My Basket of Deplorables

Deplorable: Very bad in a way that causes shock, fear, or disgust. 

Merriam Webster


I don’t need to explain the context for this post. You know what it is. You’ve heard or discussed it already. You have your own opinions about it, and you have feelings that are probably stronger than the opinions. That’s not why we’re here anyway.

This is a mini personal manifesto. Something that has been percolating in my brain since I first heard the phrase “basket of deplorables”. 

Now, I have seen my share of people who are down on their luck, have no jobs, no money, have worn the same clothes for a month, and who have been sleeping outside by the river in a tent for months at a time. I have seen swindlers, mean people, intellectually challenged people, and people with extreme personality disorders. I have seen a lot of people in my career as a psychiatrist. 

None of them I would label deplorable. 

None of them I would label unsalvageable. 

That said, there are some behaviors, concepts, ideas, actions and positions that I would consider deplorable. Deplorables, plural, if you will. 

That is what this post is about. 

This is my own personal basket of deplorables. 

You may agree. You may not. You may think me foolish. You may think me shallow. That is your right. My post. My blog. Read it if you like. Agree if you agree. Dissent and write your own missive if mine spurs your thinking, which I certainly hope it will. 

There are five deplorables in my basket, and six responses that I have to them. No, I am not sure why the numbers don’t match. It matters not. What matters is that these things make me upset, sick, angry, and spur bad thoughts in my head. As any writer knows, this why I have to write about them. 

Let’s get started.

1) Man’s Inhumanity to Man

This one popped into my head first as a general concept. It seriously blows my mind. Why in the name of all that is holy (you’ll see what I did there in a minute) do we feel the compulsion to hurt, maim, slander, torture and kill each other? 

The Crusades occurred from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. They were sanctioned by the Catholic Church. One of the main goals? To capture and free Jerusalem from Islamic rule. Thousands died. Now you see what I did there. 

The Holocaust was a particularly brutal time in history when Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany exterminated six million Jews from 1941-45. One and a half million of those killed were children. 

On September 11, 2001, four coordinated terror attacks orchestrated by al-Qaeda targeted the World Trade Center and various targets in Washington, DC.  Two thousand nine hundred and ninety six people were killed, including the passengers and crew members of the planes which were basically weaponized, fully loaded with fuel, and souls. Six thousand more were injured. At least ten billion dollars’ worth of property damage was done. I took that attack hard, as we all did. Since I am marrying a career flight attendant in six weeks, I take it even harder now, this many years later. 

In sweet, sultry Charleston, SC, just a couple of hours down the road from where I live, twenty one year old Dylan Roof walked into “Mother Emanuel” AME church, sat quietly through an hour of Bible study, then methodically and brutally murdered nine people. He left one alive to “tell my story”. Dylan wanted to start a race war. I just heard a presentation the other day at a conference by the executive director of the mental health center in Charleston. She could not describe some of the response and recovery stories without crying. Still. The church is still reeling from the profound changes that were thrust upon it by this unexpected and horrific act. 

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. December 14, 2012. Twenty year old Adam Lanza kills his mother. Then he kills twenty children ages six and seven, and six adults. Then he kills himself. 

Rwanda. From April through July 1994, 500,000 to one million Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutu majority government in just one hundred days. Seventy per cent of the Tutsis in the country, twenty percent of the total population were killed. 

Sexual abuse of women and children. Something I hear about every day. Three patients told me their abuse stories just today, in a small clinic. This is, of course, in the news right now, much more than we would like it to be, but there it is. It exists. It’s real. It happens. It’s terrible. It leaves lifelong scars. It hurts people physically, emotionally, and leaves scars that others often cannot see. 

Why do we do these things to each other? I live a pretty normal life, boring on some days, exciting on some days, but pretty normal. I would NEVER think about intentionally plotting to kill thousands of people, killing one child, or starting a race war. Individuals do these things. Governments do these things.Races  do these things to other races. 

The first thing in my Basket of Deplorables has to be the absolutely unexplainable inhumanity that we show towards each other. 

2) Man’s Desperate Attempt to Play God

The Rwandan and German slaughters again come to mind, don’t they? How can one person or one group, or one government arbitrarily decide that some other group, with different color hair or skin or culture or religion, must cease to exist? How can they decide to exterminate, marginalized or isolate whole peoples? 

What I like to call “extreme healthcare” at the end of life makes my basket as well, under this category. End of life excesses, exhorbitant costs, prolongation of life when the quality of that life is very poor, and extended periods of resuscitation orders, sometimes with prolongation of pain and suffering, all play into our feeble attempt to play God. We are afraid to die. Even when it is long past time and we know it, and we long for the release that we know will come, we are afraid to die. Therefore, we are afraid to let go. We must maintain control as long as possible. The truth is, the control we think we have is not real. 

We speak of healthcare rationing, death panels, choosing who will get what benefits, who will live and who will die. We exclude. 

We set up classes, we demonize races, we pick and choose based on the things that we did not create, that we do not control, that we cannot change. 

I don’t know if you believe in God or not. If you do, and you think that he has any hand in what goes on in our lives at all, I really do not think that he needs our help. 

3) The Race to the Bottom

This is another concept that is certainly not new, but that has been in the news with the current political cycle. 

We dumb down arguments and concepts and discussions to the point that they are ludicrous. We try not to hurt feelings or step on toes, but in doing so we do not challenge people to think. We don’t tell the truth because it might offend someone. 

