This 2,000-word essay glances at contemporary American politics and concludes that both the White House and to a large extent, the Congress, suffer from blindness to the deep suffering of both Low-Income Americans and the impoverished billions outside America. Almost no one in Washington DC mentions poverty or its roots. Likewise, almost no one mentions that the national budget and other policies are moral documents. Several books by social scientists get summarized to help explain why the American public no longer tries to be either logical or caring about their neighbors.

Healthcare Politics

The new USA Congress began working in early January 2017 on setting up a new government. Their principal legislative task was to replace the so called “Obamacare” healthcare insurance system.

Three months later, their first attempt to replace the healthcare system had failed, leaving the Republican Congress in disarray. The debates about healthcare policy exposed the vulnerability of the American public because of their illness and insufficient medical care. Their suffering results largely because of insufficient healthcare insurance coverage.

None-the-less, many Republications seek to eliminate most health insurance and associated safety net health programs. By April 2017 after months of debating, Congress had failed to come up with a replacement healthcare plan. The future is anyone’s guess, except greater health average is very remote indeed.

What I have found most revealing is that the rhetoric of neither the White House or Congress has mentioned the existence of widespread suffering among the poor and middle-class due to their inability to afford existing or future health. Instead of considering healthcare policy as a problem in solving human suffering, the Congressional and White House decision makers view the legislative battle primarily as a problem in reducing higher taxes. Secondarily, they worry about expectations of the electorate.

Budget Politics    

Early Spring, 2017, brings Washington face to face with an equally large policy decision, that of the national budget. While Congress continues to take up various topics, the big hurtle is the budget. Meanwhile President Trump issued his blueprint for a budget.

To provide for an unnecessary and obscene 10% increase in the defense budget, essentially all social programs are recklessly targeted for either pruning or destruction.

Trump’s budget is cruelest in decimating programs for the most vulnerable including infant nutrition, day care for low-income families, public housing and rent support. The Meals on Wheels program for the poor elderly is slated for destruction as is a winter heat program for the elderly. Cutting such programs literally puts innocent people to death.

The White House even betrays those who helped put Mr. Trump into office by electrocuting such programs as the Appalachian Regional Council and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as rural airports and radio stations.

The President makes a mockery of his claim that Republicans are the party of working people by crippling protections for workers, His cuts includes worker health and safety along with worker’s rights provisions.

A Budget is a Moral Document

Jim Wallis, leader of the Sojourners, a huge organization of Christian families in America from every major denomination, repeatedly has said that “A budget is a moral document.” Yet, no one in Congress or the White House has mentioned that this year. At least neither the print nor the broadcast media has quoted any powerful Washington politician as acknowledging even a sliver of moral concern. Instead, the budget is claimed to be going in the “right” direction if it reduces taxes, reduces the deficit and/or reduces the size and scope of government.

The big question this political culture raises is why don’t the American people demand that they be given a moral budget? Why don’t they demand high-quality healthcare without high insurance costs and other measures that keep the poor and needy from dying from neglect?

On the surface, the answer to this question seems to be that the American public has bought into the conservative agendas of (1) decreasing taxes, (2) reducing the size and so called “overreach” of government, and (3) letting the markets and the giant health conglomerates dictate our lives by default.

However, during this year’s healthcare debate by the Congress, many voters have strongly expressed their opinion that they want good quality healthcare as cheaply as possible. We have yet to hear much from the public regarding budget initiatives.

While public opinion may remain divided on these issues, the conservative segment of the voting public remains vocal. There are so many anti-healthcare believers that it begs the question that political scientists, economists and sociologists have been struggling with for many years. That question simply is: Why do so many Americans vote against their own self-interest?

To answer this question, I will discuss some themes from several  books by political scientists and other social scientists that discuss answers to this question.

Explaining Political Attitudes

About a decade ago, Thomas Frank in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, stated that most voters were voting against their self-interest. He found that conservative voters supported Republican free markets, anti-regulation policies even though these policies had been shown to collapse the State economy and bring economic hardship to the State of Kansas. His explanation for this irrational behavior was the culture wars and the fact that very conservative voters placed a higher value on cultural issues like abortion than on income.

In 2012, Jonathan Haidt published an influential book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, in which he argued that conservative values were not irrational but merely grounded in a different set of personal values than those of liberals. Specifically, Haidt wrote that conservatives compared to liberals place a much higher weight on values like loyalty, authority, and sanctity. He even argued that humans were born with a conservative instinct, but some cultivated it far more than others.

Hochschild’s Research on Deep Stories of Political Issues

Both Frank and Haidt interpreted political differences primarily in terms of different ways of thinking. But a book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, published in late 2016 by Arlie Hochschild takes a new look at these political assumptions and concludes that the essence of understanding conservatives’ tenacity lies in their emotional attachment to specific ideological values and beliefs. She develops a framework for thinking about political emotions and gives them the name of deep story. Peoples deep stories are the emotionally flooded core ideas about what is wrong with society and how it can be fixed politically.

Hochschild stated that the anti-government political-right view lifestyles of lower class and racial minorities as outcomes of deficiencies in character. She believes the deep story of the political-right points us to recognition that the morality associated with specific feelings locks them into specific beliefs and feelings. These core feelings stirred by charismatic leaders, also serve as guidelines to their selection of sources for news and for determining what is fact versus falsehood.

Equally important in her view of what has been happening in the nation during the last few years is her conclusion, based upon in depth interviews, that most conservatives hold on to beliefs about the effectiveness of conservative policies despite factual evidence that these policies do not work economically.

After conducting 60 interviews in the small Louisiana city of Charles River, Hochschild went to a Trump rally the day before the Louisiana presidential primary. The speech was typical of the hundreds that he gave at rallies during his presidential campaign.  What seemed both amazing and yet not surprising to Hochschild was the excitement and other positive emotions produced by simply being at the event and to be reassured that Donald Trump expressed their deep feelings and they felt safe because Trump was going to change things for the better.

These deep stories explain only part of complex American political behavior. The other piece of the puzzle is that despite evidence to the contrary, conservative partisans believe in a variety of assumptions that lack any basis in fact.

The system of groundless beliefs that she investigated dealt largely with environmental degradation and regulation. The State of Louisiana had for nearly a decade experimented with deregulation and huge monetary incentives to the oil industry, and in turn the economy and personal wellbeing declined. Yet, the conservative partisans still hung onto their beliefs that deregulation and corporate incentives were necessary to solve their personal economic problems.

In a side analysis of counties nationally, she and her associates found that the higher the exposure to environmental pollution, the more likely the conservatives were to seek less environmental regulation. Hochschild does not try to explain this paradox as simply ignorance, but instead views it as an unwillingness to question and give up opinions and beliefs that give them comfort and contribute to a “coherent” view of the political world.

Hochschild lists 12 common beliefs such as the belief that “State subsidies to industry help increase the number of jobs.” These beliefs were common, especially among political conservatives, not only in Louisiana, where the interviews were conducted, but nationwide as well. After each of these political belief statements, Hochschild presents the “fact-checked” data. The latest economic and political data do not support any of these common beliefs about which many conservatives hold as very emotionally charged “truth claims.”

