In medical terms it represents the direct measure of the mechanical function of the heart. In musical terms, a pulse consists of beats in a repeating series. It is generally what people tap their feet to. The tempo of a song is the speed of the pulse. I find it fitting that it measures things so important to humanity–our music and our heart—our lifelines.
How interesting– the nightclub involved in last weekend’s massacre in Orlando is named Pulse. I believe it gives us an accurate reading of our society and it’s health. And just like with any data–it’s what we do with the information that counts.
When your loved one is on the floor surrounded by the EMTs, you are glad they are trained to read the signals and respond. You don’t interfere, or call them idiots for not responding in the manner you would. They are the professionals—trained to take the readings and respond with a plan of intervention.
In this nightclub shooting, all the vital signs point to the following—cardiac arrest. There is hatred, fear, religious extremism, hypocrisy, and judgment. Any way you look at it, whether from the Facebook responses, the political policy debates, or the LGBTQ community outcry—we are in a state of emergency.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, interprets his faith’s teachings to mean he can demonize others for their “incorrect” beliefs. He believes he is justified to rid the world of the evil. I always cringe when “ridding the world of evil” is being used in the name of any religion or country. It doesn’t matter which weapons are used—gas chambers, nooses from trees, bombs in abortion clinics, or assault weapons, the implications are the same. We find ourselves getting out the labels (depending on our perspective) and attaching them to others. You know the drill—gays/straights, liberals/conservatives, Muslims/Christians, Black/White, rich/poor, us/them etc. We begin to categorize and isolate the other until the point that they are no longer human—but the enemy—the demon that needs to be addressed.
Demonization is the most deceptive of all diseases. It is the infection that disguises itself as an antibody. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad there are anti-bodies because there is real evil in our midst, and we need to be able to diagnose and dispel it. But sometimes, in our haste, we don’t read the vital signs correctly. Sometimes, we react instead of respond, and before we know it (acting as our own agents) without the counsel of trained professionals, we have gotten so far off the course of treatment, that we lose sight of the big picture of health. Each of us is operating to the pulse of our own prejudice, and sometimes this can produce a sort of ventricular fibrillation—an erratic, rapid, “freaking out” of the heart. That’s why it is “shocked” (defibrillated) so that it can reset itself and synchronize again so the muscle can respond in a functional way.
And that’s where I believe we are right now, America. It’s time for us to step back, take our pulse, and read the vital signs. They are pretty glaring: 133 mass shootings in the past 6 months, lagging economy, income disparity, unsecured borders, joblessness, homelessness, hopelessness, hatred, and greed.
How far we have come from what this nation was built upon: immigration (give me your tired, your poor), religious freedom (first amendment), and representative government (rather than being controlled by the rich or the monarchs). Our constitution was designed to be dynamic. That is why they included the ability to amend it such as exemplified with the Bill of Rights and the 13th amendment. Our political leaders were expected to compromise on laws and policy, putting their own politics behind the good of the whole. If they didn’t like a proposed bill, they were to offer corrections and negotiate. Instead, fear, mistrust, entitlement and blame are spreading like a virus. And instead of a nation of collaboration, we have become a nation of inflammation.
Latest researchers from the Cleveland Clinic have found, ‘Uncontrolled inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even depression. Chronic inflammation can trigger disease processes destroying the very tissues it was designed to protect.”
Sound familiar? When mass shootings turn into political debates comprised of inflammatory remarks such as “All Muslims are terrorists—we need to ban them from entering our country” or “The gays got what they deserved because of their sin,” “If only we had gun control, secure borders, prayer in schools, or a godly president”, then we are becoming part of the problem.
Before long, we have a nation of inflammation– a fevered nation poisoned like a body with a deadly virus. Everyone is the antibody. Everybody is the pathogen. The only problem is, if everyone is the antibody, who is the body?
We have lost our body, our ability to function as a system. And that, my friends is when you have a Code Blue situation. We lose our ability to function as a body when we start believing that our part of the body (tissue or organ) is more important than the others. That other organs are worthless, useless or need to be removed for the good of the whole. That’s when our antibodies start to destroy the very tissues they are trying to protect. That’s how we get to a Code Blue situation. But Code Blue doesn’t mean our life is over. It just means we need to enact emergency measures.
Here are a few solutions to ponder:
How about we regularly measure our pulse? You know, ask ourselves whether our words and actions are leaving behind a trail of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, humility, faithfulness or self-control. Those are the vital signs of a healthy nation, religion, school, or leader.
How about we pray together for healing—across religious lines. I don’t have to believe we worship the same God to pray at the same time for healing and wholeness of our land. It has been done in foxholes for eons.
How about we take time to educate ourselves on what could be causing the problem, instead of self-diagnosing a heart transplant? If we use our time to examine our own lives, we may just find the root causes like gluttony, greed, apathy, consumerism, and lack of compassion. We might find the real enemy—a nation divided against itself instead of an embodiment of our motto—e pluribus unum (out of many, one).
If our treatment is causing chronic inflammation, then perhaps we need to change the treatment. I know it’s not too late. I know a lot of Christians, Muslims, Jews, gays, blacks, Hispanics, rich, poor, conservative and liberal…who are more determined than ever to make this body work as a whole. We are becoming more vocal, more deliberate, more hopeful, more prayerful, and more unified. And we will be taking our pulse regularly to ensure that the treatment is not destroying the body. We will be collaborating around tables—talking, listening and praying together for amenable solutions.
Let’s measure our pulse America. If we don’t stop the hate, it will stop us. Perhaps this incident was the “shock” that can get our heart back in line. I believe our pulse can be in line with the God of Love who beckons us to dance. If only we will listen and tap our feet.
June 16, 2016