It’s 2021 and Time for a Change

Only by Working Together can we End Covid, and End Current Shocking Threats to our Democracy

I write about stress in American cities, but of course stress and its relative, depression, are almost everywhere just now. Most of us are feeling pretty low about the pandemic, and frightened about what’s going on in Washington. Just as I was finishing the post, it was announced that President Trump threatened Georgia’s Secretary of State, trying to force him to add made-up votes so it looks like he won in Georgia. It’s amid the furor created as a result of this mob-boss-like attack on our democracy that I want to encourage all of us to work together to protect that democracy, and to end the ravages of this terrible pandemic.

If you’re up on what people are going through with Covid just now you can skip this section, but I’ve put some of the latest here to illustrate all the agony for which one man is largely responsible–Trump. I do have hope that we can triumph over and begin to decrease the travesty and destruction of the past year. It’s hard to maintain that hope, since some of the darkest days in many decades, for our country and much of the world, are now upon us. To begin, here’s what we need to fix:

Hospitals and healthcare workers are stretched to the limit, physically and psychologically, as are of course patients, their families, and the growing numbers of jobless, hungry, and homeless. One nurse feels as if he’s treading water a hundred feet below the surface, trying to reach the top but never getting there, so all he can do is keep treading. Another cries as she describes how she and her colleagues can’t intubate patients who desperately need it, and can’t even sedate them because there aren’t enough supplies. Know that many of this virus’s effects are too unbearable to go through without sedation. With proper leadership at the top this horror would have been fixed immediately. In fact with a different President it never would have occurred.

So misery beyond imagining, for many months now, has been caused by Trump, master of non-caring, who will be forever deemed responsible for the deaths and suffering of many thousands. Think how many might have survived had he taken the reins and acted like a leader. If he couldn’t lead, one hoped he might turn into at least a halfway competent human being with something like a heart rather than a stone in his chest. But now we know better. Or do we?

He’s also raised most of our the blood pressures with his golfing, sulking, and tirades while simultaneously putting our democracy (emphasis on “our”) in danger repeatedly. He doesn’t get that if he succeeds in his power grab that the country will no longer be what it was. It will at best be a shaky shell of itself. He’ll be the president who destroyed the United States.

It’s almost impossible to imagine how, with all of America’s misery laid out right in front of them, Trump and his cowardly buddies don’t even try to hide their belief that the only thing of consequence in this universe is their own wealth, elite position, and power. How can they bear to know people are struggling for their last painful breath, and desperate, exhausted doctors and nurses are trying in vain to comfort and save them, without helping? Right now the doctors don’t even have enough oxygen for patients fighting for air. What kind of monster will Trump’s party be willing to accept as a future leader if they can accept this barbarism as leadership?

The lack of vision, the arrogance, and the sheer depth of utter selfishness are in the open, plain to all of us except perhaps to the unhappy base who live in fear of nonexistent threats and sadly continue to feed their hard-earned dollars to Trump and Co. But it is Trump and Co. who will be excoriated down the centuries. Their actions have lead to one of the most colossal and tragic failures of leadership and morality in the history of the world.

Congratulations, Trump and cronies. You’ll always be remembered.

(Members of Trump’s base, please have a look at the short section following this one, titled Special Message for Trump Supporters and Base. It’s written with the hope that we can work together for a better future.)

When I get depressed, I try to help someone. Happiness experts say it’s one of the best things we can do–good for the helper and helped! There are powerful actions we can take to aid those fighting to help the ill, hungry, and homeless, to preserve our democracy, to turn around climate change, to make peace and not war, to stop hatred, violence, and tyranny of all kinds, and to put an end to the cruelties inflicted on so many by the other bullies and dictators of the world. Even our smallest effort is of enormous value. Just smiling at someone you don’t know is remarkably powerful.

Some other examples of how we all can help:

Give patients, medical workers, necessary workers, and everyone you’re in contact with a chance to remain healthy and able to work by keeping your distance, washing hands often, and wearing a mask. Maybe even two masks when you enter a store, since many people’s masks slip off their noses. It’s more important than ever to do this since now we have many new variants of the virus that are even more infectious. Make sure your mask covers your nose. I walked out of a coffee shop today because the barista’s mask was completely off his nose and he was making my drink. He was also endangering his colleagues at the shop.