This anomaly applies to the nation: red states are more polluted than blue states. And yet conservative and Republican individuals tend to brush aside the environment as an issue, and to suffer the consequences by living with higher rates of pollution. Louisiana is just an extreme example of the politics-and-environment paradox seen across the nation. And the environment is just one of many issues about which partisan beliefs do not logically coincide with the best knowledge available about underlying processes.

This analysis of political thoughts and emotions is much more than an academic sociological research theory. Many people suffer greatly from water and air pollution and some die early deaths.

Likewise, the analysis applies to poverty, human rights, and other social aspects of life. Millions of people around the world are trapped by structural barriers to upward mobility, human dignity, and freedom. Yet many conservative partisans continue to believe that those trapped are caught by their own laziness or lack of character. Such widespread, incomplete beliefs block amelioration of these problems. Consequently, living conditions worsen and wellbeing collapses.

Trump’s Views of Poverty and its Roots

Returning to the initial themes of this article, not only does the narrow-focused nationalism implied by the Trump campaign slogans get in the way of solving American problems of poverty, inequality, and dignity, but it curtails world progress as well. Those of us who are fortunate to live comfortably have a social responsibility to work toward reducing the suffering of others.

Trump’s ideology takes an opposing stance. He believes that those living comfortably should try to make their lives even more comfortable. In other words, “to hell with the poor and less fortunate.” If suffering were a one-time occurrence, its alleviation would be far easier than the reality. Without significant progress in improving the lives of the poor who are sick, suffering will reoccur again and again and forever.


DepositPhotos: Cruelty in Action toward Young Woman

Since 2015 when huge numbers of refugees trudged into European countries,  a radically energized West has been streaming like an uncontrolled meteorite toward an era of anger and hatred. In its wake we are left with fractured social relations and an exploding volcano of white supremacy. The rise of Trump and his devoted followers embodies the essence of the social forces struggling to get loose around the world, giving power to those who believe that cruelty should be one of many inhumane tools stifling goodness and virtue.

Rather than something to be alleviated, suffering has become a tool to bestow benefits to the narcissistically rich and powerful. Regrettably this is true of both individuals and nations.

For the past 14 months, those that truly care about other human beings, have been counting the days until they can replace President Trump with a less toxic and less destructive leader. But their dream may become a faint fantasy as the forces of the rule of cruelty replace the rule of law.

Making America Cruel Again

Contemporary Western morality now does not approve of instigating suffering as a way to punish and control. But in the heydays of slavery and genocide of indigenous American people, cruelty and imposed suffering were seen as an essential method for keeping Black and Brown people in line. The rationale for cruelty as acceptable came from stereotypes of slaves and native Americans as less than fully human.

For years, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been filled with cruel slurs and disdain for non-white people around the world. His targets include non-white American citizens as well as legal immigrants from Mexico and other developing nations he labeled as “sh–holes.”

Julianne Hing in the April 9, 2018 issue of The Nation magazine said, “For Trump, cruelty is the point: the White House’s immigration policies are designed to maximize suffering.” Some Americans view the Trump White House and other nationalist organizations in the West as merely misguided and anti-humanitarian. However, cruelty and the escalation of suffering also constitute deliberate techniques for degrading, and ultimately destroying, American values and virtues. President Trump and his disciples will not rest until  the rule of law and the norm of human dignity  have faded away.

Hing (2018) reported that a Mother and her child had to flee from military raids in the Congo. After arriving in Mexico, they entered the USA to begin the process of applying for asylum. Instead of sending her to an asylum shelter, ICE imprisoned her San Diego, and. her 6-year old daughter was forcibly transferred to a detention center in Chicago. They had committed no crime but remain locked up in separate immigrant prisons.

Why was an innocent asylum-seeker subjected to cruel and unusual punishment? Such disrespect for human dignity and the rule of law would be expected under an authoritarian regime. Why is the United States Government acting like an oppressive dictatorship in this and other instances of migration?

The Trump regime has been ruthlessly, without apparent cause, imprisoning immigrants and breaking up their families for over a year. John Kelly, when still heading Homeland Security, said that movement of refugees toward the US Border is so corrupt, that the US should do anything to discourage others to try to enter the United States. Under the pretext of reducing the danger faced by asylum-seekers, the Trump Administration policy this past year has been to make innocent migrants suffer from truly cruel treatment in the hope that this police-state treatment will discourage potential migrants to America from trying to cross the U.S. border. As if to prove that the U.S. government is cruel and inhumane, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  secretly breaks up families by putting members in widely separately detention centers, effectively destroying innocent families.

Mr. Trump over the past two years repeated told stories about the “evil” Mexican MS-13 gang members. With his voice hinting of deep hatred, he refers to these non-white gang members as “animals.”

Without changing any laws, the Trump regime exaggerated the threat of Mexican gang violence in order to keep kind-hearted Americans from objecting to their practice of inflicting maximum suffering upon non-white gang members. Their short term goal is to justify deporting as many black and brown people as possible. Their long term goal is a path to white nationalism and white supremacy.

Trump’s campaign slogan “Make American Great Again,” says it all, because “again” implies reverting to the late 1800s when only white men could vote and the Black sector in American society not only were segregated and sometimes treated as slaves.

The war between the Trump Justice Department (DOJ) and humanitarians citizens escalated this Spring when Jeff Sessions and his DOJ sued the State of California over three newly enacted State Laws, which attempted to mute the cruelty of ICE. ICE attack strategies have included warrantless, surprise raids of workplaces without probable cause and refusing to allow the State to inspect ICE Detention Centers. These attack strategies of the DOJ and ICE extend the already existing war against “sanctuary cities.” Following the lead of Russia in arresting activists, ICE has been arresting immigrants-rights activist leaders.

The New York Times reported that immigrant families have been deliberately dropped out of poverty programs such as food stamps, food banks, and nutrition for pregnant women. The purpose of this harmful withdrawal of help from immigrant families is to scare them out of the United States. Mitt Romney called the result “self-deportation.”

These Gestapo-like racialized persecutions by ICE are said to protect national security and the rule of law, but some argue that this is a ruse. Hing said “Like so much else with this administration, the US immigration agenda is now being driven by a disdain for the most vulnerable communities among us.”

Accusing a government of such inhumanity and cruelty cannot be taken lightly. However, as argued by David Frum, in his book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic: President Trump has plunged the government of the United States into chaos “to enhance his personal power, which is sustained by cruelty.”

Closely allied with these tactics Trump has persuaded millions of Americans to ignore information they need in a democracy as “fake news” from a “corrupt media.” He has allowed foreign states and local politicians to tamper with the integrity of American elections to his own benefit. He demands that high officials disregard the law in favor of personal loyalty to him. According to Frum, President Trump has alienated allies, appeased large enemies, and goaded small ones to the edge of war. Trump continues to brutally inflame the ethnic and class divisions that empowered him in the first place.

President Obama’s immigration policy deported a lot of people, but they were limited to criminals. Trump’s policy, on the other hand, is indiscriminate and ruthless. As noted by Hemmer (2018), under the Trump deportation policy, “communities are becoming less safe,” because victims of domestic violence have been exposed by the deportation review and execution. Hemmer concluded that “As a nation becomes inured to government cruelty – or worse, as a subset of Americans have their appetites whetted by it – it expands.”

