Saturday, February 29, 2020


“…For the compressed core that’s getting ever hotter, nature intervenes with a new physical process: nuclear fusion. When a collection of atoms gets sufficiently hot and dense, they slam together with such force that they can meld more deeply than they do in chemical processes like the burning of natural gas. Whereas chemical burning is a reaction that involves the electrons that surround atoms, nuclear fusion is a reaction that joins nuclei at the center of atoms. Through such deep melding, nuclear fusion generates copious quantities of energy manifested as rapidly moving particles. And it is such rapid thermal motion that generates outward pressure capable of balancing the inward force of gravity. Nuclear fusion in the core thus halts the contraction. The result is a concentrated, stable, and sustained source of heat and light. A star is born…” (63).

“For almost five billion years, [our] sun has supported it tremendous mass against the crushing force of gravity through the energy produced by the fusion of hydrogen nuclei in its core. That energy powers a frenzied environment of fast-moving particles that exert a strong outward pressure. And much like the pressure produced by an air pump that props up a child’s inflatable bounce house, the pressure produced by fusion in the sun’s core props up the sun, keeping it from collapsing under its own enormous weight. This standoff between gravity pulling inward and particles pushing outward will hold firm for about another five billion years. But then the balance will be upended. Even though the sun will still be chock-filled of hydrogen nuclei, hardly any will be in the core. Hydrogen fusion produces helium, nuclei that are heavier and denser than hydrogen, and so just as sand poured into a pond displaces water as it fills the pond’s bottom, helium displaces hydrogen as it fills the sun’s center.

“That’s a big deal. The center of the sun is where you find its hottest temperatures, currently about fifteen million degrees, well in excess of the ten million degrees required to fuse hydrogen into helium. But to fuse helium nuclei requires a temperature of about one hundred million degrees. Because the sun’s temperature is nowhere near that threshold, as helium displaces hydrogen in the core, fusion’s fuel supply will dwindle. The outward pressure from fusion’s production of energy in the core will subside, and consequently the inward pull of gravity will gain the upper hand. The sun will begin to implode. As its spectacular heft collapses inward, the sun’s temperature will skyrocket. The intense heat and pressure, still shy of the conditions necessary for helium to start burning, will spark a new round of fusion within a thin shell of hydrogen nuclei surrounding the helium core. And with such extreme conditions, hydrogen fusion will proceed at an extraordinary pace, producing a more intense outward push than the sun had ever experienced, not only halting the implosion but thrusting the sun to swell tremendously.

“Earth’s surface temperature will soar into thousands of degrees, hot enough to dry out the oceans, eject the atmosphere, and flood the surface with molten lava…” (250-51).

Greene, Brian. Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2020.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene

Particles and Consciousness

“Somewhere between the first prokaryotic cells four billion years ago and the human brain’s billion neurons entangled in a network of one hundred trillion synaptic connections, the ability emerged to think and feel, to love and hate, to fear and yearn, to sacrifice and revere, to imagine and create—newfound capacities that would ignite spectacular achievement as well as untold destruction…” (115).

“Quantum physics… has explained the behavior of fundamental particles and, among much else, the biochemical processes underlying life…, a path we anticipate leading to an explanation of how large collections of particles can coalesce to yield life and generate mind…” (116-17).

“Entropy helps us tell the story of randomness and organization within large collections of particles, whether they’re wafting from your oven or coalescing into stars. Evolution helps us tell the story of chance and selection as collections of molecules—living or not—replicate, mutate, and gradually become better adapted to their environment…” (118).

“[We] are a swarm of interacting particles… (125). Although we still lack a complete understanding of life’s origin, there is nearly universal scientific consensus that no magical spark is required. Particles configured into a hierarchy of structures—atoms, molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, and so on—are all that’s necessary. The evidence strongly favors the existing framework of physics, chemistry, and biology as being fully sufficient for explaining life…” (131).

