Category Archives: politics

Can Trumpism Lead to a Better American Story?

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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

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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

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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

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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?

Hillary Clinton: Life Lessons from the Benghazi Testimony

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Yesterday, when my daughters and I came home after school, I put on the live stream of Hillary Clinton testifying before the Benghazi hearings.

I’m not sure if they were 6, 7 or 8 hours into grilling Hillary Clinton yet, but at that particular moment, a Republican congressman was shouting at her. My girls watched, first with horror and then laughing – who is that man? (Actually, my 11 year old daughter asked “Who is that crazy man?”) As he continued to give his own theory on Hillary Clinton’s actions around Benghazi, my 8th grader, who has done mock trials in Elementary and Middle School, asked if that is how a hearing is supposed to go – are you supposed to make up someone else’s story? Or, are you supposed to ask questions, listen, and gather information, facts?

But it was Hillary’s demeanor – calm, collected, in control – that made the most dramatic impression on my daughters and me.

She listened. She reviewed her notes. She didn’t attack.

She smiled as a panel in front of her berated her with nonsensical questions. She acted like a seasoned world leader.

Here are a few life lessons that my girls and I talked about after the debate: Continue reading

Thanks, Ben Carson for Killing the American Dream for so many Children.

Deepak Chopra with his son, Gotham Chopra, and daughter, Mallika Chopra
Deepak Chopra with his son, Gotham Chopra, and daughter, Mallika Chopra

My parents tell a story about a debate around my birth.

They were newly married and had moved to the US for my father’s medical training. They had arrived in this country with $8, but through hard work and determination, were building a life together. They believed in the American dream.

The fact was that it was expensive to deliver me in the US, and it would be less expensive for my mother to fly back to India and have me there, surrounded by her parents and in-laws. My grandparents could then buy the ticket for her to return here with me.

But here was the problem. Continue reading

“The Only American Off the Planet”: Remembering 9/11

Today marks the tragic anniversary of the terrorist attacks that saw the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City, the damage of the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. and the loss of four planes filled with American civilians. Even 14 years later, we grieve the unnecessary loss of so many.

In memory, Nasa shared this image taken by a satellite over the city shortly after the event:

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At the same time, American astronaut Frank Culbertson was watching from the International Space Station. A letter he penned that day said,

“It’s difficult to describe how it feels to be the only American completely off the planet at a time such as this. The feeling that I should be there with all of you, dealing with this, helping in some way, is overwhelming. I know that we are on the threshold (or beyond) of a terrible shift in the history of the world. Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001.”

Continue reading

Default Settings: Words of Wisdom from David Foster Wallace

Author David Foster Wallace spoke at the 2005 graduation ceremony for Kenyon College. His message was directed at students who were about to venture into the world as independent, functional humans but his message on thinking is important for everyone to hear even ten years later. In our current global state, perhaps it’s time to relearn how to think.

“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe. The realest, most vivid and important person in existence.

We rarely talk about this sort of natural basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive but it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you were not at the absolute center of.

The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU. Or behind YOU.
To the left or right of YOU on YOUR tv or YOUR monitor and so on.
Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. Continue reading

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