A Biden-Harris Win will Save Thousands of Lives, and also Save Our Sanity

It’s not only physical health that’s been decimated in the Dark Age of Trump

Susan Cooke

​I know a lot about depression, not because I’m a doctor or therapist (I am not) but because I’ve struggled with it myself for some time. I know about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the same reason. Not every depression is caused by PTSD but mine was, and from what I can tell, many of the country’s increasing mental health problems are occurring due not only to PTSD from this horrible and painful virus, but to the pandemic’s side effects of sudden grief, loneliness, job loss, hunger, and fear. We’re also stressed by anxiety about what seems an insecure future caused by the attitudes and actions of our cruel and self-serving president.

Research shows that Americans’ rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or attempts were increasing even before Trump took office, but Trump, surely one of the most toxic presidents in our history, has made our load of chronic stress so much greater that the CDC reports these mental health problems are increasing to even higher levels than before, for many people of different ages and professions, including 25% of young adults who have considered suicide during the pandemic.

US News and World Report tells us U.S. adults reported much-elevated adverse mental health conditions connected with the virus, and “younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.” The article added that anxiety symptoms were approximately three times those reported during the same time period last year.

This news didn’t surprise me, since for months before the pandemic many friends had told me they couldn’t sleep, and often felt anxious, angry, and frustrated, all because of Trump’s wanton decimation of much in our country they’d respected and thought was sacrosanct. It all was made harder to bear because they felt they had little power to stop him.

Add a pandemic and Trump’s consistently incompetent and uncaring management of it and you’ve got a perfect storm for PTSD, or at least lots of stress, anxiety, and depression. For those who don’t understand much about depression, it causes great suffering in the victim and in family members, in extreme cases makes holding down a job nearly impossible, can lead to heart disease, and can feel like a nightmarishly gloomy altered reality. It so crushes some people they can’t even swallow food. Its final result for some, if not successfully treated –and it can be very hard to treat–is suicide.

One of the best ways to traumatize people is to tyrannize, frighten, or threaten them, especially if they have little or no power to fight back. While reeling from the pandemic itself, most Americans watch in horror Trump’s destruction and rollbacks of rules and laws they thought would help keep them and their environment healthier for years to come. As early as September 2017 the site Quartz reported Trump was “systematically dismantling consumer, labor, and environmental protections, as well as de-funding studies that might make the case for new rules.” In July of that year the administration said it planned to suspend, discontinue, or change 860 rules and regulations, many of which were proposed at the tail-end of Barack Obama’s presidency. It cut rules that would make manual labor safer, “while undercutting those aimed at increasing wages and benefits for the less wealthy.” Trump also made it easier to pay women and minorities less, freezing the “EEO-1 pay data collection rule that August, which required businesses with more than 100 employees to report pay data by gender and race.”

I’m not sure at this writing how many of those changes stuck, or if they all occurred, but living with his constant attempts and threats to assail rules and laws we’d found reassuring only adds more to Americans’ chronic stress.

Other stressful changes include his destroying or degrading alliances with other countries, and his packing the courts, White House, and government agencies with people sympathetic to his frightening causes and beliefs. We see him promote crazy conspiracies that only cause more chaos, hatred, fear, and death, hear his rampant misogyny and racism, and see his open nose-thumbing at fair elections as he admits (with what seems like almost demonic pleasure) that he won’t give the Post Office funds it needs to process mail-in ballots properly. (Someone please tell me why this is not a criminal offense.) He gleefully strips away, often quietly when we’re not looking, protections from global warming and other environmental assaults, only to announce the changes later, apparently enjoying the shock and sadness he’s caused.

Along with the cruelty of his messages and methods, some of us who have experienced mental anguish at the hands of others recognize his behavior as what it also is: emotional abuse. Just as childhood bullies seem to enjoy the stress they cause their victims, and some p​eople have a pathological need to cause ​suffering in a person or animal who can’t fight back, Trump abuses the American people (except for his base) and seems to like doing it. And just as victims who cannot fight off their abusers feel helpless and hopeless, our inability to stop Trump makes us feel the same.

We may become ​chronically depressed if we don’t see any help coming, for example from​ more Republicans who could and should speak up. Mostly they have not​,​ and Democrats who have tried to help are often unable to get very far. So we continue to watch as more lies and destruction occur, when what we desperately need is​ truth, empathy, thoughtful leadership, and a feeling of​ closeness​ to our fellow citizens and with the world rather than increasing separation from them. Such sense of community and cooperation is a hallmark of societies that experience good mental health.

Given all this destruction and despair, how could the country’s mental health not be plummeting?

We are of course not alone. There is always tragedy somewhere in the world, ​but good leadership makes all the difference. As mental health experts ​are surely find​ing​ in Beirut​ while it reels from its deadly explosion​, shock and grief will fuel new cases of PTSD there that ​may last many years, especially since the ​accident came on top of pandemic-caused suffering​. But not all tragedies are necessary​, and in this case a corrupt president and government had already caused crushing poverty. If the​ ​leaders had possessed an iota of empathy, they would have​ ​protect​ed​ the people from ​the danger ​of an explosion ​in that location long ago.

Similarly, in the United States a caring president could have prevented many thousands of virus deaths and untold suffering. Instead, his cruelty and incompetence caused those unnecessary deaths, and grief and loss beyond measure.

​We are now at a crossroads. The wrong decision will harm not just our country but the planet. ​If we don’t remove this monstrously inhumane person from the White House, our future ​will be grim.