In addition to immigrant persecution, Donald Trump as campaigner and president for two years has been refining the art of devastating humiliation. Gioux (2017) in the online journal Conversations, wrote “Trump seems addicted to violence.” As evidence, she referred to next situations during the campaign where Trump ridiculed women, Pope Francis, all of his political opponents, the terminally ill John McCain, James Comey and many others. Donald Trump has earned the title, “Humiliator in Chief.”

Not only did he attack the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, but he effectively failed to recognize that Puerto Rico desperately needed humanitarian aid. Many of its citizens still do not have drinking water and homes to live in. This, Gioux argues, is a form of domestic terrorism, filling minority populations in the U. S. with fear and intimidation. Gioux concluded that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change Agreement, slashing the Environmental Protection Agency, gutting teen pregnancy prevention programs, health care for children of the very poor, and ending funds to fight white supremacy, all were forms of cruelty and indirect support for violence.

Friedersdorf (2016) expands upon these themes of President Trump’s personal style and warped values. He reminds the readers of Trump’s cruel attacks upon Ted Cruz’s wife and made fun of Chris Christie’s weight problem. He concluded that: “For decades, Trump has been deliberately cruel to others, often in the most public ways. He behaves this way flagrantly, showing no sign of shame or reflection. What kind of person still acts that way at 70? A bad person.”

A nation that taught its children to abhor bullying discovered it had installed the noisiest bully in the country in the highest office in the land. In the New Testament in Matthew 25:35–40, Jesus told his people that their purpose in life was “to care for the poor, the suffering, and the needy.” Yet, millions of evangelical, Trump-supporting Christians totally repress this core teaching of Jesus Christ. In their devotion to Trump, they not only ignore the poor and suffering but accept official cruelty and intentional suffering toward racial minorities and non-Christians.


Friedersdorf, C. (2016). Donald Trump’s Cruel Streak. The Atlantic. (Sept. 26) Assessed on 31 March 2018 at

Frum, D. (2017). Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. NY, NY: HarperCollins.

Giroux, H. (2017). Donald Trump’s Passion for Cruelty.  . Accessed on 31 March 2018 at

Hemmer, N. (2018). Cruelty Is the Policy. US News and World Report (Feb 6). Accessed on 31 March 2018 at

Hines, J. (2018). For Trump, cruelty is the point: The White House’s immigration policies are designed to maximize suffering. The Nation. (April 9), Pp. 12=14.

Kivisto, P. (2017). The Trump Phenomenon: How the Politics of Populism Won in 2016. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Online photos of the ten most recent American presidents reveal Trump to be the least likely to smile. Even gruff looking Presidents LBJ and Gerald Ford smiled about twice as often as Pres. Trump. The best theory of Trump’s smiling deficit is that he generally feels an unusually high volume of negative emotions including anger, insecurity, fear, unhappiness and even sadness (see photo).

These smiling differences emerged from a study of photo images of each of the last 10 presidents as they appeared in the first 50 photos of each president from Google searches. I entered the search term “images of President X,” where X was the first and last name of each president. I took the first 50 photos of each president’s resulting photo page and counted the percent of photos where each president was smiling. The index of smiling was created by dividing the number of smiling photos by 50. That number, which is the percent smiling, became the basis for comparing smiling tendencies of the 10 presidents, which can be seen in the bar chart below.


Note: The top 50 photos of each set represent the photos most often viewed online, not a random subset of all photos of President X in the universe.

Only two Presidents Reagan and Obama smiled in over 50% of their photos. In contrast, President Lyndon B. Johnson smiled in only 20% of his photos and President Trump smiled in only 12% of his photos. This put Trump last among these recent presidents in terms of smiling. From these pictures, Pres. Reagan was five times more likely to smile than President Trump.

Successful leaders often smile profusely because it makes others feel good and feel better about the smiler. One of the most popular American presidents was Ronald Reagan. Almost certainly this flowed in large part from his broad, genuine smiles that seemed to reassure Americans that he had their best interest at heart. President Trump has a different challenge than Pres. Reagan.

Laugh-free, Belligerent Smiling

Trump’s supporters want him to be angry and belligerent in order to change the political system. Thus, Trump’s sneering and contemptuous smiling is OK for his supporters but not smiling as if he were happy about the state of American society. Malicious smiling also goes over well with his avid supporters because it indicates that Trump will aggressively keep his promises even if he has to be ruthless with other people.

Another explanation for Trump’s smile deficit can be derived from Trump’s difficulty in laughing. A lot of normal smiling results from humor and laughter. Smiling and laughing reveal that a person got the joke. Many articles have been written about how rarely Trump laughs in public. Leslie Savan in The Nation speculates that Trump is so “choked by self-deceit to get what’s so funny.” Someone who says “sad” as often as Pres. Trump may have trouble seeing the funny side of life.

Happy smiles serve two main functions: they express one’s inner state of contentment or pleasure and they signal to others that they can share in this state of positive emotion. Negative smiles like sneering and malicious smiling have a positive function also if the audience and speaker are on the ‘same wave length.’

Many of the 6,000 books on Amazon, which discuss Donald Trump, claim he is self-centered. And self-centered people tend to be relatively unhappy and depressed. This side of the President comes out when he tweets or gives impromptu news conferences. In his campaign rally speeches, he disguises this unhappiness by transforming the event into a battle cry. What begins as anger, fear, anxiety or belligerence ends as a victory celebration with a cheering crowd.

Trump expresses anger, belligerence, fear and hatred in his speeches, conversations and tweets. Thus, his negative emotions crowd out his expression of positive, happy moods. This is particularly true of anger and belligerence because of their dominance of facial expressions.

Trumpy is a teddy bear for sale that looks like Donald Trump and comes with such over-the-top self-promotion that is appears as both a promotional gimmick and spoof. The word Trumpy thus became a label that expresses the emotional complex of feelings produced by Trump sympathizers as they listen to his speeches making emotional and moral claims.

During Trump rallies, elation or euphoria dominate the cluster of emotions felt by receptive supporters. This crowd phenomena arises when Mr. Trump uses emotions such as fear, hate, and anger that match supporters emotions at the time.


Empathy Needed

McKenna Stayner writing in the New Republic believes that Trump actually does not have the ability to detect and distinguish his own emotions, but he has an uncanny skill to evoke a suite of emotions like fear, disgust or disbelief in his listeners.

At the same time Trump evokes terror and depression among those on the opposite political spectrum. They abhor Trump’s actions because they see Trump undermining standards of traditional humane morality and democratic politics.

While Donald Trump’s attack-dog approach to his job and his co-workers may account for his failure to smile, other explanations for his smile deficit should be considered. First, Pres. Trump could be just an unhappy person. Second, he may simply believe that his supporters want a leader with a bullying demeanor.

It may seem like smiling is a trivial matter compared to decisions about taking the country to war or improving the society. However, the absence of smiling is not trivial if in represents a mental problem or a mental incapacity like lack of empathy. As elaborated by David Graham in The Atlantic, Trump has a serious empathy deficit. Hundreds of writers noticed this problem after Trump failed to show adequate serious, compassionate concern for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, especially the Puerto Ricans. Other examples of Trump’s failure to empathize abound. For a nation to look to such a person for leadership seems risky and dangerous at best.


