I’ve been absent from writing for EzineArticles for some time now. After the last Presidential election and the sealing of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, I decided to take a well needed respite from the political scene. However, now that I have taken the necessary time needed to gain acceptance of a backwards and up-side-down society, I’m rested and ready to weigh in on the George Zimmerman and Travon Martin discussion. I suspect you’re thinking, oh great, what on earth does a doctor have to say about this particular case, and why should his opinion mean anything, anyway? On the surface, if someone I knew raised that argument I would probably agree with their assessment. But, I think my medical knowledge qualifies me in making some practical observations. Also, I believe I have something to say that needs to be heard, and at least pondered.
I was driving down the road the other day listening to a local talk radio show from the Heartland, right in the center of the country. I’m from the Heartland. I’ve always appreciated the “good ole horse sense” of the people from the Great Plains. They tend to be somewhat introspective, quite thoughtful and considerate, and have an insatiable appetite for fairness and morality. At least that was my stereotypical perception of this group of people. Certainly listening to a talk radio show provides only a brief snapshot in time from a random sample of societal ideas and mores. To draw any significant or lasting conclusion from the people who call in to talk radio shows would be foolish. But, what I heard was nothing short of UNBELIEVABLE.
I was pretty young and impressionable when the OJ Simpson trial captivated our country. I found then that much of the discussion our country engaged in was entertaining and even somewhat biased, but, at the time I thought there was an element of perception and logic to the train of thought of a nation. However, in a relatively short period of time, at least in respect to the age of our country, I’m shocked at how much our collective attitudes and opinions have changed. The hatred that I heard in every single call during that two hour long talk show I heard this week was shocking and even disheartening.
So, I decided to take a look at how hate effects our lives, from a scientific or a medical stand point. Let’s first look at how an individual is influenced by hate. Hate is one of our strongest emotions. It is often described as the opposite of love. What happens physically to our bodies when we experience love and hate? With love, the feel good chemicals in our brain are released. Dopamine and serotonin fill us with warm and fuzzy feelings. We’ve learned that exercise and engaging in pleasurable activities have a positive and healthy effect on our brain and our brain’s chemicals. Our endorphins increase under these types of conditions or experiences and make us feel good, not to mention decreases our overall risk for medical problems like anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
The converse is also true. We are hard-wired to react to stress in our lives. Take a simple example of how our bodies react to a threat from a predator or an aggressor. In fact, let’s say you encounter a threat in your life and suppose you are walking down the sidewalk, taking your daily constitutional. Out of nowhere a barking dog appears, growls and snarls at you. The instant that the threat is perceived by your brain, an entire physiological response occurs. Your brain triggers your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, to immediately set off an alarm system in your entire body. Through a network of nerve impulses and hormonal responses, this system signals your adrenal glands, organs perched on top of your kidneys, to suddenly release the hormones of adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. These two chemicals, though they certainly have an important function, (in fact I suspect they were secreted to record levels in both Travon Martin and George Zimmerman’s bodies at the time of their confrontation), these two chemicals collectively over a prolonged period of time have an overall negative effect on our body and our overall well-being. Adrenaline in our blood stream automatically causes our heart rate to increase, our blood pressure to increase and boosts our energy supplies. Cortisol causes an increase of glucose or blood sugar in our bloodstream, enhances our brain’s ability to use glucose for increased thought and awareness, and even enhances our body’s ability to repair tissue. Some of this may not sound too bad or too harmful to our health, but cortisol also suppresses our digestive system, alters our immune system weakening our body’s ability to fight off disease and directly communicates with our brain to immediately alter our mood. Cortisol triggers the overuse of the part of our brain that controls mood, fear and motivation. That’s why if the dog’s bark and snarl startles someone, they immediately become angry and afraid. This reaction results from the effect of cortisol on our body. Once the threat is removed, adrenaline and cortisol levels quickly return to normal, and the body returns to it’s usual standard and blissful steady state.
Here’s where I become concerned, if cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, were continually secreted into our bodies, and slowly our body’s steady state, baseline changed to more of an “on-alert” baseline, this would have an overall negative effect on our health. Over time,, the effect of these two hormones would lead to a continual tightening of the muscles throughout our body. It would result in a chronic straining of our facial muscles. One might experience a chronic “snarl” for the expression on their face. This would lead to excess negative energy and negative feelings, which would be easily detected by anyone they come in contact. People would be naturally repelled from them and they would feel lonely, isolated, misunderstood, irritated, and angry. The hormonal effect could also lead to irrational thinking and extreme behavior.
I’m afraid that the Martin-Zimmerman case has caused a national adrenaline and cortisol effect on our society as a whole. I have observed irrational thinking and illogical analysis of this case. I hear that we are under great risk for riots and national outcry, if the case does not turn out for the plaintiff or the defense. I believe that I’ve observed a tightening of the nation’s 6 figure musculature, and a snarling of the country’s expression. Psychologists have spent years studying the effects of hate crimes on societies, and the ultimate and consistent conclusion is that hate crimes have only a negative effect on societies, nothing positive.
And this is what I am greatly concerned about. Since January 1995 when OJ Simpson’s trial forced us down the one-way path of political correctness, in only one generation, America has become a nation filled with rage, irrational thinking, belligerence, intolerance, extreme behavior and perpetual hatred. Instead of experiencing a collective uniting and coming together in this age of political correctness, we have witnessed firsthand the exact opposite. The politically forced correctness thrust on the nation’s conscience nearly two decades ago, has not improved our acceptance of our differences, but instead has done the exact opposite. The Martin-Zimmerman case should give us measurable proof that the political correctness experiment has failed, miserably. Sociologists should declare, due to the reaction from Americans to the Martin-Zimmerman case, political correctness in America from this day forward is dead. They should expound that it’s time to embrace our differences, accept that we don’t all have to agree, or even get along. And if this would actually happen, I suspect our national cortisol and adrenaline levels would plummet back to normal levels.