What is the Cure?

Note: I wrote the following essay about two weeks after the election of Donald Trump. I didn’t post it to the blog at the time, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take the blog into the political arena since it is such a divisive subject.  But, I am continuing to experience anxiety related to Trump’s presidency – in fact, I was motivated to write a poem, which you’ll find at the end of this essay. So, I re-read what I wrote, and did some editing and decided to share it. I hope it offers food for thought.

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I am struggling. I have moments where I imagine I have the energy to do the things I need to do – laundry, cooking, planning stuff, paying bills, writing, etc. And then when I actually need to move to do them, I feel like I am in mud. My spirit is in quicksand and sinking slowly. Has it reached bottom yet?

I know that I need to move beyond that, but I am so profoundly disappointed. I feel drained. I’m hoping that writing this, as writing often does for me, will be a form of expurgation. Maybe I will be able to leave it on the page. So here goes….

In the wake of Trump’s election, I have been thinking a great deal about the people who voted for him and what they might believe.

Here are some beliefs I can accept, even if I don’t agree with them:

  • That government is not able to provide solutions to societal problems.
  • The primacy of individual responsibility, rather than “it takes a village.”
  • Big government is inefficient and incompetent.
  • American businesses and workers need more protection in global markets.
  • Religious faith, if one is a believer, should guide personal behavior and choices
  • Less regulated (or unregulated) capitalism is the best economic system.
  • Favoring national security over personal privacy.

Here are some beliefs I cannot accept:

  • That immigration policy or immigrants are the source (or even a major source) of America’s economic and/or societal woes.
  • That building a wall will solve any of America’s problems.
  • That people of color have too much power (or that white people have too little power) in this country.
  • That by sanctioning same-sex marriage, we are on a slippery slope that will allow bestiality or polygamy.
  • That government has a role to play in regulating reproductive rights (other than its role in approving drugs and licensing doctors, etc.)
  • That one individual’s religious faith can trump another person’s beliefs.
  • That Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.
  • That registering Muslims, or preventing immigration of Muslims, will reduce the threat of terrorism.

The above is partially in response to something my nephew wrote after the election. He wrote about how essential it is to be willing to talk with and listen to people with differing perspectives and not live in an echo chamber (not his words, mine). I see the danger in that. But, I also don’t think the ‘echo chamber’ is the root of the problem. I think that makes the problem far worse, but the divisions in our country, at their root, aren’t caused by the failure to listen to others. I think the division is about fundamental beliefs and, in some cases, willful ignorance.

No matter how much I talk to someone who thinks Hillary belongs in jail, they are simply not going to be able to convince me (and it is highly unlikely that I will change his/her mind). My mind is closed to that notion. Unless and until evidence of a crime is presented, and despite the extraordinary effort to do just that, it hasn’t happened.

Some beliefs may be born of ignorance, for example, climate change denial may be based on ignorance of the science. But to overcome ignorance, you must be willing to be educated and accept information (facts) that doesn’t conform to your mindset (if actual evidence of Hillary’s criminality surfaced, I would change my view).  The willingness to be educated is different than being willing to exchange ideas with someone. Yes, I can learn something by listening to another perspective, but at some point we need to agree to a body of knowledge or a set of facts about our world. I see that failure as the root of the problem.

When we are receiving information, it seems to me, we look at it through the lens of our belief system. I don’t see things in black and white, I see many, many shades of gray (which is sometimes a pain in the ass), but it generally makes me open to considering alternative ideas. When I receive information, I ask myself a number of questions: where did the information come from? Is it observable? Is it consistent with other known facts? It’s like when I used to read journal articles in graduate school – what was the methodology? Can the findings be trusted? Do others do that when they receive information? And if they don’t, what do we do about that?

I see most things on a continuum; values, beliefs, philosophies. Here are some of the belief continuums I see:

People inherently good—————————————–People inherently evil

Individualism—————————————————–Collective Responsibility

Capitalism———————————————————State-run economy

Isolationism——————————————————–Globalism

Unfettered Growth———————————————–Environmental Protection

Business Owners’ Autonomy———————————–Workers’ Rights

National/Personal Security————————————Individual Privacy

Closed US Borders————————————————Completely Open Borders

Gun-Owner Rights————————————————Repeal 2nd Amendment

Obviously within these categories there are many sub-issues.  But, I think this captures the major issues of our day. Am I missing anything?

