Is U.S. Democracy Mentally Ill?


The Mental Decline of American Democracy

Given that Americans suffer more mental disorders than any other people on the planet, doesn’t it make sense that our political system has become mentally ill too?

The list of mental illnesses is almost as long as the list of our chronic diseases. Americans suffer from schizophrenia, paranoia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, dysthymia; anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); substance abuse; and impulse control disorders like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. On top of all that, we suffer alarming rates of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and dementia.

Given this environment of pervasive mindbody sickness that puts stress on relationships, it’s not surprising that divorce rates are also on the rise in the United States. Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. Apparently, the vow to love and cherish in sickness and in health is getting more and more challenging for couples.

The pharmaceutical industry has responded to the mental illness epidemic as an opportunity for market expansion for psychopharmacological drugs, and so has not only tolerated it, but also helped to engineer it by focusing resources on proliferating diagnoses and treatments, rather than prevention. Now, the ill consequences of treating symptoms without healing causes for decades and decades is showing an ugly face. In politics, as in schools, American ‘cray-cray’ has come home to roost. Is anyone surprised? Did we think we could tolerate, and even profit from, an epidemic of mental illnesses without real consequences that would affect our longterm sustainability as a culture? 

Our family system is ailing. Our health care system is chronically ill. And why should anyone be surprised that our political body has become ill as well. America is going off the deep end because Americans are going off the deep end. And the world is watching in disbelief.

If anyone still thought President Trump was mentally balanced after his paranoid and delusional response to the pipe-bomb incident against his Democratic opponents by a mentally deranged and developmentally delayed right-wing follower, the not-too-distant memory of Ronald Reagan should remind folks that it’s entirely possible for a man with beginning stages of Alzheimer’s dementia—a man without full possession of his mind, non compos mentis—to be President of the United States of America.

Dementia in the White House

It’s happened before. It could happen again. President Reagan had early stages of Alzheimer’s while in the oval office. Alzheimer’s is a chronic disease; it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over a long period of time before you get a diagnosis—years and even decades. What’s interesting in this conversation is the fact that it didn’t seem to matter that he was losing his mental faculty, as far as being President mattered in our political system. Both presidents had popular backing. Which also says something about way Americans have learned to tolerate mental illness. Even in political leaders.

President Trump is the symptom of a chronic condition we have lived with for a long time. I’m talking about the inability to not only think and act rationally, but to discern reality in order to act in an adaptive way, rather than a maladaptive one. I’m talking about the ability to see the Truth when it is staring you in the face. I’m talking about the ability to discern the faciality of mental illness staring you in the face from an imaginary gremlin or caravan of immigrants. One of those situations is quite dire, and the sooner you recognize it for what it is, the better your chances of surviving it. The same way we’ve lost our ability to see the signs of our own illnesses before they become critical, and rely on doctors to deliver a diagnosis to us instead, we seem to have lost our ability to discern mental illness and dementia in our presidents and other elected government officials.

When it comes to chronic illness, avoiding and delaying the inevitable healing crisis doesn’t help. It only makes things worse. President Trump, unlike Reagan, is a demagogue. A demagogue is a political leader who appeals to popular desires and prejudices rather than rational argument, making false claims and promises in order to gain power, while appearing to champion the cause of the common people. And like most demagogues, President Trump understands how to use the media to garner power and confuse the public. Whereas Hitler, Mussolini and Franco took to the radio to broadcast insane ideas to the masses, Trump uses Twitter and TV to tweet and broadcast his crazy ideas into a right-wing populist movement that’s headed for mass destruction.

What can sane Americans do about it? Do what you have to do to stay sane and speak up. In other words, be well. Because the problem isn’t just that Americans have a president with signs of dementia, again. The problem is that millions of Americans are losing their grip on reality as they become more and more mentally and physically ill. There’s only one fix to that problem. And that’s to culture more mental and physical health and wellbeing. Starting with your Self. And starting with better Care of the Self—from your emotions to your ethics to your physical body to your political body.

Visit The Healist's Self-Care Lists to access resources to improve your sustainability as a human. Learn how to clean up your act, from your food and water to the toxic mercury fillings in your teeth to the toxic crap in your liver and colon, to the thoughts in your head and the feelings in your heart. Then get to work being Americans, eve if it seems we’re starting at Ground Zero, again.

This time maybe we can admit that the problem is within us, not outside of us. Our problem is right here at home in the United States of America. And a new generation of nuclear weapons and power plants won’t save us. A wall won’t save us. Drones, killer robots and lethal autonomous weapons won’t save us. Closing our borders won’t save us. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord won’t save us. More fracking and oil pipelines won’t save us. Killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens in Alaska won’t save us.

The only thing that will save us is to Make America Healthy Again.

To do that, we’d have to empower citizens over corporations, and value public health and wellbeing over health insurance profits. We’d have to, on our own, see the wisdom of not polluting national parks, oceans and ourselves with plastic water bottles. We’d have to quit thinking that antibiotics and vaccines can replace natural immunity. We’d have to learn to farm again without pesticides and herbicides. We’d have to become clean water stewards, and love and cherish Mother Earth as if our lives depended on it. And we’d have to finally ban the risky practice of putting neurotoxic mercury amalgam fillings in Americans’ teeth, including Trump’s.

Maybe it’s time to stop gaming democracy like it’s a video game, or reality TV show, or hedge fund short sale. American democracy is a fragile political system of delicate checks and balances that has to be practiced in good faith. It can’t be bullied. It can’t be hedged. And it can’t be lied to and manipulated with green-washed marketing campaigns and another about-to-burst bubble and banking scandal. In other words, it can’t be insane—lost in paranoid fantasies, demented illusions, megalomaniacal narcissism, manic aggrandizements and schizoid breaks with reality.

Because democracy only works if it’s healthy. And to make it healthy, more Americans need to be well.