Gary Horton: In the face of the fire

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Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray,
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio;

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television,
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe;

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom,
Brando, The King and I and The Catcher in the Rye;

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye.

– Billy Joel

Recognize these lyrics?

Billy Joel wrote “We didn’t start the fire” when he turned 40. The idea for the song came from a conversation he’d had with a friend who’d just turned 21 and who’d expressed how crazy and disturbing it seemed to him to be living in his time, in the late 1980s.

The friend felt overwhelmed and struggled to make sense of how much change and news and challenge was bombarding him, seemingly all around.

Sound familiar?

Psychologists report a surge of America patients complaining of stress syndromes relating to the barrage of news coming out of the Trump White House, Trump tweets, Kellyanne Conway, Russians apparently everywhere, travel bans and then no travel bans, bad hombres, and on and on and on.

There’s actually a name for this condition: “Post Trump Stress Disorder.” Symptoms include, as cited by the Mayo Clinic, “irritability, aggressive behavior, overwhelming guilt or shame, depression, self-destructive behavior such as alcohol and substance abuse, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, and being easily startled or frightened.”

The symptoms are more common in women, most likely from a nurturing reflex to protect family and children from harm.

The stress toll from post-Trump election is verified from personal contacts. This is quite real and not imaginary. Most women I know, and quite a few men, tell me of going to bed worrying about what will jump out at them at the next morning’s headlines.

Indeed, nearly every day newspapers and news outlets hold large-point headlines screaming of this or that alarming new twist and turn.

The biggie, of course, was the blanket travel ban and subsequent overturning by two courts. We’re getting whip-sawn back and forth and, for some, they’re getting shaken and feel like Scotty from Star Trek: “We can’t take much more of it!”

And now, on top of all this, toss in a giant dam threatening to break in Northern California and the evacuation of tens of thousands living in the threatening path. And a North Korean rocket launch. And Iran fighting back and forth with Trump.

And oh, wait – today’s news is the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser. So “Who’s running the security store?”

Whew! Three or four weeks of Trump feel like all the ups and downs and tumbles of four years of Bush.

But take a deep breath and rest a bit. There’s solace out here. Billy Joel was spot-on when he concluded:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning.

Although we may feel helpless in the onslaught of so much news, “fake news” and those damnable “presidential” tweets – there’s indeed a solution for each of us offered up by another poignant song:

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
– Dionne Warwick

Now’s the time to hug a little longer. Now’s the time to express your love a little deeper. Now’s the time to volunteer more freely. To give of yourself to others all around more generously. Now is the time to be exemplary to you kids, neighbors, friends, family – and, yes, strangers.

In the face of truly shocking lying and deceit and extraordinarily shallow bravado that contradicts nearly every ethic and value we hold dear – and hope our kids to learn and embody – we must simply “live differently.”

“Live differently” than what we see the president do. “Live differently” than the norms he projects to you and me and the entire world. Be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more thoughtful, considerate, measured, kind, generous.

All this will pass.

We will get out of whatever mess lies before us. Whether it takes protests, court battles, sit-ins, or simply four years of perseverance and patience – America and you and I will almost certainly find resolution.

This “fire” has indeed preceded us, and at this point and time let’s make peace with the concept that it will continue to blaze now – and forever after us.

Rather than worry and suffer Trump-induced stress, we must channel our energies into positive work and efforts and behaviors to make our world better, more stable, and more just – wherever and however we’re able. Commit now to living a better personal life.

And know, deep inside, that you’re not the first one to be so blown away by troubling “current events.”

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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