Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hazardous to Your Health

By chance the other day, I got word of a fairly new book with fascinating, if not stunning conclusions. Put simply, the rate of violence, especially in the form of homicides and suicides, rises dramatically when Republicans are in the White House.
Can't say I'm surprised, are you? But it's really no so much about war and the continuation of bankrupt policies, or outsourcing war, it's more in the area of socioeconomic stress that the data points

James Gilligan, in the book Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous than Others states his case. Not really looking to prove this thesis out the outset, Gilligan, a professor of psychology at NYU, says that the data surfaced rather by chance and he could not leave it alone. Apparently he was originally looking at other non-specific causes of violent behavior but the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.kept getting into the equation.
Of course there must be exceptions to these findings. Republicans have no monopoly on stressing out the populace. Certainly to my generation, the irony of Lyndon Johnson's presidency jumps out. I clearly recall people in 1966 saying, "We voted for Johnson and got Goldwater." At least Johnson had the foresight not to run for office again after his hands got so bloodied with the Vietnam debacle. The sad thing was always that Johnson fancied himself the incarnation of FDR and he was well on his way to getting there. He wasted no time getting JFK's Civil Rights legislation passed and actually did declare a war on poverty. I became a Vista Volunteer because of his efforts. It's those undeclared wars that do it every time.
So let's say that Mr. Galligan's thesis is right on the money. What could that possibly mean for the future? If Obama wins re-election, maybe the numbers will again tell their story. Already troops are on the way home from Iraq. That means fewer cases of PTSD as well as all the psychological consequences that come with the stress and anxiety of deployment, maintaining relationships, and dealing with uncertain futures. But what about overall health care? What about education? Not sure how that ties in, but it must. I keep thinking of all my former students in their mid to late 20s and early 30s with stellar degrees and no career prospects. Moving back in with your parents after college has go to be stressful.
That begs the question of demographics. Will Republican presidents become a thing of the past when more and more Latino voters join the pool? By 2050 what will this country look like and what will that say about who we elect? Third party movements usually fall as fast as they rise, but maybe now the time is right. Think of the possibilities of a political party based on principles of mental health. All quite fascinating.
There is one other elephant in the room. (Pun intended) That is, why don't more people know about this book? What is preventing other politicians from using this data to their best advantage? Certainly I don't expect James Gilligan to be a guest on Fox News anytime soon. Now, I haven't read the book, but I intend to. With a thesis like that, I'd surely like to know more.

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