Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unrest in Ferguson: What Are We To Do?

One week ago Saturday, 18 year old Michael Brown was killed by a policeman in Ferguson (in St. Louis County).  I've been watching the news, which was first local in St. Louis and has now become national.  Even PBS and NPR (my go to news organizations) are covering it.  Yet another young, unarmed black man has been killed in our streets.  I grieve his death.  With his family, I also grieve the violence and looting that some people have perpetrated in that St. Louis suburb.

I was grateful to see so many clergy, especially Episcopalians whom I know, march in the streets Thursday in a peaceful protest.  Our bishop, Wayne Smith, was there.  The dean of our Cathedral, Mike Kinman, was there.  I also spotted my friend, the Rev. Marc Smith, there.

With the kind of national attention this is receiving, I assume all black people in Jefferson City are also aware of what's happening in Ferguson. I want to share a bit personal reflection. 

I run errands on Saturdays.  I generally don't pay much attention to anyone I encounter, unless I happen to know them personally. I am focused on my tasks. 

As I ran my errands around town today, a weird thing happened.  Of course, I encountered black people on High Street when I went to lunch downtown and in the stores where I shopped.  I found myself making a point to nod and smile at the black people today.  While I was waiting at a stoplight near home, a group of 8 or so black children [some on bicycles and some on foot] started crossing the street in front of me "against the light" just before the light turned green.  I smiled and gave them a wave, rather than being peeved and asserting my right to proceed the moment "my" light turned green.  

Because of what's happening in Ferguson, I felt a special need to acknowledge them all as persons.  And I probably wanted my nods and smiles today to convey "I'm not one of Those People."  Maybe these were empty gestures of White Guilt.  I don't know.  But I feel that people who enjoy White Privilege [and there's no doubt it exists, and I benefit from it] must do something to express our common humanity with black folks, many of whom surely must be wondering afresh who is "friend" or "foe." 

I know that's not enough.  But I'm too far from St. Louis to march with the peaceful people in Ferguson.  What can a person here do to express solidarity with the people of Ferguson? More particularly, what can someone like me do to express outrage that unarmed black people are gunned down in our streets?  

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dear Diary: August 13, 2014

I had a bit of a drama Wednesday, which landed me in the Emergency Room of the local hospital.  I was able to come home that evening.  Here's the account I sent to my sister and a couple of friends. 

Long story short: I just got home from the ER.  I'm ok, but doc tells me not to get far from home for the next 5 to 7 days.  So, alas, I will not go to Springfield tomorrow & Friday for the training.   
I woke up this morning feeling "weird."  Kinda shaky, dizzy, queasy, unsteady on my feet, and with a headache. I had had a rotten night of not good sleep.  Called in sick to the office and went back to bed.  Got up at noontime, not feeling a whole lot better, but determined to get to the office to prepare for the Springfield trip.  Finally went into the office about 2pm.  
While meeting with the Conservators in the lab from about 3 to 4pm, it got worse.  Got up from chair to get a pencil, and stumbled and nearly fell.  It happened again a bit later.  They were concerned, and I was increasingly concerned.  
Sandy suggested maybe it was low blood pressure, and urged me to go to my doc's office at JCMG, because they'll check blood pressure for walk ins.  I did a few more chores in the office.  I made it to the doctor’s office just before 5:00.
You need to know this about my blood pressure:  I joke that I have "lizard blood pressure."  The top # is usually in the 100 to 120 range, even when I race to the doctor because I'm running late.  In my life, that number has never been above 130.  
So they took me in.  BP was 160/82!   Then listened to my heart, and the nurse (glancing at me while listening), asked "Afib?"  I said, "No, not that I've ever known. Do I have it now?"  She kinda nodded and left the room.  She came back after talking with my doc, and told me to go straight to the ER.   
So I drove myself to St. Mary's and signed in.  I had to wait about 20 minutes before getting into triage.  I spent that time doing my best imitation of a Zen Buddhist: all calm and breathing deep. I think they called that "bio feedback" back in the day.  A way to calm your body's systems. Meanwhile, I was also terrified I was going to have a stroke or heart attack or something while waiting.  
Then they took me into the triage area.  Now my BP was 179 over 80'something.  Crap!  Nurse came and got me settled into a room, hooked me up to monitors, did the usual interview about symptoms.  
ER doc comes in.  Dr. Parks.  This is the same doc I saw several years ago when I woke up one morning with total paralysis of my right hand from the wrist down.  I'm sure she didn't recognize me, but I remembered her.  Liked her a lot.  
Over the course of the next two hours, they did an EKG.  Also monitored various things, like one test where they monitor you while lying down, then sitting up, then standing.  By this time, I was feeling better.  BP was down to the low 150s.  Still pretty darn high for me, but I wasn't feeling as horrible as I had been. 
There were long periods where they just left me alone, while continuing to monitor.  Dr. Parks comes back, having reviewed everything, and says she sees nothing critical.  She says I can go home.  She told me to (a) not travel for the next week and (b) check my blood pressure daily for the next week.  
I asked what the heck could cause my blood pressure to spike nearly 50 points higher than it has ever been.  She really didn't have an explanation.  Said that's why I need to do daily BP checks for the next week, to see if something's happening.  She also encouraged me to come back ASAP if it recurs.  
So here I am at home.  With no idea why this happened.