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.

Shadows on the Stars

Holding onto Hope in a World that’s Hard to Understand

By Susan Cooke

Sure on this shining night

Of star made shadows round,

Kindness must watch for me

This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.

All is healed, all is health.

High summer holds the earth.

Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone

Of shadows on the stars.

—James Agee (1909-1955) from his first published collection of poems, Permit me Voyage

Twentieth-century classical composer Samuel Barber’s setting of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Agee’s poem “Sure On This Shining Night” is one of my favorite songs to sing, which I do a lot of when I’m not writing. I love it because it’s an impassioned jewel of a poem filled with sorrow and hope, and because Barber wrote such gloriously inspired music for it. The song came tumbling into my head recently as I pondered when and how all this misery we’re now immersed in would end.

You can hear several lovely performances of it on YouTube, but I was especially moved by this luminous one sung by soprano Roberta Alexander:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgskIsztC8w.

Agee’s voice as a writer was a major presence during the Great Depression. The website AllPoetry calls his book Let us Now Praise Famous Men “an eloquent and anguished testimony about the essential human dignity of impoverished sharecroppers during the 1930s,” adding that it’s regarded as one of the most significant literary documents of that time. While “Sure On This Shining Night” is not from that book but from the collection of poems Permit me Voyage, the site’s commentary suggests its words must be understood in the context of the suffering and darkness of the Depression, about which Agee wrote so much and so eloquently.

Suffering and darkness were on my mind as the song came back to me, yet my personal take on the poem has always been that in this beautiful world we inhabit, hope must triumph over despair. Lately I’ve wondered more and more, is hope even realistic? And yet I can’t imagine us all moving in any direction other than hope. Anything else is too unbearable. Still, it seems so many of us, with or without forethought, and for reasons many others of us cannot understand, are willing to accept an ending filled with despair.

As your basic non-cynic, I’ve always thought, when it come to most problems, “Of course we can solve it!” But one woman’s comment on the news recently stopped me in my tracks. As experts were calling the rising numbers of Covid cases near-apocalyptic, she was asked, in one of those states where it’s the worst, why she won’t wear a mask (I paraphrase here) even though it might mean she could become quite ill or contribute to someone else’s severe illness. Her answer, “That’s life,” chilled me. When asked, “Even if that other person dies?” she said something I’ve heard a few times now in such interviews: “We all have to go sometime.”

This willingness to contribute to the suffering and very possible death of others–maybe many others–especially coming from a youngish person–maybe late 20’s or early 30’s from what I could tell–old enough to have had a chance to read or watch at least some news and think some about the issues, one would imagine–knocked me flat. My optimism took a dive and I felt awfully depressed. I had to remind myself of all the stories I’d seen and heard in which many Americans are trying to help in any way they can, not just with the pandemic but with fighting racisim and inequality, fighting for fair elections, for kinder prisons, to end the suffering of those without a voice such as children and animals, and to stop global warming.

With so many problems facing us all, and with having to see lately such a terrible confluence of events and words on the world stage that push us toward despair, it’s indeed hard to maintain hope. When we see selfishness or hate revealed by random people on the street who talk to reporters, as has occurred often lately, it’s deeply upsetting not only because we can see they may have been influenced by some of our leaders who we hear voicing similar sentiments, but also because we know it adds to the suffering of many. It’s just hard to accept that some of our fellow humans can be that lacking in compassion.

Some of us wrack our brains asking how so many people can feel loyalty to such a shockingly incompetent, narcissistic, downright mean person as the one now at the helm of our country. We see what we think are bright young people, usually the hope of the world, admiring this person and taking a cue from him that it’s fine to offend and hurt those of other colors or religions, and to kill people by ignoring science if you feel like it. I personally am fortunate never to have met a person like that, so they almost seem unreal or made up to me. It’s naive, I know, but it remains hard for me to understand how people so young can already be filled with so much hate and lack of empathy. Of course the adults who must have taught them also stun and sadden me. So, again, to maintain even a little hope, I must think of the many other people of all ages I know who are out there fighting hard for justice and good.

Still I have to ask, is there no way to reach those who seem so hateful and uncaring, and let them know this is not a good road they’re traveling on? How on earth do we convince them?

I have to reiterate what I always end up saying, that in the end, after all my research I come up with the same solutions for almost all our stressful issues, both in our cities and everywhere else: kindness, empathy, and compassion. These may seem like soft words that can’t accomplish much, but in fact they possess great power and have often caused near-mountains to be moved. And this is what we must do now–move mountains. Of course money and political influence will likely also be necessary because of the way the world works at present, along with lots of education by example. But what ultimately can bring all those things into play is a flood of energetic and deep compassion, pushed and insisted on by citizens themselves, even if their leaders are devoid of it.

In another post here there will be some solutions including those shown by research to help, but at this moment many of us need to make what for some seems quite a difficult leap–from mostly self-interest to caring about and supporting the other person and the need to work together to solve our many problems. We need to find ways to learn to accept, empathize with, and appreciate those different from us, especially right now, in order to help protect each other from Covid-19, and to save the planet from global warming, just for starters.

If we can just begin to do this we may find once more, partly just because we’re working together, our long-lost sense of community, known to be one of the major contributors to wellbeing. We might start to get an inkling of the joy we can feel in a life that involves more than becoming super-successful and living fast, loud, and heavy on the earth even though such a life often causes suffering for other people and for animals. We might discover another kind of happiness in a life that contributes to the greater good even in small ways, such as not torturing our neighbors and further polluting the planet with loud gas-powered leaf-blowers, or destroying someone’s moment of peace with a blasting radio. These are just a few ways of putting empathy and kindness into practice, and they all will improve wellbeing for everyone.

We might like how it feels to live without the hatred or bigotry that makes no sense in a world that needs to move beyond such a destructive aspect of our culture, and to enjoy meeting and learning about those different from us. The fact is increasing research shows that we all need each other. Americans’ existence is sadly isolated now, with a corresponding rise in loneliness and a decline in mental health caused by that loneliness, and by chronic feelings of loss due to moving from job to job, home to home, state to state, and leaving a trail of friends and family behind us each time we go, in search of…what? More success? More thrills? Bigtime success and thrills are nice to experience, but we can also include in our lives proven benefits from deeper, perhaps quieter successes and joys many of us rarely experience because of this lifestyle, such as getting to know and keep even one or two really good friends–or more if we’re lucky–friends who live near us and who we can see often.

So besides what we may have been taught, might it be in large part a feeling of disconnectedness that’s making many of us less kind, or completely unable to care somehow? And could we possibly become more compassionate for ourselves and for others by slowing down a little, giving to ourselves and others more time each day to stop the noise and feel some calm and peace, asking a little less of our careers, connecting more deeply with people, and making our goals lean at least partly toward being in this way a helpful light in the world and for the world?

Could more of us then see the value and the gift of others who share the planet with us, most of whom are really nice to know? Can we start to embrace and benefit from the gifts of nature and of what could become a happier, more serene neighborhood or city? Can we then more easily work hard, all together as partners, on immediate problems such as doing what it takes to get out of this pandemic, lift up our unemployed, underpaid and otherwise struggling populations so there will be less anxiety, depression, suicide, and crime, and resolve policing issues which, I believe, would improve if we did lift those many citizens out of poverty?

When I think of such a world, and of all the good and kind acts I do hear about every day, I regain some of my dashed hopes, and dare to think my longtime dream of humans evolving away from some of their worst qualities and closer to their best ones might come true.

When I sing Sure On This Shining Night, especially the line “I weep for wonder,” I imagine people living more lightly and with more love on the earth.

