When the ANA PAC called me for a donation I declined and took the time to explain why. I have been an ANA member since I graduated in 1991, have been actively involved in many ways over the years, and am a fairly reliable donor. However, I believe that the ANA failed us when they showed up for a photo op with President Trump. It ignored the early failures of the COVID-19 response and the harm it had caused to nurses, in fact the death of nurses. Those early failures were only the beginning of what what has now been the worst response in our history with over 154,000 deaths including the deaths of many nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers who are still reusing N95 masks despite the evidence that it isn’t safe. Nurses in some hospitals are even being told they only need a surgical mask when caring for COVID patients if the patient isn’t getting an aerosol treatment.
I went on to explain that by not supporting a candidate for President they in-fact did just that by their silence. Through their silence they are ignoring children who were locked in cages and separated from parents, the gassing and beating of peaceful protesters in the streets, the call for the delay of the elections by the President which is a clear threat to our democracy. They ignored it when the President did nothing as bounties were placed on the heads of our soldiers defending us abroad. And they are silent as the President continues to disrespect women, people of color, and anyone that disagrees with him. This administration has been all our code of ethics opposes. By their silence ANA is saying the code of ethics is meaningless words. They are silent as nurses and their patients die.
Last night I received another call from the ANA PAC and this time from someone in a leadership position who heard I was not happy. She tried to convince me that I should overlook this because they didn’t want to alienate Republican nurses to which I must ask what they would have done not to alienate Nazi nurses in Germany? I want to make clear there are many Republican nurses that don’t support Trump or his tactics. This isn’t about a party but a particular candidate that is evil.
The representative went on to say that they had members that were friends of Al Gore to which I replied that is like saying I have a black friend so I can’t be racist. Not giving up she told me that the decision was made two years ago by a task force. Really? Who selected the task force and under the current conditions when children are caged, citizens are gassed and beaten in the streets, white supremacists are referred to as some good people, reporters are surveilled by the Department of Homeland Security, citizens are arrested without charges and thrown into unmarked vehicles, and our President thinks he can delay the elections isn’t it time to reverse that decision? Does ANA not recognize that if you are silent in the face of evil you become part of that evil?
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill
Finally, she tried to tell me that ANA PAC post on their website their view on issues and that she had been to Homestead and been at a protest. Mind you I’m an active person on social media and ANA PAC is shockingly uninvolved on any form of social media and silent in the news. If it were not for the nursing unions, other nursing organizations, and individual nurses our voice would not even be heard on these critical issues.
My question is not whether I think ANA PAC has lost their moral compass, I do. The question is whether I’m willing to stay a member of the ANA if they are not willing to take a stand during the greatest moral challenge of my lifetime. ANA is notable by their silence and by being silent in the face of inhumanity you are indeed taking a stand. You are saying rather than offend those that support caging children, gassing and beating people in the streets, surveilling the media, not providing a national response to a pandemic, grabbing people off the streets in unmarked cars and holding them without charges, and even delaying our presidential election, you will be silent and let the myriad forms of abuse continue.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
I can’t remember the last time I have gone a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing of a mass shooting. This morning I woke to reports of a mass shooting only to realize it wasn’t El Paso, but Dayton. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. More importantly, we are capable as individuals of changing our neighborhoods and ourselves. We cannot let fear be the enemy of reason. The House of Representatives has taken the first step, but the Senate refuses to do anything, but pray. Clearly, God has answered them with legislation from the House, but they do not have ears to hear.
For those of us that have lost someone, we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) and died on my parent’s living room floor. The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. They had fought many times before resulting in typical injuries from fistfights. The problem was that a gun was lying on the table. Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.
The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means. In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. Not all gun deaths come from People with guns do kill people.
In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.
The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun. I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.
It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun, it is much harder to kill. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence. My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail themselves of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win.
The first time I heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest was in Tennessee history in Junior High School. I’m not sure how much of his background was emphasized, but I also don’t remember him being presented as an honorable man. Prior to the Civil War, he was a repulsive human being who amassed his wealth as a cotton farmer that depended on slave labor and selling human beings into slavery among other business endeavors.
As a Civil War Army General, he was considered to be a good military strategist though clearly not an honorable one. Under his command, he ordered the massacre of Union soldiers, mostly black and some white Tennesseans fighting with them. Even at that time killing people who had surrendered was not honorable.
After the Civil War ended and all of those who had been held as slaves were freed Nathan Bedford Forrest continued a life that dishonored the state of Tennessee and the United States. Since he could no longer hold slaves he became the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan which terrorized people of color. He denounced the violence in his later life, but even then apparently lied about his role. All he actually did was change his focus to a different form of slave labor.
After he left the KKK he secured the use of people who had been convicted of crimes to clear his land and work the same land. He used 117 prisoners to grow his wealth. Forced labor of prisoners is a stone throw from slavery at best. It should not go without notice that the majority of those people were black and in that era, the chances they had a fair trial was slim to none. They took black men and women out of the illegal chains and put them in the chains allowed by the law of the time which was incarceration.
It is true that state law in Tennessee mandates an annual proclamation, but it states:
Each year it is the duty of the governor of this state to proclaim the following as days of special observance: January 19, “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12, “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 15, “Andrew Jackson Day”; June 3, “Memorial Day” or “Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13, “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; and November 11, “Veterans’ Day.” The governor shall invite the people of this state to observe the days in schools, churches, and other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of such dates.
Tennessee Code 15-2-101
The governor has the ability within the law to interpret appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment and befitting the anniversary of such dates. It is clearly within his authority to add language to the proclamation that states that it is appropriate to use this as a reminder of the evil of racism, our history of slavery, and the disgrace of being the home of the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. He could use the proclamation to call for a day of service to promote racial justice or as a day he gives clemency to deserving prisoners. There are many ways the law could be fulfilled that don’t continue to celebrate the man that had no honor and does not deserve our respect.
Until the day the Tennessee representatives change what is clearly a law that celebrates our racist past we should all ask and expect the governor to act with honor by preparing an appropriate proclamation. And if he refuses to act in an honorable manner there is nothing that stops us from planning now to make this a day that addresses racial justice in our communities.
When the elected officials refuse to lead with honor it is should never be the case that the citizens remain silent and do not act. We have a year to prepare. Let’s get started.
“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”
—Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
The last few weeks have been filled with angry people aligning with pro-choice versus gloating people aligning with pro-choice. I hate both terms. They do little to describe what many of the people in the groups actually want. Pro-life is associated with people that want to end abortion, but many if not most of those people have little use for programs that support women before, during, and after pregnancy. In fact, some propose the death penalty for people that perform abortions or life in prison. Likewise, some people that are pro-choice only mean as it relates to women’s choices about their bodies. They frequently are not in favor of choice about such things as school choice or open carry laws for guns.
It would seem obvious that human life is sacred and that there is inherent dignity in all humans. However, a quick look at public policy, media, and even individual human actions reveal that it is not at all obvious that life is treated as sacred or that there is inherent dignity in all humans. One only needs to ask what it means to respect life and a heated debate may ensue with all parties proclaiming to be the sole holder of truth. Most such discussions never proceed beyond abortion, the death penalty, war, and guns. Recently, I have seen more people add LGBTQ+ as an issue where no one can hear the other and where some brave soles like James Martin, SJ proclaim it to be a life issue and especially in countries where you can be executed for being same-sex relations.
