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A Piece of My Mind
August 4, 1999

A Case of Mutual Distrust

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(5):410. doi:10.1001/jama.282.5.410

It wasn't until I spotted the swastika that my impression of him changed. Allegorically speaking, he could easily have been my son, I'd thought, when I first saw him lying in the ICU bed. This is, of course, not an uncommon sentiment among physicians when confronted with a sick young person. Then I saw the tattoo on his chest, under which a heart beat slowly, rhythmically, as I listened for clues of disease and looked for signs of pathology. With the suddenness of a slap, my impression of him changed: "We're in enemy territory," my mind told me. I'd never before had personal contact with an American neo-Nazi. I had seen—on television—skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan supremacists, members of the Brotherhood spouting their hate-filled philosophy. I also knew of blacks who had been murdered by skinheads. My patient was a skinhead.

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