It’s truly hard to go on without that dream.

Note: To read in more detail about Agee and the poem Sure On This Shining Night, go to https://allpoetry.com/Sure-On-This-Shining-Night

To read more about Samuel Barber’s choices in setting the poem to music, his later setting of Agee’s collection of poems Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and the friendship with Agee that ensued, go to https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200182573/

Trump, Declining Mental Health, and “What Is a Life Worth?”

Susan Cooke

“What is a life worth?” was asked many times as the insanely premature plans to reopen the country began to be pushed by the White House. I heard no good answer so I’m asking it again. While I’m at it, I’ll add a corollary: What is mental health worth?

I’d like to consider mental health and the President’s effect on it before, during, and after the pandemic. You probably know this already, but poor mental health, besides causing emotional suffering, also affects physical health. Yet many government and business leaders have ignored the fact for years.

I wrote here awhile ago thatTrump seemed to be affecting the country’s mental health because his words and actions so deeply upset many people on so many levels, but during this pandemic what he’s done makes past occurrences fade in comparison. In this post I try to encourage him or those around him who can influence him to stop and reconsider what he’s doing to Americans’ mental health, along with the risks he’s forcing many of us to take physically by reopening without a clear, safe national plan.

Even in the best of times, Americans (and those who imitate us) live with a lot of stress, much of which could be prevented with awareness of some practices now known to cause stress, and with kindness toward ourselves and each other. (It doesn’t help that our President’s chronic rudeness, lack of empathy, and focus on himself models for Americans that not caring how others feel is normal and okay. )

In my research on stress in American cities I keep finding evidence that much of Americans’ increasing anxiety, depression, and numbers of suicides seem to be caused least in part by our own non-stop, incessantly driven lifestyle, plus our having lost once-common practices that prevented stress and depression and promoted good mental and physical health. Little is said about these losses, probably because people aren’t sufficiently aware of them. Certainly hardly anything is said by government, business, or schools.

It’s critically important that those with the power to do something about it understand the basics at least, because these stresses are everywhere but are more pronounced in cities, and there is now research showing that people’s lives are actually being shortened just because they’re living in a big city as many of us do. Sadly, now we’re facing mountains of stress beyond those, due to the pandemic.

There is no more room for added stress, yet that’s what the President is handing us with this too-soon, carelessly-planned reopening. Besides added deaths from the virus, I’m truly worried about the massive PTSD and increased depression and suicides likely to be caused as a result of them and of the chaotic reopening. Those in power need to take mental health extremely seriously right now. So I’ve listed here just a few of the problems we already struggle with in hopes it will help to convince them to slow or stop this reopening, and also convince them to pay much closer attention to mental health from now on.

In addition to the many authors of works on this subject I want to especially thank and credit Stephen S. Illardi, PhD, for the valuable information on the mostly depression-free lives of early humans that informs his immensely helpful book, The Depression Cure, and thank Daniel Buettner for his amazing research and books on what keeps people happy and healthy in the “Blue Zones” of the world.

Research shows that a great many Americans are stressed by an obsession with getting where we’re going (and doing it in record time), whether it’s to the next thing on an endless to-do list, the next step to becoming major successes in our fields, or accruing enough money or fame to feel we’ve reached the top.

Before the pandemic, and even before Trump, both adults and kids were not only feeling societal pressure to drive themselves mercilessly, but also suffered from the stress of lack of community. Early humans lived in tribes in which everyone helped and supported each other day and night, and we’re wired to thrive in the presence of others. Isolation is, as we all now know for certain, very hard on us.

While phones are helpful, and crucial right now, using them as constantly as we do in many ways further isolates us. Our heads are bent down to our phones so often that it keeps us, for example, from saying hello to a neighbor passing on the sidewalk who potentially might become a good friend. Connections with neighbors are more likely to last than those at work, though in our culture any lasting connections at all are much more difficult to make than in earlier times. So we suffer from the isolation that’s become the norm, rather than the communal support that once was the norm.

We also suffer from a lack of time outside in nature. Early humans lived outside much of the time and we’re wired to feel good among trees, flowers, and sky, hearing birds, and feeling and hearing the breeze rustle leaves. In this case again modern conveniences diminish our chances to experience wellbeing, as noise and/or pollution from cars, diesel trucks, leaf-blowers, power saws, planes overhead, and people shouting on phones or playing loud radios all prevent us from benefitting from nature, while also raising our blood pressures (even if you don’t think you mind the noise it still raises your blood pressure.)

Some of our stresses begin quite early in life. The societal pressure to “succeed” in a big way, while it may be invigorating for some, for many is way too much, and even for those who like it, keeping at it nonstop as many do promotes mental illness.

There were many suicides already occurring in kids before the pandemic. And we know children are further frightened by the pandemic. Psychologists are seen often now in the news, trying to help us calm them. The Jason Foundation, a group trying to prevent youth suicides, reports that in the U.S. we lose an average of more than 130 young people each week to suicide. The foundation is making available extra measures parents and others can take to prevent suicides of young people during the pandemic.

https://jasonfoundation.com/youth-suicide/facts-stats/

Let’s say the community and nature problems were solved. The adults and many kids would still find it hard to get off the steep slope that must be climbed to the required success, even if they wanted to. Many children with especially ambitious parents may try to keep up but it’s nearly impossible to do that and still be a happy child. So you see tragedies such as the teen in a town near mine who killed herself because she got a B in math instead of an A. Adults in fact also are killing themselves more often than in the past. An April 2020 USNews post reports the U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35% in the past two decades.

If chronic extreme stress leads to chronic anxiety or depression which if not treated and if severe enough can lead to drug use, alcoholism, heart disease, and worst of all, suicide, then you can see why adding even more stress right now to Americans’ lives is so dangerous. Yes isolation is especially stressful now, but it’s temporary, and is nothing like what we’re going to see with a second, likely even worse wave of the virus. The idea is to deal with a little longer isolation so we can stop the virus’s spread sooner, and then work hard to create more community than ever before (but with more of us alive).

We should also consider the extra stresses of many less well-off families who have so few financial resources that there’s little hope of a child ever going to college or anyone in the family getting a job that pays enough to live in a remotely healthy way (the inability to afford healthy food also takes its toll on both physical and mental health). Don’t forget the homeless, and undocumented workers, whose stress must rarely ever end. All these stresses on so many people, combined (again) with poor diet can lead to a host of physical ailments, and of course to depression and more of the “deaths of despair” we’re finally beginning to hear about, though they’ve gone on for years. It’s now time to pay attention.

Of course workers need their jobs, but as with ending our Covid-caused isolation, we would do better to be patient just a little longer to return to work. We’ll need the government to keep people going however, with food, shelter, and bill payment now until it’s safe, or for some people much longer than that, or else we start the torture all over again.

The causes of and antidotes for these stresses are so many and complex that we’ll probably need to take several paths toward solving them. But the solutions that can help, such as assuring more financial support through equitable wages, seem unlikely to be initiated unless we begin to embrace what essentially would be a change in our culture.

It would go something like this: de-emphasize the value of tons of money over what we might call “more than enough” (which would admittedly require government to address inequality, and again to make sure everyone has enough for at least a reasonably good life–for more on this see Annie Lowrey’s book Give People Money). We would re-think why we make ourselves endure long hours of overwork with little time off once we do have enough money to feel okay, and reconsider whether power, fame, or just the so-called success so many believe all this effort will eventually bring makes sense anymore. Is this really the healthiest, happiest way to live a life?

