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F R O M    T H E    E D I T O R
The Hospital
David Ross • March 1992

If there remains any doubt concerning the Free Press ideology or purpose, I would refer our unsure readers to Arthur Hiller and Paddy Chayevsky’s fine movie of 1971, The Hospital.

The ever-bearish George C. Scott stars as Dr. Herb Bach, the Manhattan Medical Center’s aging chief of surgery. Back watches as the world becomes engulfed by chaos. His son has become a “shaggy-haired Maoist” who is “building bombs in basements to express his universal brotherhood”; his daughter has been arrested for drug dealing and inexplicably let free; his wife has left him; activists from the surrounding ghetto, in conjunction with the Doctors’ Liberation Movement, are occupying the hospital and demanding the dissolution of the hospital’s executive board; a patient, convinced he is the “Lamb of Christ and the Paraclete of Kaborka,” is summarily executing the hospital staff in retaliation for their crimes against the natural order.

Drunk and driven to suicide, Bach roars his pain: “If there is a despised, misunderstood minority in this country it is us poor impotent bastards. Well, I’m impotent and I’m proud of it! Power to the impotent! Right on, baby! When I say impotent, I don’t mean merely limp. Disagreeable as it may be to a woman, a man may desire other things. Something a little less transient than an erection. Something of more permanent worth. That’s what medicine was to me. …It’s all rubbish. Transplants, antibodies, we’ve manufactured genes, we can produce birth ectogenetically, we can practically clone people like carrots! And the kids in the ghetto haven’t even been immunized for polio! We’ve established the most enormous medical entity ever conceived, and people suffer more than ever! We cure nothing! We heal nothing! The whole goddamn wretched world is strangulating before our very eyes. …That’s what I mean when I say impotent.”

Yet when the lovely daughter of the Paraclete asks Dr. Bach to escape the hospital and return with her and her father to Mexico “before all is destroyed,” Bach answers: “I am from the middle class, Miss Drummond, and amongst us middle-class, love does not conquer all. Responsibility does. The hospital is coming apart. Someone’s got to take responsibility.” After the Paraclete’s taxi has pulled away, Bach spots his old friend, the executive director of the hospital, who has been driven from his office by activists. “Going back in?” Dr. Bach asks. “Yep. …It’s like pissing in the wind, isn’t it, Herb?”

This is what conservatism in the best sense of the word involves—a willingness to stare the human madhouse in the face while maintaining an absurd faith in human decency and the painfully mundane force of individual effort. As far as the conservative is concerned, there is no government, no conspiracy, no human nature, no cure, no fate, no theory, no liberation, no solution. These are giant blurry fantasies, mechanisms of escape. There is only our willingness to get our hands dirty—to mend the land human by human, home by home, beginning with ourselves—and the strength of heart to sustain the effort. President Bush’s much-ridiculed notion of the thousand points of light is precisely what must be reinstituted into the American consciousness. We must all be responsible, however often the wind blows a squall of piss right back at us. This is the burden of citizenship, of moral existence properly understood.
The Free Press exists to serve this idea.

—David Ross, Editor-in-Chief


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