Tag Archives: Barack Obama

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

What You Need to Know About the State of the Union

State of the UnionTalking about politics is a touchy thing (and we don’t try to hide that we’re pretty liberal here at Intent – but we do promote listening to contrary opinions with an open ear and encourage healthy, respectful debate!). However, the annual State of the Union address isn’t really about which side of the aisle you vote for – it’s about civic responsibility to  be informed about the state of affairs of the country.

Last night the President covered several important topics from raging minimum wage, increasing America’s clean energy initiatives, creating greater access to higher education and ending the war in Afghanistan. He repeatedly called out Congress’ tendency to gridlock in debate rather than create legislation to help Americans move out of a recession and lead the way in the 21st century. He also re-iterated on several fronts, including minimum wage and infrastructure policy – that he will take whatever action he can without legislation to promote American progress, circumventing the roadblocks often created by tension in the House of Representatives.

The President’s most powerful moment however came at the end of the address when he called out  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. After being hit by a bomb while on duty, Cory was left unable to speak and barely move. After dozens of surgeries, hours of grueling physical therapy today, Cory has relearned to talk, stand and walk. He still has trouble with his left side but he and his father were both present for the State of the Union address. His presence garnered an extended applause and standing ovation from the entire assembly. “Cory reminds us what is best about America,” the President said.

If you missed the State of the Union, we’ve compiled some of President Obama’s most compelling quotes from last night:

On Congress’s responsibility to the American public: “If our business is shutting down the Government or ruining the good faith and credit in America then we are not doing right by the American people.”

On creating a bi-partisan Federal budget: ‘The budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crisis.”

On American wages: “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

On American troops and military involvement abroad: “I will not mire our sons and daughters in open ended war entanglements. We must fight battles that need to be fought, but not those that terrorists prefer for us. America must move off it’s permanent war footing.”

Closing statement: “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our reach.”

To see these quotes in context and to hear the President’s point by point plans for energy initiatives, healthcare progress and the path to comprehensive immigration reform you can watch the full State of the Union Address below:

What do you think of the State of the Union? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Remember to be respectful of those that disagree!

*Picture credit to WhiteHouse.Gov

Inspiring Quotes in Honor of MLK Day

Today we honor a motivational leader and speaker, who advocated for non-violent pursuits of equal rights far ahead of his time. Martin Luther King Jr.  is known now as the face of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and President Barack Obama has declared the national holiday of MLK Day to be a national day of service. As you go out today and serve – in whatever way you can – Intent wanted you to carry the words of a man beyond his years.

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Why National Politics Are Largely Irrelevant To Your Personal Reality

shutterstock_74345122By Dr. Kulkarni

With the recent government shutdown, dysfunctional Washington politics, and passionate opinions on both sides of the political aisle, I’m going to make a bold assertion: what happens in the political world will be largely irrelevant to your personal reality.

There.  I said it.  I know it’s almost blasphemy; we are taught that being politically involved is our civic duty.  That what happens in Washington affects all of us.  That this country is doomed if (fill-in-the-blank with the party you’ve decided is evil) takes control.  And finally, that it is simple common sense to make sure that that the particular party that doesn’t represent our self-interest is stopped.

I don’t disagree with some of these premises.  Obviously, policies on healthcare, the economy, energy, and the environment do affect our daily lives on some level.  I also think in order for a democracy to work (or, rather, a Republic, which is what the United States is), we must make our individual and collective voices heard.

But with those objections preemptively addressed, I’d like you to consider whether or not a Democrat or Republican in the White House is really going to dramatically alter your daily reality.  Have you ever seen a billionaire become poor because a Democrat is now in power?  Sorry to break it to you, but people that are successful and know how to attract wealth on a personal level will just continue to do so.  They will find creative outlets, lucrative business deals, cultivate meaningful relationships, execute on ideas, and utilize the best accountants and lawyers just as they did before.  Sure, they may be taxed more or be faced with greater regulations, but their individual point of attraction and their ability to attract abundance on a spiritual / energy level is something politics won’t change.