Some call it Socialism if you try to assure that all people have enough money for a reasonably good life, but I don’t think a label is needed. For those who insist on one I suggest “humanitarianism.” The goal is to stop the suffering of vast numbers of people. To get people to think about change along these lines of course, it would help to have someone in the White House who believed such change was helpful and possible. Well, maybe later.

All this background stress and other stresses I haven’t covered such as racism have certainly made getting through the pandemic even worse than it might have been, and will make it harder to face further challenges we know are coming with possible second or third rounds of the virus, and later with other crises we need to get working on including climate change.

But what we need right at this moment is to feel safer, which means stopping or slowing reopening. So I’m appealing to Trump, Congress, governors, and mayors, to stop now in order to save more people from getting the virus, but also to save our mental health. For them to make that decision they have to value empathy and kindness more than ever before. If they won’t, we need to make sure that next time around we elect leaders who get it. We as a society also need to help anyone who is suffering mentally or physically, and to try to find ways to help everyone thrive. Or else what has America become?

The virus is barely being controlled and is only minimally understood. There is no consistent national plan to deal with the complex problems we’ll face with a second wave, and with the near-impossibilty of safely opening businesses, schools, and restaurants this early in many areas. For weeks now there hasn’t even been any alcohol in our neighborhood CVS. (We did just find a quart of it online—for $35.)

This is just more evidence that we’re not ready. It’s clear that without immediate intelligent action there will be more lack of supplies, more chaotic or nonexistent guidance, and more illness and death due to the virus but also likely to suicide. The virus is now estimated by some to lead to as many as 75,000 more deaths of despair from accidental overdosing, over-drinking, or intentional suicide. CNN Health’s Mallory Simon writes that the national public health group Wellbeing Trust’s Dr. Benjamin F. Miller forecasts further damage to mental health:

“Unless we get comprehensive federal, state, and local resources behind improving access to high quality mental health treatments and community supports, I worry we’re likely to see things get far worse when it comes to substance misuse and suicide.” 

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/health/coronavirus-deaths-of-despair/index.html

But Miller added that the numbers are a projection, and the right action could change them. So we don’t have to have all this added illness and death, from deaths of despair or deaths from the virus. Is anybody listening?

Trump likely would answer that this is why he ‘s reopening right away, and how could a good economy not make us all happy and healthy? His selfishness, ignorance, magical thinking, or whatever it is, allows him to remain in denial about (or to ignore) the likely reoccurence of much more suffering and death. The scientists keep assuring us it’s dangerous to reopen so early. Yet that’s what most states are doing, with Trump’s grinning encouragement.

It would probably be a relief to many if state and city leaders now starting to open would pause to study what Governor Cuomo of New York is doing. He’s gone beyond CDC guidelines to implement detailed extra plans and safeguards. Governors or mayors, you could tweak this plan where necessary, but the main part of the work is already done, so why not use it to help open your own area more slowly and safely? Why rush into more hell on earth when you have a good guide to making it less hellish?

Another virtue of Cuomo’s plan is that it doesn’t abandon those who are struggling financially. He took time for example to begin a program that delivers milk that farmers were dumping in one part of the state to places that feed the hungry in another area. This is inspired leadership, and just what we need.

Why cant’t Trump see that he’s going to destroy more mental as well as physical health with this scary reopening? Maybe it’s because he’s so driven himself, toward goals not much associated with the thoughtful, selfless, and generous qualities a leader must have in order to get people through a frightening crisis like this. His lack of those traits also makes him a terrible choice for President in the future, when such qualities will be needed to negotiate the many challenges quickly moving toward us.

For me one of the most distressing things he’s done besides modeling openly that lying, insulting, belittling, and offending others are fine behaviors, is to spread more chaos and despair through cruel power plays. One of the worst was forcing already financially-strapped states and cities to compete for the PPE their health workers were almost on their knees begging for, for weeks. What they were really begging for was their lives and the lives of their patients. Imagine ignoring such heartbreaking desperation. He did, and now many of those workers and their patients are dead.

It’s also disturbing to see how much of the country is in denial about the tragedy this reopening will cause. The President, his cronies, and some media outlets are all guilty of letting this false idea some have that the virus isn’t so bad continue. They must take some blame for the added deaths, whether from the virus or from suicide. They’re adding also to the wrecking of mental health by causing more stress, anxiety, and PTSD that for many will last for years.

Also distressing is Trump’s most incomprehensible cruelty yet–admitting he not only knows opening so soon will cause more deaths, but accepting it as fine, and trying to get us to accept it, and to say these new deaths are worth it. He says Well, people are dying anyway. I say they would not be dying anyway if he had quickly and with thought and care responded to the pandemic from the beginning. But you have to have both a heart and a love of something besides yourself (such as a country) to do that.

I watch with despair as the country opens, dreading more announcements of added deaths as people move around more. I despair when I see on the news people who shoot others who ask them to wear masks, when a customer at an ice cream shop shouts obscenities at a seventeen-year-old girl trying in vain to get ice cream to him fast enough due to unexpected crowds, and when I see people gather closely in groups without masks, and sometimes even with guns, as if the virus were nothing more than one of the hoaxes Trump is always blaming on Democrats; as if adding to this horrific mix more deadly weapons or more nastiness toward others will help.

Clearly they’re acting partly out of stress but at least some of this behavior was and continues to be encouraged by this President and his modeling of crude and hostile treatment of people who cross him in the slightest way. It’s sad to see such meanness and division when there’s already so much suffering, and such a need to help each other.

If we don’t stop or greatly slow the reopening, we are in essence being sentenced to death by Trump. His message is that reopening (rather than paying workers so they can survive at home awhile longer) is needed even though it means that our life or that of someone close to us is now more likely to end sooner, having been sacrificed for Trump–so he can feel he’s more likely to win a second term. His triumph in this is that it will finally give him the fame he craves. He’ll be perceived as one of the shallowest, most selfish, and meanest leaders in modern history.

Meanwhile the cruelty and breathtaking narcissism continue. Therefore all there is left to do, it seems, is to beg all people who have influenced him in the past to get him to change, and even if they think his self-interested course is going to make America great, to change their own course because it’s the humane thing to do. Convince him to save lives and mental health now, by immediately assuring that 1) needed money gets to the poverty-stricken and jobless now and in the future, 2) that he stops or drastically slows the reopening until all needed hospital beds, PPE, vaccine and testing supplies, and for the public other needed supplies such as alcohol, are in place, 3) a clear plan exists to procure and distribute to all patients who need it more Remdesivir and any other proven-safe treatments that help, and 4) there is a a detailed safe, organized, consistent reopening plan everyone can understand, one that is based on science and not politics.

As to the question “What is a life worth?” my answer is that not one life should be lost so a President can reopen recklessly in order to use a good economy (and it’s doubtful it will even be good) to make himself feel less nervous about the election. We don’t need to fix the economy this minute. Instead we (and he) can make sure everyone is kept fed and housed, with bills paid (or bill payment delayed), until reopening is much safer. A second virus wave and re-quarantine will cost much more than would waiting and keeping people supported and safe right now, and he knows it. He also knows that not waiting will cause a lot more death and despair. He just doesn’t care.

To further bring this point home, emergency physician Leana S. Wen, writing in the Washington Post, refuted several arguments often made as to why we should reopen early, explaining their major flaws. Her answer to the argument “It’s worth the sacrifice if some people die so that the country has a functioning economy,” is that “Those making it (the argument) are committing others to a sacrifice they did not choose.” Amen.

Her article is at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/10/six-flaws-arguments-reopening/

Trump, the Border, & Depression on the 4th of July

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As my readers know, one of my main concerns in helping us fight the stresses of living in the American city is the lack of attention paid to mental health, especially to two of its most distressing problems: anxiety and depression.

