September 11, 2011

The Answer to Violence is More Democracy

Ten years ago I had just moved to a new city and was getting ready to start my first job as a hospice nurse.
The day began with my mother calling and telling me to turn on the TV. It was spent, like in most of America, watching the television and trying to understand what was happening.
Two days later I began the work I had spent years preparing to do, as our nation and the world was coming to grips with what had happened.
The biggest impression I recall from that time was the surreality of walking into the homes of our patients. Outside the door, a nation was trying to cope with a horrific attack. Planes were grounded, everything seemed to stop as we tried to figure out what happens next. It was all that anyone was talking about or thinking about.
But walking into most of our patient's homes was stepping out of the world. The personal tragedy of the impending death of a loved one completely overshadowed the national tragedy going on outside the door. This was one of the best lessons I have learned.
Entering a patient's home, I am stepping out of space and time - I am entering a liminal space. That space is sacred and must be respected. And what is going on inside that space is the most important focus for everyone there.
Since that time, I have seen our nation cope with changes to our national identity - both good and bad. I am frightened by the erosion of our freedoms, saddened by the loss of our innocence, and hopeful that we can mature into a more globally responsible nation as a result.
Today, I am going to focus on the amazing strength and love that was demonstrated during a time of darkness. People individually and in groups responding to horrific tragedy with heroism and hope.
In the words of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a memorial for victims of their own recent national tragedy "We have memorials in churches and in mosques, in parliament and in the government headquarters, on the streets and in squares … Evil has brought out the best in us. Hatred engenders love."