Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No guarantees

This past Monday afternoon at work I decided to go to the main cafeteria to buy a coffee and something sweet to pick me up. As I was waiting on line to pay, I noticed the woman in front of me, struggling to find her wallet in her knapsack so that she could pay. She was a bit agitated and was talking to the cashier in English. She found her money and walked away with her food, but I noticed that she was talking to herself in a perturbed manner as she walked away. I paid for my coffee and dessert and walked toward the exit door. I saw this woman and she caught my eye as I passed her. She was still ranting a bit about the price of the meal she had just paid for (probably not so strange since the cafeteria prices are rather high). I commented briefly about the high prices and was preparing to walk on when she commented that I spoke English and wondered where I came from. I told her that I was American and she said she was as well. She told me that she was traveling around Norway and that her mother had Norwegian ancestry. She also mentioned that she had now made it to Oslo and figured that hospital cafeterias might have some cheaper meals (wrong as it turns out). But then she asked me a question—how easy would it be to make an appointment to talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist. I told her that the lines were long in the public healthcare system to talk to a professional but that she might try private healthcare organizations (similar to American HMOs). She explained that she had left the USA because Trump had been elected, and that she was extremely upset about that, and also that her mother was sick and that she just couldn’t cope with it all. She didn’t seem to want to go home. I took a long look at her—she must have been around fifty years old, in good shape, athletic—and I wondered then what the world was coming to. She seemed so lost and I felt so sorry for her. This was the first person I met who had left the States because of Trump, and he hasn’t even taken office yet. I gave her some information that I thought might help, and she thanked me profusely. I felt almost guilty for doing so little, really.

But then I thought about my own reaction to Trump’s being elected president; I was depressed for nearly a month afterward. I am no longer depressed, but I am wary and anxious about him and about the state of the world. I normally don’t react viscerally to an election, but I did to this one. I don’t like Trump or what he stands for. I think my country has lost its way and is moving in a dangerous direction. I love my country and I don’t want to see it or its people suffer. I simply don’t know what to do about it except to remain aware and informed. But I find it appalling that we cannot trust the media to deliver truth, and if we cannot trust the media, then we are on the road to perdition. I see no reason for optimism at present, but I will try to be optimistic, if only for the sake of the many young people I know and care about who want to inherit a world within which they can live and plan their futures. We owe it to them to give them a future. But there are no guarantees. Our grandparents and parents lived through World Wars I and II; they wanted futures too, but got war instead. They saw their lives turned upside-down and futures smashed. They experienced separation from loved ones, from spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, parents—family in general and friends. Many soldiers made the supreme sacrifice—their lives--at very young ages. Maybe some of them didn’t really know what they were fighting for. Perhaps most of them were just plain afraid, like most of us would be. No one wants war. But sometimes the wrong people get into power and lead us astray. There are no guarantees in life, and that is what causes anxiety and depression. I have renewed respect for the men and women who lived through and survived two world wars and returned home to try to rebuild their lives, in addition to those who gave their lives for causes they might not have understood. It could not have been easy for the survivors, and I do know that many of them suffered from post-traumatic stress and other psychological afflictions. Many in my grandparents’ and parents’ generations wanted futures too, and many of those futures were taken from them by death or put on hold indefinitely. It is food for thought at this point in time. There is no guarantee that we are not on the road to perdition, however it is defined or whatever shape it takes.

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