I’ve been thinking about it again this 4th of July as I continue to learn more about the misery at the border. I’ve been worrying not only about the obvious physical effects from the unhealthy conditions, but also about the PTSD that will likely affect every man, woman, and child going through this​ ​horrible experience, leaving them to face ​months or ​years of lingering anxiety and depression. As you may know, chronic stress of any kind often leads to anxiety and depression, but being traumatized for long periods almost guarantees this outcome. Tragically, prolonged anxiety and depression ​often contribute to continued and new physical illnesses, ​creating a painful​ and expensive ​cycle for victims and those caring for them. 

Many kinds of stress and ​emotional ​abuse can lead to such prolonged mental suffering, and research shows in fact that depression is increasing throughout our country. This isn’t surprising given the current environment. While those at the border suffer both physically and mentally, many others of us watch with fear and horror ​King Trump’s destructive march through what’s left of many of our country’s goals and ideals. We see the end of being a respected leader on the world stage in peace, justice, and protecting the planet, and that we are no longer anywhere near the kind and generous example we used to be, or some of us thought we were, of welcoming the weary masses who yearn to be free. Even many non-Americans have begun to feel more stress as things deteriorate further with a Tweet or a dubious Executive Order. 

No matter how ​Trump and his yes-people twist the words or the history, this ​generalized ​misery as well as that at the border was and is largely caused by ​their own self-interested actions. Before writing more about this I wanted to check my hunch that since​ the beginning of this Presidency Americans’ depression and anxiety has increased even more than what I’d already observed by just talking to people in the first few months. I ​searched online only for a few seconds, and no less than nine articles​ appeared​ on Trump’s negative effects on mental health.

I’ll get to those in a moment​.​ Meanwhile it must be said the​re could be no better recipe for wrecking mental and physical health than the​ ​hell on earth going on at the border. Aside from the physical misery, those of us who have suffered from depression know that the new and acute depression that will result for many is itself its own hell on earth. ​This past weekend as we celebrated our freedoms ​including the right to pursuit of happiness, our desperate fellow-humans, already stressed beyond what most of us can imagine experiencing, continued to suffer. Continuing for them, for who knows how long–are the brutal effects of family separation, their loneliness for home, fears for the rest of their families and friends back home and fear of an unknown future, finding themselves living in cages and other jail-like ​containers, seeing their children ill with diseases that aren’t being treated, feeling looked down on or even hated by many people they now depend on for survival, being surrounded by filth they never would have lived with at home, and being emotionally and/or sexually or otherwise abused. Throw in constant doses of helplessness and hopelessness, and ​a US president lying to the world about how great things are for them, ​and you have a perfect storm for ​creating severe mental illness that can last for years.

​I can’t imagine the founding fathers envisioned us causing such anguish i​n people begging for asylum. Few people can bear such multiple prolonged abuses without psychic damage. Depression by itself, without all the other problems, is torture enough. ​Psychiatric drugs ​​take weeks to work, often don’t help at all, and many have awful side effects. ​Physical illness only makes depression worse, and depression makes physical illness worse. Add to these challenges increasing evidence that our culture is becoming more and more stressed, ​including increases in blatant hatred and hateful behavior, and you can see it will be more and more difficult, no matter who we are or where we came from, to recover from depression in our country​, without some major changes at the border and in our way of life in general. 

​So we must help each other, our leaders must ​also ​help, a​nd if they don’t help we must elect different leaders. Some of our leaders’ failures to call out hatred and its related crimes  are reprehensible, but it’s not too late for them to begin to make amends. Among other things we need them to work with us to change this culture of prejudice and hate, and to change as well the money-and-success-over-all state of mind that seems so central to our society and that most of us feel somewhat forced into by the resulting rush-rush never-rest American lifestyle. As for the hate, it’s salt on the stressed-out lifestyle wounds, and because much of it has been taught to the haters I can only recommend they un-teach themselves if they’ve been so taught. If they stop and think for awhile about it, they hopefully will see it’s a much happier, healthier way for all of us to live. 

We also need specific help from business leaders in altering those other stressful lifestyle practices, since all the stress and worry they contribute to not only make more of us sicker but also can make prejudice and violence more likely. If your life is filled with stress and you’re angry or upset a lot, maybe it feels easy to blame the person of another color or religion who works in your building or lives on your block. So business and government need to prioritize making everyone’s life less stressful. This is not impossible, as they seem to think. The idea of helping us by changing a few things that chronically stress us just isn’t at the top of their lists. For example they can help reduce noise and pollution in our lives, help us have more nature in our cities, and help us calm down about climate change by doing something about it and not lying and denying what science has proven. They can help us have more sense of community by encouraging the presence of friendly community meeting places, parks, and coffee shops. If we’re less isolated, meeting each other more than we do now, and making friends in our own communities, we’ll all be healthier both mentally and physically. Don’t leave it at the bottom of your lists, government and business. Do something.

These stresses and more (such as bad diet and too many guns) that they can help us decrease, have for now made our countr​y​ a hard one to get well in or stay well in, especially ​​if you’re traumatized, anxiety-ridden, and already chronically stressed or​depressed. A stunningly self-involved and ignorant administration doesn’t help. When it heaps more abuse on new refugees and continues to upset the rest of us with ignoring these known stressors, it only makes ​all of our stress worse. All stress-caused illness costs a great deal to treat, as do the addiction and even crimes it sometimes leads to, which I mention since so many of our business and government leaders are always thinking about profit.

​​To give you an idea of how the country’s mood is already being affected by the current leadership,  here are a f​ew quotes:

“While Trump supporters may have experienced a boost in ​’​psychological well-being, pride, and hope for the future,” in the words of the New England Journal of Medicine researchers, his presidency has been a pit of despair for others.​’ ​”

(from Pacific Standard, PSMAG.com,  article by Jared Keller, Jan.15, 2019)

Referring to a phenomenon called “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” author Matt Kwong ​writes that therapist Elisabeth LaMott’s patients ask questions such as “Is he gonna blow us all up?” and many others tell her they suffer from fear of how dire Trump’s decisions may be for the world. She told ​Kwong, “There is a fear of the world ending. It’s very disorienting and constantly unsettling.”

(from CBC News, CBC.CA, Matt Kwong, July 18, 2018, “In a divided U.S., therapists treating anxiety are hearing the same name over and over: Donald Trum​p,”)

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote that Trump is making us ​both crazy and ​ill​, listing the many stress-caused symptoms people are feeling including his own increasing blood pressure ​since Trump b​ecame President. ​​He references a paper by New York Analyst Matt Aibel that was to appear in the journal “Psychoanalytic Perspectives​,” ​in which the analyst wrote ​that many mental health professionals are often using terms such as​ ​”Trump Anxiety” and “Trump Affective Disorder.”

(Dana Milbank, Washington Post, Sept. 22nd, 2017, “President Trump is Actually Making us Crazy”)

​In the blog Anxious Minds, ​Dr. David J. Leonard writes effectively and movingly of the PTSD and general anxiety, fear, and anguish being caused by Trump​. The post’s title says it all: “A Culture of Depression; the Toxicity of Trump.”  I recommend it, and it’s at his blog AnxiousMinds.org.