On the flip side, do you really think someone who currently lacks abundance is going to magically be catapulted and become wealthy, productive, inspired, and motivated because of a shift in power in Washington?  The truth is, only you, as an individual, are creating your own reality.  You have the power within YOU to create opportunity, motivation, abundance, love, and creativity regardless of the political climate.  And if those traits are blocked within the individual, a shift in political power isn’t really going to help.

Think about your own life:  if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been alive in periods when both a Democrat and a Republican have been in power.  Has the trajectory of your life really changed that much in either case?  Have your relationships, your passions, your inspirations, and your goals been significantly altered?  No Democrat or Republican politician can save you from yourself, or can shift your energy for you.

For all the angst and anger about our national politics and who wins, the truth is, it’s not really affecting your ability to create your own personal reality.  You can choose to be happy, healthy, and successful through your personal choices.  And it’s these choices that are the true, effective catalysts in creating the changes you seek and the life you want, not the speech that some guy in Washington gave on election night.

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Dr. Kulkarni is a New York City based physician, spiritual author, and personal coach.  Find her @Dr_Kulkarni or visitwww.leveragingthought.com to learn more.

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Jimmy Fallon and the Cast of Sesame Street Sing Theme Song for Late Night

Over the years Jimmy Fallon has put together some legendary musical numbers – from POTUS “slowjamming” the news to history of rap with Justin Timberlake and then his amazing impression of Neil Young. This week he’s going for the younger, much younger, demographic by teaming up with the cast of Sesame Street.

Everyone was there including: Big Bird, Snuffaluffagus, Grover, Cookie Monster and The Count. Of course we can’t forget Jimmy Fallon’s house band the Roots, who threw an extra verse in the song before the whole cast looped back for another refrain. As far as duets go, this might be Fallon’s most epic one yet.
Hope this dash of adorable nostalgia gets you excited for Friday! What did you think of the video? Let us know in the comments below. 

7 Old-Time Ads That Would Cause Riots Today

Before tobacco companies were legally mandated to disclose the connection between cigarettes and cancer - it was probably a winning strategy to be the most popular death stick with doctors!When there are campaigns in the US to ban literary classics and relegate women to second class citizenship it can be hard to tell how much progress we’ve made over the years.

But can you imagine a time when it was okay to send all of your friends cartons of cigarettes for Christmas? How about feed your baby coca-cola in their morning bottle? Women are still fighting for the right to make decisions about their own bodies, but what about a time when wives were only considered important for their ability to put dinner on the table?

Check out these real ads from the past that would cause certain outrage today. Some of them are ironic, some illegal and others infuriating. We still have a long way to go with some of the issues these ads raise, but sometimes it’s good to see how far we’ve come already.

What do you think of these? Which is the most surprising to you? Tell us in comments below! 

The State of the Union as Rorschach Test

urlIt was surprising how President Obama’s State of the Union speech went down. Immediately afterwards, television pundits offered clashing descriptions: prosaic, bread and butter, Clinton-like, an extension of the liberal agenda outlined in the Inaugural Address, uplifting, aggressive, and so on.  More than many Presidents, Obama has become a lighthouse and a lightning rod at the same time. He is the object of projection from all sides.

What I heard was something really unusual: inspiring sobriety.  The speech laid out an agenda that was far from leftist.  It was a considered assessment of social needs, postponed priorities, and a difficult future.  In this regard Obama departed from FDR, who was struggling to restructure a collapsed landscape, from JFK, who was launching a new era of power, and from Bill Clinton, whose laundry lists of programs came at a time of rising prosperity.

Obama spoke to an anxious nation by sounding upbeat and optimistic. He has little chance of getting much legislation passed.  In the face of bitter partisanship even over pro forma matters like getting his cabinet appointed, he decided not to cloak himself as the happy warrior.  He was more like the ideal citizen, a responsible patriot who wants the best for everyone.

It’s amazing that the speech didn’t exude discouragement.  In a different vein, it could have come from Cassandra, the princess of Troy who was doomed to know the future but never to be believed.  Every point that the President made, if enacted, would benefit all of us. He is intelligent, adult, informed, far-seeing, and willing to embrace both sides of the aisle.  He knows better than anyone else how irrational, ill-tempered, and reactionary the opposition is. But he chose his tone of inspiring sobriety for a good reason. America won’t move forward until everyone comes to their senses.

