Depression in the Age of Trump

It is very hard to take that almost 50% of this country supports a blatantly incompetent president. No one has done more damage to America’s greatness and its reputation. Yet an alarming number of people continue to cheer him on. We’ve become the laughing stock of the foreign press. We are destroying our precious country’s environment with a fervor never seen before in the face of a direness of climate destruction never seen before. It seems like huge swaths of our country live in denial. It’s hard not to see this as totally hopeless. This is even more so for those of us who suffer from depression.

For those who do not know, Depression is a chemical imbalance that withholds any sense of joy or hope in the brain. It causes an artificial feeling of utter hopelessness and despair. This can get so strong that people  can sometimes kill themselves while in the throws of this terrible affliction.  Add to this already pernicious affliction the daily onslaught of stupidity and evil that emanates from the White House. The result is the feeling that not only will the depressed person never recover it seems like America will also never recover.

But one must remember the depression is not you. Depression tries to convince you that you are your depression. But it is important to remember you are not your depression, it is only a temporary chemical imbalance. Patience and perseverance is what is needed—and strength lots of strength.

But how does one withstand this added burden of the failure of the country to this mix. The answer is: not very well. The suicide rate is soaring soaring suicide rate. Drug abuse is also at an all time high and opioids are a particularly pernicious epidemic. However these are just the symptoms. The core lies actually in the taking away of many many safety nets and checks and balances. So that we are perilously left to our own devices with no help or compassion to be found.

One safety net, the safety net from tyranny is the checks and balances, which are currently missing in the government (and hopefully this will be corrected by January).

The death of trade unions, the loss of another safety net, meant the majority of our workers now lie at the mercy of their employers. If you are lucky enough to have a needed skill, you can do very well so long as that skill is needed and you are able to deliver more than anyone else out there. However, once you are inconvenient you are quickly dismissed with no recourse. At some famous silicon valley companies this predictably happens before a worker is vested in their valuable stock options.

Pensions, some sense of security in your retirement, has also vanished. Social security now does not have a prayer of paying your expenses in retirement. And Medicare does not really help until the end, their hospice is quite generous once you are on the road out of this life.

Now you must save and put your money as foolishly as you dare into the stock market so you can try and build your own pension. If someone starts this too late or their investments don’t payoff, they find themselves facing a most perilous time just when they thought they could relax.

For the seasoned manufacturing worker, the ladder to success is now a shambles, as these jobs have been all squandered off to a combination of automation and free trade.

I live in San Francisco. And when I first moved here in 1985, there was a sense of community. I arrived penniless and jobless. A gay community under siege from AIDS nevertheless had the energy to take me in until I could settle down into what turns out to be a rather lucrative profession as a designer and writer. Anyone trying to come penniless to San Francisco now, will come up against a brick wall of overpriced housing, overpriced goods, overpriced services that only the rich can afford. The safety net in the city of San Francisco no longer exists—except in pier 60 where there is a huge homeless shelter. No one who can afford any kind of rent in San Francisco can qualify for any kind of assistance because their income is too high even if they are barely making ends meet due to the cost of living. The service industry lives in suburbs that are farther and farther away from the city.

I go to my corner gas station and fill up my car. I go into pay the bill and I have no idea where this person can possibly live. Turns out, some live with their parents. Some live with their families or friends (sometimes 6 people to a four bedroom house). Some live out in exurbs which can be an over 2 hour commute away from the city. Those who are lucky enough to live closer to the city by hold down 2-4 jobs to make ends meet. San Francisco is an extreme, but visiting shuttered small towns and you can see the safety net has likewise been retracted though mostly by poverty instead of silicon valley excess as ion the bay area.

Many other safety nets are gone as well: those for the environment. Just access to national or state parks is getting limited as they close their doors or limit their hours. The safety net of drinking water, there are more and more municipalities where drinking tap water is done at their own peril. The safety net of political debate and pluralism has ossified into us against them, good against evil shouting match.

All this lack of safety nets leads the poor soul who has fallen into depression to face odds that seem almost impossible.  With no safety net, as someone in a frefall of depresion, they hit the ground with a hard splat. This puts the one who is depressed at far greater risk. The greater risk because those safety nets that could have comforted them, or given them confidence are gone. The institutions, the nature, the community that could once shine light in the darkness abandon people now to face it alone.

Without safety nets the only soft places to land are the quicksands of substance abuse, resentment, hatred and nationalism. I believe these phenomenon come from the same source: the hopelessness and depression of our society and it’s obstinate to understand one thing and one thing alone: uncontrolled greed at the expense of all safety nets, at the expense all victims that must be run over to get their way to the top.

And we see people lying in a pool of substance abuse, as the only affordable flight from their depression

We also see people teeming with resentment. Resentment foolishly aimed at each other — instead of aimed at the rich. For it is the wealthy that profit from this depression. The wealthy likewise manipulate us into hating immigrants, they very people who help us, help clean our house, watch over our children when we work, and befriend us because they are grateful to be here.

There is none nor has there ever been an immigration crisis. We are an immigrant nation how did we survive all these years without a wall? The wall was never necessary. The only immigrants than seem to be causing trouble are some of the more pesky white immigrants. Senseless hatred or fear of immigrants is ridiculous as there are no latino terrorists—yet we act like a weak people scared of our own shadow. The exact opposite of what a great nation should be.

Then we see vicious internecine hatred. I find it very difficult to understand the venom we inflict on each other these days for just having differing opinions. Moreover the extremity of those beliefs have gotten so hyperbolic as to be not worth even defending. Political ideology has gotten blown way out of proportion to consume any kind of human decency or community many once had.

Lastly, and most dangerously is the rise of nationalism. If there is ever a sign of a nation’s weakness it is the growth of nationalism. Nationalism must not be confused with patriotism. Patriots love their country and honor and protect both its moral fibre and its institutions that make it great. Nationalist, by contrast, do not love the country they love the vision of having their own country and want to take it away from you. Nazism is the most durable example of how nationalism destroys a country and does not protect it. Nazism only died away in Germany after the countries total and utter moral collapse and physical destruction. Nationalists do not love: they would rather kill, shoot, build walls, exclude and call their idiocy superiority. Natioanlists would rather kill their own people to hold up their romantic fantasies of a master race or a master country.

So the depressed individual has the triple whammy of their illness, the lack of safety nets or some semblance of humanity, and an epidemic of the most inhumane response to an inhumane situation. By god, how does anyone survive that! If you do, then you have have my undying awe and respect. If you can’t you have my sympathy and the shame of a nation once great before the “Make America Great Again” movement dragged this country into the mud.

The strange thing is, this new lethal depression effects all sides both Trump supporters and detractors. As reprehensible as I find Trump, I do not extend that condemnation to his supporters. Unless we find somewhere some common ground both sides will end up cannabilizing eachother.

In the meantime, we who suffer from depression have to trudge on, against perilous odds to struggle and survive. No matter who you are, you have my sympathy. Remember it’s just a chemical imbalance.

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