My Plan to Help at the Border:​​

Whatever your views are on ​our President or on our current society, you likely are among the many in this country who don’t want to see continued suffering at the border​, s​o I hope you agree with my prescription​ below,​ or something close to it:  

Trump must arrange to pay for ​the 3 to 5 years of mental health aid the border families or some members of them may likely need​,and at least two years of housing, ​two years of ​healthy groceries ​(fresh organic fruits and vegetables, so they can recover from the damage caused by the chemical-filled nutrition-less processed foods fed to them at the border), a two-year stipend for other necessities, and ​jobs, plus job training if needed, so adults can work once they’re stabilized. Jobs assigned must not be ones that cause ​new or ​worse mental ​or physical ​health issues​. All families must be reunited, all illnesses immediately treated, and all medical care paid for by the US. Endangered families and individuals must not be sent back home. US money and aid should be sent to each country from which suffering people are fleeing so that those places become healthy and safe ​to live in without terror. ​Finally, it would look really good and be even more healing if some of this money came directly out of Trump’s pocket. ​

When should this process begin? Today. The alternative, for ​those who let the suffering continue,  is to be remembered ​by a great many people as bullies, cowards, and pathetic leaders​ who did nothing​. ​There may be worse alternatives in store as well, such as going to jail, even if action is taken now, because so much damage has already been done. ​

Miserable, traumatized and frightened people can’t be very good citizens even if they try hard. We need to help them get on their feet. Jobs need to be done here, and these people ​​need jobs. The whole country needs a mental health boost which it could be given right now if the government act​ed​​​ humanely and did so immediately. ​This right and good action might ​do a little to ​begin to redeem the current leadership’s reputation and to help heal the despair of so many Americans that’s been caused by Trump. I personally would love to see this administration redeem itself in these ways and in many other ways, because besides ​feeling newly stressed most days like so many other people are, due to the behavior of this President and those who go along with him, I’m also perpetually stunned and embarrassed by their cowardice and cruelty. 

Smart Meters

Susan Cooke

Along with 5G we now have SMART METERS–not a good thing

I’m hoping my messages on 5G are beginning to get to more people so they understand what’s coming, since the federal government seems to have no interest in discussing it with them. I’ll get back to fighting 5G  in the next post. Meanwhile I’m sorry to report that we now also have Smart Meters to contend with. I learned about them first from the EMF Safety Network, which urges us to oppose them along with 5G—and I only learned about these new utility meters this week. (You can look at home now to check whether you have one—check your meters for  electric, water, and gas. You want to keep “analog” meters, and resist having them swapped for smart meters.) We’ve now written letters to our utilities begging them not to replace our meters with smart ones, not that we expect that to go over well.

After we wrote our letters, I discovered the pages at a link below from the site, “Stop Smart Meters.org.” that have more explicit directions on how to fight this supposed improved technology. I suggest having a look at those if you’re not up on the plans for us that we once again had no say in. If you look at the photos on both pages, you can see some examples of what the meters look like (they don’t all look the same). It appears the meter often says “smart meter” right on it, but might also say AMI or AMR, or maybe even other labels we don’t know about yet so check your meters, and if it’s not clear, call that utility and ask. You have the right to know if you’ve got smart meters or not. Here are those links:

https://stopsmartmeters.org/frequently-asked-questions/faq-smart-meter-basics/

EMF Safety Network says utility companies worldwide are replacing analog electric, gas, and water meters with “pulsed radiation smart meter networks.” This despite known health effects already, no informing of the public about the change, not mentioning the possibilities for much easier hacking (which apparently is a known problem with 5G in general already), and privacy invasion. The meters by the way eliminate meter reader jobs, provide information on your private habits such as when you cook, watch TV, have lights on or not, and whether you are at home or not. EMF Safety says California utilities have admitted giving this information to the government and other third parties! As for health effects, on the same page I linked you to above, be sure to read what’s under the heading “Health Hazard,” but I mention some (not all) effects further down.

To be clear, Big Government and Big Tech are now adding smart meter networks, along with 5G, just about everywhere, to the growing soup of radio frequencies (RFs) we’re being forced to swim in, with no healthcare protests even allowed to be considered in the case of 5G, and I rather doubt my and my husband’s own requests not to get smart meters will be fulfilled. So you cannot ask not to have one of the 5G small cell towers near your home for health reasons. (Well, you can ask, and we plan to, but the law allows your pleas to be ignored.) This has already thrown people all over the country into a panic, with some taking difficult and expensive steps to try to shield themselves or their sick children, or grappling with the idea of moving. But where can you move that will be free of this stuff–a mountaintop somewhere? Nope, they’re going to beam 5G from satellites, unless we stop them. Oh, and there’s a plan to put it in babies’ diapers.

Are you worried about complications or new health issues already associated with chronic bombardment from all this RF? Already turning off Wifi at night because you suspect or know your symptoms are likely wifi-related and feel you surely won’t be able to handle even more with 5G or the effects of smart meters added to the load? Too bad for you. Big Tech and Big Government don’t care about your headaches, auto-immune issues, pacemaker issues, or increasing anxiety and/or depression. Both the latter two are rampant in the U.S. population already, and just the fact that people are being bullied can add greatly to both their anxiety and depression, aside from the stress of fear of health effects. Most people care about the planet too, unlike the current White House, and many are already depressed as they watch it continue on its path toward destruction by climate change due to–again–ego, greed, and impulsivity most people over the age of seven would not dare allow in themselves once they knew what was at stake.

So know that those in charge already know many of us will ask not to have a tower near our homes for health reasons, and they’re therefore gotten ahead of us by making a law that lets them say “Tough luck, you’re getting it anyway.” So we’ll have effects of smart meters and 5G at home as well as at work, in stores, in restaurants, and, if the spread of them increases as planned, everywhere we go–outside, inside, home, and on vacation. It sounds to me as if there will be nowhere to escape. I’d be delighted if someone convinced me I’m mistaken about this, but if you read the news stories and comments of many scientists not in favor of these changes so far, it’s hard to be convinced.

Don’t look to the President, top FCC officials, or Big Tech companies for answers. It looks like they’ll all be getting richer and/or getting huge ego kicks out of making our country the lead World Tech Power with this stuff. Why do we all have to suffer–even if we don’t end up having health effects–with having the fear of them, so those few people can grab some extra wealth and what they see as glory (I guess)? That’s insane and clearly those people have enough money and power already. Yes the US is competing with China and other countries also adding this technology, countries who also shouldn’t have begun using it either. But this is such an enormous health (and privacy and hackability) issue that all populations should have been consulted with and informed before any changes were made (not likely in China but in matters of health and wellbeing dictators including the current US tone seem the least trustworthy of all).

This rollout should never have begun without the people’s consent due to the stunningly irresponsible lack of testing, lack of knowledge about future effects, and the widespread plans nevertheless to put it everywhere–and quickly. (What’s the hurry? “Quickly” adopted new technology didn’t work so well for Boeing, did it?) These self-interested entities have no answers for you as to the possible damage because they have no idea themselves, or they do have an idea, and unbelievably, especially if they have children or grandchildren, they don’t care. It’s clear that it’s up to the people to stop it.

The EMF Safety group says the World Health Organization categorizes RF as a 2B carcinogen, the same as DDT and lead, adding that thousands of studies have linked RF exposure to increased cancer risk and nervous system damage, to name a couple (there’s a link to more on their page). Pulsed radiation from smart meters has already caused tinnitus, memory loss, and seizures, and further down the page you can see a litany of customer complaints including headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, palpitations, dizziness, nausea, ear pain, and more. This same page also reports something especially significant:  the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has already called for a halt to wireless smart meters.