If you’re so lucky as to be offered a vaccine, try to fight any fears by educating yourself. If you have allergies or other conditions, ask your doctor to help you figure out if it’s safe for you to take it. The more of us who take it, the faster the pandemic ends. Some of the conditions may take some time to be clarified. I’m very allergic to the anti-nausea drug Compazine. Is that a problem or not? I don’t know yet and my doctor doesn’t either, but she’s trying to find out, and hopefully she’ll know within a few months as more is learned.

If you must wait like me, the best thing you can do is observe all the above safety precautions. The next vaccine that’s developed may be better for you and me if the current ones aren’t. Once we get our shots, whether or not we have known allergies or other conditions, we can make sure they watch us for the recommended time after the shot (I’ve heard both 15 and 30 minutes). It sounds to me as if all of the health workers know to do that. But if they don’t, ask. Make sure they have handy such treatments as Epi-pens, etc. to counter any unexpected reactions. Again it sounds like that’s required wherever they vaccinate.

Volunteer. I hear often about the joy people take in volunteering, have enjoyed it myself, and highly recommend it, though for some of us it’s not yet safe to work next to others. But we can do a lot of good by working on projects at home or by donating to groups who are helping in many causes. Get creative. I read about a woman who converts political yard sign frames into tools for the disabled.

In this atmosphere of violence and hatred that’s been ramped up since Trump appeared, we can do good by simply acting with newly conscious kindness and empathy. Don’t underestimate the power of kindness. We can be kind to neighbors and colleagues, and learn to appreciate, if not love, all people of all sorts, those we know and those we don’t.

Work to stop any suffering you know of, in both humans and animals, including animals raised for food. They are so helpless, and if you don’t think so, go to a farm and pet a lamb or goat. It can change your life. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest casues of global warming.

CharityNavigator.org is a good place to find organizations you can donate to in order to help solve problems and end suffering both near you and throughout the world. Just a few of the many good organizations that I like are World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Central Kitchen, and Feed America. Some may have chapters near you where you can help in person.

Help President-elect Biden counteract the destruction by Trump of so much that is precious to our country, our people, and the world. Don’t think politics, just think kindness, empathy, and good, caring leadership, and you’ll know who to depend on and support. Even if Biden isn’t your favorite person, he has a good heart and a lot of wisdom and good will–exactly what we and the world need right now.

Be kind to yourself too. Reach out for help with anxiety and depression if you’re suffering from them. There’s no longer a stigma about this, and if anyone acts as if there is, you don’t need to hang out with them. Almost everyone has experienced those problems at one time or another, some chronically, and especially during this past year. Anyone who hasn’t been depressed during the pandemic is indeed fortunate. If you are depressed or scared or anxious, you’re not alone! Help is there, much of it online with therapists, helpful groups, and more.

One last thing we can do to help turn things around in 2021 is to ask members of Congress to do everything they can to stop the dangerous and selfish charade of Trump and cronies trying to invalidate Biden’s win as our next President, an exercise that endangers our democracy and invites the world’s tyrants to take advantage of us while destroying our reputation as beacon of freedom and justice in the world. These people are participating in nothing less than a coup, an ethical, moral, and existential danger to this country, to your own and your children’s lives, and to all those in the world whose last hope was to get help from the United States of America.

Special Message for Trump Supporters and Base

Give science a chance, even if you’ve been doubting it. Try to see the major questions of our time outside of the political sphere. Use “slow thinking,” which I wrote about a few months ago, and ask yourself if you really find a conspiracy theory or a scary statement you heard to be believable. Check more widely for evidence, beyond the social media or news sites that promote these and other upsetting theories. Away from these sites, it’s widely believed that QAnon is just something someone made up (and may be making them rich as well). Don’t fall for it. It’s a sad, scary way to live. It’s so much better for your mental health just to put your energy into helping others, maybe right there in your community.