When asked what is human dignity, a frequently provided answer is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No, it was not a question about the Declaration of Independence.Yet, it appears that the representatives that signed the declaration understood human dignity and its foundation in our creation in the likeness of God, in stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Why then is this not part of the intellectual reasoning process when discussing these issues among friends, family, and colleagues and in public policy? And, why for our entire history have we failed to live up to these words in the Declaration of Independence?
As we approach challenges to Roe v. Wade, let us consider life. Life is a right. Unfortunately, it is a right that we appear not to value as a society and a right for which we too frequently fail to give meaningful thought. Here are a few areas where there is significant disagreement, and where life is either not treated as a right, or the issue gets inadequate attention.
Culture of violence in video games, movies, and music
Drug, alcohol, and substance use
Health care & mental health care- inadequate
Violence (rape, hate crimes, child sex abuse, etc.)
All of these either prevent, end, shorten, or seriously impact life or the quality of life. There is no public consensus on how to address any of these issues. Imagine what would be said if there was a gun law passed as restrictive as the Georgia or Missouri abortion laws. Imagine making it a crime to release a person from the hospital when you know they have no home and will be living on the streets. Imagine a 95-year sentence for the health care provider that over-prescribed opioids resulting in addiction and an overdose.
The next time someone asks you if you are pro-life be sure to consider whether life is sacred and whether it is the foundation of your moral vision of society. We can only protect human dignity and have a healthy community if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities to each other. We cannot shrug off poverty because it will always exist and ignore our responsibility to the poor and claim to be pro-life. We cannot justify rape because the vagina was not ripped to shreds or it was “consensual” and claim to be pro-life. We cannot let our children be murdered or sexually assaulted (or cover up the same in our churches) and claim to be pro-life. We cannot turn a blind eye to sex-trafficking and claim to be pro-life. We cannot fulfill our responsibility without first recognizing the value of sharing ideas, cooperating to advance policy that supports human dignity, and admitting that no one individual is the sole purveyor of truth.
As some states march toward an essential ban on abortion consider whether abortion is blinding us to all other aspects of life and human dignity and whether a sole focus on protecting the unborn has resulted in public policy that ignores the threats to life that are all around us. Likewise, consider whether treating abortion as a bad decision made under difficult circumstances would impact our approach to human dignity in other areas. Advancing the cause of human dignity in public discourse requires us to fulfill our responsibilities and that must begin by listening to other people and hearing those perspectives with an open mind. Maybe we would be more successful if we became pro-human dignity.
The intellect and not our will must guide our decisions. Yet, it is often our will that gets in the way of sound reasoning. Don’t we all want what we want? Would we not prefer to get our way? I know I would and at times my own will has gotten in the way of hearing what others had to say.
When I joined the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) I wanted to work with the poor and underserved. I had a mental image of what that meant. Simply, it was those in poverty or homeless. It had never occurred to me to consider those in prison or detained by immigration as poor or underserved. Nor did I ever consider the disproportionate impact that disasters have on those that are poor or homeless.
Late in my career, I accepted a job with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) working for Daniel Schneider, who is now the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. I was fascinated by what he described to me. He wanted an office that would address the human services needs of people impacted by disaster and especially those that were poor or marginalized. He wanted the office and programs to be built on the principles of self-determination, self-sufficiency, federalism, flexibility and speed, and support to states. Of equal importance, he wanted a close working relationship with faith-based organizations. I was free to develop it as I saw fit so long as I understood that I was fully responsible for any success or failure. It was an opportunity to combine my work in disaster management and at the same time return to working with the poor and the underserved. I was all in and then I had my first meeting with faith-based groups that worked in disasters – ouch!
The first meeting was eye-opening. It was clear that people were angry and especially the person from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. There was bad blood and before I would ever be able to make progress fences needed to be mended. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. Two amazing organizations stepped forward and offered to help. The first was Catholic Charities, USA that filled me in on what had transpired following Hurricane Katrina. While I had worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response since 2001 I had no interaction with the human services programs. The second organization was the American Red Cross who suggested I let them host meetings on neutral grounds. I was grateful and realized that I needed to do a lot of listening.
While I listened I also knew that good policy had to be evidence-based or adapted from a policy that has historically been effective. It could not be based on emotion or lack intellectual reasoning. I understood that there had been hurt feelings and a lack of listening in the past, but I would not ignore that there were successful programs that could serve as models. While the population served was different the goals and objectives were the same. We needed to get to mutually agreeable principles and we needed to use evidence-based policy.
The stakeholder meetings revealed that health care was largely excluded from the services offered by Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADS) and case managers rarely had health care experience. I wanted the case managers to be nurses, but the VOADS and my contracted faith-based organization wanted them to be lay people. We compromised and had a combination of case managers we trained and nurse case managers. When all the research was completed and the program pilot tested it turned out that what was primarily needed was the lay case manager with nurse case managers to be available for people with complicated medical needs and for consultation. Because I first listened and because we were all willing to follow the evidence we ended up with a program that we could all support. You can learn more about the ACF Disaster Case Management program at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohsepr/response-recovery/disaster-case-management .
I considered the development of the Disaster Case Management program a great professional accomplishment. I had an amazing team, exceptional partners, and political appointees that trusted us to do our jobs and have the best interest of the country in mind. There was mutual respect. However, the sense of professional accomplishment paled in comparison to the change in my spiritual life.
When I was in Baton Rogue with Catholic Charities, USA I was asked to stay with them at the retreat center. They gave me free access to the grounds and the chapel and said I could use it anytime. I hadn’t been to a church of any kind since my twenties and so I was amused. Then I listened as CCUSA had to remind the Catholic sisters that they couldn’t give away all of the food. I watched as CCUSA personnel and volunteers worked with compassion and patience and with their dedication exemplified what it means to serve. I, on the other hand, could only see a mission to be accomplished and my cadre of young officers as tools to accomplish it. While CCUSA saw the humanity in everyone I wasn’t even seeing it in my own people. By the time I left something had changed. I was no longer listening with my ears, but with my heart. The VOADS and the faith-based organizations had a different perspective than the government. It wasn’t about sitreps, or numbers proving the success, but rather compassionate care provided to people that were suffering. I woke up one day shortly after our time in Baton Rogue and announced I intended to retire. Not long after the project was completed I was working for a small Catholic university where I found what I sought and though I left the university after three years what I found and what they nurtured has never left me.
Following the evidence resulted in a policy that ensured better services to the poor and underserved impacted by a disaster. Letting the spirit transform the knowledge into an accomplishment for good put the program in hands that are filled with compassion. By being open to what was good and just rather than tactically efficient government and faith-based organizations were able to bring the best of what each has to offer to serve those in need.
I am forever grateful to Dan for the opportunity, to the administration at the time for prioritizing the poor, and to Brent whose faith I am sure crafted the principles on which the program was built and through which I found my faith. The experience showed me what I lacked as a human being, what I no longer wanted to be, and a path to a more compassionate existence.
Today I was proud to be a woman and proud to be from the South that stood for equality and respect for all people. In the last year, women have found their voices and consistently stood against men who abuse and disrespect them. The country is speaking in many ways on respect: respect for women, respect for standards of decency, respect for those brave enough to say #MeToo. The country also said loudly, if you hold repulsive attitudes toward raping a woman or child you will not be elected by either party. We said, if you think it is funny to touch a woman’s breast without permission or sexually harass her at work or shame her in public we will stand up and stand together. We will use our voice to support those that feel threatened and harassed. We will push you out of your office, your job, and if necessary respectable society.