Groups especially vulnerable to RF health issues include pregnant women, seniors, people with known EMF sensitivities, medical implants, compromised immune systems, and those with pacemakers, who were warned by one organization to stay at least 6 inches away from all smart meters. (I imagine this would be hard to remember at all times, especially if the pacemaker patient is older as they often are, and might not be able to read the meter from 6 inches, even with glasses or a magnifying glass).

The page on smart meters also reports home fires, explosions, and burnt out appliances. See that page for details on all this as well as how costs will increase, and just how smart meters will work. Look further down to see how Californians have struggled with trying not to have, or to get rid of, Smart Meters.

The EMF safety group adds that smart meters already show evidence of environmental harm (see on the page a photo of a dying shrub next to a meter). I can’t see how all this added radio frequency (when for most of the earth and living beings’ history there was none) wouldn’t harm the environment in multiple not-yet-known ways including many that may not show up for years, just as human and animal illnesses such as cancer from it may not show up for years. I can’t imagine it not affecting bees, butterflies, other insects, and birds—all of which have exceedingly complex systems that guide them on annual trips across wide distances and back, systems we don’t fully understand yet. I can’t imagine it not affecting other wildlife, farm animals and pets, and due to effects on wildlife and insects, even flowering plants and food crops.

We’re risking, along with the increased immediate negative health issues already being reported in many people, the unbalancing of many delicate environmental systems necessary for the health and survival of all living things. People in power who don’t believe in science won’t get this, which is another reason the rest of us have to speak up. We’re already causing death and destruction by not stopping all practices that delay global warming. As is so often the case many in power can’t seem to learn that just because a new technology is available doesn’t mean we need to add to the planet’s woes by rushing into using it. In many past cases new technologies should never have been allowed to be established (nuclear power—that turned out well).

Why do we not learn this? I think part of it is we’re in such a hurry to get from one minute to the next in our frantic daily lives, or simply to get rich (and/or more powerful in some cases), and get there fast, we forget to or choose not to think. Remember thinking? Admittedly not much modeling of it is going on now in our government, but it’s generally a very useful practice.

So these relatively few individuals pushing this technology on all living things on earth and on the earth itself are committing what I can only see as a criminal act. It denies us in this country, of what was, I thought, our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. How can you have a hope of being happy when you’ve lost control over your own fate, and been forced to turn your health and quite possibly your lifespan, as well as the health of the planet you likely (hopefully) love, over to a few self-interested people who grabbed some power awhile ago. Their actions are unconscionable, unethical, and immoral, .

More soon on fighting both smart meters and 5G together, but you can begin now by protesting vehemently to your reps in government at all levels. Your state or city may already have a group that’s prepared petitions and other protests. Many Californians are working on this, and there’s an active group and petition fighting 5G in Finland. You can see and translate their petition at:

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fi&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kansalaisaloite.fi%2Ffi%2Faloite%2F3844

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

Susan Cooke

 

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to finish my book on stress in American cities, a book that I hope will help all of us, especially if our legislators and business leaders pay attention. I address many stresses in the book, some of which I cover in this blog, and one point I return to often is the way chronic stress affects us both mentally and physically, hammering away at our brains, our moods, for many of us causing migraines and lack of sleep, and ultimately when it gets bad enough making us physically ill by increasing blood pressure and in other ways contributing to heart disease and other ills. You probably already know that stress has been shown many times by research to affect our quality of life and even how long we live. 

What I did not so far include in my discussions of all the stresses, because it wasn’t around when I began the book, was the gut-wrenching, happiness-destroying, anxiety-inducing, chaos-pushing, rudeness and crudeness-modeling, insulting-to-allies and embarrassing-to-Americans behavior of the current wrecking-ball residing in the White House. He is, if you ask anyone I know, the cause of a slew of destructive mental and physical symptoms from chronic worry, anxiety, and even panic, to insomnia to real hopelessness, all of which can turn into depression—a huge problem already in our country and worldwide. (Since legislators are often so concerned with finance, they should know that depression costs our country well over $210 billion a year.)

We suffer everyday shock and awe at Trump’s dictator-like behavior and narcissism, his bullying cruelties, his unprecedented delivery of coy, confusing messages, his turning around of many upsetting things he says, one of the worst of which was his recent glee over the idea of sending Americans to Putin to be questioned (which in the case of one of them was likely to mean certain death), and he didn’t turn that around until those Americans and their families had sweated through several long and fearful days and nights. We also suffer from his and his administration’s increasing secretiveness as with that recent Putin summit, secretiveness that leaves everyone churning in the wind with worry about what might happen next. Therapists sometimes use a term for how he treats the American people: he’s “crazy-making,” and he seems to enjoy the resulting chaos as much as Putin is purported to enjoy the chaos Russia adds to the mix as it tries to turn us against one another..

While we stew in confusion, we also watch helplessly as he destroys the environment, relations with allies, and the lives of desperate immigrants. He’s removed for many of us what little feeling of security we once might have had in a world that includes monsters like Putin. In short, Trump is stressing much of America, and likely shortening our lives right now, all by himself. He’s surely having much the same effect on millions worldwide. We do the world a great disservice by letting him continue, and the only moral and right thing to do seems to be to get him out of office as soon as possible, meanwhile limiting, curbing, and protesting loudly and constantly every step he takes that leads to more destruction. Occasionally he does something good, but these moments are so rare they can’t counterbalance the enormous amount of stress he causes.As I watch Congress react, I find most of them much too placid and not livid enough. I want them to get really angry (but not with weapons!) and stop all this destruction of so many facets of our country and our freedom we hold dear.

What he’s done to the environment alone is keeping many people up at night as we watch the horrors of climate change and species extinction multiply right in front of us. What we needed in these difficult times was a leader of extreme intellect and ability, and what we got was a thoughtless, largely incompetent (for this job), and strangely non-empathetic person, who seems to thrive on making people feel awful. He is not in the slightest prepared for the emergencies of climate change such as the moving northward of tropical diseases and the endangering of wilderness lands and wildlife. In general problem-solving he seems mostly unable or unwilling to think ahead more than a few minutes, which to me is one of the most frightening things about him.

I’m stunned at how much he’s gotten away with so far, but to save what quality of life we might still be able to hold onto we need to take more and faster action. I beg Congress to act to repair the damage, and I beg us all to vote people into office who will do the same. Trump as we now know him simply seems too dangerous a choice as continuing leader for a country that needs to remain a beacon for the world. He doesn’t study, he doesn’t know history, and he doesn’t appear to make much use of the amazing brain power available to him. He thinks so highly of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any of those things I just listed, and that is not leading. A good leader prepares deeply and makes good things happen, or clearly tries to, and inspires and serves as a shining example to others. 

I realize many of Trump’s base may feel less stressed than before, but now that we understand better what their needs are, can we not help those people and address those issues without all this destructive fallout? Surely we have the ability and the smarts in this highly educated country to lift everyone in ways that we know they need but that don’t do this kind of harm in the process. But to do this we need a leader who is not mostly concerned with himself and his whims at the expense of the entire world. We need a leader devoted to undoing and stopping damage to the planet, to feeding, housing, caring for, and providing a better life for the poor and desperate in our country and in the world, and to helping others by building, with careful thought, study, consultation, and planning, the many systems and practices we need that are humane and good.

