By Sarah L. Blum, Nurse and Vietnam Veteran
Content Warning: mentions of violence, mental health, suicide
The poem by Amanda Gorman, New Day’s Lyric, ends with a focus on coming together. I believe that is the key. There is so much hatred and violence which drives us apart from one another. In times of great pain whether from the pandemic, the insurrection, personal health issues, wartime memories, family stress, divorce, etc. we need connection and support. I know there are some young people right now suffering with depression and anxiety and their vision for themselves is bleak, so they focus on ending their lives. What if they had connections they could count on with people who care about them and can help them see beyond their pain? What if they had support available to themselves regularly, people who could hear them and hear their pain without judgement? What if we as a nation of people, all different kinds of people could come together and support each other rather than judge each other, unite rather than divide us from each other.
How do we save the best of our democracy together? I remember after the attacks in 2001, that we did come together in our collective response to being attacked from outside. Why is it we cannot join together in the same way after being attacked by our own? Think back to how our nation split apart over slavery. There was a member of Congress who literally attacked and beat up another member with a cane because the attacker wanted to keep his slaves and the victim wanted to free the slaves. That level of violence and viciousness is what we are dealing with today. It is all around us and growing in intensity.
Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela, and many other spiritual leaders have shown us the way to peace and how to stand in love in the face of all that. It takes commitment and courage to stand up and be brutally beaten to show our love for peace no matter what! The people I know who can do that are veterans. They are and have been showing the way for decades. We who have been through the worst on behalf of our country and have and are healing and growing from it may be the ones who lead the way to bringing all of us together. The only way we can restore peace and our democracy is through love and nonviolence. I say let us be the leaders for that and walk together forward to a new way of living and being in our society. Let us show that we are a multiracial community and society respecting each other, hearing each other and supporting each other and our shared values.