Monday, January 25, 2016

President Obama's legacy and the 2016 presidential elections

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on Jan. 22, 2016, and is posted on this site with VT's permission. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

With President Barack Obama in his final year of office, scholars are pointing to the implications his legacy could have on this year’s presidential and congressional elections. They are also saying his legacy could itself be impacted by the decision made on who assumes the presidency.

Speaking on a Jan. 15 Brookings Institution podcast, Brookings senior fellows in governance studies Bill Galston and Sarah Binder agreed that a Democrat being elected president this year would depend on whether voters view President Obama’s policies as having been beneficial to them overall. However, if voters think the president’s policies have worked against them, a Republican will likely be elected.

Binder said, specifically, that Democrats will use the president’s record to rally voters and affirm their own platforms on healthcare and financial regulation. Galston added that the president’s two-term job approval ratings would largely shape the political playing field to the Democrats’ advantage or disadvantage. For example, during the 2008 elections -- following former president George W. Bush’s two terms in office -- Republican candidate John McCain failed largely as a result of the public’s perception of Bush’s policies as insufficient. Wishing not to continue such policies, Americans elected President Obama, a Democrat.

“He presented himself as a healer,” Galston said of President Obama, adding that while the president’s push for hope and change has been praised, it might have actually hurt his legacy a bit.

President Obama’s policy changes in the healthcare field, as well as executive actions to make reforms in the areas of financial regulation and environment were definitely seen as progressive actions, Galston said. However, because of their progressiveness, the changes served to widen the political gap between Republicans and Democrats.

Binder agreed, saying that President Obama can be credited with turning around the economy -- which was at its worst since the Great Depression -- after Bush’s two terms. However, policy changes like the federal expansion of healthcare were too big, turning off half of the American public.

The president’s legacy, then, Galston said, will be considered successful if voters elect a Democrat to the office this year but repudiated if they elect a Republican. If a Republican becomes president, and Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives (lower house of Congress) and Senate (upper house of Congress), the party will likely enjoy a full two years of undoing many of the executive actions and policies President Obama put into place during his eight years in office.

Whoever, then, becomes the Democratic nominee for president will have to build on President Obama’s legacy, not run away from it or on it, Galston said. Currently, based on surveys, he added, voters are not indicating that they want more of the same when it comes to policy.

According to a Gallup poll released this month, the U.S. government -- including President Obama himself -- was named the most important problem facing the country. Further, according to a year-end CNN/ORC poll, 75 percent of Americans are not satisfied with how the U.S. is governed, 69 percent are angry at its direction and 52 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of his job responsibilities.

Moreover, the president’s approval ratings are at 45 percent, Galston said. If they decrease before the end of the year, Republicans could have a better chance in November; though if they increase, Democrats will hold advantage.

But is there another option? For example, while running as a Democratic candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is an Independent. Could his election be a true win for Democrats or a true blow to Republicans? Would Republicans vote for him as a Democratic candidate? Could he help bridge the gap between the two parties? Might his perspective as a longtime Independent help him bring about the changes President Obama was unable to?

The government won’t improve until the American people demand with a loud voice that improvement occurs, Galston said. As long as political parties are rewarded with public votes for the status quo, it will persist.

Remember, this is just what some scholars say. Based on your own experiences and/or research, what do you think?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

So I have the breath key ... how do I use it?

By Ness white

In yesterday's article I wrote about the breath being an important key, a tool the Black Lives Matter organization -- and offshoots -- can use in their fight against oppression. I'd like to broaden my view, opening it to include all people who consider themselves oppressed or part of an oppressed group -- with their oppression particularly resulting in high stress.

To recap briefly, I wrote a graduate paper in 2013 that talked about how feminists of various races, classes and orientations can use the breath as a tool to fight oppression. Because research shows that oppression of all forms has been directly and unapologetically related to stress and stress has been directly related to breath, my belief is that breath can be used to address and combat stress, therefore addressing and combating the oppression meant to cause it.

"If focused, directed, breath can be developed, slowed down, relaxed -- even during stress -- enough to aid us in consciously addressing the effects our oppressions have on our entire beings," I wrote. "At its best, unhindered, unstressed, breath flows throughout our bodies, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually promoting life, health, vitality, calm, peace.

"Upon receiving stress signals from our brain, our breaths -- due to what is considered the natural 'fight or flight' response -- become shallow, quick. While considered to be a natural response to stress, helping us fight or flee immediate danger, if our stressed breathes are prolonged, they can have damaging, adverse effects on our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits.

"However, interestingly, breath utilizes the only muscle in our bodies that functions voluntarily and involuntarily, allowing it to be controlled: the diaphragm. With this ability to control the diaphragm, we are able to control our breathing -- more specifically its rate and depth -- reducing the harmful effects of stress on our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits."