Respect for all people now requires that we make important decisions and I hope all the passion that went into the election goes into fixing our problems with how we treat women in the workplace. We voted to end sexism but now comes responsibility. We need to work for equal pay. Women that are not financially dependent on men find it easier to stand up and say no more. We must work to reduce violence and ensure that men and women understand what it means to rape and be raped – it is never legitimate. Sexual harassment is never acceptable, but we must define what it means. If you want to reduce sexual harassment you must know that not all people share the same cultural views on hugs or a kiss on the cheek or even a handshake. We must learn cultural sensitivity and expect it. We need to clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable – it begins with you.
I also believe we need to have a serious discussion about abortion. We cannot let a pedophile almost win a national office because abortion is a litmus test for Democrats and Republicans alike. We need to find a common ground where we all agree that we should work to reduce abortion and explore all the ways to do so. Pro-choice and pro-life should be welcome in both parties if we are to solve this problem.
I love this country and I have always been proud to be from the South and have always believed that Southerns are more patriotic and love the country more than most. Democracy is amazing and especially so when people put aside party loyalty and vote their conscience as did the people of Alabama. We should tip our hats to Republicans today. They put country before party. Thank you Alabama for showing we change the world through our votes and through the exercise of conscience.
Gun ownership is a choice and a moral decision that has a significant consequence to the entire community. I can choose to own a gun or I can make the moral decision to decline the right to bear arms. This is not to say that all people have a choice to make. Some, by virtue of their professions, must own or carry a gun – police and military. Others may need one for a legitimate reason – ranchers. However, most of us do have a choice. Choosing not to bear arms does not impact anyone else’s Second Amendment right.
Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about gun violence or even a few days without hearing about a mass shooting? We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting almost every day. We ask ourselves what is the cause and we hear guns, mental illness, inadequate laws, immigration, gangs, terrorism, and a culture addicted to violence. We look at other similar countries and ask why they don’t have the same problem and the only differences are easy to access guns and/or culture.
In our culture we let fear overrule reason. The argument that the Second Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means. In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people and are more successful at doing so from a distance than by any other means.
This year alone the Gun Violence Archive has documented 52,436 incidents, 13,164 deaths, and 307 mass shootings. This doesn’t even begin to address the actual impact of wives that lost husbands, parents that lost children, children that lost parents, and the countless friends and neighbors that feel the loss.
Make a Moral Decision
The Second Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun. I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.
“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that keeps us from a rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. I am certainly not the sole arbiter of truth, but I have an opinion I hope you will hear and consider
Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership
Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.
People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely believe they need to defend self or family and a gun is the only mechanism. Others have a false belief that a rifle will protect from an abusive government that has nuclear bombs, tanks, and other massive munitions. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the action? Do the risks outweigh the danger of a gun in the home? This year alone defensive use is barely higher than unintentional shootings. In other words for every person that uses a gun in self-defense, another is accidentally shot.
The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
I came to the conclusion that I could not live with a primal instinct to defend my home or self by the use of lethal force over a possession. Nor could I live with accidentally harming another.
I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the rights and the good of the community.
It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 1,724 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 54,436 gun incidents in the same time period of which 1,699 were accidental shootings. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end, we are one nation with one shared problem that is violence committed using a gun.
What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?
I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe, but for that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.
I then used a disaster framework to consider what actions I could take to avoid risks that didn’t involve owning a gun. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer. For example, self-defense class, active shooter training, non-lethal force, security systems, and even owning a dog.
After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.
There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the Second Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. There are those that disagree with me including the editors of America Magazine. The Second Amendment is too ingrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.
Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges, people may take I encourage others to also take the pledge and to share that they have. Third, I will never be silent.
Evaluate the process and outcomes
The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.
I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.
“The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Decline the Right.
As nurses, we must be prepared for mass casualty incidents and know how to respond. It was good to see the people trained in first aid (firemen, prior military, nurses, and others) respond and help even as the shooter was still firing. Would you be prepared to stop the bleed of a person with a gunshot wound?
You can follow these easy steps, but it important to practice in advance. While there are videos online they do not replace hands-on training. If you want to be trained you can contact your local school of nursing, EMS, or Red Cross. You can purchase a stop the bleed kit on Amazon.com or through the American Red Cross. Just search “Stop the Bleed”. If you are in the Knoxville area feel free to reach me at the University of Tennessee, College of Nursing and I will be happy to help arrange training for you. Get involved, get trained, buy a kit and keep one at home and one in your car.
Sunday I wrote about it being 15 years since my twin brothers murder and today I wake up to the news covering yet another mass shooting. This one occurred in Las Vegas with more than 200 injured and 50 dead. It is the worst mass shooting in United States history. I also woke to the empty rhetoric of politicians who say they are praying for the victims. Pray, if they actually do, is all they do. In fact, they do nothing or worse block those that try.
What motivated a 64 year old man to kill so many? How did he get an automatic weapon? Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing about a mass shooting. We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting every day. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. We cannot be silent in the face violence. We cannot let fear over rule reason.
For those of us that have lost someone we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by a gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) fell at my mother’s feet where he died on my parent’s living room floor. The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.
The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means. In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people.
In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.
The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun. I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.
It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun it is much harder to kill. You can’t kill over 50 people with a knife from the 32nd floor of a building and injure over 200 more. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence. My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail him or herself of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Don’t allow politicians to continue to say they will pray, but never act. There works are lacking any evidence of faith.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
The better the society the less law ther will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. In Hell, there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observe. – Grant Gilmore
On September 30, 2002, each year I still mourn the loss of my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) and fell at my mother’s feet where he died. The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory, maybe on my soul. I confess I knew my brothers and their faults. I worry about what I failed to do.
My brother was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. It is hard to believe it has been fifteen years since. From then until now there have been 177,311 additional homicides. There are 177,311 families that have felt the same pain. Yet, we do nothing to address gun safety. The lack of action by Congress is shocking not just because of the alarming number of homicides, but also suicides and accidental deaths. While the majority of American believe there should be sensible gun safety law the militant minority has managed to intimidate our elected officials or bribe them through campaign contributions.
The militant minority that says it takes a person to pull the trigger misses the fact that it is much harder to kill without a gun. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. The technology exists to reduce the risk of accidental death and even someone using a gun that doesn’t belong to them and yet these technologies are too rarely used and in some places not even available. The law could require greater gun safety.
Christianity teaches that human life is sacred and “the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). I often what moral vision one finds in a gun. The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot just be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence. My wish is for a day that in acting on our own judgment we make use of responsible freedom. I hope for a day that no American is driven by coercion, but rather through a sense of duty declines the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that most people should avail themselves of the right. I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life. I have the right to have an abortion, but would not have one. Some states still have a death penalty despite the growing evidence that we frequently convict the innocent and are more likely to do so based on race and social status. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is morally right.
Micah 6:8He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Gun Violence by the Numbers from https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/#DailyDeaths
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
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.