“[We] are nothing but constellations of particles whose behavior is fully governed by physical law. Our choices are the result of our particles coursing one way or another through our brains. Our actions are the result of our particles moving this way or that through our bodies. And all particle motion—whether in a brain, a body, or a baseball—is controlled by physics and so is fully dictated by mathematical decree… Indeed, following this chain even further back, the big bang is the ultimate source of all particles, and their behavior over cosmic history has been dictated by the nonnegotiable and insensate law of physics, which determine the structure and function of everything that exists… We are no more than playthings knocked to and fro by the dispassionate rules of the cosmos…” (147).

“To be free requires that we are not marionettes whose strings are pulled by physical law… (149). Our choices seem free because we do not witness nature’s laws acting in their most fundamental guise; our senses do not reveal the operation of nature’s laws in the world of particles… (150). Human freedom is about being released from the bondage of an impoverished range of response that has long constrained the behavior of the inanimate world. The notion of freedom does not require free will…” (152).

“[However], the way my particles are arranged into an intricate chemical and biological network including genes, proteins, cells, neurons, synaptic connections, and so on—responds in a manner unique to me. You and I speak differently, act differently, respond differently, and think differently because our particles are arranged differently…” (156).

“We do make choices. We do come to decisions. We do undertake actions. And those actions do have implications. All of this is real… [Nonetheless], we need to set aside the notion that our choices and decisions and actions have their ultimate origin within each of us, that they emerge from deliberations that stand beyond the reach of physical law. We need to recognize that although the sensation of free will is real, the capacity to exert free will—the capacity for the human mind to transcend the laws that control physical progression—is not…” (158).

Language and Story

“Our actions result from a complex amalgam of biological, historical, social cultural, and all manner of chance influences that are imprinted on our particle arrangement…” (172).

“Through [story telling] we explore the range of human behavior, from societal expectation to heinous transgression. We witness the breadth of human motivation, from lofty ambition to reprehensible brutality. We encounter the scope of human disposition from triumphant victory to heartrending loss… With math we commune with other realities; with story we commune with other minds…” (179).

“Stories… illuminate the richness of our ineluctably circumscribed and thoroughly subjective existence… We gain a deeper sense of our common humanity and a more nuanced understanding of how to survive as a social species… The storytelling impulse is a human universal… We seek patterns; we invent patterns, and we imagine patterns… It is an ongoing process that is central to how we arrange our lives and make sense of existence…” (181).

Brains and Belief

“Is there any basis for believing in an invisible, all powerful being who created the universe, listens and responds to prayers, keeps track of what we say and do, and doles out rewards and punishments?... (210) My confidence in quantum mechanics is high because the theory accurately predicts features of the world, such as the electron’s magnetic dipole moment, with a precision beyond the ninth decimal place, while my confidence in the existence of God is low because of the paucity of rigorous supporting data. Confidence, as these examples illustrate, emerges from dispassionate, essentially algorithmic judgment of evidence. Indeed, when physicists analyze data and announce a result, they quantify their confidence using well established mathematical procedures…” (211).

“Myth did not supplicate for belief. It did not elicit a crisis of faith that through painstaking deliberation was resolved by its beholders. Myth provided a poetic schema, a metaphorical mind-set, which became inseparable from the reality it illuminated… (215). A religious assertion interpreted as a literal claim about the world that contravenes established scientific law is false…” (216).

“The human mind thus relentlessly interprets an objective reality by producing a subjective one… Religious practice has held a people’s attention and in various combinations provided the structure of ritual, informed their sense of place in the world, guided their moral sensibility, inspired the creation of artistic works, offered participation in a larger-than-life narrative, promised that death is not the end, and, of course, also intimidated with harsh penalties, emboldened some to violent battle, justified the enslaving and killing of transgressors, and so on…” (217-18).