Another reason we need to stay stabilized (that is,Trump-less) and not fall further into fear and hopelessness is that we must work together as a country to keep Putin and other likeminded creatures away from our precious democracy and freedom. We need to remember when we see on TV or online spectacles of conflict and chaos, that Russia may be behind much of it. We’ll need to stand strong together so Putin can’t play us into more chaos so we’re too broken and weak to fight him. We need to stand together with our allies for the same reason.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on possible ways we could make some other recent terrible events turn out at least somewhat less badly:

Some of Trump’s own millions should go immediately to getting every single parent and child he’s separated back together, and as I’ve mentioned before, to pay for the years of therapy they’ll need. (No, I’m not joking, I really think he should pay.) He should also give at least a thousand-dollar stipend to each family (though it isn’t near enough) to help them start again, wherever they end up living. And most should live here rather than be sent home to die in violent countries or to live in fear until they die. We need lots of workers here right now, so he should keep every person not clearly proven dangerous here in the country (with children) and find them housing and a job, and we DO have the resources for both, especially if money is spent more wisely (not on military parades–an offense to even think about in the face of so much poverty and suffering). I wish he could be made to pay also for the therapy, lost sleep, and illness caused by stress of the millions of Americans suffering deeply every day from the fear and desperation he causes, but I know that won’t happen. 

He (and Sessions) should go to trial for cruel behavior and emotional abuse of those immigrants. I so wish Trump could also be tried for emotional abuse of all Americans caused by increasingly frightening many of them as he acts more and more like a dictator every day, and a rather unstable dictator at that. As I write this the WH has removed phrases from printed versions of the press conference at the Helsinki summit, and decided that there will be no written versions of his phone calls to other leaders. He has told us not to believe what we read or hear on the news. Hardly anyone can figure out from day to day what he really thinks or means to do about anything. Does this sound like our forefathers’ idea of a good leader for the United States of America?

Trump should also send whatever money he was going to have us spend on his military parade directly to Puerto Rico right now, and keep sending more until they are back on their feet and everyone has power, food, meds, and clean water. 

For the wellbeing of the entire world the best thing for Trump to do on top of the above-listed items is resign. A President who regularly causes so much damage to health and wellbeing should not stay or be allowed to stay in office. An enormous apology to us, to the world, and to the founding fathers seems in order too, but we know that’s not going to happen either. In order to make a sincere apology, people need to be able to find within themselves at least a modicum of humility.

Trump, human rights abuse, & racism

Susan Cooke

Despite the fact that most of us have observed that Trump rarely thinks about anything before acting, and that he’s focused not on planning but mostly on what he apparently perceives as his Almighty self, I can’t help but believe based on all his past actions and statements, that his ability to even think of separating parents and kids with no plan to unite them and not feel an ounce of guilt or responsibility is based on an innate fear and hatred of non-white human beings.

Yes you can say it’s just his obsession with staying in power by pleasing his base (notice I didn’t say “Presidency,” I said “power” which seems to be, as with Putin, his main reason for living), you can say occasionally he’s hugged a black person on TV, and you can say many other things, but let’s cut out the hedging and go ahead and call him what he is–a racist. We have a racist President.

When you combine the racism with a love of power, an egocentric impulsivity that makes him able to insult longtime allies, endanger the world order, and indeed endanger the world’s very existence by his willingness to invade other countries and by ignoring the science concerning climate change, you end up with an astonishingly toxic mix. By the way I believe  he does believe in climate change and global warming, yet loves power so much he feels no remorse about the damage he and the EPA are now causing.

Trump in fact seems to loves Trump more than anything else, and the world’s and little children’s and their weeping mothers’ welfare be damned. They’re mostly brown so they’re not quite human in his book, meaning the suffering isn’t quite real to him or doesn’t matter. Many monsters want to continue acting monstrously but will say to us, how dare we call them monsters?  If he doesn’t like being considered a monster, he should drop everything else he’s even thinking of doing and personally make certain those families are reunited immediately, pay out of his own pocket all the money it’s going to take to get it done now, and pay all the bills for the therapy these people will need. He should also, along with Sessions, be tried for human rights abuse.

As he might say himself, he should man up and be tried for all the destructive blunders he’s made, blunders that have damaged so many. Yet there’s no sentence heavy enough to pay for causing what may well be lifelong depression and other mental illnesses for thousands of traumatized children and their parents.

Bullies On the World Stage

Susan Cooke

I’ve been thinking about some of our world “leaders” and how they got so mean. The classic answer, I figured at first, is someone was mean to them when they were kids, but that happened a lot to Winston Churchill and he turned out mostly okay. His dad was fiercely critical at times, and his mom was pretty much hands-off, so there wasn’t much affection (though his mother was verbally supportive). Both parents failed to visit him at school much and were pretty self-involved. Luckily he had a loving nurse, “Womany,” who was in essence mother and father to him, always giving support and affection whenever he was home. As an adult he snapped at his wife a lot, and suffered from chronic depression. The strikes against him emotionally could have made him both a miserable and perhaps tyrannical leader, or no leader at all, but some magical combination of good things must have changed what might have been an awful course for his life to take, altering what is now such an important moment in history. His father’s at least occasional closeness, and his admiration for his father seemed to inspire him periodically, though sadly this was cut short by the syphilis that gradually destroyed his father’s mind and ended his life too early. Thankfully he was also strengthened enough by the love, even if distant, of his adored mother, and the unending unconditional support of Womany even as he grew older–until she died–so that the world gained an inspiring leader rather than a powerful bully.

I’ve known other people with not the greatest childhood experiences who did not turn into bullies, and some who bullied part-time yet could be caring at other times. But what about the people who bully most of or all the time? This of course includes most heads of governments of countries whose unfortunate people we’ve seen suffer a great deal, both in the past and today, and also heads of governments who want to make people in other countries suffer too. You know the names–tyrants and dictators through the ages and those bullying millions right now.

KID BULLIES

On the bullying information site “Ditch the Label” which largely addresses school bullies, it says bullies usually want to gain a feeling of power, purpose and control over you. In their research they found that many bullies were likely to have experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in the past five years before they bullied someone. They say while some people meditate or find other ways to deal with their trauma, some simply don’t know what to do and may bully as a coping mechanism. 66% of the people who told these researchers they’d bullied someone were male.It’s believed this has partly to do with the way boys are raised, not feeling it’s okay to show emotions, while girls are usually encouraged to talk about their feelings.

Their research shows those who are bullied are twice as likely to bully someone else. One in three who bullied told researchers they felt their parents/guardians didn’t have enough time for them. They were more likely from larger families, less likely to live with biological parents, often felt rejected by their parents, or came from violent households with lots of arguments and hostility. They tended to feel relationships with their friends and family were not secure. They were more likely to feel those closest to them weren’t very supportive or loving, and made them do things they were not comfortable doing.1

I was bullied often as a child, but I guess there was enough love and support from various people along the way to prevent me from turning into a complete jerk. For what it’s worth, being bullied is probably partly what made me want to fight on behalf of victims of all sorts. (Still, I don’t recommend the experience.) So this seems an imperfect science–predicting who becomes a bully–but I do think based on my own experience that the people I quote here have a lot of ideas that make sense.

ADULT BULLIES

Psychology Today‘s page on adult bullies tells us one way people bully others is to use title, position, or material leverage to intimidate, threaten, harass, and/or harm. The bully uses his advantage in stature and/or resources (like wealth) to control and dominate the victim. It quotes Edmond Burke: “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” It also mentions verbal abuse as bullying, including threats, shaming, hostile teasing, insults, constant negative judgment and criticism, or racist, sexist, or homophobic language. Quoting Lundy Bancroft, “The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds or punches but are often not as obvious.”

The site discusses physical, cyber, and “passive-aggressive or covert” bullying. Author Preston Ni describes the latter this way:

This is a less frequently mentioned form of bullying, but in some ways it’s the most insidious. With many bullies, you can see them coming because they are quick to make their intimidating presence known. A passive-aggressive or covert bully, however, behaves appropriately on the surface, but takes you down with subtlety.