The Republican response, delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio, was a classic case of burying your head in the sand. With widespread disgust at Congress, a new generation of voters that wants government to make a difference, a resounding defeat last November, and talk of Republicans rethinking their message– none of that mattered. Rubio smoothly delivered the same message that came from the Republicans a month into Obama’s first administration: We are the party of no.

Obama will no doubt surprise us by how much he achieves against this background of opposition, division, and angst. There is talk that the Senate is quietly working out deals on the toughest problems that face us. But the real issue comes down to that now familiar phrase, the tipping point.  The country has probably reached one. The reactionary right is on its way out. But they hold enough power and have indoctrinated enough people that getting off in a new direction will be painfully slow. Obama will have to use all his gifts to push the pedal and convince Americans that there is dawn rising over the next hill.

www.deepakchopra.com

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Obama Is the First Facebook President – What Now?

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No one doubts that social networking produces results in politics, from the Arab Spring to the 2012 election, where President Obama’s ground game made the difference. That ground game was an extension of the 2008 strategy for involving millions of small donors. Suddenly there was a grass-roots movement that made individuals feel as if their actions mattered. Optimists saw a wholesale shift in the democratic process, away from huge corporate donors and the corrupt influence of lobbyists. Small money could beat big money in a presidential election. What happens next?

Social networks and grass-roots democracy via the Internet could change everything, but the way forward is far from clear. Obama has stumped for his fiscal plan to keep us from going over the cliff, but that hasn’t moved any votes in Congress. I’ve entered into the campaign to make the will of the people felt on gun safety issues since the tragedy in Newtown. We’ve reached a point where the Tea Party, the filibuster rule in the Senate, and powerful right-wing money has stymied the will of the majority, a profoundly undemocratic turn of events.

What’s at stake is huge. For at least twenty years a mounting chorus of lament has risen over the selling of American democracy. Indefensible wars, mammoth defense budgets, and political gridlock worsened an already bad situation. With 51% of Congress being composed of millionaires, and with every legislator obsessed over raising money to get re-elected, the country has departed very far from its founding ideals.

Gun safety may be the turning point – some issue has to be. Occupy Wall Street tested Facebook politics and mass demonstrations, attracting huge media coverage but eventually fizzling out when it came to effecting new laws. Idealism remains undiminished, among the Occupy leaders and Internet forces like Move On.org. The younger generation in particular yearns for national unity to accomplish the things that every rational person wants, such as a solution to global warming.

At the moment, democracy is seriously outgunned. Thirty years of right-wing indoctrination can’t be overturned in a day; the corrupting power of lobbyists and big-money contributors has become entrenched and self-fulfilling. Politicians who buck the system are out in the cold. The good news is that we have the answer. Obama’s election and re-election prove that individuals matter, that one-on-one communication works to get out the vote. The techniques have been perfected.

What remains is to win on an issue that goes beyond casting a single vote one day of the year. I hope that gun safety is the one, but it may not be. Patience and persistence are called for. The will of the majority can go astray, as witness the angry frustration that swept the Tea Party into Congress. But it would be worse to have the will of the majority mean nothing, and we have come perilously close to reaching that point. Anti-democracy is the real cliff that we need to back away from.

 

www.deepakchopra.com

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Deepak Chopra: Is Obama a Man of Destiny?

obama-lincolnThe historical movie “Lincoln” has struck a deep chord with many people, and it turns on a theme that is rarely met nowadays: the man of destiny.  In one scene Lincoln is sitting in the war room from which he oversaw the very mixed fortunes of the Northern armies. There is no one with him except his two young secretaries. He asks one, “Do you think we choose to be born?” the secretary says that he doesn’t think so.

Lincoln pursues the topic. “Do you think we are fitted for the times?” The secretary can’t quite fathom the question.  To the best of my recollection he replies, “I don’t know. Maybe you are.” In fact, when you look at the historical record, Lincoln was considered to be absolutely fitted to his time. He was Father Abraham and after his assassination a secular saint. The chaotic forces that tore the Civil War era apart were gathered in his hands. He and many around him saw a man of destiny who was fated to end slavery and bend the future to his will.

