Civil Unrest in Saint Louis

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

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

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

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

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

Civil Unrest in the United States

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Adapted from Armstrong Economics and Wikipedia Contributors.

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

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

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

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

Teaching Compassion, Changing Policy

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.


Teaching Compassion

Civil Unrest and the Role of Nursing

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

Please take the time to read

Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest in the Urban Core

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

Complaining Doesn’t Change Policy

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.compassion-is-the-as-smooth-as-the-stone-washed-by

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.





Be Aware and Act: I Am Muslim

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.



Social Media Policy: Bullying, Rudeness, Hateful Speech

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:

  • Peacefully protest
  • 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:

  • Intimidation
  • Racism, sexism, etc.
  • Bullying
  • Showing a complete lack of compassion for the pain of others
  • Doing nothing, but complaining anyway

Social Media Policy for Addressing Bad Behavior


We are Americans First

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.

compassion-caring1Today, 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.


Let’s Start with Compassionate Discussions

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 lliving-energy.jpgevels 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?

  • Education – quality and cost
  • Environment – climate change, clean energy, preservation
  • Equality and equity – race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status
  • Freedom – of religion, of expression, of speech
  • Healthcare – fixing the Affordable Care Act, addressing quality and social determinants
  • Immigration – legal, undocumented, refugee resettlement
  • Public Health – Emerging infectious diseases, violence (gun, domestic, bullying)
  • Women’s Healthcare – Abortion, contraception, prenatal care
  • Poverty – food security, housing, education, employment

Liberal or Conservative: We are all the problem and the answer

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?Look deeper than the surface to see the

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 lie.
  • 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.
  • Let go of fear.
  • Turn away from anger