Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not Abe Lincoln's Civil War

My name isn't Abe Lincoln and I'm not sporting a cool top hat or bad-ass beard the way our historic wartime president once did. But I do have a cat. And a voice. And a place as good as Gettysburg to get my point across about an important discussion playing out in the Diabetes Community.

That issue: We apparently have a Diabetes Civil War waging. So says the Chicago Tribune, and other so-called journalism organizations newspapers and media outlets.

The Nov. 22 story sparked some protest from many of us People With Diabetes, mainly over how it characterized the division between the various types of diabetes. The headline and subhead say it plainly: “Diabetes’ Civil War: People with Type 1 diabetes, outnumbered and overshadowed by Type 2, fight for recognition, resources – and a new name for their disorder.”

Many have written about this already and opinions are flying. The theme: Fight Diabetes, Not Each Other. Yes, I echo that mantra. No need to repeat what's already been written and spoken, in the online sense. You can find it TuDiabetes. Allison Blass over at Lemonade Life wrote a great post in response to this article, and I echo her point. Sara Knicks wrote a brilliant post over at Diabetes Daily about this article and her thoughts, reiterating a point she made during the 2010 Social Media Summit that “no other disease fights with itself.” Good one there, too.

But there are even wiser minds guiding us here. Abe Lincoln made the point back in 1858 very clearly, one that applied not only to our country's Civil War but also transcends to the D-Front now: "A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

We can’t be united when we have so much division among diabetics. Getting into useless debates about which type of diabetes is "worse" gets us nowhere and only makes tempers flare and the non-Ds less receptive to what we're advocating. Promoting one more than the other is what brings us all down, and doesn’t achieve equal awareness that is so needed out there when we’re battling an uninformed public, space-crunched and rapid-fire media, politically-motivated Congress, and people trying to raise their TV ratings or sell snake oil without enough concern for the full picture.

Morning Addition: I'm a member of the media. Newspaper reporter style. Someone who went to J-School and strongly believes in watchdog journalism that gets people what they need to know in order to have the ability to decide for themselves. As someone who's worked in the past for a weekly newspaper and a 6-day daily newspaper and am now several years into a twice-a-month speciality paper, I know the hurdles regular reporters face - always on deadline for Web and print, more phone calls, less time... Reporters just don't have the time to truly understand what they are writing about. That's not an excuse for crappy journalism, but it's an incredibly important reason we must understand for why our quality of journalism has failed on every possible topic - including diabetes. The public is fickle and doesn't have time, so they want it quick and now. And that (coupled with costs and revenue woes in the profession) creates this pressure system on our Fourth Estate. So, we need to help them. We need to find those local people who illustrate the numbers and the trends about diabetes. We need to give them notice, and follow-up even when the editors aren't convinced. We need to feed them sources who actually know WTFructose they're talking about. WE. But sadly, that doesn't always work. I failed in my attempts to convince some of the local papers to do this specifically for World Diabetes Day or even by the end of November, and one of them was even the former paper I worked for. Apparently, it just wasn't worthy-enough for mention despite my spoon-feeding them the makings of a great, powerful, and influential piece. That happens. I haven't had a chance yet to count and catalogue the amount of D-Stories that did appear in November, but that's a work in progress... as are the media awareness efforts.

But the blame can't just be pinned on the media or the general public, though. It's us who are at fault in much of this perception of a "D-Civil War." Honest Abe said: You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors… “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Well said, Mr. President.

In the end, I just want us to be able to work together as a Diabetes Community to educate people about the similarities and differences. I turn to those Civil War quotes to guide us, to help us realize that this is a different kind of war we’re facing - it’s a D-War, one that I hope doesn’t have a North and South but a united country of People With Diabetes fighting the good fight.

Now, let's do what Abe Lincoln did - go grab our cool hats, be all articulate in our contemporary tongues, and bring our cats along to make our stand together. You know - since cats make all the difference. And as we do all of that, I've decided that I am going to make my own plan for the next local D-Meetup where both Type 1s and Type 2s may be present: Wear an Abe Lincoln mask and walk around saying "Four Score and Seven Years Ago..." Just because it's the cool thing to do. :))

6 comments:

Reyna said...

I like your perspective Mike! Great way to put it.

Ronnie the poor diabetic said...

I was actually waiting to hear what your perspective on this would be Michael being a PWD and a member of the media, coz honestly there is no love lost between the media and the diabetes community and they have a bigger responsibility in starting and pushing these types of issues.I laid the blame squarely on them in my response to this issue.
While I agree with you that some of the blame may lie with ourselves but the greater perception by the average Joe comes from the media. As a part of the media what would be your advice to navigate the issue of educating the public with the 800 pound gorilla as it may trying to undermine our efforts.

Anonymous said...

I took Type 1 in 73 have went through name changes b/f and if I have too will again but... I think when it comes down to it WE'RE ALL DIABETICS we all have life changes happening to us. If they gave Type 1 yet another name I might just be at a loss when I go to other drs. LEAVE IT ALONE AND LET US WORK ON OURSELVES AND THE CURE!

Scott Strange said...

Great post, Mike. I think that I've come to believe is more of a conflict between those educated about both types as opposed to those that are uneducated.

The uneducated can be the general public but also among the ranks of diabetics, not matter what type they have.

Ginger Vieira said...

Wow - I love this post. I had completely missed that big article on Nov. 22. and I really appreciate your balanced take on the matter. It's such a frustrating issue, and yet at the same time it's like, "Well, c'mon, in the end we just really want everyone to have the tools they need to take care of themselves!"

By the way, I so enjoy the voice in your writing. You are clearllllly a journalist even when you're blogging.

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