Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Laura Berg, A True, Heroic Citizen of Our Republic

Copied & Pasted, in toto, from the blog Political Flesh Feast, by plasticseapolluter (Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 13:41:10 PM PDT
Welcome to the Coven, Laura Berg (+)
The New York Times included the following editorial about Laura Berg, RN who practices as a psychiatric nurse in the Veterans Administration system. For speaking truth to power, she was almost charged with sedition, and the full court witch hunt press of the Bush Administration was on her. Nurses are far to easily oppressed, intimidated and made to pay horrible prices for advocating for their profession and for patients - who in this case were the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Unless the public gets wise pretty darn fast and stands up for nurses who are working against all odds to advocate for them, there won't be professional nurses available when you need them - anywhere.
Here's to you, Laura Berg, Registered Nurse!
The PEN American Center, the literary organization committed to free expression, is honoring an American most people in this country have never read or even heard of: Laura Berg. She is a psychiatric nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital who was threatened with a sedition investigation after she wrote a letter to the editor denouncing the Bush administration's bungling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war.

That's right, sedition: inciting rebellion against the government. We suppose nothing should surprise us in these days of government zealotry. But the horror and the shame of that witch hunt should shock everyone.

Ms. Berg identified herself as a V.A. nurse when, soon after Katrina's horrors, she sent her impassioned letter to The Alibi, a paper in Albuquerque. "I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government," she wrote. "We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."

Her superiors at the hospital soon alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and impounded her office computer, where she keeps the case files of war-scarred veterans she treats. Then she received an official warning in which a Veterans Affairs investigator intoned that her letter "potentially represents sedition."

It took civil rights litigators and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico to "act forcefully" in reminding the government of the Constitution and her right to free speech. The Department of Veterans Affairs retreated then finally apologized to the shaken Ms. Berg.

Even then, she noted, one superior told her it was preferred that she not identify herself as a V.A. nurse in any future letter writing. "And so I am saying I am a V.A. nurse," Ms. Berg soon boomed out in a radio broadcast. "And some of my fire in writing this about Katrina and Iraq is from my experience as a V.A. nurse." Thus declared Ms. Berg, well chosen to receive the new PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award.
Thankfully, those in power came to her aid. But that's the exception and not the rule. Most of us who act in legal and ethical ways and who are targeted do not have such optimistic and satisfactory outcomes. That's why, when you seek out effective nurse advocates, they aren't likely to be found. Most have already been hunted and have met with the treatment that most whistle-blowers receive. Many others, when they have to make a decision In whose interest to act, leave the profession. Yet others give in and docilely act in the interests of their employers.

So in Laura Berg, we find a real nurse, bound by duty to advocate for patients in the face of threats, of suppression, of intimidation and of personal harm. Her patients can rest easy. They are under the care of a trustworthy and competent professional.

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