We live in the age of the soundbite, the one hundred forty character thought, and the status update. In the not so distant past, in the time of my childhood, we used to watch sitcoms and other television shows that were only thirty minutes long. In that time period, the situation was set, a problem developed, the characters struggled with it, and a resolution was reached, all in the space of a half hour. I used to think that was a stretch. Now, text messages, tweets and status updates tell the story, the constant, ever changing story of modern life in tiny bites, billions of them per day. 

Sometimes the deeper meaning of something we are trying to say gets lost. The nuances of a glance, a pause, a touch, or a chuckle are no longer there as cues. In our race to be fastest and first, the information is flawed and flimsy. 

In our race for the bottom, we are sexualizing everything. Ads for alcohol, clothing, personal hygiene products, cigarettes, cars, vacations and technology are all linked to sexuality in this fast paced world. The youngest, prettiest, sexiest people get the most and the best, or at least that is what you are lead to believe. Now, even our politics and our presidential election in the United States is being fought on a sexualized playing field where past transgressions trump abilities and experience and people are used like pawns in the race to prove who has been the sleaziest and how recently or long ago. Sex is linked to money, power, influence and policy. I’ve got a newsflash for you. Your sexual ability, prowess and attraction is not going to be your strongest suit when you’re ninety years old and can’t zip your own fly without help, much less unzip it. 

Yes, we are racing for the bottom. We are trying to out-dumb, out-sleaze, out-sex, and out-tweet each other more and more every day. 

What ever happened to positivity, wholesomeness, setting of examples, having grand aspirations, and setting lofty but achievable goals? When did we reach the tipping point after which the more negative things became the more  notice they commanded? 

4) Division

By:

Class, income, race, sex, religion, education, sexual orientation, heritage, political party. 

Shall I go on?

A house divided against itself shall not stand. 

And that’s all I’m going to say about that. 

5) Anonymity

We have abdicated our sense of responsibility. 

With the advent of on line personas, avatars, and other ways to be impersonal, we have forgotten how to be responsible for what we say, do, and think. We can set ourselves up to be whoever and however we want to be online. We can lie, present ourselves as something we are not, and promise things we cannot do or give. Have you noticed how many times people want to write scathing commentaries or letters to the editor or op-ed pieces, but do not want their name on the work? Are they really not as convinced as they would like people to think they are? Are they unsure of their opinions? Are they afraid of conflict? 

As terrible as it was, in the days of sword and mace, and later in the time of the Civil War, you could see the man who was about to try to kill you. Face to face. Eye to eye. You knew your enemy and you met him with only that small no man’s land of death between you. 

Nowadays, cowardly terrorists and misguided misfits plot destruction big and small from caves and cabins in the woods. After a horrific event, everyone waits for that tweet or post  or You Tube video that will tell us who accepts responsibility for the act, but we never see them or know their names or faces. 

Hijackers. Bombers. Snipers. Cyber criminals. 

They are often anonymous. They are always cowards. 

So, my Basket of Deplorables contains man’s inhumanity to man, man trying to play God, the race to the bottom, division, and anonymity. 

Do I have all the answers for how to fix this? Of course not. 

Do I have some ideas about where to start, individually as collectively? Yes. 

1) Treat others as you want to be treated, no matter what. Start there. Simple, you say? Too narrow? Try it for one week. One week. 

2) Do not tolerate the mistreatment of others. Don’t tolerate it. Do NOT let it go. Do NOT turn a blind eye. Do not condone it passively, do not ignore it. Do not participate in it. (Billy Bush, are you listening?) Call it out. Make it shameful and absolutely unacceptable. 

3) Let God be God. Listen, the bottom line is, no matter how smart we are now or become in the future, we will NEVER understand everything. Maybe we shouldn’t. Mystery is okay. It really is. We can’t all be in charge. As a matter of fact, as I wrote above, we are often not in charge of nearly as much as we think we are. Let things evolve as they will, learning about the process and enhancing it but not pushing beyond our reasonable limits. Eliminate the artificial caste and class and race barriers that keep us apart. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind when he created us to look differently. When it’s time to let go, let go. We will all die one day. We will take nothing with us. As far as we know, we will control nothing on this earth after we depart from  it. 

4) Enhance life. Build up positive support. Read long form essays and books that take you longer than five minutes to finish. Great ideas take more than a rushing river of tweets to take hold and flourish and grow. Let sex be what it is. Beautiful, fulfilling, communicative, bond-strengthening, giving, sharing and loving. Be an active part of goal setting, building the future, and planning for better days to come. 

5) Look for ways to join groups and activities that are outside of your comfort zone. Learn from those who are different from you. Embrace other cultures. Share ideas. Discuss, don’t just argue. 

6) FInally, be honest. Brutally honest if you must. Sometimes, the emperor just does not have any clothes. Be present. Be yourself. This is what sickens me the most about politicians these days. They are too smooth, too PC, too careful, too practiced. They have lost the ability to think for themselves,make good decisions, and act on them for the good of the country. I want to know you, feel comfortable when I disagree with you, and learn from you. I cannot do that if you are not willing to do the same, if you are always rigid, or if no one but you can ever be right. Tell the truth. Be honest. Think for yourself. Make decisions based on the reality in front of you, not on the fantasy that you wish could be real. 
If we try, I am sure that we can turn my Basket of Deplorables into a Monument of the Meritorious. 

Isn’t it worth a try?          

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