Compassion is ever present in nursing. We consider it to be an essential quality and yet it isn’t clear that we know how to teach it or assess it. This semester I ask students to consider compassion as one measure for a good policy. We must find a way to speak about a policy that can engage those that profess common sense without the educational training to fully grasp how policy is made and do so in a compassionate manner. Compassionate discussion requires breaking down the issues and speaking at multiple levels of complexity. Does anyone do this better or more frequently than nurses?
I believe that those educated as nurses may be able to play a significant role in advancing compassionate policy.
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.
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.
Since the election, social media is full of people that want to oppose any Trump policy. Such activism on social media isn’t any different than one sees on a college campus or any community across the country. People like to complain about what they perceive as bad policy. What is less common is a willingness to dive in and help change policy. It requires one to know the issue and current evidence, have researched the existing policy and legislation, become familiar with the stakeholders, explored feasible options, and know the costs. Even then, without courage, most people will remain silent or only discuss the issue in the safety of friends, otherwise known as a bitch session.
Like many, I’m concerned about the policy direction of the country. There is an excessive amount of marginal policy in the country. It can be seen in the cost of medical care, a Social Security system that is slowly going bankrupt, a Veterans Administration that is inefficient, and gun laws that are not designed to keep us safe. Marginal or ineffective policy results from equal parts of failure to consider the possible consequences, personal self-interest, and a public that is not engaged.
Sitting in silence and letting the rough waters wash away the sharp edges may help one on the path to personal compassion. Only when people can be the compassion can they find their voice and use it to effectively shape policy that reflects compassion and considers the impact on the least among us. Much needs to be done; to be part of the change we must be willing to speak out with passion and conviction that is guided by reason and evidence. We must be educated, informed, and courageous. Don’t sit on the sidelines and complain about the past.
What does it mean to be compassionate when we see others in distress and know that proposed policies are causing that distress? President Elect Trump’s team has proposed a policy that would be similar to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System implemented by the Bush administration, which essentially applied to Muslim countries. It was phased out in 2011, but not because it violated civil liberties, but rather because it was redundant. In other words, we already had systems that did essentially the same thing. The ACLU has promised to bring a legal challenge if such a policy is reinstituted, but reality is that controlling entry to and exit from the country is within the authority of the President. A Muslim registry is clearly discriminatory and clearly draws into question how seriously we take freedom of religion, but it probably isn’t unconstitutional.
I’ve seen petitions and much outrage on social media about a Muslim registry. Sign the petition and say you will register as a Muslim if this policy is implemented. The question is what can you do now that is more obvious than signing a petition that no one else sees? I suggest that if you are serious about standing with Muslims that you change your religion on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you have it publically listed to Muslim until the election. My sad speculation is that for many people religion is so much a part of their identity that despite the moral stand they hope they would take they won’t be able to make this little change to show solidarity with Muslims.
My challenge, can we get 1,430,000 people to change their religion on social media accounts to Muslim and leave it that way until the inauguration? 1.43 million is currently Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote. As a Catholic, I confess that it is easy for me to say, but it was hard for me to change my religion online as Muslim. Try it and see if you have the moral fortitude to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, against discrimination, and for religious freedom.
It is hard to teach compassion when I can’t find it in my own heart. As a believer in the power of social media I also believe that it has the potential to promote hate and injustice, and to disturb one’s own ability to express compassion. What should our personal policies be when addressing online bullying, rudeness, and hateful speech?
Tonight, for the first time in months, I hit the unfriend and block buttons on Facebook. It wasn’t a stranger, but someone I knew from a Church I once attended. I loved the Church, the Priest, and the people. I think my life is better for knowing them. At some point, if a person is continually posting things that are unkind, uncharitable, and promote hate of a group of people, what should be done? The reality is that without blocking the person’s content it will show up in one’s social media feed and one’s friends will also be exposed to it. I do not want to be responsible for exposing anyone to rudeness, bullying, or hateful speech.
Despite the fact that I want to be compassionate and I hope to promote compassionate policy, social media at times gives me compassion fatigue. While feeling especially fatigued this week I developed this rubric that reminds me when too much is too much and I must just admit that a friendship isn’t worth the impact it is having on me emotionally and spiritually.
I have been very disheartened by the last week. I was sad about the election and the nastiness of the campaigns, but it is the behavior that has followed that is disheartening. Both sides are posting uncharitable information. And both sides are behaving in ways that should not be acceptable. In a civil society there are things we can do to show our displeasure:
Register to vote and then go vote
Volunteer to address the issues that most concern you (abortion, guns, women’s rights, climate change, poverty, living wage)
Educate yourself on how our government works
Serve in the government, run for office, volunteer for a campaign
Know the name of your representatives and make sure they know yours
What isn’t acceptable is:
Racism, sexism, etc.
Showing a complete lack of compassion for the pain of others
My grandmother was born in 1890 before women had the right to vote and she, and all of her daughters died never seeing a woman elected President. We may have won the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, but there is much work to do to see a woman in the White House. Today we pick ourselves up and get to work to make the country a better place.
I am an unrepentant feminist, a social liberal, and fiscal moderate. I was a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton, and yet I am a proud American first. The thing that makes me most proud of our country today is that despite the polarization of our views we are all Americans first and every four years we wage peaceful, though not polite, political battles that lead to a peaceful transition of government. We wake up the next day with signs still in our yards and we greet our neighbor with love. We may not respect their political opinions, but we love them and cherish their freedom of opinion and their right to express it. And then together we go out and take food to the hungry, attend PTA meetings, lead Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and engage in making our communities better. We do it together every day as neighbors.
Today, I’m not identified by a partisan political party. Today I’m blessed to be an American. Donald Trump is our President and while I respect the Presidency I do not respect intolerance. I wasn’t for Trump and found his behavior disturbing at best. America should hope that everything he said he was for was not true. Consider the consequences of building a wall, a religious test for becoming a U.S. citizen, punishing women that have abortions, promoting violence, a mass deportation force, or taking away insurance coverage from the 20 million people covered under the Affordable Care Act. What would that make our country?
Let’s pull together and go out there and commit to public service. We have work to do so long as there are people sleeping in the streets, children that are hungry, violence in our communities, racism and sexism, and people that do not make a living wage. Our communities depend on us – the people. Our country and our President need our prayers. More than prayers our country needs our service. We must reach out and embrace all of those that will feel scared and disenfranchised by this election. And, we must acknowledge that the working class feels forgotten and they spoke loudly with their vote.
If you are willing to be an active participant in changing the role we play in making our communities better join me. We can overcome the division and build Compassionate Policy.
Over the last year, we have heard broad policy issues from political parties. In all cases, it resulted in policy discussions online and in the media that was completely lacking in compassion. Not only did those discussing the policies often have insufficient knowledge of how policy is analyzed and implemented but frequently took pride in not knowing and depending on what they proudly referred to as “common sense.” Sadly, well-meaning people both liberal and conservative, have no idea that “common sense” often leads to failing policy that did not consider unintended consequences or the impact that the policy may have on others. Common sense is limited to one’s toolkit that includes one’s knowledge, environment, resources, and life lessons. Because all people don’t share the same toolkit, it is important that policy considers all the toolkits and what happens when one toolkit has far less in it than others.
We must find a way to speak about a policy that can engage those that profess common sense without the educational training to fully grasp how policy is made and do so in a compassionate manner. Compassionate discussion requires breaking down the issues and speaking at multiple levels of complexity. Until we can to do this successfully, we will remain a divided country in which those that are rhetorically skilled will take advantage of those that are not.
