Saint Louis Prays for Peace

If you are a nurse you probably remember the moment you felt the need to care for others. Nursing is more than a job for most of us. It is a vocation that we feel comes from God. Today at the prayer for peace in St. Louis one of the ministers suggested that the loss of public education and poverty results in much of the injustice that exists in our society. I could not help but wonder how many students we price out of nursing by the ever-rising tuition. How many students struggle and fail not because of inability, but because of financial barriers. And, how much inequality and injustice results from lack of access to education?

IMG_1964Standing in the shadows of where Dred Scott appealed to the justice system and found no justice, we joined together in prayer as one human family in solidarity for justice and peace. If we are to realize that prayer it requires that it result in good works and action from the whole community.

We can wonder if our prayers are heard or we can open our ears to hear. “Justice, justice you shall pursue (Deuteronomy  16:20). Are we able to recognize that many in our community are following their consciences to be civilly disobedient to an unjust law? Are we able to say what we can do to address injustice?

Whether we see justice as emanating from God or simply as fairness we should all be able to enter into a civil conversation about the issues and to do so we may need facilitators to help. I think today we meet many of those potential facilitators and they came in the form of Priests, Ministers, and Imams.

Whether the injustice your conscience calls you stand against is the use of force, escalating college tuition, health care for all, or the attack on the public school system you must stand and act. We are all called to pursue justice.

What does God want us to do? Only that we do justice.


Don’t Let Wrath and Anger Define St. Louis

The dignity of the human being is fundamental to a moral society. We often hear that human life is under attack from abortion or the police or violent criminals, but I say human dignity and human life are under attack from wrath and anger. Last night people joined together in a desire to see social change and others joined to support friends and the community. Sadly, the night ended with civil unrest turning to violence and destruction. The morning brought out two kinds of people, those that wanted to help the Delmar Loop recover and those that wanted to throw more stones – not the ones that break windows, but the stones that break hearts, spirits, and incite further wrath and anger. Those that come to help have engaged in the community with courage. Those that throw stones have let their fear and anger control them.

 

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Broken Windows

 

We are created as social beings. How we organize ourselves and how we create and enforce laws directly impacts human life and dignity. It is time for us all (young and old, rich and poor, religious and atheist, majority and minority, liberal and conservative) to consider how the labels we assign to ourselves blind us. We all have a duty to work for the common good and we must recognize that if we fail to protect human rights we are failing in our responsibility as members of a community.

It is not necessary, nor helpful, to stand with the police and against the protestors or with protestors and against the police.  By doing so we are labeling them as one and not many. Just as there are police officers that fail in their duties there are citizens that break the trust of the community. Until we recognize and commit to fixing the breakdown in trust and the failure to be good citizens and good neighbors we can protest every day and not solve any problems. Our elected officials and police can shout from their bully pulpits about being tough on crime and not tolerate violence or property damage and will solve nothing. Indeed all that will occur is further division, further fear, and growing self-righteousness on all sides.

Broken windows are symbolic of our broken society that has lost its moral compass. We see it in the vitriolic posts on Facebook and Twitter that encourage people to hate and fear. There are far too few people willing to engage in a compassionate conversation where one is open to listening and willing to consider other perspectives. We also see it in politicians that forget that they serve the whole community and not just their base. They post things that are clearly intended to incite passions and pit groups against each other. Yet that would not work if we let go of our fears and anger.

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Today, those that love St. Louis came together in peace and love and helped the community to heal. The message of love and support should inspire us all to do better and to be better. We can begin by embracing this message and work together in a productive manner to change the rules on the use of force and address crime within our community that invariably results in confrontations with law enforcement.

It is time to let go of wrath and anger and be a city of peace and love. If you participate in the die in today let your wrath and anger die there. If you are not participating take the time pray for peace and love. Let us commit to compassionate listening today and every day.

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults (Sir 27:30-28:7)


Civil Unrest in Saint Louis

As a resident of Saint Louis, I have been shocked and appalled by the level of racism I’ve seen in this region. From people referring to “those people” talking about Jews to fear about traveling to perfectly safe areas of the city. The fear expressed by people of going into the city and interacting with African Americans was something I haven’t experienced in my lifetime even though I grew up in the rural South. This doesn’t even touch on the highly-segregated neighborhoods and churches.

Saint Louis has the potential to be one of the best cities in the country in which to live. It has nationally recognized universities, state of the art healthcare facilities, good transportation, excellent food, museums, parks, and affordable entertainment. Yet, we are rapidly being known for civil unrest rather than what should be the focus, civil rights, equality, and a new approach to law enforcement.

How we define civil unrest, how we define law enforcement, and how we define our personal roles and responsibilities impacts how we prepare and the seriousness with which we prepare. Civil unrest is “disharmony, expressive dissatisfaction and/or disagreement between members of a community, which leads to a situation of competitive aggression that may find expression as disruption of organization, conflicts, damage to property and injuries” (Kelen, Catlett, Kubit, & Hsieh, 2012). I must ask myself

  • What have I done to create a more harmonious environment?
  • What have I done to de-escalate potentially violent situations?
  • What have I done to recognize and confront racism?

The level of civil unrest in the United States had been relatively consistent until the 1960s when there was a significant increase with the onset of the Vietnam War. After the end of the war, the civil unrest declined but has been steadily increasing since 1980 (see Table 1).

Civil Unrest in the United States

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Adapted from Armstrong Economics and Wikipedia Contributors.

In the last few years, almost all the civil unrest in the United States has been related to police shootings of black males. I will never know what it feels like to be a black man that fears the police or a police officer that fears black men. I have never felt called to be a police officer, but respect those that are and can only pray that they exercise good judgment, self-restraint, and patience during times of civil unrest. It is not disloyal for an officer to recognize when a fellow officer failed the badge. I wonder what would happen if rather than standing in riot gear you all joined hands in prayer with the protestors and acknowledged their pain.

I am called to be a nurse and as such, I want all nurses to be prepared during times of civil unrest. I want you to also show good judgment, self-restraint, and compassion when discussing these issues at work. Many of those you work with have different experiences and may live in areas that are impacted. Be their strength. Be the kindness they need. Listen with their ears.

Please take the time to read Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest in the Urban Core and let’s do all we can for our city and its citizens.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Mt 5:9


Civil Unrest and the Role of Nursing

The health care system must be aware of the impact civil unrest can have on the mission of providing care. We have watched, some with alarm and others with a sense of civic involvement, the incidents of civil unrest that have occurred in communities across the United States since 2014. As health care providers and administrators, we must be prepared to keep our doors open and we must know how to keep our facilities safe.

Please take the time to read

Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest in the Urban Core

Inequalities in society, culture, and finance have resulted in civil unrest, rioting, and intentional violence throughout our history. Nowhere is this currently more apparent than in the cities of Ferguson and Baltimore. It is not the civil unrest itself, but the resulting rioting and intentional violence that can create a disaster situation. This increases the care burden of health care providers during times when the governmental structure may be overwhelmed or functioning in a less than optimal manner. Beginning with the death of Michael Brown, civil unrest over the last 2 years has necessitated a closer examination of the role nurse leaders play in preparing their staff and facilities for potential results of this civil unrest. The similarities between the results of rioting and violence and natural disaster are obvious, but the differences are significant. Without adequate preparation, providers may not offer the appropriate response. Attention to the 10 “musts” for preparedness for civil unrest will facilitate a planning process and provide for a better response and recovery when communities face these issues.