Smiling while Being Tough

The New York Times and other news sources have reported that toughness, more than any other attribute, is what Pres. Trump sought to project during his campaign and the first year of his presidency. His aides encourage him to maintain his naturally sour, tough-guy disposition. Because of Donald Trump’s many years as a tough, insensitive reality TV star, his failure to smile continues to pleasure those who are entertained by his character. Some comments in online forums suggest that Mr. Trump avoids smiles to evade wrinkles appearing on his face. And some of Mr. Trump’s smiling pictures appear to be less than genuine. Some of these non-genuine smiles, where the ends of his lips curl upward, have been dubbed his ‘fish smile.’

Research on smiling has found that people who have recently been dishonest, unconsciously tend to use a manufactured smile expressing embarrassment. Because of Mr. Trumps smiles expressing such negative emotions, Mr. Trump’s aids may have advised him to minimize smiling in public.

Just like all recent American presidents, many photos have been taken of Mr. Trump smiling, especially when he is posing with his family. However, in his public speeches and interviews genuine smiles remain scarce. This pattern may result from expressing negative emotions, which squeeze out smiles that might spontaneously emerge from positive emotions.

Photo credits: Gage Skidmore, Photographer, at

Bullying in general means intimidating or overpowering someone weaker. Racial bullying refers to bullying based on race or country-based discrimination, which is called xenophobia. Bullying severity ranges from being obnoxious to being cruel or even assaulting others. Major assaults and hate crimes typically do not count as bullying because they count first as criminal assaults.

Another strange aspect of bullying terminology is often applied only to school-age children and not adults, even though a lot of adults engage in bullying. Bullying surveys are done only of school-age children. And anti-bullying programs to reduce bullying can only be found in schools.

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated school surveys in 40 nations to compare the prevalence of school-based bullying. The percent of male students aged 11, 13, and 15 who participated in bullying ranged from 8% in Sweden to 46% in Lithuania with 22% in the USA. Most of the highest bullying rates reported were in Eastern European nations and most of the lowest rates were in Western Europe. In all countries, bullying was more likely among boys than girls.

More recent studies of bullying in the USA have found about 30% of boys in school reported to have been involved in bullying (2013 School Crime and Safety report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics).  The most common form of bullying is verbal, followed by sexual, racial and physical, according to a 2013 survey by Clemson University using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Questionnaire. Cyber bullying has been growing rapidly as more and more student communication occurs online.

Students who are recent immigrants or appear to belong to minority racial groups are considerably more likely to be targets of bullying than white students. Given these patterns, we have cause to worry about laws and law enforcement crackdown on immigrant entry into the United States and EU countries. The same is true of government action to eject undocumented workers from the USA. Likewise, policy changes such as cancellation of laws that protect LGTB and ethnic subgroups send a signal to white nationalists and others who believe that severe forms of bullying are patriotic.

Even though adult bullying has not been studied seriously, we know that many bullying children continue to bully others throughout adulthood. Furthermore, some of these adult bullies engage in violent criminal actions as well as the milder forms of aggression toward others that we call bullying.

Bullying Role Models in the United States

Beginning in late 2015 during the national and local political campaigns of the 2016 US election, the mainstream media gave unusual amounts of coverage to individuals who made rash, hateful, and hurtful comments about other persons or social groups. While these comments were treated as harmless, like playground name-calling, they left millions of people feeling hurt and terrified of losing their rights and peace of mind.

As many of these political bullies were given celebrity-like attention in the media, they became role models for the young people as well as the adult population. It is not surprising that the amount of angry speech, protesting and violent action rose during the political campaigns of 2016. And given that the political system in the United States has become so polarized and filled with anger and antagonism, particularly toward minority and immigrant groups, this highly aggressive behavior of adult bullying and hate crimes has continued into 2017.

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the New York City Police Department both reported an increase of over 100% in hate crimes in the weeks after the election compared to the year before the election. The SPLC also reported a major rise in the number of hate groups in the USA during this period. These hate groups include those devoted to white nationalism, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBTQ+, the Ku Klux Klan, black separatist groups and anti-Muslim groups.

 Global Bullying on the Rise

Earlier, in the wake of the Brexit vote in the UK, the National Police Chiefs Council reported a five-fold increase in hate-crime. The Brexit campaign and its surprising outcome greatly increased popular attention to the challenges of control of refugee inflow.

The United Nations’ General Assembly Third Committee held a hearing on November 1, 2016 in which delegates and experts on racism and xenophobia reported that xenophobia and racism were on the rise globally. They reported that this trend was most visible against migrants, refugees, and people of African descent. Mutuma Ruteere urged States to adopt legislation to combat racism and update anti-racism laws in light of the increasingly open expression of hate speech and incitement to violence.

The Future of Bullying

In peaceful political times in America, the bullying rates were nearly a third of boys and over a fourth of girls, it is not inconceivable the bullying rate could double in an era when major political leaders act like bullies and get rewarded for it by media attention, online media support and hero-worshiping by staunch political supporters.

A review of the nature of adult bullying found that adult bullies (1) have little emotional control and lash out at their victims, (2) tend to be very egotistical and seem to enjoy harming people they dislike, (3) easily get angry and threaten to destroy the lives or property of their targeted victims, (4) as powerful personalities, they enjoy seeing their opponents suffer, and (5) get pleasure from finding and helping out other bullies. If you see or read about individuals that behave like this, warn others about the danger of the bully or bullies to the society. These are the kind of people that can not only destroy the lives of innocent people but destroy democracy, human rights and other human values.

The rise of racial bullying worldwide may be partly a function of haphazard globalization combined with tragic armed conflicts. However, the path toward racial and xenophobic bullying is being paved by politics. Especially guilty are political candidates and leaders that incite bullying using a combination of populist, nationalist, and ethnic-nationalist rhetoric.

Over time, racial bullying can spread and infect a community, a society or the world. In the USA, we could within a year or even a few months transition from a society of one thirds to two thirds bullies. And how could one bring up children in an environment where most of their friends and role models are racist and xenophobic bullies?



Several Western nations, including the United States and Britain, face disruptive political change due to strong nationalism. The main alternative to nationalism is globalism. However, nationalism has been linked to right-wing populism, isolationism, white nationalism and even racism. This brief article discusses how the move toward nationalism has lost a respect for the truth and neglects human suffering around the globe.

For political liberals who believe that human beings have an obligation to help others, trying to reduce major suffering is a “no-brainer” because it is consistent with contributing to the well- being of others and the morality of social responsibility. It also follows from a broad view of human rights.

On the other hand, political conservatives who subscribe to nationalism presume that helping others breeds dependency and therefore individual independence is a virtue. They also have faith that free markets will produce a distribution of goods making it possible for everyone’s basic needs to be satisfied. These beliefs are bolstered by moral imperatives to reduce big government and allow freedom for groups of citizens to pursue special privilege. These and other agendas legitimize failure to recognize enormous suffering and its roots in discrimination.

Not only does nationalism rank global poverty and suffering as low priority. Nationalism also tends to blind its adherents to the suffering of minorities (racial, sexual and disadvantaged groups) within one’s own nation. In the past year, the neglect and denial of suffering has become much more visible with the surging flow of immigrants toward Europe.