Once we learn to speak with compassion, we must assure that any policy analysis includes a test for compassion.
After the election is over on Tuesday, there are big issues to address that impact every single community in the United States. Shall we discuss them with compassion or shall we continue on our current path?
Is it the nature of human beings to divide ourselves? Race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and all the other categories we impose in our lives. How often do we want to know a person’s profession and the profession of their spouse? Do you have children? Where do you go to church? Where did you go to high school or college?
I firmly believe that our differences make us stronger. We can do so much more if we have both physicians and nurses; pastors and lay people; and math and art teachers. I don’t know anyone that would think we should only have firefighters and no police. All too often our society seems to believe we would be better off without liberals or conservative or without Catholics or Protestants or Muslims, or whatever it is that isn’t our faith.
What we share is what binds us. What divides us makes us weaker. I am proud of my faith and that I am to the left of center and am ever grateful that I have friends on the both ends of the continuum. They show me daily how one can have very different views and still share my faith and my love for this country. However, I’m saddened by those that use faith and politics as a stick with which to beat others or who profess their bullying as love. I am equally saddened by those that did not learn as children that name calling is inappropriate and never helps anyone. Most of all, I am saddened when people are so enamored by a single perspective that they are no longer willing to see the evidence in front of them. Yes, you can see this as meaning the other person, but until we all spend more time looking inward rather than outward we will be on the wrong path.
I am a liberal that remains politically independent. I thought George Bush was a good man, but didn’t agree with many of his policies. I think Obama is a good man but don’t agree with all his policies. I firmly believe that everyone that spends their career in public life does so with a desire to make us better and to serve our country. Then they get in office and rather than serve are so busy making sure the other doesn’t succeed that they forget they are there to serve the people and not a party. Policy should not be a political sport.
If we look at our politicians, and we don’t like them, then we should look inward. They are us. When they lie, it is because we lie. It is because we want to hear lie and we don’t forgive or accept the truth. When they say racist things, it is because we are racist. Politicians would not say sexist and racist things if we didn’t want to hear them. When they demonstrate no ability to balance a budget, it is because we can’t balance our budgets. When they are more concerned about their success than the country, it is because we are more tied to our parties than our country. If they don’t understand foreign policy, or religious freedom, or the tragedy that is gun violence, or the horror of racism, sexism, and religious phobia it is because we don’t understand those issues and don’t take the time to learn and I mean learn not read social media posts. They are us, and we are them.
If we want to change politics and return to a country of the values we associate with the best of faith traditions, then we must change as individuals. We can’t expect the elected officials and the policy makers to have values that we do not have. It is easy.
Don’t take what isn’t yours.
Balance your budget.
Save when there is plenty to be prepared for when there isn’t.
Don’t take more than you need.
Serve your country.
Study the Constitution.
Volunteer in your community.
Attend your faith-based service regularly or if you do not believe find an ethical society.
Respect the freedom and conscience of others and don’t impose your beliefs on them.
Pray, study, or meditate daily on what you believe.
Don’t kill (the unborn, the guilty, the enemy).
Be willing to lay down your life for another.
Love radically – God, country, family, and your neighbor.
See all children and elders as your responsibility.
Show respect for those that don’t agree with you.
Be polite to everyone and not just those that make it easy.
Find the goals you share and work toward them even if it is on parallel paths.
Love and respect cultural and political differences and put aside labels in your words and your heart.
The American political parties produce platforms that guide the politicians in their approach to governing. The platforms are important documents that outline the vision of a party and in so doing provide a beginning point for analysis of the candidates. Anyone who votes should read the platforms carefully because they are free of media bias, social media hysteria, and the often the hate filled rhetoric of the politically uneducated.
There are many topics that deserve attention during the political season. The ones that matter most to me are the following:
Gun Control and Gun Safety
Freedom (religious, self-determination, from undue influence, etc.)
All parties except the Republican party believe the government should abolish the death penalty. The Republican party supports the death penalty believing it is supported in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. All sections of the party platforms addressing the death penalty are below with links and where available page references.
Each individual must make her or his own decision about about the morality and need for the death penalty.
Each of the four main political parties address the death penalty in their platforms. Yet, they give unequal attention to the issue.
Oppose the death penalty in the United States and worldwide.
The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition. (https://www.lp.org/platform)
Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Opportunities
We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds those of life imprisonment. It does not deter crime. And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishme nt.
We have been inspired by the movements for criminal justice that directly address the discriminatory treatment of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians to rebuild trust in the criminal justice system.
Ensuring Safe Neighborhoods: Criminal Justice and Prison Reform
The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment. With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states. In solidarity with those who protect us, we call for mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers. (p.40, https://ballotpedia.org/The_Republican_Platform_and_RNC_Platform_Committee,_2016)
The American political parties produce platforms that loosely guide the politicians in their approach to governing. The platforms are important documents that outline the vision of a party and in so doing provide a beginning point for analysis of the candidates. Anyone who votes should read the platforms carefully because they are free of media bias, social media hysteria, and the often hate filled rhetoric of the politically uneducated.
There are many topics that deserve attention during the political season. The ones that matter most to me are the following:
Gun Control and Gun Safety
Freedom (religious, self-determination, from undue influence, etc.)
All parties except the Republican party believe at the least government should stay out of reproductive decisions and at the most the government should ensure that access to abortion is not impeded. The Republican party is firmly opposed to abortion, support of abortion, and the use of any products of abortion for research. All sections of the party platforms related to abortion are below with links and where available page references.
Each individual must read and determine what party comes closest to his or her personal beliefs. Let your decisions be guided not only by your conscience but by your intellect.
Each of the four main political parties addresses abortion in their platforms. Yet, they give unequal attention to the issue.
Reproductive Freedom:People should be free from government interference in making their reproductive choices, including abortion, which should be covered by all publicly funded medical insurance programs. (https://www.greenparty.org/Platform.php)
1.5 AbortionRecognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration. (https://www.lp.org/platform#1.5)
We will appoint judges who defend the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, and will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion, curb billionaires’ influence over elections because they understand that Citizens United has fundamentally damaged our democracy, and believe the Constitution protects not only the powerful but also the disadvantaged and powerless. (p.26)
Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and well-being. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no- cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.
We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, disability, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination. We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child. (p.37)
Women and Girls
We will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe. In addition to expanding the availability of affordable family planning information and contraceptive supplies, we believe that safe abortion must be part of comprehensive maternal and women’s health care and included as part of America’s global health programming. Therefore, we support the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to health care information and services, including the “global gag rule” and the Helms Amendment that bars American assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world. (p.46) (https://www.demconvention.com/platform/)
We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage. (p.13)
We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.
We affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women who face an unplanned pregnancy. In order to encourage women who face an unplanned pregnancy to choose life, we support legislation that requires financial responsibility for the child be equally borne by both the mother and father upon conception until the child reaches adulthood. Failure to require a father to be equally responsible for a child places an inequitable burden on the mother, creating a financial and social hardship on both mother and child.
We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for leading the effort to add enforcement to the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act by passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which imposes appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery whether the death of the infant is intended. We strongly oppose infanticide. Over a dozen states have passed Pain-
Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version. Not only is it good legislation, but it enjoys the support of a majority of the American people. We support state and federal efforts against the cruelest forms of abortion, especially dismemberment abortion procedures, in which unborn babies are literally torn apart limb from limb.
