Category Archives: politics

Intent of the Day: Speak Kindly

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-56-12-pm

Today in the US polling places are filled with people who are going to make history with their votes. We’ve been inundated for months with opinions of every person with a computer, phone or video camera. Who should win this election? What are the issues that matter most? Which issues are being underrepresented? Everyone has an opinion and sadly, it seems like it has brought out the worst in so many. It happens when people feel violated. It happens when people feel unseen and unheard. It happens when people are scared. Regardless of what happens, the sun will still come up in the morning. The hands on the clock will move forward. Your neighbor will still be your neighbor. So today our intent is to speak kindly.

You too? Here are some things to help:

Think twice.
Not every thought we have needs to be spoken out loud. We know that may be hard to believe. But words, like the feathers of the proverbial pillow, have a hard time being gathered back up and replaced once they’ve been set free. Before rushing to say everything that pops into your mind, make sure you’ve heard clearly and correctly. Consider whether your opinion helps or hurts the situation at hand in this very moment. Not sharing something doesn’t make you less right. Sharing something doesn’t mean you are right at all. Today, choose to think twice before speaking.
Think of the bad day.
There are roughly 7.5 billion people on this planet right now. That is 7.5 billion people with 7.5 different upbringings, different day jobs, different routes they traveled to work today, different hours of sleep they got the night before. Before being harsh or seeing someone as a speed bump in your day, consider the possibility that this my be the worst day of their life. Imagine what you would want from a friend, family member or even a stranger on the worst day of your life. There is significant power in being able to empathize and maybe kind words are the unexpected solution to a bad situation. (We love this commencement speech by David Foster Wallace where he encourages us to see the people who frustrate us as complete humans with experiences we don’t fully understand, instead of roadblocks or hindrances.)
Think of what you’re making.
The words we speak are making something. They are building things up or tearing things down. They are strengthening and affirming or they are weakening and destroying. Some things in our lives need to be torn down and some need to be built up so, you decide your intents and the future you are trying to create. If it’s a world that’s a little more peaceful, a little kinder, a little softer, then do you part in your tiny corner of this earth to create that. Create that by choosing kindness when you speak. Choose it by letting your words matter every time they come out of your mouth. Because those words have weight and they give life to things that you may never fully grasp. Words of encouragement have encouraged the underdogs of our world to achieve amazing things. Words of discouragement have torn down many a brave and hopeful human. What are you making?

My 14 Year Old Daughter Is Asking You To Vote

vote1

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Tara, and I am fourteen years old. Today, I ask of you a simple task: on Tuesday, November 8th (or before if you can), go out and vote for not only your country’s President, but arguably one of the most powerful people in the world.

I am not going to avoid saying this either. I honestly hope you vote for Hillary Clinton.

I cannot vote, but if you can, I urge you to take advantage of a constitutional right that our founding fathers gave us 200 years ago. Not voting is a direct translation of not caring who the next President of your country is, and it does not matter if your favored candidate did not win the primaries, or you strongly dislike Clinton, Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. You have to picture who would be best sitting in the Oval Office next January, and you have to put their name on the ballot. It’s essential because that is the way our country works.

I am a girl living in Los Angeles. I am surrounded by people of all genders, religions, backgrounds, skin colors, and ideals. Depending on who you elect to the White House, some of those people or all of those people will be represented in our government. I know its hard – this election seems like a joke to many adults, and I know it is painstakingly hard not to laugh when my teachers discuss what a candidate said at the last debate or rallying speech, but its also important to realize that this election is not a joke. Its especially not a joke to the people whose jobs, homes, education, etc. are at stake depending on who takes the Oval.

Personally, I am worried about Tuesday. What will happen? Will my Muslim family friends be looked at differently when they walk down the streets, or be under “extreme vetting” merely because of the things they believe in? Will our world’s climate continue to worsen because it is looked at as a hoax created by another country? Will my fellow gender, the women of America, be allowed to make an extremely hard decision when they become pregnant or not? I’m really not sure. Continue reading

How to Make Sure That Trumpism Never Returns

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The problem isn’t Donald Trump but Trumpism—many commentators feel safe enough to utter these words. What made them feel unsafe over the past year, despite the toxic extremism that Trump the man represented, was timidity. Someone posing as a strong man, capable of viciously demolishing his political enemies, posed a potential threat to anyone who spoke out against him. But now more people have found a way, even a growing handful of Republican politicians, to denounce him.