At the same time, and driven partly by the rise in nationalism, has been the neglect and disrespect for truth. Some blame the rise of untruths and fake news on bitter partisanship. However, political communication and fact checking expert, Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, noted that Donald Trump in campaigning created a “fact-free world.” She concluded that President Trump’s shameless stream of lies, unfounded claims, reversals of claims, and borderline falsehoods made it impossible for journalists, fact-checkers, and political experts to precisely document all the untruths. She calls it the “demise of the fact.”

Writing in the New York Times, Timothy Egan pointed out that the most damaging falsehoods of now-President Trump are his lies about democracy and other social institutions such as science. Labeling climate change a hoax was such an example. Labeling all Latinos as criminals was another. But because he took these stands, he drew support from many marginal groups and billionaires. The next section reveals the frightening power that is eroding the democratic processes of Western Society.

Corruption of Democracy

Jane Mayer in her book, Dark Money – The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, (NY: Doubleday, 2016) traces the powerful effects of millions and billions of dollars used to fund radically conservative projects. Not only the ubiquitous Koch brothers but many other billionaires have been extremely generous to activities that are radically shifting politics in America.

The effectiveness of these gifts to political causes has probably been greatest from establishing right-wing think tanks, campaigns of Tea Party candidates, setting up media organizations, producing propaganda documentaries, and hiring marketing companies. Each of dozens of right-wing causes have been funded sufficiently to shape public opinion both at the local and national levels. And the shaping of opinion includes false assumptions, conclusions that contradict facts and best available knowledge, scare tactics, and conspiracy theories cast as definitive or highly likely.

Perhaps the most successful billionaire-funded political project is Breitbart News that runs, and several other extremely high volume websites. Only a few years old, this company and its website played a major role in Trump’s election victory. This influence was institutionalized when Donald Trump named Breitbart chairman, Stephen Bannon, as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House.

Breitbart news has become a center and support network for many marginal political groups that support white nationalism, racism, anti-multi-culturalism and anti-immigration.

Breitbart and these various Alt-Right movements, rather than function like a typical media delivery organization, specialize in news-corruption, fake news, misinformation, scandal-creation news, and ideological propaganda. Furthermore, they readily admit their tactics and use of weapons of the Internet, including meme creation, the dark web and trolling (hate messaging). Their use of Internet culture for political gain is revealed by their label for the presidential campaign: “Great Meme War of 2016.”  Cartoon characters like Pepe the frog conveys toxic themes. The Pepe meme was used to entice Internet-savvy people inadvertently to accept sexist and racist stereotypes and their assumptions. during the past two quarters has become the most active Internet news site, according to research conducted by NewsWhip. On a list that also included CNN, The Hill, The Guardian, and Huffington Post, Breitbart News topped the list on all metrics including total combined 9,098,013 Twitter and Facebook interactions in one month. (Failing to make the top 10 list were outlets such as The New York Times and Fox News.)

Breitbart has been leading the way in breaking news, opinion, and analysis of news around the world, with teams operating across America, the United Kingdom, and Israel. Breitbart publishes about 4,000 stories a month. Previous research undertaken by NewsWhip has shown that conservative news tends to perform better on social media than anything else.

In September, 2016, Breitbart achieved a monthly social media record of 200 million page views. Their success in getting Trump elected has emboldened Breitbart to open major offices in France and Germany as well as Britain. In addition, the websites routinely include stories of growing support for white supremacist groups in many other European countries.

The essence of the current waves of untrue propaganda or ‘untruth,’ for short, is that not only is it intended to deceive but it is intended to cripple. An example of crippling untruth is the pizza-gate scandal where the story circulated widely by conservative activists that Hillary Clinton held child slaves in a pizza parlor.

Another variation of untruth are stories based upon entrapping one’s political opponents. Among this genre of untruth are the famous ACORN and Planned Parenthood deceptions that not only conducted misleading interviews, but used hidden recordings, and misleading editing to misrepresent actual communications. These techniques used often in the Great Meme War of 2016 used to be called “dirty tricks,” but most importantly they represent a major violation of professional communications ethics.

Western media continues to attribute the rise of populism and white nationalism to the economically dissatisfied middle class. Some blame the changing bases of power on the hyper-polarization and the cutting edge of evolving partisanship. Evidence is growing that a lot of the blame for the strength of white nationalism and right-wing populism must be placed on external communication campaigns. These campaigns rather than truly populist are grounded in the lopsided wealth and organizational skills of a few powerful ultra-conservatives and white nationalists. In earlier generations, this influence would have been dismissed as propaganda. The New Right messages via new forms of social media outlets with all kinds of fake news generators makes what has been called propaganda in past eras seem tame and largely factual by comparison.

Until enough people wake up and recognize that those in power have no intention of doing anything to improve the well-being of all people, the status quo will persist and millions continue to suffer and die needlessly. Until more is done to alleviate the suffering of billions in poverty, starvation and illness, the world order will continue to be unstable and our lives remaining under the threat of terrorism and uncertainty.


‘America First’ was the major theme of the President Trump’s inaugural address. Only 1,400 words long, it’s implications produced shockwaves around the world. A news article by the Associated Press on Jan 21, 2017 reported how jittery it left many people in many far-off countries.

Almost everyone outside the USA said it was too focused on America. People in some countries that depend upon US resources, such as Afghanistan, were disappointed not to have been mentioned. But many in Muslim countries were grateful that President Trump did not mention the word ‘Muslim,’ because it would have had a negative connotation.

Mr. Trump did mention the word ‘trade’ in passing, but did not give any specifics. None-the-less, many in Japan, China, South Korea, and elsewhere worried out loud that the future would be worse and most certainly uncertain soon.

An analyst in Vietnam thought the speech implied a view of the American public as simplistic in that the speech only gave one vision, not a multi-faceted vision to represent a large, complex, educated society. Some Australians thought the speech was divisive, with too much bluster, when what is needed is unity and a vision of a complex world.

As if in answer to prayer, the next day (1/21/17) the Women’s March on Washington brought a more humane message to the Capitol, backed by an even larger crowd. Furthermore, huge rallies and marches simultaneously took place in big and little cities all over the world.

Where I live in Saint Paul, the capitol of Minnesota, police estimated that the march included 100,000 people, the largest protest march in the history of the S tate.

Each march had the opportunity to articulate its goals. Minnesota Women’s March statement of purpose stated was “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Throughout the world the protests emphasized human rights, especially women’s rights, emphasizing those that are threatened by the expected policy and legislative initiatives of the Trump administration combined with the Republican Congress.

Most importantly, their statement said “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” Their underlying theme supports the crucial value of what can be summed up in one word: humanity.

Whether a caring person’s values stem from their religion, from a philosophy of utilitarianism or simply a moral sense, the words humanity and humanitarianism capture the essence of what is almost totally missing from the nationalistic rhetoric of Trump and Trumpists as well as the ultraconservative, right-wing partisans that control the Senate and Congress.

The Meaning of Partisanship in America Going Forward

A book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, published in late 2016 by sociologist Arlie Hochschild takes the position that political positions are best understood from emotions rather than thoughts. She concludes that the essence of understanding the conservative tenacity for blindness to suffering lies in their emotional attachment to ideological values and beliefs.