The Nobility of Being

“Some 13.8 billion years ago, within ferociously swelling space, the energy contained in a tiny but ordered cloud of inflaton field disintegrated, shutting off repulsive gravity, filling space with a bath of particles, and seeding the synthesis of the simplest atomic nuclei. Where quantum uncertainty rendered the density of the bath slightly higher, the gravitational pull was slightly stronger, enticing particles to fall together in ever-growing clumps, forming stars, planets, moons and other heavenly bodies. Fusion within the stars, as well as rare but powerful stellar collisions, melded simple nuclei into more complex atomic species, which, upon raining down on at least one planet in the making, were coaxed by molecular Darwinism to assemble into arrangements capable of self-replication. Random variations of the arrangements that happened to abet molecular fecundity spread widely. And among these molecular pathways for extracting, storing, and dispensing information and energy—the rudimentary processes of life—which, through the long haul of Darwinian evolution, became increasingly refined. In time, complex, self-directed, living things emerged… Through the force of selection, evolution takes a hand in shaping life’s behavioral repertoire, favoring activities that advance survival and reproduction. Among these, ultimately, is thought…” (313-14).

“Add in language, and one such self-aware species rises above the needs of the moment to see itself as part of an unfolding from past to future. With that, winning the battle is no longer the only concern. We are no longer satisfied to merely survive. We want to know why survival is significant. We seek context. We search for relevance. We assign value. We judge behavior. We pursue meaning. And we develop explanations of how the universe came to be and how it might end… Stories prepare the mind for responding to the unexpected; art develops imagination and innovation; music sharpens sensitivity to pattern; religion binds adherents into strong coalitions… They reveal a pervasive longing to be part of something larger, something lasting. Value and meaning, decidedly absent from the bedrock of reality, become intrinsic to a restless urge that elevates us above indifferent nature…” (314-15).

“Yet the fact that we will all die, and the fact that the human species will die, and the fact that life and mind, at least in this universe, are virtually certain to die are expected, run-of-the-mill, long-term outcomes of physical law. The only novelty is that we notice…” (316).

“We are ephemeral. We are evanescent. Yet our moment is rare and extraordinary, a recognition that allows us to make life’s impermanence and the scarcity of self-reflective awareness the basis for value and a foundation for gratitude… How utterly wondrous it is that a small collection of the universe’s particles can rise up, examine themselves and the reality they inhabit, determine just how transitory they are, and with a flitting burst of activity create beauty, establish connection, and illuminate mystery…” (322-23).

“Whereas most life, miraculous in its own right, is tethered to the immediate, we can step outside of time. We can think about the past; we can imagine the future. We can take in the universe; we can process it. We can explore it with mind and body, with reason and emotion. From our lonely corner of the cosmos we have used creativity and imagination to shape words and images and structures and sounds to express our longings and frustrations, our confusions and revelations, our failures and triumphs. We have used ingenuity and perseverance to touch the very limits of outer and inner space, determining fundamental laws that govern how stars shine and light travels, how time elapses and space expands—laws that allow us to peer back to the briefest moment after the universe began and then shift our gaze and contemplate its end…” (324-25).  

“As we hurtle toward a cold and barren cosmos, we must accept that there is no grand design. Particles are not endowed with purpose. There is no final answer hovering in the depths of space awaiting discovery. Instead, certain special collections of particles can think and feel and reflect, and within these subjective worlds they can create purpose. And so in our quest to fathom the human condition, the only direction to look is inward…: the human species contemplating itself, grasping what it needs to carry on, and telling a story that reverberates into the darkness, a story carved of sound and etched into silence, a story that at its best, stirs the soul” (325-26).

Greene, Brian. Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2020.

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and is renowned for his groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Bottom Line: Illinois’ Public Pension Debt Is a Moral Issue by Elizabeth Bower (Forbes February 23, 2020)

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump granted clemency to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was eight years into a 14-year federal sentence for corruption charges. As Wikipedia notes, “he was the fourth Illinois governor to serve time in federal prison, after Otto Kerner Jr.Dan Walker, and George Ryan.” Of note, although Illinoisans appear now to be either mystified or outraged at this turn of events, he won re-election in 2006 even though he and his associates were already under investigation at the time of the election. Earlier in February, a report by the University of Illinois at Chicago ranked Chicago as the most corrupt U.S. city.

That same report ranked Illinois as the third-most-corrupt state. And the math behind those rankings pulls from such examples as Ald. Edward Burke, who was re-elected to his 13th term back a year ago after having been charged of attempted extortion. The charge was plastered all over the newspapers, but voters still returned him to office — and not even because he had opponents who split the opposition between them, as the Chicago elections function on a run-off basis, and Burke won an absolute majority.

