boycott: Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Ala., arrested when she sat in the while only section of a public bus. The U.S. Supreme Court later made segregated seating unconstitutional. Parks was known thereafter as the “mother of the civil rights movement.”
- Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam: On Oct. 15, 1969, with more than half a million troops fighting in Southeast Asia and no end in sight, an estimated 2 million people across the country marched in one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history.
- The Solidarity Day March in Washington, DC — September 19, 1981, was a rally of about 260,000 people in response to President Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire 12,000 air traffic controllers who went on strike and demanded wage increases and safer working conditions.
- The Anti-Nuclear March in New York City’s Central Park — June 12, 1982, around a million protestors filled Central Park to protest nuclear weapons during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
- The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation — April 25, 1993, between 800,000 and one million people marched on the National Mall in 1993 for LGBT rights. The organizers’ primary demands were civil rights bills against discrimination, an increase in AIDS research funding, and reproductive rights.
- The Million Man March in Washington, DC — October 16, 1995, organized chiefly by the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, the rally drew hundreds of thousands of black men to Washington in a show of pride and solidarity.
- The Million Woman March in Philadelphia — October 25, 1997, two years after the Million Man March, anywhere from 500,000 to 2 million people convened for the Million Woman March.
- Protests Against The Iraq War, on February 15-16, 2003, as a protest to George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, between 10 to 15 million people marched in 600 cities across the world in 2003. At least 500,000 people protested in American cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
- The March for Women’s Lives in Washington DC — April 25, 2004, was one of the largest pro-choice protests in American history, with between 500,000 and 1.1 million attendees.
- Women’s Marches in 2017: The tally of women and their supporters marching in Washington is now thought to be close to half a million intended to send a potent message of defiance to newly inaugurated President Trump.
Athletes in Social Activism
Not only are peaceful protests a part of our American history, the present NFL protest is not new to sports. Recall Muhammad Ali in 1967 and sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games when they demonstrated against the Vietnam war and racism only to experience the anger of the establishment—Ali was stripped of his crown and Smith-Carlos were banned from the Olympics.
Today they have been vindicated as brave athletes for their stance for human rights while using sport as a venue for peaceful protests guaranteed by our Constitution.
Now we hear similar “love it or leave it” rants by Donald Trump to curb free speech by encouraging NFL owners to “fire or suspend” players who demonstrate during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’”
No, Mr. Trump, in fact, many Americans would disagree knowing even pro football players have the right to protest peacefully.
Despite his unpresidential language, let’s be clear no one is disrespecting the flag; instead they are honoring the flag by applying their First Amendment right symbolized by our flag. To Trump’s surprise, many NFL owners also participated with players in a peaceful protest that continues to grow each week.
Indeed, Trump may have bitten off more than he can chew by fighting with the NFL. Trump simply doesn’t understand freedom of speech extends to everyone, including QB Colin Kaepernick who silently and peacefully protested racial inequality and police brutality a year ago. While it doesn’t surprise us that Trump does not agree with his message, it is Kaepernick’s Constitutional right, not a privilege, to exercise his freedom of speech regardless of the message or venue.
Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick, you have to give him credit as a single American who peacefully sparked a national conversation on issues dear to him. Colin Kaepernick’s simple gesture of kneeling during the national anthem was a peaceful protest unlike Charlottesville and has now become a national conversation.
Think of the impact of Kaepernick’s lone act of disruptive, principled and peaceful protest. Beginning with the courage of just one player, Kaepernick’s message has become a national issue, and rightfully so, just as Muhammad Ali single-handedly raised the consciousness of our nation years ago about the Vietnam War.
Packer QB Aaron Rodgers, another Cal grad (whose father is a chiropractor) mentioned politics and sport have always been linked. “This is about equality. This is about unity and love and growing together as a society and starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people.”
Hopefully those people “uncomfortable” will understand the courage of these past and present athletes who are willing to take a stand on principle, even when the president disagrees. To those who disagree, let me remind them here in America, unlike Russia or North Korea, we have the freedom of speech to disagree with even our leaders.
In fact, disruptive journalism got Donald Trump elected president by tweeting his message of nationalism and attacking the mainstream politicians and media. Whether or not you agree with him, his disruptive messages resonated with the public, a tactic we should imitate to arouse the interest of the public.
Taking a Knee for Chiropractic
Don’t we wish we could have the same impact to bring the chiropractic message to Americans?
We certainly have a similar story of oppression with the AMA’s war to “contain and eliminate” the chiropractic profession, which continues covertly still today. We certainly had many victims of this medical war — the 12,000+ chiropractors who were arrested over 15,000 times – and the thousands of DCs who were marginalized and defamed by the medical professionals.
More importantly, today we certainly see the collateral damage of this medical war upon innocent citizens subjected to the trail of opioid addiction and disability from unnecessary spine surgeries.
More importantly, the public has been deceived by the ill-trained MDs posing as experts in MSDs who routinely doll out opioids like candy. Think of the millions of epidural steroid injections proven to be “underwhelming.” Think of the hundreds of thousands of failed back surgery victims who were conned by the “bad disc” diagnosis by a deceptive surgeon. Indeed, the deceptions in medical spine care will sooner than later be seen as the biggest scam in medicine.