Hochschild developed a framework for thinking about political emotions and gives them the name of deep stories. Peoples’ deep stories are the emotionally flooded central ideas about what is wrong with society and how it can be fixed politically.

Hochschild concluded that conservatives low on the socio-economic ladder attribute differences of social class and race as matters of personal character. Their deep stories point us to the shoulds and shouldn’ts of feeling, to the management of feeling, and to the core feelings stirred by charismatic leaders.”

Equally important in her view, based upon in-depth interviews, is that many if not most conservatives hold onto beliefs about the effectiveness of conservative policies despite the factual evidence that these policies do not work economically.

After conducting 60 interviews of conservatives in the small Louisiana city of Charles River, Hochschild went to a Trump rally the day before the Louisiana presidential primary. The speech was typical of the hundreds that he gave at rallies during his presidential campaign.  What seemed both amazing and yet not surprising to Hochschild was the excitement and related emotions produced by simply being at the event and being reassured that Donald Trump was expressing their deep feelings. They could feel safe because Trump was going to change things for the better.

These deep stories explain only part of complex American political behavior. Another piece of the puzzle is that despite evidence to the contrary, conservative partisans believe in a variety of assumptions that lack any basis in fact.

The system of groundless beliefs that she investigated dealt largely with environmental degradation and regulation. The State of Louisiana, under Tea Party domination, for nearly a decade experimented with deregulation and huge monetary incentives to the oil industry. In turn the economy and personal wellbeing declined. Yet, the conservative partisans still hung onto their beliefs that deregulation and corporate incentives were necessary to solve their personal and State economic problems.

In a side analysis of US counties nationally, she and her associates found that the higher the exposure to environmental pollution, the more likely the conservatives were to seek less environmental regulation. Hochschild does not try to explain this paradox as simply ignorance, but instead views it as an unwillingness to question and give up opinions and beliefs that give them comfort and seem to add a “coherence” to their view of the political world.

Hochschild lists 12 common unsubstantiated conservative beliefs such as the belief that “State subsidies to industry help increase the number of jobs.” Another common unsubstantiated conservative belief is that “Welfare rolls are up, and people on welfare don’t work.” These beliefs were common, especially among political conservatives, not only in Louisiana, where the interviews were conducted, but nationwide as well. After each of these political belief statements, Hochschild presents the “fact-checked” data. The latest economic and political factual evidence do not support these strongly held beliefs of most conservatives.

This anomaly applies to the nation: red states are more polluted than blue states. And yet conservative and Republican individuals tend to brush aside the environment as an issue, and to suffer the consequences by living with higher rates of pollution. Louisiana is just one extreme example of the politics-and-environment paradox seen across the nation. And the environment is just one of many issues about which partisan beliefs do not logically coincide with the best knowledge available about the problem.

This analysis of political thoughts and emotions is much more than an academic sociological research theory. Many people suffer greatly and even die from water and air pollution and other social problems due to political neglect of social well-being. In other words, failure to appreciate and value humanity results in great suffering at home and abroad. Thus the current right-wing coalition between nationalism and conservativism rejects any need for caring about global humanity or even the American poor and needy.

This analysis applies to poverty, human rights, and other social aspects of human life. Millions of people around the world are trapped by structural barriers to upward mobility, human dignity, and freedom. Yet many conservative partisans continue to believe that those trapped are trapped by their own laziness or lack of character. And white nationalists continue to believe that Americans are trapped by the onslaught of nonwhite immigrants and criminals. Such widespread beliefs block amelioration of these problems, so living conditions worsen and wellbeing collapses.

Not only does the narrow-minded nationalism implied by the Trump inaugural slogan ‘America First’ get in the way of solving American problems of poverty, inequality, and dignity, but it curtails world progress as well.


Sick mature woman lying in bed  – worried husband holding hands

What does it mean to live and die? Those are two separate questions but the answers tend to be linked. Questions of the meaning of living and dying are deep and broad questions. The answer may seem simple if you believe in theism, that is, you believe in a personal God and the purpose of your life is to please God, the questions may seem very easy to answer. But if you try to live each day to do a good job of achieving a goal such as pleasing God, helping others, or getting rich, you still need to give thought each day to how to best to that for that day. Your choices each day will be rooted in the meaning that life has for you or what your brain remembers about your aims and priorities.

The meaning of a loved one dying is equally complex. It may seem simple in that you will greatly miss the family member or loved one you lost to death, but little by little each day you will learn more about how your mind and body adjust to the loss. After such a loss, your self-identity changes as you adjust to living without that special person.

And if you are dying in a hospice, what does your death mean to you and your loved ones. Does it mean a peaceful transition? If so, what will be left of you? What do you think your dying means to those you care about?

Our answers to all these questions help to uncover who we are and what is deeply important to us. Thus, it should not be surprising that one increasingly common type of professional help is called “Meaning-Centered Counseling and Therapy.” The remainder of this brief article discusses the ideas of three people who specialize in this approach. One is a pioneer in grief therapy, Robert Neimeyer; another is a chaplain for hospices, Kerry Egan; and the third, Viktor Frankl, pioneered the concept of meaning for personal living as well as for therapy.

 Meaning Therapy for the Living Who Grieve

Professor Robert Neimeyer, a pioneer in grief therapy, increasingly uses meaning-centered techniques in his practice. In a chapter of the edited volume, World Suffering and the Quality of life (Springer, 2016), he portrays suffering following the death of a loved one using a “meaning systems perspective.” Dr. Neimeyer notes that research across a range of bereaved groups (e.g., young adults, older adults, parents, African American survivors of a loved one’s homicide), has found complicated grief associated with an inability to find meaning in the aftermath of loss. The overall intent of his work is “to pave the way for more nuanced research on the global suffering engendered by bereavement and on the effectiveness of interventions to ameliorate it.” Given the burgeoning research in this area, many remain optimistic about the potential contributions of a meaning systems perspective as an integrative frame for studying suffering.

In another edited volume, Alleviating World Suffering, to be released in the first quarter of 2017, Robert Neimeyer brilliantly shows how profoundly grief therapy can be enhanced by focusing upon the perceptions of meaning of those in bereavement. Dr. Neimeyer continues to pioneer ways to help those suffering from a major loss by meaning-based techniques such as: restorative retelling, directed journaling, imaginal dialogues, and other meaning-based strategies to reconstruct their world of meanings.

Dr. Neimeyer promotes the view that grieving involves the attempt to reaffirm or reconstruct a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss. He links an anguished search for meaning to complicated, prolonged and life-limiting forms of grief. He then presents several concrete implementations of this perspective in case vignettes of interaction with grieving clients. The chapter closes with the conclusion on the role and limits of meaning reconstruction as a framework for pluralistic practice in alleviating grief-related suffering.

Informal Meaning Therapy for the Dying

A new little book, On Living, by Kerry Egan (2016 by Penguin Publishing) offers so much insight about living and dying that it deserves to be highlighted among the hundreds of books on suffering. While it is written by a chaplain who sat and listened to hundreds of dying people, the stories she tells are more for the living. Chances are it will give you additional wisdom on the meaning of living and dying.

Despite her role as a chaplain, Ms. Egan notes that she rarely discussed God or religious subjects with her patients. Mainly, when people could talk at all, they discussed their families, “because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives.” Family is “where our purpose becomes clear.”