Many people from both parties have noted that Trump’s base is being used largely to get more money for Trump to pay his legal and other bills after he’s out of office. You likely haven’t heard it if your news sources are only a few, but if it’s true, is that really where you want your money to go? Do you want to live in the atmosphere of hatred he seems to thrive on? If you believe the pandemic is not real, ask yourself how all this massive suffering and dying could be fake? Why did Trump need special expensive medicines most of us can’t get to cure his own case of Covid? Yet Trump has said again recently that the reported deaths from Covid are “fake news.” It isn’t even remotely possible to fake 350,000 deaths.

Some Ways to End Hatred

This article is mostly about reducing hatred and the misery it causes in America, but in the background is the rest of the world, which I mention because of what it and America now have in common. We and many other countries now stand on a precipice. At the bottom is the hellish existence we all face if we don’t solve several terrible problems we share including global warming, poverty, the decline of mental health, and hatred and its associates racism and anti-semitism. These problems will be solved more easily if all countries collaborate to share ideas and to help each other.

While current U.S. leadership thinks being a loner makes America great, the world is now so small that other countries seem to live just down the block. We need to get busy, with or without presidential help, rekindling old friendships with other countries and repairing strained relationships with them so we can make our efforts at home to stop hatred also become worldwide efforts to stop it. Many cities outside our country are protesting the murder of George Floyd, watching how we handle this moment, and I think rooting for us to find ways to solve these problems.

Our next step here however must be to arrest the officers who did not try to stop the murder. I hope that’s happened by the time this is published. This doesn’t mean they’re guilty and is not a trial. But doing nothing will only incite further protests which may cause more destruction, or cause our unstable president to again make matters worse by intimidating, offending, and harming protesters with absurdly inappropriate military might.

Next, we all need to see and hear serious talk followed by immediate action, about police reform and about equality for all in this country. The president should stay out of it since his only interest as everyone knows is in getting elected again.

There must be ongoing clear communication with the public about how the case is proceeding including plans for a trial, what plans have already been discussed on changing policing, and what else is in the works now to show we’re serious about laws and reforms that will stop this terrible cancer in our culture. The point is the people need to see action now.

To accomplish what must be the immediate raising up of all who are downtrodden here (now an emergency of the highest order) we need not just the help of government leaders but also business leaders. On CNN this past week Martin Luther King III called at one point for large businesses to help. I agree, because with some thought and effort they can help provide or at least encourage creation of more jobs, higher minimum wage, a racism-free work atmosphere, funding for media campaigns that encourage the same, and more. All businesses need to strive to do this, but Big Business’s big money does talk and can get big things done.

Also critical is the need for better laws at federal, state, and local levels, which must include a strong focus on safe and fair voting, ethically-run elections, much more support for the poor, homeless, unemployed and underemployed, fairness, justice, equal opportunity, and elimination of hunger and homelessness. If all this change requires giving checks to everyone below a certain income, that’s what we need to do (see Annie Lowrey’s book Give People Money).

Our government, business leaders, and educational and research institutions all need to support decent housing and ways to provide more healthy food, including eliminating food deserts and repairing and beautifying now-downtrodden neighborhoods, adding to them healing nature with trees and parks, and adding a sense of safe community by helping business owners open stores and establish cafes, coffee shops, etc. that include outdoor seating. All American cities need more of those amenities that add nature and a place to meet and feel community, because researchers say we are chronically nature-starved and too isolated socially for the most part. But poor communities often have not one of these benefits, and the resulting atmosphere adds to their feelings of hopelessness.

Mayors of cities have already banked up a lot of wisdom, and often have to come up with solutions to big problems with no outside help. Both singly and together with other mayors they’ve been wonderfully innovative. In this case we need them to assure citizens first that there will be immediate police reform, and then to help secure the requirements such as better pay and more food that are mentioned above. Governors hopefully will also help with these changes throughout their states. When federal leadership is lacking, governors and mayors have shown they get a great deal done by helping each other, so we can hope that will continue at least until there is a competent president again.

Chiefs of police are clearly also important in this process, and besides being good leaders of the force must be also humanitarian leaders, and teachers in the community. One critical task they have now is to stop allowing people to become police officers who were once playground bullies, or who ever showed the slightest indication of a bent toward cruelty, sadism, or obsession with weapons, or showed any other psychopathology.

