Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Call for Kindness

Something surprising happened on Tuesday : despite the predictions of the pollsters and pundits, Donald Trump was elected President.  During the campaign, Mr. Trump was often unkind.  For a short list, he poked fun of the press, dubbed his opponents with nasty nicknames in the way a middle school student might, was belligerent at times, refused to release his tax returns, picked a fight with the parents of a dead marine, talked of building a wall to keep Mexicans out, and made the Muslim members of our country feel  unwanted as though they all might be terrorists.  He accepted support from the Ku Klux Klan, and the list goes on and on.  His history is no better: he has been accused of violating women and a tape of his conversation is vulgar. While he minimizes it as "locker room talk," he seems to say he sexually assaulted women.  Three marriages, and a profound emphasis on the appearance of women as though that determines their worth.  Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, despite having no relationship to the case, he took out ads in the New York Times calling for the execution of teenagers who were implicated in the rape of the Central Park jogger. They were later found to be innocent.  The execution of teenagers?  Oh, black teenagers.  This all bothers me a great deal.  And he sees himself as a supporter of women who has a wonderful temperment.

I'm going to ignore all the policy issues: Donald Trump has changed political parties 7 times in the last two decades and 3 years ago he was a Democrat.  He started to reverse his stated plans on the day after the election and he's already named and unnamed the head of his transition team.  This week, many of his policies are policies I would hate to see enacted.  But politically, I have no idea who he is or how much irreparable damage he'll do to this county, and half of our citizens believe his policies might help. In terms of policy, by all means, work with him or work against him, as a democracy is meant to be.  

 Personally, I feel he puts energy into being cruel and he is erratic and undignified. 

This is what is bothering me, if you're interested.  While some supporters may share Mr. Trump's xenophobia, his objectification of women, disdain for illegal immigrants, and general lack of dignity, it bothers me that many Clinton supporters are fiercely angry at those who voted for Trump, as though they share all of his personal characteristics.  We've divided as a nation.  And while many people have talked about what damage it does to have their children see an unkind leader, I don't think it helps to now have those children frightened that all the boys in the class will see girls as objects, or that he has created the hate we are seeing.  And the hate is not just on the Trump side, Clinton supporters are venting their anger/hate towards Trump supporters and have been violent as well. 

 I was absolutely appalled to read yesterday that a website was created targeting African American students at the University of Pennsylvania in a site that named them, called for 'daily lynching' and showed violent images.  The site came from Oklahoma, not from Penn, and Penn was perhaps chosen because it's Trump's alma mater.  Oh, it's mine, too. 

 The KKK held a parade for Trump.  As disgusting as that sounds to me, the truth is that the KKK existed before Trump, there has been bullying during the Obama administration, and there have always been cruel and unkind people, racists, and haters.  I imagine the Trump victory has unleased this for the moment. but kind people did not become evil overnight, and it's possible that the media was not covering every racist comment spray painted on a wall before the election,  or every KKK activity.

It takes energy to be kind and it takes energy to be unkind.  It takes no energy to quietly go on with your life.  We are all living in America, and if this plane goes down, it takes us all.  If you're not happy, fight the system.  While we should certainly prosecute criminals, don't call for hatred against your neighbor because he supported a candidate you don't like-- he's with half the country-- unless you know that he's propagating unkind acts against others.  Don't scare your children by telling them that they will now be subjected to hatred and discrimination,  and don't give them permission to hate.  Don't demonize those who voted for a candidate you didn't want, and don't equate every supporter with his candidate, people vote for  for many reasons.  I know there are those who feel so strongly that their ideology is right that they shun friendships with anyone who doesn't share their exact values.  So be it.  

Half the nation is not Donald Trump and every Clinton supporter is not an angel.  I'd ask you to be kind, even to those who supported a candidate you didn't, be it Trump or Clinton, but if you can't be kind, at least don't be unkind. We need each other, and in the coming years, we may need each other a lot.

Finally, over on Clinical Psychiatry News, I wrote a rather personal article : One Psychiatrist's Take On Election Anxiety.


Anonymous said...

120 million people basically said at the end of their time in the voting booth that they were ok with putting a serial liar and sexual predator in the White House. That applies to either candidate, one party having two people fit that description.

As I warned months ago, this election at the end of the day wasn't about either of these two deeply flawed people taking office, but, a hundred million people who live among another 200 million who didn't agree with the voters' agenda. And now we have to face each other and listen to some who's rhetoric and narrative is not going to be acceptable to hear.

This election, in my opinion, was not about who would win, but about how many would lose. And no one, NO ONE is going to have an honest, sincere, and direct discussion about that. Because as I have been writing at my blog for at least 9 months now, we live in a personality disordered society. Even if that description does not apply to 50% of the public, that minority percentage more than overwhelms the abilities and judgments of those who have better interpersonal skills.

Come on, you wrote your book, how many times has the characterologically disordered one ruined the milieu of 15 or more other patients on an inpatient psychiatric unit? And more fascinating, how the administration at times bent over backwards to not offend that one chaotic person to then sacrifice the needs of the many?!

Politics does reflect the constituency, and George Carlin summed it up perfectly in his 1996 show "Back in Town" at the end. I leave readers to find it and listen for themselves...

GK said...

I really appreciate the style of your writing and your blog--which shows a dedication to the field of psychiatry, a commitment to altruism, flexible, open-minded thinking, and a willingness to express yourself.

With respect to your post about the election, I encourage you to have a look at Jonathan Haidt's TED talks--I believe the themes at hand in the election speak to larger issues having to do with managing polarization and conflict. These issues apply not only in politics, but also in all other types of relationship dynamics, or even in a person's individual emotional life. Depression itself could in some ways be considered a problem in which thoughts become negatively polarized, leading to a cascade of harmful behavioural reactions, just like similar cascades can occur in a whole nation.

If you would like to have a look at my own blog (I'm a psychiatrist too), I can be found at

Thanks again for your excellent writing,

Dinah said...

GK, nice to meet you. I added your blog to our sidebar. Will check out the Ted Talk~Dinah

Zoe Brain said...

I don't have any qualifications in clinical psychology - though my partner is doing her masters in it.

Since the 8th, I have had to deal via teletherapy with 6 cases of suicidal ideation in the USA 3 of them triggered by violent assault, one of which caused serious injury. I think they were all cries for help, rather than significantly dangerous. While professional help would be good for them, some couldn't afford it, others were already in therapy.

Also one case where a trans man resumed cutting after 4 years of improving mental health. That one I gave more attention to, he felt ashamed as he's something of a role model in the community. I tried to tell him that demonstrating his humanity like that might actually give help to others, especially since he came out of it. A good result there, minor adjustment disorder.

I've also had to give support to one person in the SCA, a talented armour maker, whose business got first vandalised, then firebombed. The local police suggested she and her partner move, it's KKK territory. Psychologically fragile, not financially secure, but packing to move somewhere not quite so hazardous. Coping.

As for me, I've received more threats in the last week - even though I'm in Australia - than I have in the last 5 years. None worth taking to the police, all hot air, but my experience is typical.

Some might be a part of the 4chan organised effort to drive trans and intersex activists to suicide. There are some very vulnerable people, but also some seriously disturbed sociopaths deliberately trying to do harm. I think those need serious psych help, but I'm clueless on how to give it.

These are not normal times.

Dinah said...

These are not normal times. It's awful.