A major side story in the book consists of the author’s brush with drug-induced psychosis that lasted many months and while ruthlessly traumatic, led to insights that enhanced her understanding of people whose stories she told.

Although trained as a chaplain at Harvard Divinity School, she does not reveal religious leanings. Even when a family asks her to pray, she adapts her prayer to the spirituality of the dying. Her conception of her role is to comfort by listening.

On caregivers, she said that “pretending they have superhuman strength…deprives them of the help they need.” In addition, she argues that “it deprives the dying of the comfort and companionship they need.”

One of elderly caregivers uttered this deep truth: “It’s a beautiful life and then you leave it.” This wisdom came after watching mortuary attendants struggle for a half hour to get her beloved, overweight husband lifted out of a third-floor apartment with no elevator.

Kindness from another, the author says, is the best way to alleviate the suffering of the soul.

Ms. Egan writes about grief with poetic style. “Grief has a life…. Sometimes it undergoes a quick and startling metamorphosis.” Sometimes it changes slowly and “one can see the changes only looking back twenty years.” Suffering grows and becomes diffused with grief. It diffuses “across the memories that surround the loss. It becomes less concentrated and therefore more bearable.”

She concludes that “We do not get to cut off someone’s suffering at the pass by telling them it has some greater purpose, Only they get to decide if that’s true.”

The author’s view is that “Attempting to find or make meaning is the central task of the spiritual life.”

Listening to stories of those in hospice is so essential because they define themselves by the stories they choose to tell. It is “bull” she says that loss, tragedy, and trauma don’t define you.”

One shining light reveals how much of our lives reside “in the gray,” the area outside the “black and white.” Because we trudge through the gray so often, our stories often involve the struggle with forgiveness. She writes “The spiritual work of being human is how to love and how to forgive,” which is doubly important because people most “long to be loved and to be forgiven.”

After hundreds of clients and stories, she concluded from hospice work that “a person can, in fact, live too long.” She does not elaborate on the implications of this conclusion, but I believe that long periods of extreme, worsening suffering or years of living without consciousness and memory argue for new policies that allow for exceptions to natural ending of life.

Linking Hospice to Grief Therapy

Kerry Egan reveals in her book, On Living, how a chaplain or hospice worker can quietly use meaning-based techniques to calm the spiritual-affective state of the dying and their families. Her magnificent little book shares incredibly moving stories that show how the dying and their families can continue to discover meaning in their lives during and after a major loss. This discovery process can be not only comforting but a shining light to the survivors.

The institution of hospice in Western societies has grown into an organizational arrangement largely separate from medical and mental therapeutic institutions. But the writing above of Ms. Egan and Dr. Neimeyer show that important benefits would accrue from more cooperation and sharing. This is particularly true when the therapeutic model used is that of meaning-making. Construction and reconstruction of personal meaning should not be seen only as individual therapy. In hospice cases, group or family therapy could be an effective part of the process of bereavement, particularly when it utilizes meaning-centered goals and techniques.


Meaning-Centered Living

       Many books have been written about the importance of meaning and purpose for living a good life. The chief architect of the idea was Viktor Frankl, a Jewish doctor from Austria. He wrote the “bible” on meaning-centered living while barely surviving life in concentration camps. In 1946 after the end of the war he published the book Man’s Search for Meaning—An Introduction to Logotherapy, which became a world-wide best seller and one of the most important books in psychology. After selling millions of copies, it remains a best-seller on Amazon.

Frankl’s book developed the idea of optimism in the face of tragedy based upon the human ability to turn suffering into accomplishment and to take responsible action. His core ideas of meaning-making were that humans have a “will to meaning,” a need to love, and the ability to transform suffering into deeper meaning in life. These and related ideas pioneered by Frankl remain the definitive resources on the power of a meaning orientation in everyday life. His ideas remain the core of more recent approaches to reduction of personal suffering through self-reflection on implications of one’s personal meanings in life.




stopislam400Social suffering has become a common label for the suffering of a group of people who serve as targets of disdain, hate and cruelty by another group or a society. The target group becomes the victim of humiliation, bullying, persecution, discrimination, aggression and/or hate. Social stigmas are the mechanisms that lead to discriminatory behavior and social suffering. Not only does social suffering arise from hurtful racism or sexism, but disability, poverty, mental illness, and other things that can spark hateful behavior that ends in social suffering.

Slavery of any kind indicates social suffering as does the rejection, and aggression felt by immigrants and refugees. Border fences, special police searches, and hate crimes all are signs of social suffering. Fences and police can be signs of security needed for the rule of law. Good judgment and humane values are always needed in security decisions.

Social suffering often becomes intertwined with physical suffering through violent acts of hate. This tragic combination is illustrated in Isabel Wilkerson’s book: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Knopf Doubleday), as she tells Great Migration stories of former slaves moving from southern to northern United States.

Called the Great Migration, between 1915 and 1960 about five million southern blacks moved to the north. Like the 2016 immigration into Europe, they escaped an unsafe homeland. Many of her interviewees said they moved away from the Southern United States because every night they listened for a lynch mob, not knowing if they would live through the night.

Unfortunately, nearly 100 years later their descendants in Northern cities remain fearful of being lynched when they go out at night, because the “rope has been replaced with a gun.” This alludes to the large number of unjustified or questionable killings of black men by white policemen in the United States during 2016.


Racism consists of prejudice, discrimination, antagonism and/or a sense of superiority toward one or more others of a different race. Sometimes the racism is unconscious and unintended. In many communities and societies, children learn racist attitudes and bias at early ages.

People don’t like to be accused of racism. President-elect Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign talked about Black Americans and Middle Easterners in disparaging remarks. But when he was accused of being racist, he and his campaign staff denied it, claiming that the liberal accusers were racist because they raised the issue unfairly.

In a racially charged culture, it is likely to take many generations for racism to disappear. However, recent neuroscience research has found that a drug used for treating PTSD tends to reduce racial bias.


Xenophobia overlaps with racism but refers generally to bias and behavior toward those who come from a different nation or religion. Thus, Xenophobia applies to those who may have the same physical features as the targeted person, whereas racism applies to those who target others with different physical features such as skin color.

Westerners’ attitudes of fear and bias toward Muslims tends to be a combination of racism and xenophobia because people generally believe that they can identify Muslims by a combination of physical features, nationality and/or religious customs such as clothing and prayer.



Nationalism is either a positive or negative attribute depending upon whether it refers to patriotism or belief that one’s national identity endows its citizens with superiority. This has led some to say that there is good and bad nationalism. A better distinction has been made by economist Paul Collier. He proposes that we use the terminology of ‘inclusive’ or ‘exclusionary’ nationalism to distinguish between a nationalism that only emphasizes patriotism, versus exclusionary nationalism that emphasizes racial supremacy and/or xenophobic separatism.

In a separate post, I noted that right-wing populism is sometimes supportive of white nationalism in a European or American context. If exclusionary or exclusive nationalism approaches extreme forms, it begins to overlap with Nazism. And when combined with authoritarianism, it overlaps with fascism.


According to the United Nations Population Fund, 244 million people, or 3.3 percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin in 2015. The Migration Policy Institute reports that the United States migrants total is 42 million or 13           percent of the 2014 population.