Corruption costs the city, and it costs the state, and it’s not merely a matter of a few bad apples, but of a political system that is still too close to the machine politics of the past, in which what matters to voters is whether they and their interest groups get what they want.
And it is no mere coincidence that a state with such a legacy of corruption is so severely in debt. Remember, Illinois is ranked second-worst according to Truth in Accounting, with a pension debt of $139 billion (by its reckoning) and a further $56 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare promises. Only New Jersey is worse, because of the state’s smaller size. And Chicago is second-worst of the 75 largest cities; New York City is worse only because its finances include the liabilities for its school system, which is a separate entity financially in Chicago.

Here, again, is a brief rehash of the numbers: The state is spending 25% — soon to be 27% — of its revenues on pension contributions. As a result, the state falls woefully short in meeting the basic human needs of its people — the disabled, the poor and unemployed, the young and the old — while instead promising that tax increases will fix everything, or increased gambling or pot legalization or some other magical new revenue source, or that there’ll be some clever work-around if only the clever people think enough clever thoughts. (Buyouts? the savings are too small to matter. Consolidation? That’s no help for the $137 billion in state debt. Asset transfers? I’ll believe it when I see it.)
The state’s target of 90% funding in 2045 is so dependent on the reduced benefits for Tier 2 employees staying in place (which is itself unlikely) and on the optimistic assumptions for asset returns, that a boost in those Tier 2 benefits (widely expected to occur) or a drop in the valuation interest rate/long-term asset return, will cause the state to fall far short, or contribute far more, than scheduled.

And while the state of Illinois has a long history of underfunding its pension plans (in 1969, its funded status was more or less the same as now — 42% vs. 40%), the debt in 1970, when the new constitution was put into place, was $1.5 billion. The projected 2020 debt? $139 billion.
That doesn’t include debt due to retiree healthcare promises, or state and local debt, or pension obligation bonds needing repayment…
It should be plain to see that debt has skyrocketed, and far beyond what can be adjusted away by looking at inflation or other factors during this time frame — and blame can hardly be placed on the “Edgar ramp” of 1996 when there have been ample years since then in which the problem has only gotten dramatically worse. That dip in 2004? That’s the result of Blagojevich’s Pension Obligation Bonds shifting liabilities out of the pension funds themselves to elsewhere on the state’s balance sheet.

Corrupt state and local government officials who rationalize skimming a little for themselves, and voters who overlook this if they think their interest group (neighborhood, union, ethnic group, etc.) benefits from the state or city’s spending — it’s an attitude that led columnist Mike Royko to pen his proposed new motto for the city, back in 1967: rather than Urbs in Horto (city in a garden), it should be Ubi Est Mea, “Where’s mine?”

And this is the very same mindset that accepts unfunded/underfunded pensions, in which the costs are not placed on other taxpayers in the here-and-now, but rather the people on whom the burden is being placed is the next generation.

How can we tell our children that they should build their future in this state when we leave them this debt, not scheduled to be paid down for another 25 years, and even then only incompletely and with a high degree of risk that the scheduled payments are insufficient if returns are too low, or when restoring Tier 2 benefits finally become unavoidable due to lawsuits or union pressure?
And, yes, this is personal. I have three sons, one of whom has already left Illinois to attend college elsewhere. I have three sons, one of whom, as an infant, received therapy through the Early Intervention program, the providers of which are impacted by the state’s unpaid bill backlog. And I am not a native Illinoisan — however much those who are, may simply be accustomed to the misgovernment and corruption in Illinois and Chicago, I can’t accept this. Calling for pension reform is not about trying to hurt state workers; it’s about having a state government that’s competently and responsibly managed now and in the future.
And in the same way in which it is not good enough for politicians merely to promise that they themselves will not be corrupt, it is also not enough for them to promise that they themselves will not sink the state/city further into debt by no longer promising benefit hikes, bigger COLAs, larger multipliers.
In order to leave behind the legacy of corruption, the politicians of Chicago and Illinois and the city and state as collective entities, and the people of Illinois, must commit to saying, “the time of passing costs on to our children and grandchildren is over.” That involves doing what’s politically unpopular, rather than hiding behind claims that it’s a “fantasy” or that other, no-cost actions will solve the problem. In the same way as a twelve-step program requires an addict to make amends, and a Catholic penitent is given penance, so, too, Illinois cannot become the honest, fair-dealing state it claims to be without the pension reform which is a necessary part-and-parcel of “walking the walk.”