Diaphragmatic breathing

During our interview for yesterday's article, yoga instructor Markedia "Moka" Hinds, brought up the term "diaphragmatic breathing." Other leaders and experts on breathing also call it "abdominal breathing" or "belly breathing," as it involves gently pushing the belly out upon inhalation and gently pulling the belly in when exhaling. This type of breathing is believed to help counter the harmful results of stress, as it induces a relaxing, calming response.

While the term "diaphragmatic breathing" might sound daunting, there are various articles online that offer insight on this type of breathing, particularly how to do it. For example, a recent article I came across on the Frederick (Maryland) News-Post website, "Ask Doctor K.: Fight Stress with Relaxed Breathing," shares some knowledge for beginners:

1. Sit down or lie down in a quiet and comfortable place.
2. Close your eyes so you won't be distracted.
3. Relax the muscles in your abdomen.
4. Inhale slowly, deeply. As you do this, allow the air entering your nose to move down into your lower belly. You should then feel your belly expand.
5. Exhale through your mouth. As you do this, your abdomen will become smaller.

Over the past few years during my own practice with diaphragmatic breathing, I've come across people who visualize images when they breathe in and out -- particularly inhaling life force energy and exhaling the parts of themselves they want to share with the world. Not necessarily necessary during this exercise, it's an added option for those who wish to do so.

Also, there are plenty of other resources available online. If you happen to come across some, feel free to leave links to them in the comment section for other readers to check out.

Breathe well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Black health matters: Understanding and implementing the key ... the tool

By Ness white

It's been all over the mainstream news: An offshoot of the Black Lives Matter organization, Black.Seed, shut down the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr., Day. Their action was reportedly meant to be seen as a "strong, courageous stand in solidarity" with King's message of radical, non-violent protest.

What has been less reported -- or focused on -- is the message on the banner the protesters' cars were lined in front of. It read "Black health matters."

Upon reading this statement, it might seem obvious that black health would matter to activists who state that black lives matter. Health is a part of life, so naturally, it would be important. But when the BLM movement has been largely associated with police-related killings and brutality for more than a year, the statement that black health matters greatly expands the discussion.

For some readers, the discussion on black health might extend as far as pointing out the health disparities between blacks and the general U.S. population. These readers would be correct to name those disparities as studies and statistics have repeatedly done so over the past few years. Because of this, today's article will not delve deeply into said health disparities, but will focus instead on one way in which black health can be maximized.

The key

Rooftop yoga instructor and psychology student Markedia "Moka" Hinds recently told me that yoga -- a moving meditation -- allows her to be rejuvenated, livelier, and more balanced and centered. She added that while the exercise is physically and mentally beneficial, pushing her past her limitations, there is another important aspect of it.

"Awareness of breath is what's key to that whole experience," she said.

Talking more about breath awareness, Moka explained that we begin to breathe through our chests as we get older -- a completely normal anxiety-ridden response to the daily stresses we experience. However, we don't get much air -- or oxygen -- when breathing this way, and our years on Earth are greatly reduced. Babies, on the other hand, breathe through their bellies -- which is also considered diaphragmatic breathing, and a slower, calmer form of respiration.

Focusing on and being conscious of our breathing here and there throughout the day is helpful in slowing the pace of our thoughts, Moka said. It can be done anywhere, at any time and is accessible to anyone.

"Take a step back and breathe," she advised, adding that it is helpful particularly during emotionally charged situations. "As you practice awareness more, awareness becomes more natural.

"Come back to the breath."

Now, [what we can do] about those disparities

Remember those aforementioned health disparities? Well, here is where they come into play. Many of the health disparities black people experience are directly related to stress. High blood pressure, heart disease and asthma, for example, are all believed to be worsened by heightened stress levels.

How far will Black.Seed and, perhaps, other BLM offshoot groups go to promote black health? Will they incorporate breath awareness and breath work into their practices?

At the end of 2013, I wrote a graduate paper discussing the importance of breath as a tool for feminists of all races, classes and orientations to use against oppression. As the official BLM organization is a partially-feminist group, I believe what I wrote in that paper can apply and add to the movement.

"The breath has been directly linked to stress and stress has been directly linked to various oppressions," I wrote. "For example, according to the American Psychological Association, racism has been considered a contributor to stress among racial minorities, many of us unaware of the impacts such stress even has on our beings, given that we are even aware of the stress at all.

"These oppressions, steeped in fear, promote hate, death ... in not just the physical sense, but death to our mental, emotional, as well as spiritual planes of being. One way in which these oppressions continue their long-term effects on us is through stress, targeting the breath as a crucial ingredient of life.