Heroism still appeals to us, and the saintliness of Lincoln can’t be erased, despite the film’s accurate portrayal of him as a canny, down-to-earth politician who knew how to broker a deal.  But we find it hard to think in terms of destiny.  Tony Kushner, the scriptwriter for “Lincoln,” chose a more modest phrase: fitted to the times.  Kushner wove our present predicament into his screenplay. Chaotic forces are swirling around us; the nation has reached a turning point that feels threatening at the same time. There is a widespread yearning for leadership.

I wonder if President Obama’s re-election is a shoulder tap from destiny. Lincoln felt that way about his second term.  We see him fiercely focused on abolishing slavery because the Emancipation Proclamation had been tested by the people, as he put it, when they chose to keep him in office. I have a feeling that Obama is gathering his own convictions for the same reason.

This is more than George Bush’s notion that his re-election, which was by a slimmer margin than Obama’s, both in popular vote and electoral tally, gave him political capital.  What we see in Lincoln’s time are politicians, heated by partisan fury, milling about in confusion. The heel of history is hard on their necks.  Their passions rise and fall with every turn of the war. Lincoln was different. He understood that he was the still point at the center, the one mind whose clarity and judgment must save the day – or it wouldn’t be saved.

History proved him right. At the end of the movie we get a flashback to the Second Inaugural Address, the greatest piece of oratory from Lincoln after the Gettysburg Address. It constitutes a heroic, compassionate attempt to shape the future according to the ideals of Christianity and democracy.  The final paragraph has long been considered a masterstroke, and it is astonishingly fitted to our times:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Obama has been repeating the theme of tolerance and fairness for four years, and it has mostly fallen on deaf ears. Lincoln was beloved but also reviled; he could have gone down in history as a divisive leader more than a uniting one. The difference wasn’t up to him. As he saw it, destiny worked through him. It will be fascinating to watch and see if the same historical force is about to push America forward once more.

www.deepakchopra.com

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Chelsea Roff: Life Without Health Insurance


On the afternoon of the election, I sat counting ceiling tiles at my local Planned Parenthood clinic.

“Have you ever been to a Planned Parenthood clinic before?” the receptionist asked me when I approached the front desk.

“No ma’am.”

“Please fill out these forms. All your information will be kept confidential.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I found a seat in the back corner of the waiting area and slowly raised my eyes to look around the crowded room. To my right, there was a young girl — maybe 15 or 16 years old — with her arms crossed rigidly over her chest. She was wearing fishnet stockings, a transparent black tank top, and dark eyeliner painted thickly along the lids under her eyes. I wondered why she was here. She looked too young for an annual pap smear.

I looked back down at the forms on my clipboard:

Name: Chelsea Roff

Birthdate: 7/30/1989

Insurance? No

To my right, I heard the door open again and in walked another woman — probably 35 — wearing lululemon pants and a long, flowy shirt that easily could have served as a dress. Her hair was dark and curly, her skin a sun-kissed bronze. She approached the reception desk timidly, her eyes darting rapidly around the room.

“I’m not an American citizen,” she said to the receptionist. Her accent sounded British… maybe South African. “Will they still see me?”

“Yes, of course, honey. Do you have an appointment?

“No.”

“Fill out these forms. We’ll get you in.”

I  looked back down at the clipboard in my lap, subconsciously breathing a sigh of relief for the woman at the desk. What was she here for? Emergency contraception? Abortion? STD test? Was she pregnant? I wondered if she had a national health care system in her country of origin, and thought about how frightening it would be to have a medical emergency happen and be so far from home.

Finishing my paperwork, I re-approached the reception desk, getting in line behind a mother-daughter couple and a  young man. To my left I saw a small framed sign on the wall adjacent to me:

THE TRUTH ABOUT TEEN PRIVACY

We encourage teens to discuss their health care concerns with their parents or other adults, but you can give us your own permission for the following:

  • Birth Control
  • Pregnancy test
  • Abortion services
  • Sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment

You can also talk to us about the following and be sure they will remain private:

  • Alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, or drugs
  • Personal, school, or family issues
  • Sex and sexuality issues

I thought about my younger sister, about the handful of times I’d walked her into a clinic like this. I’d forgotten what that was like… being underage and in the foster care system, Planned Parenthood the only place you knew to go.

