Dear Editor and Elected Representatives,
One week ago saw the slaughter of 19 schoolchildren in Texas. Since then, we have heard many voices raised in grief, anger, and judgement. Soon though, the din of outrage will subside. My concern is for what happens next.
I have written to all of you many times over the years about my concerns regarding gun control and you have all answered with reassurance and agreement. Clearly however, the threat to public safety has gotten worse and worse. Lately I read in our neighborhood Facebook page about everyday people being afraid to step outside their own front doors in the evening because of recent intrusions, robberies, and shootings in our little Vermont town. Over and over, the other people participating on the Facebook page have one word of advice: “Gun.” Get a gun and learn how to use it. Some even advise the writer to call a neighbor for “backup,” clearly suggesting they’ll run over at a moment’s notice with guns of their own to deal with the threat. I’m not talking about organized gangs, or even gun-rights fanatics, but regular people who are terrified and feel they have no recourse but to take matters in their own hands.
When a nation can no longer ensure law and order and public safety, when it tips toward anarchy and vigilante justice, its very existence in threatened. We are now clearly in this situation. This is an emergency.
I worked for many years as a nurse in a local hospital; I worked in an inpatient unit, not the emergency room. However, it was not uncommon for one of our patients to have developed an acute emergency. If we didn’t intervene correctly, the patient would die. At that moment, we had to set aside our daily routine and dig deep into our skills and training for emergency care, which is an entirely different point of view. We had to focus tightly on several crucial variables and literally stop the bleeding or prevent further destruction of critical function. There was no time for asking if the patient had brought this on himself or what might have prevented it or who else might be responsible. At that moment, we were the bottom line, the last hope, and people came to the hospital because they believed we could provide that service and no one else could.
You are now in that position in our civic life. No one else can change regulations or statutes. No one else can build the coalitions amongst elected officials or negotiate meaningful change in procedures and priorities. No one else can create and support a forceful, meaningful agenda for safety and stability in the days and years to come. You need to stop everything else and address this issue. This is an emergency.
During my nursing career, I met many other nurses who were very good at their daily jobs, but really fell apart when an emergency arose. Some of them would “disappear” and find other tasks to do while the rest of us tended to the emergency. Some would try to help, but would be bewildered and ineffective. Eventually though, most of those who couldn’t deal with emergencies self-selected out of the hospital setting. I am asking the same of you.
I respect the fact this might be an issue you didn’t sign up for. I won’t think less of you if you decide to step aside and let someone who has more interest, skill, drive, and motivation to solve these problems take the helm. But if you are committed to a position in public service, you need to put other concerns aside and immediately intervene in a critical situation. This is an emergency.