There’s a collective sigh of relief that Trump has become his own worst enemy, but relief isn’t the same as feeling safe, much less immune. America hasn’t seen the last of Trumpism until remedies against its return are undertaken seriously. As a physician sees it, we are past the prevention stage, past the first signs of disorder, and well into rampant symptoms that threaten a full-blown outbreak. In a word, Trumpism has become a persistent virus, and although it fuels a sense of self-righteousness to blame the long line of Republican presidents going back to Nixon who planted the seeds of Trumpism, we can’t afford that luxury.

To compress Trumpism into its essential ingredients, they are actually a batch of stubborn illusions that have been turned into a belief system, as follows: Continue reading

If Trumpism Is Here to Stay, What Does That Tell Us?

city

By Deepak Chopra, MD

As Donald Trump’s campaigning becomes more unruly–some might say unhinged–the likelihood of him reaching the White House diminishes by the day. But Trumpism is a different story. The ingredients that go into Trumpism fall into the category Freud dubbed the psychopathology of everyday life. To use a broad brush, Freud saw human nature as a war of suppression that is never won, while the possibility of becoming a free, rational, productive person was never achieved. In other words, the psychopathology of everyday life must be considered a constant despite our aspirations and ideals.

It’s a gloomy view of human nature but one that Trump’s ascension underscored. He has no impulse control. He follows the dictates of appetite and ego without regard for others. In the face of problems that require patience and reason, he gets restless and impatient at best and reckless at worst. If we look in the mirror, we can see ourselves in this pattern of behavior, but it belonged, in normal people, to childhood. As adults we take sides in the war of suppression, choosing either to become mature, which means being in control of our Trump side, or letting our demons run, which is pure Trumpism.

The real problem is that even the best societies will never extirpate Trumpism, because our divided selves contain anger, resentment, selfishness, anxiety, and aggression. To the extent that we let these feelings get the better of us, we participate in the psychopathology of everyday life. Trumpism considers this a desirable way to live, but that’s a rich man’s folly. He can bankrupt a casino after running it into the ground and walk away whistling. The workers he laid off can’t do the same. Continue reading

If Trumpism Is the Disease, What’s the Cure?

flag

By Deepak Chopra, MD

The machinery of politics is geared up to defeat Donald Trump on the Democratic side, and there’s hope, after Trump revealed his propensity for self-destruction, that the Republicans will either abandon him or keep a safe distance. Enough condemnation has been directed at him to sink a dozen candidates, and his extended Teflon period may quickly draw to a close.

But the larger issue isn’t Trump’s viability as a candidate, troubling as that is, but the rise of the movement he represents. Every term of condemnation applied to him–bigoted, racist, sexist, xenophobic, authoritarian, mentally unbalanced–fuels the approval of his supporters. A hopelessly divided, hostile electorate has become a diseased electorate. That’s the thing that should disturb us the most, because disease conditions need a cure or else they continue to fester.

To clarify the point, I think back to my early days in Boston as an underpaid medical resident with a young family to support. Like many in my situation, I moonlighted to make ends meet, working at a famous private clinic in the Boston area. My status was on the bottom rung, so I found myself doing workups on the entering patients. One day I did the physical for the leader of a huge labor union, a nationally known figure. To my alarm, he was overweight, a heavy drinker and smoker, and suffering from various symptoms, the most serious being his high blood pressure and bad heart.

I finished the exam and immediately rushed to my supervisor with the bad news. He blanched, saying, “You didn’t tell him any of these things, did you?” I said no, and the supervising physician looked relieved. “We don’t want to let him know that anything is wrong,” he said. “He’s doing okay the way he is, and if he really knew what was wrong, it would probably kill him.” Those were the days, in the early Seventies, when medical ethics still considered it discretionary to tell a patient any grim news, but the net effect was that denial by the doctor led to ignorance by the patient.

The same, and worse, applies to a diseased electorate. On both sides the racism, bigotry, greedy elitism, reactionary attitudes, and sheer malice that has been a feature of the far right for decades somehow became normalized. A very sick patient was being coddled as if he was healthy. In the case of the union leader, keeping him in the dark was done supposedly in his best interest. The far right has been treated with denial out of fear and repugnance. After “nice” Presidents like Reagan and George H. W. Bush deliberately fueled the festering malignancy of the far right, Southern racists, and religious fundamentalists, moral lines became hopelessly blurred for the vast majority of politicians running for office. Continue reading

Can Trumpism Lead to a Better American Story?

flag

By Deepak Chopra, MD

We are living at a time when the story of America is changing, with nothing but more change on the horizon. Therefore, we face a critical decision. Should the new American story be born out of fear or hope? The stark contrasts in the 2016 election make this choice inevitable. One indelible human trait is the craving to turn our experiences into stories. These stories gather tags (now often called memes) that keep the story straight and allow people to agree about them. “The greatest generation” is such a tag, supporting the story of the Allied victory in World War II, which is referred to as a “good war,” another tag. Politics is many things, but one of the most important is a war between competing stories, and if your side comes up with the winning story, your victory can last far beyond one election cycle.