We call on Congress to ban sex-selection abortions and abortions based on disabilities — discrimination in its most lethal form. We oppose embryonic stem cell research. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. We support adult stem cell research and urge the restoration of the national placental stem cell bank created by President George H.W. Bush but abolished by his Democrat successor, President Bill Clinton. We oppose federal funding for harvesting embryos and call for a ban on human cloning.
The Democratic Party is extreme on abortion. Democrats’ almost limitless support for abortion, and their strident opposition to even the most basic restrictions on abortion put them dramatically out of step with the American people. Because of their opposition to simple abortion clinic safety procedures, support for taxpayer-funded abortion, and rejection of pregnancy resource centers that provide abortion alternatives, the old Clinton mantra of “safe, legal, and rare” has been reduced to just “legal.” We are proud to be the party that protects human life and offers real solutions for women. (p.14)
We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other health care and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children. (p. 24)
We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs. The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights. (p. 34)
We will return to the states their historic role of regulating local insurance markets, limit federal requirements on both private insurance and Medicaid, and call on state officials to reconsider the costly medical mandates, imposed under their own laws, that price millions of low-income families out of the insurance market. To guarantee first-rate care for the needy, we propose to block grant Medicaid and other payments and to assist all patients, including those with pre-existing conditions, to obtain coverage in a robust consumer market. Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well- being of women, and we stand firmly against it. (p.36)
Protecting Individual Conscience in Healthcare
America’s healthcare professionals should not be forced to choose between following their faith and practicing their profession. We respect the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and organizations, especially the faith-based groups which provide a major portion of care for the nation and the needy. We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty. We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children. We support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their minor children and urge enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for abortion. Providers should not be permitted to unilaterally withhold services because a patient’s life is deemed not worth living. American taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion. As Democrats abandon this four decade-old bipartisan consensus, we call for the codification of the Hyde Amendment and its application across the government, including Obamacare. We call for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage. (p.37)
To continue our headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, and other killers, research must consider the needs of formerly neglected demographic groups. We call for expanded support for the stem cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions — through adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells — without the destruction of embryonic human life. We urge a ban on human cloning for research or reproduction, and a ban on the creation of, or experimentation on, human embryos for research. We applaud Congress’ ban on the FDA approval of research involving three-parent embryos. We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law. (p.38)
China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China. The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived.
Critics of the regime have been kidnapped by its agents in foreign countries. To distract the populace from its increasing economic problems and, more importantly, to expand its military might, the government asserts a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea and continues to dredge ports and create landing fields in contested waters where none have existed before, ever nearer to U.S. territories and our allies, while building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes. The complacency of the Obama regime has emboldened the Chinese government and military to issue threats of intimidation throughout the South China Sea, not to mention parading their new missile, “the Guam Killer,” down the main streets of Beijing, a direct shot at Guam as America’s first line of defense. Meanwhile, cultural genocide continues in Tibet and Xinjiang, the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is eroded, the currency is manipulated, our technology is stolen, and intellectual property and copyrights are mocked in an economy based on piracy. In business terms, this is not competition; it is a hostile takeover. For any American company to abet those offenses, especially governmental censorship and tracking of dissenters, is a disgrace. (p.48)
Our continued participation in the United Nations should be contingent upon the enactment of long-overdue changes in the way that institution functions. American taxpayers, the chief funders of the U.N., deserve full transparency in the financial operations of its overpaid bureaucrats. We should no longer tolerate its managerial scandals, its Human Rights Council composed of some of the world’s worst tyrants, and its treatment of Israel as a pariah state. The U.N.’s Population Fund has, from its origin, been rooted in no-growth policies that limit economic development in the countries needing it most. Its complicity in China’s barbaric program of forced abortion led President Reagan to set a wall of separation — his Mexico City Policy, which prohibits the granting of federal monies to non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion. We affirm his position and, in light of plummeting birth rates around the world, suggest a reevaluation of the U.N.’s record on economic progress.
Precisely because we take our country’s treaty obligations seriously, we oppose ratification of international agreements whose long-range implications are ominous or unclear. We do not support the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, as well as various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Because of our concern for American sovereignty, domestic management of our fisheries, and our country’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty. We emphatically reject U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of U.S. sovereignty, and we oppose any form of Global Tax.
To shield members of our Armed Forces and others in service to America from ideological prosecutions overseas, the Republican Party does not accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. We support statutory protection for U.S. personnel and officials as they act abroad to meet our global security requirements, and we deplore the current inaction of the Administration in that regard. Our service members must be subject only to American law. (p.51) (https://ballotpedia.org/The_Republican_Platform_and_RNC_Platform_Committee,_2016)
Human dignity rests above all on the fact that humanity is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to men and women as soon as they are born. For if people exist it is because God has created them through love, and through love continues to keep them in existence. They cannot live fully in the truth unless they freely acknowledge that love and entrust themselves to their creator.
We learned this week that pro-life is an obsolete word that is without meaning. It isn’t obsolete because people of faith do not believe that abortion is morally wrong. It is obsolete because it has been co-opted by opportunistic politicians that are no more opposed to abortion than anything else they espouse and then do absolutely nothing to change. Worse, they focus solely on the act of abortion and ignore all the factors that lead to abortion.
The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching that life begins at conception and many faith traditions agree, but certainly not all. Officially abortion can be forgiven, but it can also result in the most severe punishment in the Church – excommunication. It is maintained that from the moment of conception a human embryo is fully human and deserving of all the protections of any human being. If one viewed this statement simplistically, it seems compassionate. We must treat this new life as if it were the same as a school child or a treasured grandparent. It is when one realizes that in saying “all the same protections of any human” it must necessarily mean that the mother is subservient to the human embryo so what is clearly meant is the same protections as a man. She must give up the control of her body to that human embryo, which is why some people make caveats for rape, incest, and life of the mother.
Politicians and pro-life and pro-choice advocates were outraged by the statement of Donald Trump when he suggested that women who have abortions should be punished. It is no surprise that pro-choice advocates and most women were outraged. However, for pro-life advocates and politicians who build careers preying on the faithful, it is nothing short of hypocrisy. Those that claim outrage against Trump’s statements need to consider what he said and what they claim to believe. Claiming the woman should be punished is consistent with what I would expect of someone that believes that the human embryo is the same as a child or an adult in rights. If a mother killed her 6-year-old or her neighbor, it would be expected that she would be punished. If one believes abortion is murder, then it would be expected that the person who committed or hired someone to commit murder is punished. However, what isn’t consistent is not also punishing the person that incited the murder – the father, or the driver that waited in the getaway car while the murder was committed. If one believes life begins at conception, and the human embryo is fully human and deserving of human rights rather than potentially human from that moment, then one should support Donald Trump’s original statement.
The Compassionate Alternative
Wanting to punish a woman for having an abortion shows a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. Isn’t that what we teach with excommunication. When we say we punish the woman and not the man we are clearly setting different standards for men and women, doctors that do abortions and women that hire them, and mothers, fathers, and significant others that drive women to the abortion appointment. If one truly believes that abortion is a mortal sin, then to condemn the woman as a murderer is too easy and self-satisfying. It is too easy because it allows us as a society, a faith community, and as individuals to do nothing to help her through the pregnancy, to dismiss her as immoral, and to condemn her and those who assist her as murders and consign to the criminal justice system. Calling abortion criminal allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.
