Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

One million war deaths

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 12 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4639
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was the poet of romantic, democratic individualism, or possibly even of egotism. His most famous poem, after all, is Song of Myself, which opens: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself . . .”

Another line, of the kind of which there are many, is: “I exist as I am, that is enough . . .”

Whenever, therefore, a patient complained to me of lack of self esteem, thoughts of Walt Whitman rose inexorably in my mind. In fact, the deepest experience of his adult life was serving for three years as a volunteer nurse to the wounded of the American civil war. At the outbreak of that bloody conflict, he wrote an exultantly pro-war …

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