Donald Trump has been wildly erratic when it comes to actual ideas, policies, and positions, but he rode the crest of an immensely successful Republican story. So-called conservative “principles” are largely a collection of mythical storylines, and the tags that define them go back to the Nixon era. We are all familiar with law and order, the silent majority, morning in America, “Government isn’t the solution–it’s the problem,” “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” clash of civilizations, “Guns don’t kill people–people do,” and many other conservative memes.

So fervent is the craving for stories that the right wing clings to storylines that are totally false if your standard of truth is historical fact, accurate data, and pluralism. But rigidly clinging to our story is something we all do. By the same token, we become nervous and disturbed when our story starts to fray. The right plays upon fear very successfully at times of national anxiety, from Nixon’s “pitiful helpless giant” to Bush’s “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” to Trump’s “make America great again,” which plays upon the anxiety of national decline. Fear is a powerful motivator in the short term, even when it proves to be disastrously bad as a guide to action, as witness the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems likely that Donald Trump has finally reached the end of his string and will self-destruct thanks to his total inability to control himself. But the crisis surrounding the American story won’t go away. The benign revolt led by Bernie Sanders isn’t comparable to the toxic revolt led by Trump. Yet they share a refusal to go along with the American story we’ve been living with, and the fact that such a huge proportion of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction indicates how deep our confusion, frustration, and discontent have progressed. Continue reading

America’s Shadow: The Real Secret of Donald J. Trump

trump

By Deepak Chopra, MD

There’s a powerful way to explain the rise of Donald Trump that most commentators have missed entirely or undervalued. The standard line describes Trump as a bizarre anomaly. Beginning as an improbable celebrity candidate, he has defied all the conventional rules of politics, which should have been fatal. Instead Trump has swept all before him on the Republican side. Possessing a “genius” for grabbing the limelight, he continues to dominate the scene in ways no previous politician ever has in modern times–so the conventional view goes.

But in reality Trump isn’t bizarre or anomalous. He stands for something universal, something right before our eyes. It’s an aspect of the human psyche that we feel embarrassed and ashamed of, which makes it our collective secret.  Going back a century in the field of depth psychology, the secret side of human nature acquired a special name: the shadow. Continue reading

Kids and These Presidential Debates

trump

There was a moment in the middle of the Republican debate last night, while Trump was shouting, “Little Marco spews his crap about the size of my hands!” that I muted the television and asked my daughters, “Should we actually be watching this?”

We have watched, as a family, most of the Democratic and Republican debates. My girls and I watched Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings. As a parent, I feel that these forums are allowing my family to discuss the issues, but also watch the body language, tone of voice, and how people treat each other.

My daughters are in 8th grade and 5th grade. They are intelligent, empathetic, globally aware children. As a family, we have always discussed difficult issues together whether it’s a girls right to go to school, the water situation in Flint, the lack of justice for the shooting of a young black boy or what it means to be a refugee from a war torn country. Our extended family is on a group text where we share articles and thoughts on current events. My 8th grade daughter participates in debate tournaments and is adept at researching both sides of an issue, gathering facts and cultivating sound arguments. My husband and I have never shied away from exposing our girls to hard issues – always mindful that we do it in an age appropriate way. At 14 and 11 years old, we have felt they are old enough now to not only process, but also participate in this year’s election.

Yet, the spectacle and degradation of last night’s debate made me pause. Just a few days before, Van Jones, a former Obama staffer and commentator on CNN, had an unbelievable interaction with Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan staffer, about the KKK. In his emotion, he mentioned that he felt it was no longer appropriate for his son to watch the media which glorifies the sensational statements of Donald Trump. Continue reading

Presidents Day: Fun Facts About the Men Who Ran the Nation

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.31.37 AM
Since 1885, we’ve been celebrating the birth of George Washington though today we usually refer to the third Monday in February as Presidents’ Day. It is today that we honor the 44 men who have held the office of President of the United States of America and all they’ve done. But did you know any of these fun facts?