But we have two rays of hope: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They represent all that is light in this horrendous period of gloom. Just the sight of them glowing during their first appearance together after Biden chose Harris inspired and uplifted people around the world. It even helped me to be able to fall asleep after I learned of the Primary win of a scary racist QAnon-believer who may soon bring her hatred and lies to a Congress near you (with the help and encouragement of Trump).

But Biden and Harris have a tough road ahead because it will be extremely difficult to fight conspiracies, corruption, greed, interference by Trump’s pal and fellow dictator Putin, and all those yes-people Trump hires to do whatever, corrupt or not, to savage the other side.

So I want to propose, for everyone who like me can no longer sleep at night, that we all work our tails off to get Biden and Harris elected.

To that end I wanted to find the best way I could to feel confident donating time or money to help. I didn’t know much about election pacs and funding, and wasn’t sure if I should contribute to a group like Black Lives Matter, or a particular Democratic group or anti-Trump Republican group, or elsewhere.

I asked Brendan Quinn, Outreach Manager at the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics to advise me. He told me about various types of groups people donate to, which you can learn about at the Center’s site. In the end, he said for someone like me without huge amounts of money to give, “The most effective way to support any candidate is going to be a direct contribution to their campaign.” So that’s where I’ll contribute, and after the election will give to other organizations.*

So please help Biden and Harris win so we can start to heal both physically and mentally. And, as they request, please wear a mask, social distance, avoid big gatherings, and wash your hands often. If we work together on this for just a while more, we can protect not only ourselves and those we love, but also medical personnel and all others who endanger themselves in order to help us.

*Brendan Quinn says if you do want to give to an outside group not directly affiliated with a candidate, you’ll want to do some research to make sure it’s actually spending money on things you support. You can check out such groups at the Center, as long as you’re looking at those spending at the federal level. It doesn’t deal with state-level matters such as governor’s races.

IN MEMORIAM

For a Country and a Planet

The planet, a diverse paradise of oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, and plants and animals of unimaginable beauty, was the only one in its solar system inhabited by all these, and by sentient beings called humans, or people. Many of the people lived joyous, peaceful lives, yet some sometimes became ill with unfounded fears about each other that led to hatred, tyranny, and even wars they never learned to prevent even though each was more terrible than the last. Eventually their weapons became more ferocious, until they were so powerful they could destroy large swaths of the planet and all that lived on it. 

Despite it being clear that humans were imperfect and often made mistakes or became unbalanced, no one stopped the creation of the weapons and the use of materials that could make more of them. Neither did they stop creating smaller weapons that caused murders of many of the people by only a few individuals. It seemed that no one could stop them because powerful groups of people who were addicted to weapons would not allow it. There was more and more killing followed by crippling sadness in people who lost those they loved.  

Some of the most powerful people were so consumed with their own desires that they ignored the suffering of all others, including the people whose loved ones were killed in mass slaughters. It became clear many were killed mostly because they were not the same white color as most of those in power, or prayed in a different way from them. During this same period, many of the powerful also ignored the looming demise of the planet, as it grew sick from toxins created by the peoples’ industries, showing its grave need through increasingly dangerous fires, storms, deaths of species, and destruction of the natural areas that made it so beautiful. In the end the powerful people let the desperate planet struggle until it died, taking with it all living beings, most of whom had been innocent, kind, and good. 

The pieces of land called countries had looked for guidance to one country considered the greatest, whose founders had possessed great vision. But in this country’s latter days one of its temporary leaders, elected under murky circumstances never completely understood, began to talk of permanently extending the job he had already made into something like the reign of a king. Unlike his predecessors, he was mad and sick with power and greed, and devoid of the great human quality of empathy. He worked both openly and in secret to undermine every effort of those fighting to save the people, the country, and the planet from each other’s weapons and from the planet’s illnesses. 

He soon was acknowledged as the country’s first leader desiring to be what people called a dictator. These were the worst leaders in this world’s history, and always left suffering and death in their wake. Though already wealthy and powerful, he took advantage of his position to gain yet more, despite the cost to the country and the planet. To this end he put in powerful positions people who thought as he did or who would do what he commanded without question. 

The people began to suffer from fear and grief as they watched him destroy laws and rules that had protected them and their beautiful world, and make new ones that made them feel unsafe, causing endless worry and stress. They saw him align himself with other dictators, and with a growing group of people that, like some similar groups in the past that were responsible for murdering millions, spread hatred of all those different from them. They watched him befriend yet others who seemed to love weapons, and who, when grieving families worked to ban them, blocked their every attempt. It didn’t matter to the dictator or his allies how many lives the weapons took. Their turning away from the suffering created a well of sorrow in the country so wide and deep that an anguished cry for the country’s sake was heard throughout the planet. Yet they let the deaths and the mourning of the people, and the destruction of the beautiful planet go on and on. All that seemed to matter to them was wealth and power. The dictator himself believed he was all-powerful, as indeed he seemed to be.  

He and his associates came to symbolize to the people all that was immoral, unethical, cruel, and–in the end we would have to say–evil. Some who could have stopped him were afraid of losing their own positions, so remained silent and continued to obey him. They too became symbols of cruel indifference. The people began to call them all by a name reserved in their history for those they’d reviled the most: traitors. The powerful had betrayed with stunning heartlessness their fellow humans, the great country’s founders, and the beautiful planet with its marvelous creatures.

Who can say if there will ever again exist such a wondrous world, or beings similar to those of that planet, now lost to us? The creator or whatever force made it would have to find a way to make intelligence in each being a trait infused with abhorrence of hate, greed, and tyranny. All people including leaders would need to be born with generosity and the desire for peace ingrained in their very cores. Until such a marvelous thing occurs, all we can say further about this world that contained so much raw material from which could be made such a beautiful existence, is that we miss it, and we will long mourn its passing.