The child/fetus in the mother’s womb is drawing its life directly from the mother, and she must be nurtured, nourished and protected. Only then will the child develop to its full capacity. Not only is it necessary for a mother, a woman, to be cared for during her pregnancy, but we know through medical science that nutrition is essential even before conception. What we are doing for all women of childbearing age we are also doing for the child she will one day nurture. When we fail her, we fail to defend the integrity of the human embryo that will grow into a child.
We can begin our compassion by ending the use of the terms pro-life and pro-choice. Let us start saying what we believe. In stating our beliefs, we may find common ground that brings us together to find solutions that don’t criminalize acts of fear and desperation and further grow our flawed criminal justice system. Here is what I believe:
Women are fully human – not less than men or human embryos or human fetuses.
A human embryo has all the genetic material of a human being but is not sentient from the time of conception.
The human embryo/fetus is drawing its life from the mother.
Self-determination should be a right for all sentient beings – rights come with responsibilities to make moral decisions.
However, pregnancy is a choice in most circumstances – rape, incest, and the life of a mother are special circumstances that force choices between the good of the human embryo and human fetus and the good of the mother.
Contraception meant to prevent implantation is not equivalent to abortion – it does violate the teaching of the Church, but can result in a reduction of abortions.
Poverty, abuse, lack of child care, few education options for women with children, fewer job opportunities and discrimination against women with children, and inadequate support for those that are pregnant impact a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
Abortion is a moral decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions.
Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not the always the pregnant woman especially if she is unwed or poor.
The objective act of abortion being immoral does not equate to the person carrying out the act being either good or evil.
The compassionate solution cannot be to build a wall between women and legal and safe abortion and expect it will end abortion and after we stop the access then explore laws to help women care for their children. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage giving birth and value pregnancy.
Paid maternal leave for six months
Affordable child care based on income
Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children
If we put the same passion into supporting pregnant women as we do into preventing abortion, the result may be surprising. I look forward to the day we are praying in the streets outside of community health centers and family practice clinics insisting that they provide women’s healthcare including maternity care or that we march on Washington every year to insist that all women have paid maternity leave and affordable childcare. This week taught us one important lesson – justice must include compassion. It is inhumane to treat women seeking abortion as criminals.
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77“by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81
2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82
2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83
“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84
“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.
She or he who votes influences every policy made during an administration. Never believe that you do not have a role as a private citizen. Each elected official and their political appointees are the direct result of your vote and they are most definitely influenced by the will of the people. This is all the more reason that it is essential to be well informed about how the government actually works. We should all know the powers each branch of government possesses, how laws and policies are made and then implemented, and the impact of bad policy originating from inadequate consideration of the consequences of actions.
As a practicing Catholic who finds peace at a Zen center, I vote. I always vote my conscience. I do not let absolutes rule how I vote nor do others decide for me.
Abortion – I believe we should strive to save all beings. Abortion isn’t the only way we harm beings or stopping abortion isn’t the only way to save them.
War – War harms beings. In generally I’m opposed to almost all war but would not deny people have a right to defend their countries and a responsibility to try and prevent genocide. It should be the last choice and not the first.
Right to life, liberty, and happiness – Does liberty matter if we are not safe, risk death in school or a movie theater, and, as a result, live life in fear and unhappiness? Fear can be derived from unaddressed terrorism, violence, crime, poverty, or even lack of access to health care, employment, or education.
Equality – Inequality harms beings. None of us are more or less deserving than another. Each of us is equally responsible for standing up for the oppressed and, to the extent possible, leveling the playing field.
Freedom – God endowed us with freedom of conscience and faith. We should endeavor to show equal value to all who choose to exercise that freedom. Sometimes it will make us less efficient and other times it may make us question the values of certain beliefs, but least it be my belief or your belief that is some day not valued let us value all beliefs and no beliefs. Let us also not work to impose those beliefs on others. They should come to them freely and in their own time or not at all.
People must decide for themselves how to weigh factors that are important to them. However, we should recognize that the factors are all connected. If the only issue that drives my voting choice is abortion and I don’t care about poverty, health care, education, and safety then am I pro-life? Likewise, if I’m a pacifist or strongly opposed to war and yet turn a blind eye to genocide or terrorism then what does it say about the value I place on life or peace?
What too many people fail to realize is that making policy isn’t like running a business. There is no profit to be made in government. Profit is easy to measure, whereas the impacts of policing or preschool programs is not. Whatever one does will result in some people being better off and others being worse off. The challenge is in finding the balance and learning how to hear those with little influence at the same volume as those with power and money. It takes humility to listen, determination to follow the evidence, patience to wait for and recognize the moment when public sentiment will make a policy feasible, and a skin thick enough to take the hostility from people who are willing to scream all manner of epithet and so frequently unwilling to serve or even learn about the government of this great country.
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17
“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God Himself,” Pope Francis insisted
I have a visceral reaction when anyone calls abortion murder. I cannot in any way equate terminating a pregnancy before 20 weeks as murder in the same way that I see walking into a school and shooting children as murder. The character and the malice that goes into shooting a sentient human being are far different from the actions and thoughts that go into having an abortion. There is no 20-week fetus that is sentient or able to live without the mother. Nonetheless, I believe it to be an unfortunate decision, made under difficult circumstances, and made out of a sense of fear and distress. I cannot condemn a person so long as my heart aches for her.
Consequently, I can’t conceive of a woman making the hardest and most serious decision of her life as a murderer. I imagine the pain and fear she must feel. I wonder where the father is and why he isn’t offering support. I worry about what happened that she became pregnant and especially if she is a teenager – was she pressured to fit in, manipulated by an older male, afraid to say no, raped, a victim of incest, or never encouraged by her parents to wait?
I react to abortion being called murder because I see the use of the term as a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. If one truly believes that abortion is a mortal sin, then to condemn the woman as a murderer is too easy and self-satisfying. It is too easy because it allows us as a society, a faith community, and as individuals to do nothing to help her through the pregnancy, to dismiss her as immoral, and to condemn her and those who assist her as murders. Calling abortion murders allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.
Murder connotes anger and hatred, which would be exceptionally rare in a pregnant woman considering abortion and yet in studies of people who have committed murder and violent crimes it has been found that most have been impacted by abuse and economic problems. The major reasons identified for murder are fear, anger, desperation, greed, and religious fanaticism. Those seem to be the same sentiments pro-life advocates express frequently toward women who have and physicians that participate in abortion.
That same anger, fear, and religious fanaticism that wants to kill want to condemn women seeking abortion as murderers. Likewise, many of those same people vocally support the murder of people who participate in abortion, not after a trial, but by vigilantes and in virtually the same breath defend open carry laws and second amendment rights which demonstrably increases the risk of death from firearms accidents, suicides, and murders. Vigilantism is not Christianity any more than terrorism is Islamic.
We will not be able to change our current path until we fully embrace the dignity of the individual. I do not believe we can embrace that dignity so long as we look at others and label them as murders and allow or friends and neighbors to be radicalized. We cannot allow, in the name of religion, individuals or groups to act in manners we know will lead to death and injury, including death brought on by abortion, guns, death penalties, poverty, and all manner of violence and neglect.
