Meet Dr. Schwab, columnist

So, who is this guy and why does he deserve a column? The “who” I can sort-of answer. The “why,” I really can’t. The Herald kicked the tires with a couple of try-outs, and here I am. I like to write, and to shoot off my mouth. I’m just a guy with opinions and time, no more worthy of doing this than you, and I mean that. But I’m going to give it a shot.

I’m Pacific Northwest born and bred, starting in Portland; third generation Portlander, matter of fact. My wife and I just celebrated our 41st year of marriage, the last 30 of which we’ve spent in Everett. We have one kid, schooled in Mukilteo, now living in Portland. Fourth generation.

After spending five years practicing (and getting the hang of) general surgery in Salem, and then around 20 more at The Everett Clinic (a couple of weeks into doing this, they might wish you didn’t know that.) I kind-of retired, but have kept my hand in it, as it were, first as a sometime mentor, then as a surgical hospitalist, now as a frequent surgical assistant.

Drafted at the end of my surgical internship in San Francisco, I spent a year in Vietnam, up north in Danang, near the DMZ and the fabled China Beach, as a flight surgeon. I’m glad to have served, to have experienced first-hand what was arguably the seminal event of my generation. In ‘Nam I saw the good (the troops, mainly. Welcome home!) and the bad (the non-partisan horribleness of war, what it does to people; and, there, the fact that the way it was fought made no sense whether you were a hawk or a dove.) Although as a doc I had it better than most who served, I did get shot at a couple of times, experienced the nearly nightly raining in of rockets, running to the hospital in flak gear as helicopters fired into the jungle, wondering who I was and how I got there. One of those rockets hurt me; but only a little.

That was then. Now I spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about stuff — politics, health care, when my son will finally marry the wonderful young woman he’s been with for seven or eight years. There might hope of grandkids, who knows?

That’s a good thing, because a lot of the rest of what I see depresses me. Which tells you, of course, that I’m a liberal. (Conservatives are angry; liberals are depressed.) Nevertheless I’m not the sort who sees no merit in the arguments of the other side, especially when made by people similarly disposed toward common ground. Although too young at the time to vote for some of them, I remember the days of such partial-partisans as Dan Evans, Tom McCall, Mark Hatfield on the right, and Henry Jackson, Warren Magnuson, Edith Green, Dick Neuberger, on the left. My dad, a Democrat, was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court and, later, named Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals by a Republican governor. He was recommended for appointment to the Ninth Circuit by a Republican Senator. (Long story.) My aunt, a Republican, was first appointed to the Portland City Council by a Democratic mayor. Those were the days, right?

They give me 700 words for this. Who can say anything juicy in that narrow a space? But I’ll try, on subjects like health care, taxes, immigration, separation of church and state, alternative medicine, the sorry state of political discourse, and, hopefully, because there’s only so much percussion of head and wall a person can take, some lighter stuff as well. All from the perspective of a native of the best corner of the country there is.

Oh, great, some are saying: another liberal. Well, yeah, but not just another liberal. A local one, who occasionally gets as embarrassed by voices from his side as he does upset at some from the other. One who believes strongly in the two-party system; who’s been around long enough to pine for the days of reasonableness, of recognition that, by definition, democracy is about compromise and accepting that disagreement is a necessary part of the process, as American as Marionberry pie.

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