A glimmer of hope, a crack in the cosmic egg

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Are you worried to the point of being so stressed about the state of the world, particularly about the political situation in the U.S. that it keeps you awake at night?

Do you have a recurring nightmare about the planet as a raw egg in the wrong, oh so wrong hands as it awaits its fate. You too?!

Or have you tuned it all out to help avoid getting too discouraged, perhaps even depressed? After all, a goodly number of us find it hard enough to cope with the approach of another Canadian winter, and the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that goes with it as the sun sinks ever lower in the southern sky, and behind the clouds. I take my canine friends for an early morning walk in hopes of catching some early morning rays of the rising sun, the best for Vitamin D production. How about you?

I can’t say, though, that I’ve tuned out the news to help keep spirits up. I’ve always been a news hound, as producer, and now to an increasing degree, as consumer. The political crisis in the U.S. — for that’s what it indeed is – has become something of a personal obsession. I get back from our morning walk, turn on the laptop and check out the Google news headlines. Yes, I confess, for news about Donald Trump in particular, with the click of a virtual button in hopes of finding that the agony and the anxiety will soon be over, that someone has finally found the proverbial “smoking gun” of evidence. Or, at least in hopes of finding the situation hasn’t got a whole lot worse. In a world thrown incredibly off-kilter by one man’s unstable personality, anything is possible.

In other words, we are living in a time of dangerous uncertainty. To what extent my fellow Canadians are affected by stress and anxiety related to that reality, I don’t know. I suspect quite a few of us are, as we try just “keep on, keeping on” with our lives, as we say.

But there’s good, sound evidence now that a majority of Americans are more stressed and worried about the future of their country than ever before since the Presidential election results of almost a year ago.

The American Psychological Association annually takes the stress pulse of the country. The association released its 2017 Stress in America report this past Wednesday. It’s based on a survey of 3,400 American adults – from millennials to seniors – taken in August. I can’t help but note the political situation has surely gotten worse since then, and it’s more than likely a similar survey taken now would reflect an even higher stress level among Americans.

This year’s Stress report is titled, The State of Our Nation, because that was the foremost stressor-worry  expressed by Americans.

When asked about “the most common sources of stress” in their lives, the highest percentage of people (63 percent) said “the future of our nation,” the report said. That was followed by “money” (62 percent), “work” (61 percent), “the current political climate” (57 percent), and “violence and crime” (51 percent).

A majority of those contacted (59 percent) “believe this is the lowest point in their nation’s history that they could remember.” They included “older adults” (56 percent) who had lived through the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, and the Second World War; baby boomers (57 percent) who had lived through the Viet Nam War, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. They also included “generation X” adults, aged 39 to 52 (61 percent) who remembered the Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing; and “millennials,” aged 18 to 38 who were alive when the 911 terror attacks and other high-profile, mass shootings happened.

“A significant majority of adults from both political parties say they feel stress about the future of our nation, though the number is significantly higher for Democrats (73 percent) than for Republicans (56 percent) and Independents (59 percent). And nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent) report that the current social divisiveness causes them stress when thinking about the nation,” the report said.

“The survey reveals differences across races regarding sources of stress. Nearly seven in 10 Hispanic adults (69 percent) say that the future of our nation is a significant source of stress — the most of any group — and significantly higher than the six in 10 White adults (61 percent) who cite this stressor. Seven in 10 Black adults (71 percent) say this is the lowest point in our country’s history that they can remember.”

One should always remember that surveys are a relatively small sampling, in this case, a tiny fraction of a country with a population of 323 million. But to the extent this survey, done for American Psychological Association by Harris Poll, a reputable company with 50 years experience, it does not look like a majority of Americans feel their country is on a path to “make America great again.”

On the contrary, they’re worried it’s heading in quite a different direction.

I found a good measure of hope in that report though. It speaks well of the American people if a majority are that concerned about the future of their great democracy and where it’s headed.

It just may be that America will get through this challenging period after all, and end up being greater than ever, though not in the way Donald Trump might have liked.

A version of this post was originally published in The Sun Times November, 2017.

 

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