I believe the time has come to list our sins and they are many and are intertwined with our society:
Abortion as birth control
Death penalty in a society that has methods that are effective
Gun in the hands of virtually anyone that wants one
Poverty that is inadequately addressed
Domestic terrorism in all its forms (racial, ethnic, religious, gender-based, ecological)
Endless war that counts soldier and not civilians
You can list your own
As Americans, we value our freedoms. I believe the time has come that we all need to begin to decline our rights and embrace a moral conscience respectful of human dignity.
I decline the right to bear arms.
I decline the right to have an abortion.
I decline the right to participate in the death penalty.
I decline the right to take more than I need.
I decline the right to use free speech to harm another.
I decline the right to support war and to ignore the impact on civilians.
I decline the right to remain silent while others act in ways that harm our society.
I have never been as proud of what it means to be an American as I was when I watched how we responded as a nation on 9/11 and how we continued to come together as a country. It was a moment in history when we were all One Nation Under God, Yahweh, Elohim, and Vishnu. We were one Nation for the believer and the non-believer alike. Our politicians stood side by side with our President and put away childish behavior and remembered what it meant to be a Patriot. Young men and women marched off to war. They volunteered; rich and poor, children of Senators and Governors, professional athletes and promising college students, and citizens and immigrants not yet citizens. They did it because they recognized a common enemy and he was evil. Yet war did not kill the evil and removing the many heads only seemed to result in its spread and each time coming back as something more evil that what had existed.
Our policies failed. Neither the Bush or Obama administrations headed the advice of others. They believed we could fight evil with violence and in return the evil spread.
Now the evil has attacked our oldest friend. Instead of being proud of our response I’m unsure if I’m shocked, disappointed, or disgusted. Politicians rather than supporting our President publically ridicule him. One hopeful Presidential candidate suggested the solution to the problem in Paris was for all the people to have guns and yet the emergency room physicians said they rarely see more than one gunshot wound a year. Every two days in the U.S. we have more people killed with guns than were killed in the ISIS terrorist attack in Paris. Our political hopefuls and many of our citizens rather than wanting to help suggest we impose the same plague on France we have imposed on ourselves.
Simultaneously, this Jihadist plague that is reminiscent of the Nazis is killing people by the thousands in predominantly Islamic countries. The majority of their victims are Muslims and now those people are fleeing for their very lives. There was a day when we looked back on our unwillingness to save more Jew during WWII due to anti-Semitism and said never again. Yet here we are with the opportunity to redeem ourselves, and again many of the Governors and our citizens are cowering in fear, unwilling to save those fleeing terror, and wanting to reinstitute the type of policy that was a national embarrassment by closing off immigration to those who are being killed and tortured. Racism is not a legitimate policy. Whether we call it anti-Semitism or Islamophobia the result is the same. Driven by fear we are willing to let the innocent die.
Land of the free and home brave is dead if we let those filled with fear continue to make policies that do not respect life and there is no respect for life in an individual that would lock the door and leave the weak outside with the terrorists.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The day isn’t great because the President stepped down or the students won a victory. The day is great for the system because the University of Missouri as a whole supported students who found their moral voice and stood together to say when one of us is intimidated, mistreated, held down, or marginalized we all suffer. They said loudly to the entire system and the nation we stand as one.
We look at a single graduate student and may ask how hard is it to go on a hunger strike? Of course, people that ask such questions do not realize the physical and emotional suffering that comes only days after beginning a hunger strike. Quickly the student body stood in solidarity with him and again people my question what they had to loose. When the football players stood up, they did so knowing the risk to future professional careers and their visibility at this critical point in the season, and no one doubted what they had to loose. When the coaches stood to support them, then the nation was forced to admit their cause was just.
It is a great day for the University of Missouri system because the students exemplified what it means to live in the Show Me state. They showed us all what moral courage looks like and what it means to find one’s moral voice. I’m sorry the President lost his job. I’m proud of the parents, professors, coaches, and curators that helped to make these young men and women morally courageous. Education is about more than what happens in one’s mind; it is also about what happens in his or her soul. Today the students are men and women forged in courage and moral integrity and have proven they are leaders ready to make the world a better place.
Leaders are called to stand
In that lonely place
Between the no longer and the not yet
And intentionally make decisions
That will bind, forge, move,
And create history.
We are not called to be popular,
We are not called to be safe,
We are not called to follow.
We are the ones called to take risks,
We are the ones called to change attitudes,
To risk displeasure,
We are the ones called to gamble our lives
For a better world.
–Mary Lou Anderson
Walking around the University of Missouri – St. Louis South campus the signs of faith that once filled the buildings is hidden in plain sight. Whether one looks straight ahead, walks with downcast eyes, or looks up to the heavens there are ever-present symbols of faith in God. And yet, God is largely absent from public universities with the exception of clubs and religious studies classes.
The evidence of the absence is not hidden. It is visible in mass shootings on campuses across the nation, sexual assaults, and deaths from hazing, drugs, and alcohol. It is seen in the decreased funding to universities, the increased tuitions, and the absence of many faculty members from campuses. When we were sleeping, or maybe when we were too occupied with endless war to notice, the elected officials stopped supporting students, faculties, and infrastructures and quietly pushed the higher education system away from developing well-rounded adults ready to make society better. The higher calling is now graduate’s earnings.
It was once said that when we teach we reflect the condition of our souls. Does the lack of governmental support for higher education and the push to measure success by earnings reflect the condition of our National soul? We should be asking how it will impact generations to come? When teaching, ministry, the Peace Corps, Doctors without Boarders, and all manner of social service by graduates drive down the ratings of a university we are loudly proclaiming wealth as our measure of success and ignoring the dangers of focusing solely on financial gain.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. KJV Matthew 19:24
The UMSL Grotto
Is God hidden on our campuses or is God hiding from us? Maybe we should ask ourselves if our hearts and our faith are as empty as the grotto.
I hope the day will come when we do not hide God behind locked doors nor deny access to sacred spaces and by so doing proclaim that the spiritual lives of students are secondary. Sadly, it isn’t just public schools that lock the doors, private schools do the same. These are two of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen and yet both are locked. One is public and the other a private Catholic university. No student can go in during the day to pray, or meditate, or sit in silence. Our souls are reflected not only in what we teach, but what we hide.
Teaching students is always a pleasure and a privilege. Yet, sometimes the stories that have been the most powerful for me seem to have no impact on them. Today I read them an excerpt from Mary Elizabeth O’Brien’s book, Spirituality in Nursing. Sr. Macrina advised,
“if you should ever hear God speaking to you from a burning bush, and it happens more often than most of us realize, take off your shoes for the ground on which you stand is holy”. How appropriate, it seems to envision practicing nurses, who must come together with their patients in caring and compassion, as standing on holy ground. God frequently speaks to us from a burning bush, in the fretful whimper of a feverish child, in the anxious questions of a preoperative surgical patient, and in the frail moans of a fragile elder. If we take off our shoes, we will be able to realize that the place where we stand is holy ground; we will respond to our patients as we would wish to respond to God in the burning bush.”
I believe we should all take off our shoes and experience what is holy in our professions and our human relationships. What are we called to do and what is preventing us from doing it? We should take off our shoes of bias, our shoes of fear, and our shoes of judgment and help alleviate unnecessary suffering. Only then will we be able to feel what is holy and just. Only then can we answer the questions that examine our values:
Who am I? Who am I to become? How do I get there?