Due to the large number of violent conflicts worldwide, the number of immigrants, especially to Europe, has increased visibly during this past year. The large flows into Europe and the casualties in route have led to attempts to block their flow. Even more dramatic have been the political conflicts over policies to allow or disallow migrant entry into specific countries.

In fact, some experts attribute the wave of populism in the USA and the EU to the large influx of immigrants. Of course, the perceived threat of migrants has sharply increased with the spike in domestic terrorism. Migration in the present day can be treacherous, especially when it is illegal and involves crossing large bodies of water. Migration has become a major source of suffering and the growing xenophobia in the host countries has become a major source of social suffering.

Alt Right

Richard Spencer launched the ‘Alternative Right’ movement in 2010 to promote far-right ideals centered on ‘white identity’ and preservation of an extremely-right view of Western civilization. Today it is the a leading association of ultra-conservatives. They not only promote white nationalism but reject liberal views as well as those of the conservative establishment in America. One of their principal dissemination mechanisms is Breitbart News. Steve Bannon was chairman of Breitbart News and sympathetic with Alt Right viewpoints.

Though Donald Trump denies allegiance to Alt Right, many of his ideas and much of his campaign rhetoric reveals many similarities. Furthermore, Mr. Trump appointed Steve Bannon as his Campaign Manager in August 2016. In November after becoming President-Elect of the USA, he appointed Mr. Bannon as chief White House Strategist. Bannon will play the role of chief intellectual architect of policy initiatives of the Executive Branch of the US government. As Bannon formerly served as a Goldman Sachs banker, he will likely serve as the designer-in-chief of economic policy as well as trade policy and immigration policy.

Hate Incidents

Hate acts and hate crimes are prejudice-motivated actions intending to harm or scare one or more members of a discrimination-target group. In the days and weeks after the Presidential election, as white nationalists and others celebrated Donald Trump’s victory, a sharp rise in hate actions occurred. As reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and shown in Figure 1, during the ten days following the election, there were 867 reports of harassment and intimidation across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.

The 867 hate incidents described here come from two sources — submissions to the #ReportHate page on the SPLC website and media accounts. Incidents were limited to real-world events, and do not include instances of online harassment or any kind of hoaxes.

The incidents documented here almost certainly represent a small fraction of the actual number of election-related hate incidents that have occurred since November 8.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported to the police. As shown in the statistical chart, the predominant targets of hate incidents were immigrants, Blacks, and Jews.

Both the harassment since the election and the energy on the far-right are the predictable results of the campaign that Trump waged for the presidency — a campaign marked by incendiary racial statements, the stoking of white racial resentment, and attacks on so-called “political correctness.”

Rather than merely saying that he “wants to bring the country together,” Trumps actions must consistently demonstrate he is doing everything in his power to do so. Until president-elect Trump does these things, the hate that his campaign has unleashed is likely to continue to flourish. When the Trump administration begins to implement new race and immigrant related policies, the number of hate incidents might well rise.

Hate-based incidents of all kinds contribute to social forces within a society that when new race or immigrant exclusionary policies are unleashed without educational programs and policies to contain them, chaos could follow. The only result of which we can be certain is a substantial rise in social suffering.















Figure 1. Southern Poverty Law Center: 867 Hate Incidents in 10 Days After Election



brexis400The year 2016 may be remembered as the year that right-wing populism grabbed a foothold in the English-speaking West. Donald Trump won the US election and the UK voted to leave the EU by their Brexit vote (see photo). Australia and other Anglophone countries appear less affected.

Populism means appealing politically to the basic needs of ordinary people. This year left-wing populism has promoted selective aspects of anti-globalization and anti-establishment. Right-wing populism on the other hand stands also for anti-establishment, anti-elites, anti-globalization, and anti-immigration. Given these last two political positions, it is not surprising that specific instances of right-wing populism sometimes have been labeled white nationalism.

The election of Donald Trump has energized right-wing populist party leaders in France, The Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. Not only do these political developments threaten the future of the EU, but the existing world order may shift unpredictably.

The pervasiveness of the right-wing populist movements can be seen in the large number of European nations with large populist political forces. The list includes Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. As noted in a New York Times report, the populist movements in these countries, like the United States, are significantly stronger in rural areas and villages. Ironically, urban populations tend to be lumped with the establishment and elites by right-wing populists living in rural areas.

In 2016 the parties behind these right-wing populist movements tend to be additionally wedded to nationalism, anti-immigration, and even semi-authoritarianism. The latter may be surprising, but polling across the past 50 years shows that in both the USA and Europe, people are much less likely to say that “It is essential to live in a democracy.” For example, between 1930 and 1980 agreement with this statement of support for democracy dropped from 75% to 25% in the United States. In this same survey, significant plunges in public support for democracy also occurred in Australia, Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden.

The Freedom House 2016 report highlights that for the 10th straight year, their measures of global democratic freedom have declined due to the rise in authoritarianism and the curtailing of freedom of the press as well as other losses in democracy. This major drop in priorities for democracy would not be of such serious concern were it not for the decline in support for civil society and aid to developing countries during this period.


How do these political trends relate to suffering? A large share of the supporters of conservative populism across the Western world has been driven by perceived financial hardship, which implies suffering. Not only has perceived suffering disrupted the lives of the very poor and unemployed, but it has affected a sizable share of the middle class whose income has not risen as expected.

Right-wing populists in the United States exemplify this claim of hardship and suffering. The election of Donald Trump depended upon votes from demographic groups such as rural voters and those having lost jobs from globalization and/or free trade. Trump supporters consisted predominantly of white, middle class voters fearful of rising immigration, faster population growth among non-whites, and the decline of traditional values.

While many Trump supporters feel like victims of suffering, if their living conditions are compared to workers in the developing world or poverty pockets in America, their suffering seems minor at best.

Like almost all Americans, Trump supporters have a lifestyle that exposes them to daily barrages of advertising designed to get them to spend more than they can afford, buying products with a short time to replacement. In short, many Americans are predisposed to feel highly disadvantaged and suffering needlessly. While their suffering may seem minor to outsiders, many of them experience serious, ongoing depression, anger, and humiliation, adding up to overall life dissatisfaction. One of the main causes of this suffering is that we compare ourselves to those with relatively more income and wealth.

Many voters in both the USA and Europe feel serious distress in their lives because they fail to compare themselves to extreme sufferers who live in deep poverty.

If the so-called suffering middle class is truly concerned about reducing human suffering, it will not block all refugees from entering their countries. This is especially applicable to the devoutly religious who have a moral duty to alleviate the suffering of others no matter their race or nationality. We do not have a duty to bring dangerous terrorists into our country, but all major religions espouse a responsibility to care and help other human beings.

Some tend to repress and largely ignore the suffering of others. This attempt to escape from suffering may account in part for the ease by which large numbers of people can be indifferent to tragic suffering around the world.

Intense suffering uncovers an array of deeply human tragedies. Every major religion calls for compassion and aid for others who suffer, yet the number burdened with severe suffering continues to expand. The path of least resistance is to ignore the suffering of others. Those who reach out to others’ suffering may themselves suffer, but many feel joy from having reduced someone else’s suffering.