Unity vs. Unrest
On June 1, I published an article with thoughts on the lessons of COVID19. At the time, I hoped my positive reflections would add to the general societal healing as the country began to “unlock,” after months of isolation and the fallout from lack of psychological and physical stress.
It was written a day before the horrors of the George Floyd killing.
Since then, I have listened, like you, to the news and learned more about the terrible injustice meted out to some of our minority citizens.
We saw images and heard horrific stories of the backlash of centuries of racial divide. The division in our country has festered like an infection that has melded into the awful irony of the literal viral pandemic.
And when the following week of mayhem happened, I thought, “Are we still here?”
It feels like the Groundhog Day movie that won’t stop.
I’m a child of the 60’s. I saw the horrible ugliness of that time, while simultaneously learning about the Constitution and the rule of law in this country. As a northerner, I was horrified to learn about the practices of the south that came to a head in the Civil War and shocked to learn that the conditions there, at that time, included separate drinking fountains and toilets for white and black… and worse…much worse.
In the 60’s, I was deeply moved and so read about racism; I spoke up for civil rights in high school speech meets. Our church youth group raised money so we could go to Alabama and march with the protesters. (In the end, fearing for our safety, parents wouldn’t let us go.) As a result of my childhood teaching, I’ve tried to be Christ-like in my thoughts, words, and actions.
Nevertheless, this week, many of us, of various skin-colors, confessed that the subjects of minority stress, threat of police brutality, and injustice hasn’t been often explored with friends and colleagues, because it was and is…well, uncomfortable, and we so often didn’t know how to handle those conversations.
Last week, the conversations that ensued, personally, professionally, and societally, are so deeply important. I realized, there are people who deduce that there are no white persons who care about black persons. That cuts me deeply, too. I understand there is a residue of injustice that makes it seem so. I’ve also heard and seen vilification of the police force in total, as though ALL were bad.
Friends, I know you know that simply isn’t true!
I remembered a Christian conference I attended as one of the keynote speakers a year or so ago. The theme was “unity vs unrest.” Individuals of all ages, stages, and colors were present. The subject was broad, but the questions posed included:
“When have you experienced a lack of unity?”
“How has unrest informed our desire for unity?”
“Where has unity prevailed and benefited those who contributed?”
The conference was uplifting because we had created a SAFE place to pose the questions and to dialogue, openly, honestly, with all kinds of people, who had experienced all sorts of unrest. I recall some of those painful stories, shared among relative strangers, in overarching, agape love. We recognized the mandate of the church universal to stand up to abuse, to peacefully protest, and to love one another.
We had time to self-reflect, to pray together, to journal, to make action plans about how to stand up for others, and plan to be part of the solution.
This week, I remembered that some people cannot forget about injustice because it is evergreen.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to check our assumptions and our self-talk, because that formulates what comes out of our mouths and launches our actions. Moreover, it is imperative that we stand up and speak out — in love.
Speaking now as a nurse, we have an Ethical Code of Honor that we all learn from the first day of nursing school: “The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.” As Nightingale said, “Every nurse…must have a respect for her own calling, because God’s precious gift of life is often literally placed in her hands… “ To do otherwise would be a travesty.
When a nurse is found to do harm, that person is held accountable, prosecuted, and loses the professional nursing license.
Police also swear to an Oath of Honor, which requires that officers protect the lives and property of community members they serve. IMHO, when a policeman is found to do harm, that person should be held accountable, prosecuted, and should lose the ability to be employed as such.
That said, we wouldn’t want to close hospitals because a small number of the 4 million nurses in this country were guilty of criminal acts. That would be ridiculous! Better to get rid of the bad apples than blame the whole bunch.
In the same logic, it would be a travesty to de-fund the police when most of the ~500,000 of them are loyal public servants.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” What does that mean for 21stc. America?
Peacemakers are people who stand up to injustice; who lobby for change in our laws and work to elect people of integrity into positions of leadership. Peacemakers are people who reach out in their communities and help others in need. Peacemakers don’t worsen an already bad situation with more destruction and lawbreaking.
Recall the words of the Rogers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific,
“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…you’ve got to be carefully taught”?
My prayer is that through this eruption of protests to save our nation (and all nations so impacted) from any such wrongdoing, we will teach our citizens to utilize radical kindness to begin healing. That change begins with a change of heart. Only then, can we function as peacemakers.