Tuesday, November 22, 2016
A Letter To My Muslim Patients From a Nurse
I do not work in a traditional nursing role. I am a public health nurse who goes into low-income areas and serves those in need. Many of my patients are refugees and immigrants but I also serve many who were born in this country. In a single day I may meet with five different families, each with a different language, skin color, culture and faith. I can say without reservation that this job is both the hardest nursing job that I've ever had and the most rewarding.
The most eye-opening part of this job has been getting to know so many different cultures, traditions and faiths. It has been such a great blessing in my life. Getting to know my Muslim patients has most certainly been one of those wonderful blessings.
I know that in post-election America, there is much uncertainty right now. I know that many groups of people, including those of the Muslim faith, are scared. I know. My refugee patients are scared. My immigrant patients are scared. My LGBT patients are scared. So many of us are frightened. And, yet- so much of the hate has been focused directly on you-- my Muslim patients.
You have told me during my patient visits that you are anxious for your children and if they will be harmed, panicked at the possibility of a Muslim registry and what that may mean for you, terrified to wear your hijabs in public and are sometimes simply too full of fear to leave your home at all. I am so terribly sorry for your sorrow and fear. In the past two weeks I have left our visits with a sinking pit of shame in my stomach for what the hate that is pervasive in this post-election country is doing to people that I care so much about.
If you are my patient, I have already told you that I care for you and that will you will always receive the same quality of care as that given to my other patients. I have hugged you and assured you that the election results will not impact our visits when you voiced concern. But, there is so much more that I want you to know.
I know that your faith is not one of violence and that the actions of a few do not represent the whole. According to the Pew Research Center, the population of Muslims around the world in 2010 was 1.6 billion. Yes, I said billion. If the growth of the Muslim population continues at the projected rate, by 2030 they will encompass a full quarter of the world's population. And yet, the violent actions of those in the name of the Islamic religion are few and far between. I know that as a Christian, I am not discriminated against each time that someone of the Christian faith commits a violent crime(which happens frequently) and, yet- you as a Muslim are discriminated against for each and every infraction of those who share your faith. It saddens me deeply that so many can judge you, my beloved patients who have shown me so much love and hospitality, for something that you had no control over and are as horrified by as we are.
You have the right to health care, education and all basic human rights and deserve that such things are provided by those whose judgment is unclouded by political judgment or discrimination of any kind. I will provide that for you and so will the vast majority of other public servants. If you at any time feel that you are provided sub-par health care, education, safety services provided by police officers or fire fighters, etcetera; I hope that you will find the courage to speak out. I hope even more that you will never need to speak out as it is my firm belief that those serving the public should have the hearts of servants of ALL people.
I know that mental health impacts every facet of your life and that living within fear means that your mental health and physical health will be impacted each and every day while we persist in this volatile and discriminatory post-election world. I know that you may need more support through this time and I am determined to give that to you. You do not deserve these burdens placed on your already weary shoulders and I will do my best to stand beside you and help you in any way to shoulder that burden with you. I implore you to ask for help if you need it.
I know that we cannot lump any section of humanity together and imagine that they are all the same. As human beings, we are all originals and are unique. However, my time working with the Muslim population has led me to believe that those of the Islam faith as a whole are extraordinary people. I have never seen such hospitality before as I have seen going into the homes of my Muslim clients. You may have very little and yet you will offer me the last food in your fridge, the only chair in your home and likely would offer me the very shirt off of your back if you felt that I needed it. I have never felt anything but love in the homes of my Muslim patients that I have been welcomed into. I am a kinder and gentler person because of you.
I believe that my job as your nurse does not end when our visit is completed. As a nurse, it is my job to advocate for my patients, especially those who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. I believe that all oppressive structures, such as the talk of a Muslim registry and of the disallowing of Muslims into our country, should be decimated. I believe that you have every right to the same rights as every other human being in this country. I am not Muslim but I am committed to standing up beside you in every way that I can to ensure your safety. When I casted my non-Trump vote on election day, I was not only voting for myself and my families, but I was voting for you, my patients, as well. I did not take that vote likely. I have been spending my days calling my elected officials on my lunch breaks to protest Bannon's appointment and any talk of a Muslim registry. I know that this is not enough. I promise to not stop my work until we all have equal rights. I know that as a straight white Christian woman that I can never understand what it like to be discriminated against for who I am but I will keep trying to eradicate the hate.
This letter will not solve your problems by any stretch of the imagination. It will not solve anything at all. I only wish to be a tiny light of love in your life in a time of great divisiveness and hate. I only wish to bring you a small amount of the love and joy that you, by being my patients and thus a part of my life, have brought me. I wish that I could also bring you peace. I promise to do all that I can to make that peace happen for you someday.
I stand beside you, my Muslim friends and patients, with love.