Unfortunately, it took a national opioid crisis causing millions of addictions, hundreds of thousands of deaths as well as millions of disabled people from chronic low back pain and failed back surgeries to make officials revisit the troubling consequences of medical care for acute and chronic back pain.
Mark Schoene, editor of The BackLetter, an international spine journal for healthcare professionals published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, agrees medical spine care as a whole is a “national scandal”:
“Medical spine care is the poster child of inefficient care…such an important area of medicine has fallen to this level of dysfunction should be a national scandal. In fact, this situation is bringing the United States disrespect internationally.”
However, we also see the medical profession totally ignoring these guidelines aimed to stave off this “national scandal” of inefficient spine care.
Kneeling for Patients
Perhaps we chiropractors should also partake in disruptive journalism by kneeling in protest over the medical abuse of patients we’ve seen over the years.
Indeed, what good are research studies and “best practices” guidelines if the medical profession refuses to integrate them and continue to abuse patients?
Undoubtedly the new guidelines have been met with the same resistance by MDs as we witnessed in 1994 with the AHCPR Guideline #14 on acute low back pain in adults that should have revolutionized spine care, but was sabotaged by the North American Spine Society (NASS) as an example of political medicine at its worst.
Despite the new ACP guidelines, MDs simply ignore them and continue to misdiagnosis and mistreat patients, railroading them on the gravy train to drugs, shots, and surgery. After they experience the inevitable train wreck, the medical conductor tells them, “Let’s do it again.”
Where is our protest of the medical profession totally ignoring the release of the new guidelines recommending SMT as a first-line treatment? Indeed, these proponents of science-based medicine quickly become blind to the new guidelines when they do not favor their treatments.
Can we take a knee for these victims of medical spine care abuse? Of course we can, but do we have the same courage as Rosa Parks to do so? Or are we too comfortable in our middle class opulence to bother?
Do we have the backbone to bring light to the dangers and deaths wrought upon Americans by the medical spine physicians who have created the present opioid crisis and failed back surgery epidemic?
MDs know they are ill-trained in MSDs, pain management clinics know their “pill mills” have led to the opioid addiction and deaths, and surgeons know their tsunami of back surgeries based on the debunked “bad disc” diagnosis have led to a “wake of disability” never before seen in this country.
Editor Mark Schoene remarked on the dangers patients face in their local MD’s office:
“One can make the argument that the most perilous setting for the treatment of low back pain in the United States is currently the offices of primary care medical practitioners— primary care MDs. This is simply because of the high rates of opioid prescription in these settings.”
Mr. Schoene should have included “pain management,” spine interventionalists, and spine surgeons on his list of perilous settings.
What a turnaround that would be from the days when MDs told patients we were “rabid dogs, quacks, and dangerous” to today when, in fact, MDs are now deemed dangerous and medical spine care is a “national scandal.” The paradigm shift has happened in the research journals, but not in the mainstream media, so patients continue to be misled onto the medical gravy train.
Would you knell for chiropractic knowing the medical damage it has wrought? Do you have the courage of Rosa Parks, MLK, Jr., a Berkeley student, a woman assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, or an NFL player protesting against institutional racism and police violence?
Perhaps if you’re an affluent white male, you don’t see the need for disruptive protests, but in principle as a chiropractor, I daresay you can understand this need considering the “national scandal” of medical spine care as well as the fact we see only 14% of the American population due to the AMA’s defamation campaign.
Imagine the breakthrough it would be to bring this sordid issue to light in the media – saving patients from drugs and surgery as well a increasing our market share substantially.
Yet where are our spokesmen railing against this abuse of patients, especially medical patients who were discouraged to see a chiropractor by a chirophobic MD touting the standard medical voodoo—“Don’t come crawling back to me after a quack paralyzes you!”
How is this medical abuse different than the sexual misconduct by public figures, including Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump? They all were people of power who misled naïve women looking for help in their careers, just as many MDs have misled desperate patients looking for help, too.
Rally to Restore Sanity
Yet, do we chiropractors have the backbone to use “disruptive” journalism and peaceful demonstrations to take a knee to awaken this country to this medical scam?
Imagine at the next NCLC if 400 chiropractic students and field docs were to knell on the steps of the Capitol building, holding placards saying, “Chiropractors Help Stop Opioids”, “Follow the ACP Guidelines,” “Stop the Ruse of Back Surgeries,” “Attorneys General to Insurers: Cover Chiropractic!, “Patients Love Chiropractors,” and “Chiropractors Were Right All Along!”
Perhaps we could also use colorful placards such as:
Such disruptive action would certainly get the attention of legislators and the mainstream media to lead to a discussion about the paradigm shift in spine care to save patients and money.
Lastly, enjoy this photo of my trip to Washington to witness Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010. Instead of the expected 60,000 attendees, over 250,000 people came to witness this event.
Perhaps it’s time to do the same to restore sanity in spine care.