You know things are bad when the lead story in my physician office's weekly health promotion e-newsletter is headlined "Coping with chaos."
The proffered advice was aimed at the majority of Americans, who, like me, experience horrific tragedies like Las Vegas, natural disasters like Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston, and politicians like Donald Trump and Tom Price through our television sets, social media and news feeds.
Am I being too partisan by including the president and erstwhile secretary of HHS as chaos promoters? It was bad enough that the president took nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria to visit an island with 3.5 million American citizens, most of whom are still struggling to survive without clean water or electricity.
But then he added insult to injury by offering these words of encouragement. Their travails weren't "a real catastrophe-like Katrina," he said, because only 16 people have been confirmed dead. Then he gave himself an A+ grade for hurricane relief, and attacked the mayor of San Juan as a political opportunist for begging to differ.
As for Dr. Price, it still isn't clear why he was fired. Was it because he failed to reimburse all of the $1 million in taxpayer funds he spent on private and military jets, often to attend political events or sightsee, when commercial flights were readily available? Or was it because his boss, during the two-hour dressing down that preceded his "resignation," complained bitterly about his failed effort to take health insurance away from 20 million people?
As if the failure of our politicians to lead on healthcare and hurricane relief weren't enough, then came the Las Vegas mass murder. As of this writing, 58 are dead and nearly 500 wounded in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, an "act of pure evil," to quote the president.
The Las Vegas shooting was carried out by a seemingly motiveless cipher, a gambler, the son of a bank robber. It appears to be just another eruption of what author Philip Roth once called the indigenous American berserk. Stephen Paddock faced no roadblocks in stockpiling a small arsenal of military-style assault weapons, which, suffice it to say, should have no place in civilian hands under any circumstances.
These all-too-frequent outbursts of individual insanity-for some reason these attacks with automatic rifles are never called an act of terror-continue to be our No. 1 public health crisis. Tens of thousands of innocent people-the wounded, family members, neighbors, friends-will suffer a lifetime of physical and emotional scars because of these senseless acts of slaughter.
Yet our elected leaders can't summon up the courage to do something about it. The National Rifle Association's chokehold on American politics appears resistant to even the most repugnant reality.
If, as former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel of New York noted in his op-ed in the New York Times, Columbine, Tucson, Waco, Charleston, Chattanooga, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Birmingham, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Orlando and, of course, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., failed to create a political groundswell to enact sensible gun control legislation, why should anyone think another three-score dead in Las Vegas will change the equation?
We are being emotionally assaulted on a daily basis by the inexplicable paralysis and callousness of our elected leaders. We're not even allowed to talk about the causes of these societal failures. Climate change? Gun control? It's time to mourn, to rebuild, not to play politics.
My provider offered this alternative: Realize you are not alone in feeling discouraged. And it's OK to tune out—take a break, get some fresh air, take a walk, swim or play golf.
I'm sorry. Acting like Trump on the weekends just doesn't do it for me. A society that refuses to address its problems may survive, but it cannot thrive.