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A Sigh Too Deep for Words

Alexander, G. Rumay

doi: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000246
DEPARTMENTS: President’s Message
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As I give thought and words to my first message to you as NLN president, campus unrest abounds; statues are being dismantled; a solar eclipse, not witnessed in the past 100 years, has just occurred; and a hurricane has wreaked havoc, displacing many. (As I write, the extent of the damage and deaths from Hurricane Harvey is still unknown.) It seems as if we are going backwards in time as a country instead of forward.

A clash of labels and expectations gives feel that time has rolled back from 2017 to the late 1950s and 1960s. Fundamental injustices seem to happen on a weekly basis. Paychecks are shrinking. Freedom of speech and the ability to share differences of perspectives and opinions are in serious jeopardy. Life-alienating communications trap us in a world of rightness and wrongness. Our language is rich with words that classify and dichotomize people and their actions. Our social immune system is being dismantled and ignored. Life is messy, and I find myself, along with fellow faculty and students, sighing because we have no words for the flood of emotions and feelings we are experiencing.

To live through these days and pull in the air, we need to continue breathing; sometimes, we moan and groan and sigh. We exhale with worry and ache for relief. Do you hear me sigh? For me, my sighs are too deep for words.

Things don’t just happen. For nearly two decades, a national nervousness about our well-being has been gaining steam. The anxiety that futurists call Atmosfear has been fueled by numerous events. It may be a matter of semantics, but some define the currents streaming through the public consciousness as a search for meaning. Inequity, whether by design or unintentionally, supports disabling and damages health and well-being socially, politically, and economically throughout the population. The result can lead to an increasing sense of psychological homelessness.

Paulo Freire (1970) proposed and summarily made clear that all we ask for is profound respect for our cultural identity and its implications with regard to the language of the other, the color of the other, the gender of the other, the class of the other, and the intellectual capacity of the other. That implies the ability to stimulate the creativity of the other. But these things take place in a social and historical context and not in pure air. When those whose quality of life depends on others’ regard of them as legitimate members of humanity are met with disregard, incivility thrives in all its forms and hate grows.

As nurse educators, we know that teaching is an act of civility; by preparing future nurses and nurse leaders, teaching is our mechanism for making sure the health and well-being of this nation is an imperative for the future. Devoting research, teaching, and resources to support our collective well-being has never been more needed.

Equity is an enabling factor that acts to create needs, rights, desires, ambitions, and contributions for the lives and worthiness of groups. As nurse educators, we know that teaching is an act of civility; by preparing future nurses and nurse leaders, teaching is our mechanism for making sure the health and well-being of this nation is an imperative for the future. Devoting research, teaching, and resources to support our collective well-being has never been more needed. This is essential to who we are and what we are known for…moving rhetoric to action.

An NLN state of mind is all about care, integrity, excellence, and diversity. We, the NLN, are all about the promotion of well-being and health locally and globally with daring ingenuity. Uncertainty makes us sigh so that we must find a pathway to breath and breathing. While sighing is helpful, it will not resolve the issues of the day. It is time to get curious, defy tradition, get scrappy, and hone the ability to adapt to change. Scorn inequality where you encounter it. You are the NLN! Step up and step in.

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REFERENCE

Freire P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder & Herder.
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