All of which means that pension reform is not merely about a few numbers on a balance sheet; it is a moral issue. And, yes, the same holds for every other state and city with similarly poorly funded pensions.  For the article, click here. 

Elizabeth Bauer has also written about amending the Illinois Pension Protection Clause. 
Indeed, “Illinois public pension debt is a moral issue”; however, this is the significant moral and justice issue columnists ignore:
To possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right. There are no rights without obligations. They are mutually dependent. Fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents.
According to philosopher David Hume, the idea of keeping a promise depends upon creating rules of justice; that rules of contracts, for instance, have to be considered morally desirable as well. In other words, a “contract” or promise between the State of Illinois and its public employees must be viewed as a moral commitment and requirement of justice. Justice demands we keep our “covenants” with one another. In regard to public pensions, keeping an agreement means a concern to promote the well-being of public employees and the need to secure their rights.
All citizens have rights that must be protected. When legislators swear an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions (Article XIII, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois), then citizens of Illinois and the United States have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is also a matter of important moral concern for all citizens of a state, for all legal claims will be validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics. If citizens’ legal rights are abused, then their dignity and humanity will also be violated. As stated by Alicia H. Munnell, Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Illinois is one of seven states where accruals are protected, and the legal basis for protection of public pension rights is under state law (State and Local Pensions). This was also validated on the May 8, 2015 by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Without a doubt, the significant issue of past and now future pension reform by today's pundits has been its attack on public employees’ rights to constitutionally-guaranteed, earned compensation and the legislators’ obligation to safeguard those promises. An unconscionable constitutional challenge of those rights and earned benefits generates a serious threat to their secure sense of worth as citizens and creates the unfair possibility for an economic disadvantage for a particular group of people and their families. This can never be legally or morally justified.
What has continuously been at stake is not an adjudication of claims that public employees will have against policymakers who want changes to public employees’ benefits and rights or an amendment to the Pension Protection Clause, but to respect the public employees’ contractual and constitutional promises because they are legitimate rights and moral concerns not only for public employees, but for every citizen in Illinois: for any unwarranted act of stealing a person’s guaranteed rights and compensation will violate interests in morality and ethics and the basic principles of both the State and United States Constitutions that protect every one of us.
For these reasons, it is imperative that policymakers, stakeholders and columnists examine their own ethical and moral principles in view of the fact that they will have to justify their decisions to the citizens of Illinois. Certainly, moral responsibility and legal obligation to fully fund the public pension systems should not be ignored "so the time of passing costs on to our children and grandchildren is over." 
It is a moral concern and legal duty to reform the state’s sources of revenue and to address the incurred pension debt through restructuring so the state can provide services for its citizens and fund the public pension systems instead of incessantly incriminating public employees and retirees, and thereby forcing them to defend the State and United States Constitutions nearly every day of their lives. 
-Glen Brown

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"The Governor's Budget Book outlines a reduction in the contribution for retired teacher health insurance (TRIP/TRAIL) of $51,244,324"

Today, Governor Pritzker delivered his budget address for fiscal year 2021. The Governor's Budget Book outlines a reduction in the contribution for retired teacher health insurance (TRIP/TRAIL) of $51,244,324. At the same time fully funding health insurance for retired Chicago educators. The funding model of TRIP/TRAIL is a functional and emulatable model that should be used when structuring other retiree healthcare programs in the State. The model works because the program relies on payments from retirees, active teachers, local school districts and the State of Illinois. Those payments increase modestly year after year as the overall number of retired teachers and the cost of health care increases. The Illinois Retired Teachers Association can not support diverting funding away from the TRIP/TRAIL program to pay for other programs, like the Community College Retiree or the Chicago Retired Teachers Healthcare programs.


