“When peace like a river…”
There are times when the news is hard to believe. Fact can indeed be stranger than fiction. We watch in a state of numb disbelief as we see images of roiling rivers carrying away houses, cars, bridges and roads. And then there’s a story of another mass shooting. From the safety of our living rooms we view in disbelief. How can these things happen? This is terrible! Someone should do something.
The image of the rivers crashing down the countryside in Colorado made me think of a story. It is told that two men were standing at the riverside and saw people in distress being washed down the river. One by one they struggled to save them, jumping in time and again to rescue these victims. After a while one of the men turned to leave. “Where are you going?” asked the second man, “There are still people drowning! You can’t leave me here by myself to save them!” The first man replied: “I’m going upstream to stop the person that keeps throwing these guys in the river!”
At times we get so focused on the problems in front of us we don’t stop to wonder what is their root. What are we doing wrong in the first place that allows these situations to arise? We now have good documentation about the role we are playing in changing the environment. And yet the steps we are taking to make changes are tiny and imperceptible.
And what about the violence in our society? A mass shooting is tragic and dramatic, and forces us to confront something evil in our midst. Yet every day young people across the country are losing their lives in senseless acts of violence. What images do our children grow up seeing? When did killing people in video games become acceptable conditioning for young minds? Our governments are no better. They engage in horrendous games of war, sending our young people off, armed to the teeth, with instructions to see other human beings as evil threats. Our armed forces become efficient killing machines.
And when these young people return to their homes, with scars both visible and invisible, we expect them to blend back into their previous lives as if nothing has changed. Which then leads to the way we treat mental illness. We stigmatize it, try to ignore it, and make it harder for those who need help to seek it. And for those who do seek it, we think it can be fixed by prescription. The quick solution is to tell someone to take a tablet daily, and hope it turns those nightmares into pleasant thoughts as if by magic. Psychotherapy, group support, allowing feelings to emerge in a controlled setting, these kinds of activities are often not reimbursed by insurance companies. They also require more personnel. In these days when our focus is on efficiency, the human touch is the first to go.
Sometimes it looks as if we have painted ourselves into a corner. How do we get out of this mess? Thankfully there are people who are committed to change, committed to identifying and treating causes, instead of focusing on the more immediate and shocking results. But we need to do more. And we need to support those who are actively working to make changes.
This week I heard about a newly formed organization which is named “Rebellious Nursing!” They are holding their first conference, and this is the vision:
“Envisioning justice and liberation for health seekers, health workers, and communities, the Rebellious Nursing! conference is uniting nurses at all levels of practice, other healthcare providers, and our allies to find inspiration, awareness, solidarity, and practical ways to impact health equity and health disparities among all living beings.”
This group of visionary nurses has decided to organize for change, instead of accepting the status quo. Often we are happy complaining and spouting empty rhetoric at the state of the health care system without being prepared to do anything to change it. These dynamic, motivated people are actively seeking to use all of the means at their disposal to bring about change in the way health care is delivered and managed.
We need to find new solutions! We need to support innovation and creativity if we want to live in a better society. We can no longer keep doing things the same way, and hope that things will get better. And we have the tools, the intelligence and the brilliance to achieve these goals. But it takes time and effort.
In Jamaica they use the expression ‘River come down’ to describe those roaring waters that come crashing down after heavy rainfall in the hills. Martin Luther King Jr borrowed from the book of Amos when he spoke about justice rolling down “…like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream”. These images are powerful, and help us to imagine a new world carved by these forces. But we need to work to harness the power and the energy, and make sure it is headed in the right direction.
And what if we don’t act? What happens if, as a society we watch like uninvolved, curious bystanders as more and more outrageous and deadly acts unfold? What is the cost of doing nothing? We can be sure it will only get worse.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke
On this Friday morning, after my first week off for many weeks (thankfully I feel back to my usual self after a nasty cold and cough), I hope we can think of ways to make this world a better place.
Have a wonderful weekend Family!