We are approaching the holiday season following an election where the man whose most important contribution to America was choosing the winner of Celebrity Apprentice is set to take on the duties of President. The weather is getting colder and the days darker in a city where people already lack sunlight and warmth much of the year. Portland, OR itself may be all kinds of weird, but the traffic is simply slow to the point of insanity.
And speaking of mental instability, I work in a mental health clinic. Never have I felt such a tie to the following famous lines:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”*
It doesn’t matter that that was written regarding the French Revolution and this is the year that many Americans got burned while “feeling the Bern.” Charles Dickens knew what he talking about, man.
On one hand, we are living in a time of extreme privilege and opportunity, with easier access to communication, technology and education. On the other hand, the gap between those who experience those benefits is widening (yet another parallel to the above quote).
This year’s election has already played a prominent role in upsetting clients in my workplace. After all, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that an average of nearly 44 million (1 of 5) Americans have mental health problems annually, and that’s a pretty significant portion of our citizens.
Our job after any election is not only to unite, but also to unite under one crucial common clause: liberty and justice for all. Somehow, that phrase sounds so good it’s become cliché enough to get swept under the rug.
Somehow, we elected a man whose primary campaign promises focused on helping a select group of Americans (white straight people) and either deporting or limiting civil rights for other groups (immigrants and LGBT people). Furthermore, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of Donald Trump’s America is perfectly sane to be afraid. That includes those who don’t quite make it out of our office without an Axis 1 Diagnosis (think Schizophrenia, Bipolar I and II, et cetera).
Talk of plans to repeal Obamacare — or at least change it drastically — and cut Social Security as well as Medicare, rightfully strikes fear into millions as we’ve seen that our country was far sicker than we realized. CBS, Forbes and The Huffington Post are just a few publications giving rise to the possibility of our GOP enacting such measures.
Preventive care visits, both physically and mentally, have risen at rates that are almost unbelievable since healthcare became more accessible for … poor people. (Sorry, everyone else. While you may complain about your insurance rates, having Washington’s Apple Health Plan saved me from serious health bills in 2013 and 2014.) Certainly that must prove its value, right?
Wrong. But as for Trump’s claim to “repeal Obamacare”and replace it with “something terrific,” he wouldn’t be completely reinventing the wheel. In his recent interview with Shelby Holliday, Trump admitted that he would likely keep with not discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, and wanted to keep youth on their parents’ insurance plans up to the age of 26. Maybe there’s some hope there.
It’s tempting to take a side here, and there are roughly three distinct positions.
- One group is stating that we’ve all lost our mind and the threat of civil rights regression is upon us.
- Another group is reassuring everyone that Trump, like presidents before, won’t actually accomplish most of his campaign promises.
- Another group hopes he will.
I propose a fourth position.
It’s very possible that a new administration could mean a new — and for many, frightening — era in the United States, but it’s not inevitable. Dissent and revolution are still possible, and checks and balances cannot necessarily be counted upon to keep our government in check, but they can buy us time to help change our government’s policies and prominent voices.
We cannot treat government like God, acting like they all work “in mysterious ways,” lying to our children and saying it doesn’t matter who’s in power, or accepting our fate like we had nothing to do with getting where we are in life.
On that note, it’s about time to stop asking “God” to bless America, whether you’re religious or not. How about we bless America? That’s less of a sticky note to Heaven and more of a To Do List on your fridge.
Pick two issues that are important to you. Unite with people who agree. Voice a clear, thoughtful and well-presented argument for your cause. Make it count.
For my own mental health (not to mention preventative care), I’m focusing on the rights of children and retirees.
Both have all of the phony glory and attention from our nation, but generally get the short end of the stick when it comes to actual rights. While many claim to be Pro Life, they apparently aren’t paying attention to the lack of dignity our children have once we give them life. Our legal system still treats children like property, and the process by which we determine what is in their best interests is still evolving at a Molasses-slow rate, focusing more on the liability of childcare providers and social workers than the immediate safety and long-term stability of our smallest citizens.
As for retirees, the “fiduciary rule” is currently in jeopardy, which means that financial advisors won’t be required to present the retirement plans that ultimately benefit investors. In other words, Wall Street could jack up commission-only products.
What solutions do I have? None yet. But I’m not running for president; I’m developing plans as a concerned citizen. So far, I admittedly suck at it. I guess it’s time to stop quoting Dickens and start figuring out how to better support positive change in the Department of Human Services and influence the Department of Labor.
In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be seeing an uptick in mental health intakes.
* A Tale of Two Cities — by Charles Dickens
Photos are YouTube screen shots, except top photo, which is Trump Tower.com