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Sunday, February 16, 2020

"I recognize only one duty, and that is to love"-Albert Camus (by Prof. Jamie Lombardi)

“Albert Camus wrote in his journals that if he ‘had to write a book on morality, it would have a hundred pages and ninety-nine would be blank’. On the last page he said he would write, ‘I recognize only one duty, and that is to love’. But Camus didn’t tell us (at least not directly) what love is, or how to understand our duty to it. 

“What he did write about was a way of understanding our struggle in an absurd world as an act of rebellion. And what is love if not an act of rebellion? Even the very best of lives will end in death, with no shortage of suffering beforehand. And then there are the rest of us: condemned to death as much as to life. How do we live with this? What makes it worth it? Camus’s answer is rebellion; in art; in beauty, and in love. 

“Unlike Hamlet, for whom ‘to be or not to be’ was the prevailing question, and inaction the prevailing behavior, Camus tells us the ‘whole question’ is ‘whether or not one can live with one’s passions, whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt’. Life for Camus, like art, beauty, and love, is a call to action. 

“It is a way of staring our inevitable annihilation in the face and choosing a life that’s worth the price we pay for it. While revolt and freedom are familiar themes in Camus’s work, passion is the third consequence of the absurd. Negation is not enough. Nihilism is not a victory. 

“On realizing the world has no meaning to give to our lives, it is passion that enables us ‘to take up the heart-rending and marvelous wager of the absurd’ and create meaning ourselves; to bring into existence something that hasn’t been before. Love is a form of art and, through it, a means of scaffolding a future that does not yet exist, but could. 

“Of course, the possibility remains that we may never see that future. Relationships come to an end. Even perfect unions will be rent apart by death. Sisyphus never rests his bolder on top of that mountain, after all.  The world is neither a fair nor sensible place. But to fail to act, even in the absence of guarantees or the promise of success, is what Camus refers to as philosophical suicide. It is to declare that life is not worth living, that it is not, as Nietzsche says, ‘worth the trouble’.

“But this is the despair that one must not give into. One must instead refuse to look for an escape from one’s ailments in giving up, as much as one must refuse Kierkegaard’s leap into faith for a better or different future. ‘Real generosity toward the future’ Camus claims ‘lies in giving all to the present’. 
“Our lives are now, for the time that we have them, and calamity and catastrophe cannot be avoided by playing it safe. For Camus, love is the conscious choice to see the world in all its terrifying reality and decide that one’s effort ‘will henceforth be unceasing’.
“Naturally, this most readily brings to mind the idea of romantic love. And certainly, Camus threw himself into his love affairs as passionately and as eagerly as he threw his body into the ocean. But romantic love is not the only kind of love. Our connection to our friends, our families, and our children can be just as meaningful and, in many cases, even more demanding. 

“Sisyphus may seem like an unlikely model to follow but that is only if one misunderstands what crowns his victory. Doing our duty is not merely completing the mindless repetition of the tasks assigned to us by fate and suffering in resigned silence; it is the willingness ‘to follow the curve of the great passions, sudden, demanding, and generous’. 

“Love is not just a confrontation with the absurdity of the world; it is a refusal to be broken by it. It is one of the ways we can each of us be stronger than our rocks. There is nothing we can do to change the constraints of our existence. Heartbreak and death await us all. Either we will fail and there will be suffering, or we will succeed but still meet tremendous pain along the way.  

“As Camus wrote, ‘the essential absurdity of this catastrophe does not alter the fact that it exists’. But it is up to us how we live with it. It is our choice whether we shrink from the slings and arrows of fate, or whether we stand in the full light of the sun while it shines above us. It may be true that there’s no light without shadow, but what Camus means when he says that it’s ‘essential to know the night’ is that our consciousness of defeat is what makes the victory of our courage possible: ‘absurdity may be king, but love saves us from it’”.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Are You Suffering from Trump Anxiety/Depression Disorder?

