Now that the issue of national health care is once more front and center, I’d like to call attention to a recent outbreak that has the potential of becoming a devastating epidemic. I’m speaking as a physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, and what I’m speaking about is lying.
In over 30 years treating patients I have had the opportunity to learn firsthand how individual health relates to growing up in environments where honesty is valued. Parents who lie to their children are likely to have children who are crippled by inability to trust, and such children tend to become adults with massive difficulties in forming the relationships needed to create healthy families and productive citizens. Parents who don’t teach their children that it’s wrong to lie are, by their silence, teaching them that’s right. That’s why our President’s disregard for the value of honesty is so important and so dangerous. Mr. Trump demonstrates on a daily basis that he doesn’t care whether or not he tells the truth. This attitude seems to be shared by many of those who he has appointed to key positions in his administration. This should be a source of deep concern to all of us. Just as a father who lies is teaching his children that truth doesn’t matter, a President who lies is teaching American citizens that honesty is no longer something to be valued in our society. He is also demonstrating that he is not trustworthy Mr. Trump captured public attention by coming across as a tough, successful, straight -talking champion who wasn’t afraid to express the thoughts and feelings shared by many of those who gave him their votes Straight talk, courage, and a fighting spirit are important American values, and their appeal may have overshadowed certain traits of character that at the time might have seemed relatively unimportant.
But at this point we’ve seen enough to appreciate that Mr. Trump’s absence of core moral values poses the biggest danger of all. If we disregard his blatant lying, we all become accomplices in setting the worst possible example for those who we want to inspire. Values aren’t abstractions. They are the internal rules we live by, and their importance in mental and physical health is frequently underestimated. Without values, human beings tend to feel directionless in life. This makes us vulnerable to all sorts of psychological difficulties, from depression to drug use and addiction. We derive our values from our families and the society we live in.
Most people take their health for granted until they or their loved ones get sick. Then it be-comes the most important thing in the world. In the same way, a healthy nation can become a sick society when it disregards its core values. History has shown that charismatic leaders can transform the most “civilized” society into a fearful mob by using lies and propaganda to foster fear and hatred. The health consequences for those living in such societies are disastrous, sooner or later. In fact, these are the kind of health disasters that brought many of our families over here in the first place.
In order to stay a healthy nation, we need to recognize that the values we endorse are fundamental to our collective feeling of security, purpose and well being. They are guideposts that give meaning to our lives as individuals and as citizens. What makes America a great place is that it’s also a good place, and our collective health depends on our insisting that it remain that way.