Just then, my phone buzzed in my purse. I pulled it out, seeing a new text message from an unknown number:

“Get out + vote! Make sure your voice is heard + vote counted. Follow YogaVotes on Facebook +Twitter for election day updates.”

I smiled at the irony. Somehow I managed to schedule my first appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic on the day of our national election — a day that, without doubt, would decide the fate of whether these clinics would continue to exist at all. I thought about what was at stake… access to basic STD testing, women’s health services for those without health insurance, a safe place for teens to receive medical care and advice without the risk of getting kicked out by their parents. I  wondered where I would go if this clinic wasn’t here. I wondered how many women I knew would say that Planned Parenthood had saved their lives.

I haven’t had medical insurance since I was seventeen. In fact, the last time I had coverage, I was on Medicaid — a federally-funded program that provides free or low-cost health coverage to more than 50 million children and families. Because of a “pre-existing condition” I experienced in my teens, I’ve been rejected by insurance companies each and every time I’ve applied for coverage as an adult. Now, I’m in the long, arduous process of trying to attain coverage under California’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), a program which — thanks to Obamacare — will offer health coverage to medically-uninsurable individuals until the legislation goes into full effect in January 2014 (I’ll be writing more about PCIP in a forthcoming article).

My experience at Planned Parenthood that day prompted to think more deeply about healthcare in the United States — and more specifically, about how the other 50+ million Americans who are uninsured in the United States fare when health issues arise.

Who are these 50 million Americans — are they young, old, rich, poor, educated, too stupid or lazy (as many conservatives often imply) to purchase health insurance?

Where does an uninsured woman go when her Planned Parenthood doctor finds a lump in her breast? What about uninsured children — how many are there, and what do parents do when their gets a 106 degree fever in the middle of the night and they can’t afford an ER visit? Is healthcare a basic human right, or a privilege reserved for the wealthy?

While I have many friends and colleagues who shun politics; for me, the issues at stake in the 2012 election were far too personally impactful to turn away. From the moment I heard Mitt Romney unequivocally declare that, “on my first day if elected President of the United States, I will act to repeal Obamacare,” I knew just how high the stakes were. Had Obama not been re-elected, my hope for finally having health insurance would have been squashed. The one clinic that I — and so many women I know — depend on would likely have lost federal funding. Voting was not merely a symbolic act of civic engagement… it was a public statement of what I want and need from my government: the institutional support necessary to preserve life.

On Friday, I put out a call to my Facebook friends:

“If you are uninsured, have been for at least 6 mos, and would be willing to participate in a brief (anonymous) interview, please email me.”  

I was absolutely astounded at the volume (and diversity) of responses I received. In just 24 hours, I had over 50 messages in my inbox — emails that contained heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and eye-opening stories about how people across America are living without health insurance. Some had boycotted insurance industry and firmly believed that they were better off for it — others had been trying to attain affordable care for over a decade. I realized that I would never be able to unpack all the issues contained in those emails in a single article — and so began the series I’m starting today, Life Without Health Insurance.

The Life Without Health Insurance Series will examine the questions listed above, as well as a host of other issues related to healthcare around the world. Here is a tentative, non-ordered list of the articles I envision for this series:

1. Is Access to Affordable Healthcare a Human Right?
2. Taking Care of Your Vagina without Health Insurance
3. Raising a Sick Child without Health Insurance
4. So You Have a Pre-Existing Condition…
5. When Emergencies Happen: Where to Go When You’re Uninsured
6. Do Healthy People Really Need Insurance?
7. Preventative Care in the Health Insurance Industry
8. Obamacare: What the Mandate Means for You
9. How the Affordable Care Act Will Impact the Economy
10. Beyond America: Models of Healthcare Around the World

I look forward to beginning this discussion with you, and I hope it can be a catalyst for all of us — both those with and without insurance — to have a more meaningful dialogue about what we want from our government when it comes to healthcare. If there are any issues related to healthcare you’re particularly interested in learning (or talking) about, please share them in the comments section below.

I am still accepting stories of people living without health insurance in the United States, so if you would like to participate in a brief email interview please send me a message at chelsea [at] intent.com. I will send you back a list of questions, and any answers you give will remain anonymous should I choose to use them in the series.

Photo Credit: Strangely, B

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