When I spoke here yesterday about the election result, I think I have been slightly misunderstood. It is an interesting situation here in Massachusetts; there's a Democratic president, a democratic super-majority, and it's a very blue and education East Coast state. Yet--a republican won. The reasons why can be debated (and probably are being so on cable TV ad nauseum, as well as various articles in newspapers)...but the people of Massachusetts have spoken. And to be perfectly frank, I wasn't thrilled with Coakley. And I'm not thrilled with Scott Brown (what was with the whole comment that his daughters were available? Daa--aadd...you're so embarrassing!)
But as I said...I want health care to pass. A good health care bill with harsh things happening to insurance companies; no more denial of coverage because of prior conditions, no more losing insurance coverage when unemployed, and a heavy emphasis of cost-cutting based on preventative care. The ways to do this are many, and they should surely be argued about. I want the best bill to come out of this. But, even with the democratic super-majority, almost every part of the bill has been compromised. And why, exactly? As Jon Stewart has pointed out, Bush was able to accomplish all sorts of the things the minority (democrats) deemed uncool, but they never had the elusive super-majority. So---I stand at this place and just feel very disappointed/jaded about the entire political system; that was really what my feelings were about.
And at the end of the day, there are so many things in this world that are hard, but there are also some things that should not be.
Convincing people that being healthy is important should not be onerous and turn into a ridiculous battle that contains arguments about "pulling plugs on grandma."
Talking to people about conservation and the environment and how choices they make directly impact those around them and the lives of their children...it should not be an insurmountable task. But it is. And that frustrates me.
The over-arching theme of my career revolves around convincing people that science is fundamentally worth it (as well as just plain awesome!). And if the situation in the political arena--the idea that even with copious dialogue, lots of talking--nothing gets done, nothing changes--well, it's going to be a hard, hard, fight to do something I love.
I love talking to people about kinases, the life cycle of the malaria parasite, and explaining what exactly Crohn's disease is, and why yogurt helps only some patients during treatment. I love talking about science: the possibilities are truly endless, and the things that can be accomplished by science are simply astonishing. Sea cucumbers have color-coded insides. And we may be able to use vats of bacteria in carbon dioxide waste tanks to produce zero-energy-fuel. And people in my own department are working on virus batteries, knee replacements supplemented by stem-cell-created cartilage, and targeted drug delivery to cancerous tumors. This stuff is cool. And it's no joke. It is technology that is present in the here and now. I know people are disappointed that it's 2010 and there are no flying cars, but they only need to look into the labs at MIT to find things beyond their wildest dreams. This is a cause worth fighting for; exploration to the far reaches of biology, the cosmos, nano-technology---it's incredible.
But there are days like Tuesday that really push those thoughts to the forefront; it is paralyzing to see your life's intended audience look something in the face and not even listen--not even try to care. It is dream-killing apathy.
It's a reminder that no matter where I end up in science, my fight will be a difficult. And yes. This keeps me up at night. And somehow, ranting about elections became a proxy for the overwhelming feeling that no matter how hard I try for the next 50 years, no matter how much I work---there is a chance that nothing will really change. ...so it's not really about being jaded. It is the fear that my life will be a failure.
But then I wake up the next morning to remember "oh shoot! need to get into lab to run my PAGE gel---ooh baby results coming tomorrow!" -- and I remember that there is much to be done before I even think of giving up.
Thus---lesson learned. Don't post thoughts in a public forum unless you explain them. Seems obvious, right? Hindsight is always 20/20.