Here’s where I would put myself:
X(midpoint)

People Inherently Good———-L——————————People Inherently Evil

Individualism————————L—————————-Collective Responsibility

Capitalism——————————-L————————–State-run economy

Isolationism—————————————L—————-Globalism

Unfettered Growth———————————-L————-Environmental Protection

Business Owners’ Autonomy————————–L———-Workers Rights

National/Personal Security————–L———————–Individual Privacy

Closed US Borders———————-L————————–Completely Open Borders

Gun Rights————————————————-L———Repeal 2nd Amendment

Can you place yourself on these scales? Where do you fall?

Maybe this is silly, but I tend to weigh things (not myself, if I can help it).

Can we have meaningful discussion along these lines? Would it be helpful? If we recognize our predispositions, if we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we can look at information more objectively.

___________________________________________________________

Six months later, I was driving up the Northway, with a too familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I listened to NPR report on the G-20 summit. Here is the poem that came to me:

His Presidency

What is that feeling?

My stomach grips

My arms are weak

I sigh deeply

 

Images and thoughts of our President flit across my mind

His signature hand gestures

His limited vocabulary

His callousness

It is unbelievable to me that he represents us on the world stage

 

I have physical symptoms

Of his presidency

What is the cure?

 

10 thoughts on “What is the Cure?

  1. Ok, the fact is that you have invited a thoughtful and reasoned discussion that is not overly political and is sensitive to opposing views. Good luck with that.
    He is evil. He is cruel and ignorant. He loves despots and hates our democratic allies. He demands complete and total loyalty and is an autocrat at heart. He has no ethics. He celebrates the ignorance and confusion that allows this evil to go unpunished. He scapegoats vulnerable minorities. And he has a special place in hell awaiting him.
    This was as nice as I was capable of being. Thank you. I feel better.

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  2. Trump took a page out of the Nazi propaganda script where if you tell a lie often enough people will start to believe it. His followers have been blinded by this with false hopes and false opportunities. His inward and protectionist plans will doom the US if acted upon. If they come to fruition you can anticipate other nations banding together to implement embargo where American products would be highly taxed if even allowed to be imported into their respective countries. Think of the European Union and the Asia Pac countries.

    Regarding the media, it is regrettable that the major media outlets have allowed themselves to be baited by Trump. They’ve played right into his hands (little as they may be) and have given him strength and fortitude and emboldening his base. Rather than reporting without bias and opinion they have done just the opposite.

    The Democratic party needs to regroup itself. It needs to purge it’s current leadership, develop new and engaging leaders that can articulate a plan and get a clear a concise message to the public. Failure to accomplish this will lead to continued disorganization or a leftist leaning party which would be the polar opposite to the far right republican party where nothing will continue to get done and the American way will slowly slip away even further than it currently has.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your analysis. I agree that the Democrats must come up with a viable alternative that speaks to the needs of the country. We live in a precarious time. I wonder where these latest revelations will lead us.

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    1. At my trip today I ate with 2 other couples new to Applewood and so I met them for the first time .. We were having high tea and the conversation was usual….where are you from what school, feelings about Applewood, and then my saying we never talked politics ( no conversation about tennis, movies, etc. the dreaded topics began with getting rid of Obama Care and disintegrated from there. Absolutely no reasoning with them about Trump. Nice people but we are opposits on all topics including immigration. Even FDR didn’t allow Jews and at which point it was fortunate that announcement was made to continue the tour. Leaving the table was a relief. No loud voices but very difficult to talk. No way was I going to change my mind and no way I could agree on any of her points(even talking about his cabinet and his committees. Read today’s Times) I feel dismayed at the level of impossible discourse. Your blog is stimulating but makes me sad for our country. I believe what Steven wrote.

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      1. Regrettably the Times has lost my respect. The Times unfortunately has become overtly anti Trump and biased in their reporting to that affect. They have fallen into the Trump trap regarding his position on the media. In my opinion the Times is no better than Fox news.

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      2. While I do agree that the Times’ reporting on certain issues has been skewed and makes me skeptical about their articles, I am grateful for their work (and for the Washington Post). We wouldn’t know what we do know, and I believe that they have uncovered facts that are essential for us to preserve our democracy. There isn’t much in the way of investigative reporting anymore and we need that to keep politicians (all politicians) accountable. I do not equate the Times with Fox News, there is a difference.

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