Examples of passive-aggressive and covert bullying include negative gossip, negative joking at someone’s expense, sarcasm, condescending eye contact, facial expression or gestures, mimicking to ridicule, deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity, the invisible treatment, social exclusion, professional isolation, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s well-being, happiness, and success. 2

On another Psychology Today page, Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D, author of the book A Unified Theory of Happiness, reports bullying is widespread and increasing:

Bullying is an aggressive behavior with the aim to intimidate and harm another, repeatedly over time and with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. While it happens more frequently in countries that promote violence and that are intolerant of inter-individual differences, bullying is everywhere. Even in other species: chimpanzees do it; dogs do it; mice do it. 

We might bully, she says, when we feel threatened by someone who stands out or who seems to have a competitive edge over [our] perceived limited resources. She says anyone different from the group is a potential target. Her quote from Hogan Sherrow of Scientific American is especially apt and I think interesting in our present culture:

Individuals whose behavior challenges, disrupts or are considered unusual are often the targets of aggression, and that aggression continues until those individuals change their behavior…Bullying-like behaviors are used to enhance an individual or coalition’s competitive ability, or to coerce others into changing their behavior to conform to the rest of the community. Bullying-like behaviors provide the individuals who engage in them with advantages over their targets, through enhanced status or access to resources, or both.

If I understand her correctly, Polard is saying some (I would think mostly insecure) people want power of various kinds, either just because they want it or because that power leads to getting resources like money, attention, status from a peer group, or fame. Such people seem to have no qualms about bullying to get those resources.

STOPPING BULLIES

Polard says the victims’ coming forward to say they were bullied isn’t near enough to stop the bullying. You have to understand bullying better, and understand what’s up with the bully and why he/she feels insecure, threatened or disempowered enough to do this. It’s also the responsibility of the community to stop the bully by building powerful coalitions around the victim (I assume she means provide widespread protection of people who tend to be bullied.)

Her next thought seems important to remember: we can’t wait for bullies to become aware of how they need to change. We need to empower the victim now with education about why bullies bully, and help the victim discover his/her own power. Next, victims (and I would think the rest of us too) should let the bully know we know they bully because they’re fearful and insecure or don’t feel they have enough or are good enough. We should demand not only an apology, but that the bullies examine their behavior, get help, and not bully again. She suggests a support group for the victim, and finally a look at the entire society. Is it hostile or unkind, for instance?

I know she is talking largely about kids at school in this instance, but in many ways this applies to adults in the larger world, for example she writes:

All parties ought to look into the contributing factors of an atmosphere of intolerance and aggression. If schools promote competitiveness from an early age on, dividing kids according to their test taking skills, offering special classes, discussing college in elementary school and the “rush to nowhere” in general, we ought not to be surprised that kids start to elbow each other. We need to look at racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other discriminative behavior and engage in open discussions. Where is the dialogue about uncomfortable truths?

Also helpful are her observations on the contribution of mental illness, which itself is added to by unhealthy trends in our culture:

We need to address the fact that a myriad of people are unhappy and highly medicated, suffering from depression and anxiety, triggered by the great recession, social injustice, glorified aggression in movies and actual warfare, extremely high divorce-rates and dysfunctional families, inertia, anorexic role models and reality TV stars whose one God is money. Happy people are the exception, not the norm and are therefore an easy target for those who are fashionably unhappy. The least we can do is to be mindful about mental health and the lack of thereof. 3

TODAY’S BIG BULLIES

I imagine as you read through these various quotes and ideas about bullies, the behavior of many people comes to mind, people both in your inner circle and in public life. Since I was looking primarily for keys to help us stop political bullying from those in power in the world now, I’ll only comment on them here.

I might in the future look into those bullies’ childhoods and see what I can find, but I think our main problem is what they’re doing right now. I’m not sure we can undo enough childhood damage to change those bullies, although I’ve always thought we should have the best psychotherapists around working for the government to help formulate policies with regard to world bullies. (Those psychotherapists should be selected carefully, using peer review, etc. and no politics!)

Our own President is a bully in more ways than I can get into here, but I’ll mention one that applies to several comments of Preston Ni on covert or passive-aggressive bullying mentioned earlier: “…deliberately causing embarrassment and insecurity…professional isolation, and deliberately sabotaging someone’s well-being, happiness, and success.” Trump just did the above to ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe by firing him a few hours before his pension began. Even if it’s found that McCabe broke the law he could have been given his pension for now. This was classic, mean bullying. We need to act on Polard’s direction to build a coalition of safety around McCabe, support him in his efforts to obtain justice, and call out the bully Trump for what he is as well as let him know he’s showing his fear, insecurity, and the fact that underneath his shows of bravura he doesn’t think he’s good enough. He needs to know we’re onto him and how he’s using power and money to belittle and harm someone (and the someone’s family). Trump’s behavior in general is also reflected in part of another statement mentioned earlier, on using verbal abuse to bully. Methods include “threats, shaming, hostile teasing, insults, constant negative judgment and criticism, or racist, sexist, or homophobic language.” My experience of him has been he uses many of these methods constantly.

As for Putin, we need to let him know even more certainly than we have already that we’re onto him, that he’s using resources and the power he used bullying to get, to then bully millions by threatening their very existence. Kim Jong Un doesn’t have as much money from what I understand, but his nukes and the friends (I think some of them are also bullies) who give him money for nukes and for whatever other brutal stuff he’s cooking up are all clearly a threat to us and seem happy in that role. (I’d like to see an entire book on what makes people happy to be monsters. And what does it take to go from bully to monster? It seems hard to know where to draw the insanity line.)  I’m not sure but I think Kim is more transparent about what’s bothering him than is Putin, though Kim may not mean to be. We all know he feels unsafe, so I say do what we can to make him feel safer, but let him know the world can see he’s feeling insecure. On second thought he might be too unstable to withstand that. (It really is time to consult the world’s therapists.) Maybe we should just let him know we think he’s acting dishonorably, in case there’s an ounce of him that cares about that.

I’m afraid Putin would be unaffected by our calling him dishonorable. He seems both a covert and overt bully, with his constant denials that he’s done anything wrong while he continues to threaten and frighten people. I guess Polard would say we need to build up our own methods of protection against both these bullies, but maybe we should also remind them that if they did even only partially destroy us it would in the end give them a very expensive clean-up job to do. Our country wouldn’t be worth near as much to them in the terrible disarray, death, and destruction a nuclear (or severe cyber or wide chemical) attack would leave. We might mention that most history books and countries would vilify them forever if they did enough such nasty stuff to us or to other countries. They’re already down for some pretty negative pages in those history books now of course. It’s worth mentioning, since we don’t have lots of alternatives left to use to defend ourselves from all of their many methods of causing death and chaos, other than harming yet more innocent people in an un-winnable war. If they do contemplate lots of expensive further destruction, I’d like to remind them that we could all (including them) put that money to great use helping each other’s countries become wonderful rather than scary places. So I refer them to a new idea on the off-chance they ever read this: They should look at my posts on making and living in a kinder world. Better yet, they should just start doing it. Bullies, put your energy and money into something that will really make you famous–doing good.

At some point we have to hope today’s big bullies can stop thinking about their own amassing of power for a few minutes to remember they won’t live forever and may leave behind terrible reputations as hateful, useless humans who had the power to contribute wonderful gifts to the world but chose instead to use power to harm. The mess they make will be an embarrassment to their memories and for their families down through the generations for eons to come, that is, if they haven’t wrecked or blown up the whole planet before then.