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When Beautiful Turns Ugly

By Joy Jacobson

August 18, 2017

Pedro Reis, flickr

Beautiful. I overuse the word too. It’s a superlative that has denigrated from its Proto-Indo-European roots meaning “reverence” to the ubiquity of emoji. Almost half a billion Instagram posts bear the hashtag #beautiful.


Though it still resides in the eye of the beholder, this week we saw beauty twisted into a poisonous usage. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” President Trump tweeted in reference to confederate statues, followed by this, in his typically passive locution: “…the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”


This Orwellian twist in meaning enacts a kind of linguistic violence. It may be that all wars begin as wars of words, internecine splittings and divisions within a shared tongue: civil wars, where your beautiful is my ugly. . . But when our political leaders engage in this sort of carjacking of meaning, the consequences resound throughout the culture.


Today, members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, some of our standard-bearers of beauty, resigned in a letter of protest of Trump’s “support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville.” Of the many reasons cited for their resignations is this indispensible statement addressed to the president:


Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both.


Each of us has to find our own no, that universal utterance in the face of oppression. The monuments in question are indefensible, themselves expressions of racist terrorism, and must be resisted. That is, white supremacy isn’t a beautiful part of our national heritage to be celebrated. The Charlottesville violence made that very plain.


A couple of friends and I are slowly making our way through The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, a 1966 book by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. The authors brilliantly demonstrate how language, a human construct, has its role in constructing humans, as well. They write that language has the ability to “crystallize and stabilize for me my own subjectivity” and that people “must talk about themselves until they know themselves.”


But, they write, we also inherit our language, and therefore our self-knowing. They posit that this semantic heritage, both personal and historical, results in a “social stock of knowledge” that is passed down from generation to generation. And it makes me wonder: can we become more aware of how language shapes us? Can we somehow make visible the unseen roots of our implicit biases?


And so for today’s resistance, I say, let’s reclaim beauty. It can begin with a poem, with a video of newborn’s first smile, or it can begin with no.

Joy Jacobson
Joy Jacobson is the CHMP’s poet-in-residence and cofounder of our Writing Reflective Narratives for Clinicians program.

Charlottesville ER Nurse Kellen Squire on What Happened in the ER

By Barbara Glickstein

August 14, 2017

Kellen Squire is an Emergency Room nurse in Charlottesville, VA. He’s running for a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia’s 58th General Assembly District. On his campaign site he shares his position on HealthCare and opens with this statement:

Health care is not just a political issue for me.  It’s something I live every day of my life as an Emergency Department nurse.  I have the honor of working alongside real-life heroes: police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, doctors, and other professionals in our community.



He worked in the ER this past Saturday and the Daily Kos published his article on Sunday, August 13, A Charlottesville ER Nurse Speaks After a Day of Decompression . He shares his experience being with the ER team caring for victims following a car attack by a 20 year-old man identified by police as James Alex Fields Jr. Fields, drove his Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, and peeled away in reverse. Fields, of Ohio, was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly injuring 19 people and killing one, Heather Heyer.


On this morning’s news shows, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the deadly car attack amid a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend met the definition of domestic terrorism.


“I’ve sat here at my keyboard staring at the blinking cursor for awhile. There’s words inside me that need to come out about what happened in our community yesterday, but… I dunno. They’re stuck there. Nothing seems right. Especially after watching everyone’s “hot take” on a community you’re from. But there’ll be time later to go over those- particularly those of the President and my Congressman. It doesn’t help either that our community isn’t out from under the specter of the Nazis who visited us- there are vigils across the country for Charlottesville, but our own vigil was canceled because of a credible threat by white supremacists to invade it and take it over.”

You can continue to read the entire article here.



HealthCetera provides evidence-based news, analysis and commentary. For over 30 years –– beginning with our roots in FM radio, we’ve fostered a place where diverse, dynamic, front-line experts discuss the latest real-world effects of healthcare and health policy. We believe journalism has an inherent role in promoting a healthy and just society.



Barbara Glickstein
Barbara is a founder of the Center for Health, Media & Policy, as well as a nurse, media guru & activist in New York City. She is the chairman of the board of Project Kesher and a consultant to many health care organizations and creative projects. Barbara tweets and 'grams @blickstein.

HealthCetera is moving on: from fm radio to podcast

By Editorial Staff

August 10, 2017

Source: flickr



HealthCetera provides evidence-based news, analysis and commentary. For over 30 years – beginning with our roots in FM radio, we’ve fostered a place where diverse, dynamic, front-line experts discuss the latest real-world effects of healthcare and health policy. We believe journalism has a critical role in promoting a healthy and just society.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.


Editorial Staff