“If you care about animals, people, and the planet, you’ve likely battled feelings of depression during the Trump presidency. His cruelty, immaturity, lying, law-breaking, and harmful policies invade our daily routines and shock us every day. Every headline makes our heart race, and we feel sick that he remains in office.
“We wonder what happened to our fellow Americans that they would elevate such a bad person to a position of power. We thought we shared a common set of values with Republicans and could at least agree that Trump’s sociopathic behavior, sordid past, and lack of experience would disqualify him from office. We wonder how Republicans continue to support someone who is so antithetical to all that is good in our country. We worry they don’t realize they’re being hoodwinked and we worry about the future.
“The psychological impact of Trump’s presidency is real and lasting. Many of his actions are unprecedented in modern presidential history. And Trump’s gaslighting is enough to cause anyone to feel like we’re losing control of our democracy. Psychologists have referred to the feelings that result from this presidency as ‘Trump Anxiety Disorder.’ It can lead to increased blood pressure, depression, and chronic health problems. For that reason, it’s important to keep perspective and take care. If you’re tired of feeling sick over Trump’s actions, these friendly reminders may lift your spirits, empower you, give you hope, and effect change.

“Trump doesn’t represent the American people. Trump got 62,984,828 votes. About 174 million Americans either voted against him or didn’t vote for him, which is about 73% of the eligible-to-vote American population. Trump’s term ends in a few months. We have an opportunity to replace him with someone who leads with compassion, believes in science, sets an example, and tells the truth. In some countries, dictators stay in power for decades.

“So much good happens every day despite Trump’s cruelty and misconduct. Plant-based food companies are breaking new ground, millions of volunteers are impacting lives, and companies are taking steps to save the planet despite Trump’s reckless policies. The world is filled with cruelty and greed, but it’s also filled with kindness, giving, and progress.

“We’ve been through worse times and persevered. About 150 years ago, Americans fought each other in a war and killed 2% of the American population. That’s the equivalent of more than 6 million people in today’s population.

“Trump serves as a valuable non-example for the world. We can learn from him to avoid even worse mistakes in the future. We learn some of our best lessons from non-examples.

“Empower yourself. There’s so much we can do to offset the damage of Trump’s presidency. Volunteer for a campaign or a nonprofit, find a job that allows you to advance your interests full-time, register people to vote, or donate to a charity. Every act of kindness makes a difference. It’s also an impactful exercise to call your senators in Congress at (202) 224-3121 to express your thoughts.

“Manage your social media exposure. Avoid arguing with people who are unlikely to change their minds. It’s emotionally draining, and it isn’t worth it. There are much better ways to spend your days. Think critically about how you’re using your time on social media.

“Surround yourself with positive people who exude resilience, hope, and problem-solving skills. Develop a circle of engaged and informed friends who focus on solutions.

“Read and listen to the news from reputable sources. Don’t watch it. Reading news allows us to gather facts, draw conclusions, and take action. Although it may not be entertaining to read about environmental deregulation, it helps us to learn about policy positions so we can become better-informed advocates and voters. Stations like NPR and podcasts are also good sources of information that provide the depth we need to understand issues. Television news is often hyper-partisan and toxic to our emotions.

“Promote media literacy. Avoid sharing information from disreputable sites. Russia has it covered.

“Unplug. Take time for yourself–go to the gym or take a yoga restore class, take a walk, cook, or spend time with friends. It may give you the energy you need to be more productive.

“Recognize that we’ll always have challenges. The issues we care about–climate change, animal welfare, human health and well-being, equality, justice, and so many others–won’t be fully resolved under any administration. But a collective effort of government, business, and individuals can put us on a better trajectory. We should work together to achieve that end.

“Consider seeking professional help. Consider the support of a professionally-trained therapist. You may also consider calling the free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a team of professionals who counsel people feeling emotional distress.

“Trump is drenched in cruelty. He’s a self-obsessed criminal without a moral compass, so you have every right to feel affected by his actions. But Trump is a mentally-ill sociopath, so trying to rationalize his behavior isn’t a good use of time. Instead, we should focus on doing all we can to offset his policies and impact on the fabric of our country and work to elect leaders who better represent our priorities. The planet needs all hands-on deck. Let’s harness our energy for good. Imagine the feeling when the Trump era ends and the country finds its footing again.”