Psychologists who understand police work, then, need to be hired to develop tests and interviews that reveal such personalities, so they are not hired. Once officers are cleared and hired, they should be required to sign contracts that.pledge to respect and treat humanely every individual they encounter. They need to be coached in helping to reduce racism and hatred in their communities, and informed that any actions or comments to the contrary will not be tolerated. Oversight and laws will probably be needed to ensure that these changes are made and adhered to.

The media and ad agencies can help us reach an entire swath of people who are prejudiced in many different ways and for many reasons. Some hate anyone not white, others hate Jews, the list goes on. They’re out there and we’ll probably never know how many there are, but the idea is to reach them and try to help them see why it’s best for everyone including them not to continue this way. This requires educating people wherever possible, not just in school and at home but in workplaces, on TV with messages and shows suitable for both kids and adults, and on billboards, posters, and signs in front of homes as we already see now in some places.

I’ve always believed, perhaps being too much of an optimist, that civilization would finally evolve, becoming kind, empathetic, and wise. Here and there there’s been a glimmer of hope, but given our problems now, that’s not enough. The time to evolve is here. It’s too late for a slow change because this is an emergency. I believe we can do it, and the rest of the world might just follow.

Let the murder of George Floyd help carry us to that new place we should have gotten to long before now. In this new evolved era we’ll need to understand that to stop hate, nothing is likely to work as well as the power of kindness and empathy. Many of us don’t think about these concepts often, so the concepts might have to be taught, and then practiced. Still, good laws will be needed as backup to protect the rights of all during those times when some forget to practice this new ethic of kindness.

Many cynics, or other people who somehow enjoy feeling prejudice, may sneer at the idea of kindness, empathy, and generosity being the norm, and the accepted way to work, govern, and live. Let them. Then remind them that the alternative is further disintegration into the tragic morass in which we now find ourselves. Explain that we all need people to recognize that hate and fear of others gets in the way of happiness for everyone, and often causes much of the harm and suffering in our world.

Teachers in our schools can help deliver this message by promoting kindness and empathy in the classroom and on the playground. They can stop bullies immediately, and then teach them why that behavior is so bad for them and for the world. If the children are bullied at home they need to be counseled and helped. There should be school psychologists available who can help detect whether there is abuse at home or in the child’s neighborhood.

Although many have tried unsuccessfully in the past, each of us needs to continue to encourage and model that because someone’s color or religion is different there is no need to fear or hate them, and that we can all be friends, and benefit a great deal from the friendship. It needs to be a ubiquitous message, at least until there is change. We need to emphasize that friends are important, and that it’s wonderful to have many of all kinds because the mental health boost given us by having such a supportive community is said by researchers to make us happier and even more physically healthy. More happy people seem likely to help to make the world a happier, less violent place. We need to get across that being together as one people is actually possible, and is much better for us than division and hate. Children need to get this message too, early and often.

To further encourage this togetherness, I can report that rapper Killer Mike, asked by Stephen Colbert on his show what else we all can do to help, requested that we donate to and/or volunteer to work with one or more of the many grassroots organizations trying to help African Americans in many cities, such as Movement for Black Lives, and commit to doing this for some time.

I’ve mentioned ad experts and the media. They can help by crafting and showing messages and PSAs that remind us that treating others kindly is no longer just a nice thing but is essential, and that not getting to know those who are different out of fear and old hatreds makes our lives much duller and surely less joyful. I’m no ad expert but here are some of my (rough) ideas for marketing slogans, which I imagine might have some good art to accompany them: “Love people. Most of us are really cool,” or “Love. It feels so much better than hate,” or “Most people are fascinating. Don’t hate them. Get to know them!” And there’s an older one that’s still good: “Live and Let Live,” or another version of it I came up with: “Live and Help Others Live.”

A nationwide deep apology is also now called for, and it should come from every business and government leader.

We can do this. The wrongs that have been done are clear. If we can’t make this cultural shift toward changing from hate to love, then the tyranny and suffering will continue. If we can’t manage to turn toward kindness as the American way of life, we are not only pathetic, we are lost.