Johnson: Dr. Ben Carson needs to follow his own advice


Naomi Johnson, Columnist

Last week, Dr. Ben Carson announced he will be running for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. He is in many ways an anomaly — he is running for the highest political office in the United States without any official governing experience, and his background includes being the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for nearly three decades. He is also a Seventh-Day Adventist, a Protestant denomination of Christianity, and is a conservative in every sense of the word.

As a Seventh-Day Adventist myself, I grew up going to church every Saturday for most of my life, and it was at church, and through my mom, that I learned about Carson’s inspiring life story. He was born in Detroit, and his single mother raised him as she worked two or three jobs to support him and his brother. As a child, he had trouble controlling his anger and was failing academically in his studies in elementary school, until his mother limited his time with the television and forced him to write book reports every week. This enabled him to succeed in school, and he later graduated from Yale University and The University of Michigan Medical School. He went on to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he completed his residency in neurosurgery. It was a life story about a young boy who overcame environmental challenges and racial prejudice to become one of the most celebrated and famous pediatric neurosurgeons in America.

Fast forward 12 years to today, and the only word that I can use to describe my reaction to Carson’s announcement is apprehension. What troubles me is the rhetoric with which he addresses some of the most important issues in America today.

It is disappointing that this inspiring man is also capable of abrasive rhetoric that suggests a tendency toward political polarization. He has grouped “gays” together with those who commit bestiality, accused President Obama of being a “psychopath” and stated that Obamacare is the “worst thing since slavery.”

Perhaps his strong language is not surprising, given his belief that “political correctness is antithetical to our founding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” and his rhetoric could be seen as the result of exercising his rights. The rights that he lists, however, do not give him the license to dismiss the need for tact, and they certainly do not shield him from the consequences of alienating and insulting people in such distasteful terms.

Interestingly, when Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, he suggested that President Obama was responsible for the division in America, and said that “the real enemies in our country are the people who are the purveyors of division,” and that problems can only be solved if American leaders create policies that treat everyone equally. The conviction with which Carson speaks belies the weakness of his remarks. Assigning blame and division to one political party defeats the purpose of shaming the “purveyors of division” because it only creates more division and increases sentiments of self-righteousness. Compromises between two people rarely occur when insults become the only form of communication they share. The same applies in the political arena.

It is ironic that the same man who champions our freedom of expression and the integrity of our Constitution also fails to realize the basic mechanisms of checks and balances in this nation. In an interview with Steve Deace, Carson spoke about same-sex marriage and said Congress had the right to remove judges if they didn’t complete their duties appropriately. This simply is not the case. The Constitution states that judges can only be removed if they are convicted of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” In other words, Congress can only remove judges in exceptional cases of misconduct, and not when the judge makes a particular ruling based on the Equal Protection Clause for a same-sex marriage case. It’s irrelevant whether Carson stated this because he was misinformed or because he really believed that the Constitution has such a provision for removing judges. His words indicate the presence of an ideological inflexibility that compels him to appropriate the language of the Constitution to fit his own beliefs.

Toward the end of his CPAC speech, Dr. Carson said he wanted to find a way to “allow people to excel in our society.” Perhaps tempering his language and finding ways to tactfully address his opposition will help convince me, and many others, that his definition of “people” does not carry with it exclusionary disclaimers.

Naomi Johnson is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].