"Considering its very nature as a life force driving our emotions, thoughts, [and] actions ... I offer a view of the breath as a tool that -- already in use -- we can wield to lessen the deadly effects oppression(s) has/have on our bodies, hearts, minds, [and] spirits, instead of exacerbating them."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not "too old": Presidential candidates help transform aged, old argument

Ness White wrote this article for Viet Tide (published Dec. 18, 2015) with support from the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, a project of The Gerontological Society of America and New America Media, supported by the Silver Century Foundation. It has since been updated and edited accordingly, last posted on the New America Media website on Jan. 5 as "Too Old to Be President? Ageism a Political Undercurrent in U.S."

ORLANDO, Fla.-- Ageist comments have been made against three leading 2016 presidential contenders so far -- both of whom are older than what is considered to be the middle-aged bracket.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 68, a Democrat, has been called “too old to run” for president, in the mainstream media. And political independent U. S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, 74, of Vermont, has been called an “unlikely white-haired rock star.”  

While Republican frontrunner, and business mogul Donald Trump, 69, has mostly managed to avoid questions based on his age to date, largely because he is so controversial, he has not completely escaped the negative perception of him based on his age.

Trevor Noah on The Daily Show (Jan. 5) mocked his New Year’s Eve appearance on Fox stating, “Donald Trump is the human embodiment of Times Square: Their both old, loud, flashy and full of garbage.” Why “old”?

Negativity Persist

How Americans view aging was brought up throughout the five-day 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in Orlando, Fla., in November. The event attracted over 4,000 researchers in aging from around the world.

During one press presentation, for example, The FrameWorks Institute shared a video of street interviews with people being asked to describe aging. For the most part, people highlighted the negative aspects of aging, focusing on illness and disability.

GSA’s opening keynote speaker, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, brother of Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was key in shaping Obamacare policies. He had shared similar -- though perhaps extreme -- views about aging, particularly the end years. 

In October 2014, The Atlantic published his article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” in which he focused on some of the horrors of care at the end of life and the difficulties he expects might await him as he ages.

“Doubtless, death is a loss,” he wrote. “Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world.”

Emanuel went on in the article, “We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

Interestingly, his view might be challenged by the vast amounts of energy emitted by most of the leading presidential contenders during debates and on the campaign trail. More directly, however, various health journalists, experts and academics have criticized Emanuel’s stance, pointing to the larger issue of how Americans view aging.

A Different View

Even though Emanuel avoided mentioning his provocative ideas in his keynote speech, a panel of experts on aging zeroed in on his negative views of living beyond age 75 and how his ideas reflect U.S. culture, as well as ways in which to transform such narratives.

Author Wendy Lustbader, a lecturer at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, said that some of the most important opportunities for growth occur when people are vulnerable, as they age. Further, she added, illness, frailty, disability and the approach of death can be “vehicles for change,” allowing people the opportunity to make sense of the past and make peace with their loved ones as they urgently desire to become complete.

Emmanuel’s article, Lustbader said, “[gave] us a catalogue of fear.” She countered his view by adding that the deprivation some people feel when aging can lead for some to creativity, which “brings up the needs of the soul.”

Jennifer Sasser, who chairs the Department of Human Sciences at Marylhurst University in Portland, Ore., said what Emanuel described in his piece could really apply to people of any age, as all people are subject to frailty and pain. 

“We need to shift consciousness,” said Sasser, who directs Maryhurst’s Gerontology Program. “This is about being a human being.” 

Expanding on the Positives

Members of the audience contributed their views, some alluding to a fear and anxiety around death that is pervasive in U.S. culture. One woman mentioned that in dictionaries, the word “geriatric” is defined in negative terms, suggesting nothing about health in older years. 

For example, the online Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “geriatrics” as “the process of growing old and the medical care of old people” and adds the metaphorical definition, “being old and outmoded (geriatric airplanes).”

Even though we might not be able to change those negative terms, Sasser added, we can expand on the positives of aging.

When it comes to the leading presidential candidates, none are showing signs of decline from old age. Despite what voters might think of their views, these candidates are challenging and maybe even changing some stereotypes about aging.


Friday, January 15, 2016

California’s Motor Voter Program creates auto(matic) voter registration

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Jan. 15, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

A new law that has taken effect in California this month could have interesting implications for this year’s local and state elections. It could even impact federal elections if similar or identical laws spread to other states.

The result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the California State Legislature’s Assembly Bill (A.B.)  1461 in October, the California New Motor Voter Program went into effect on Jan. 1 and is expected to be fully implemented in time for the state’s June primaries. In short, under the program people are automatically registered to vote when they visit the DMV to apply for, renew or change their address on their driver’s licenses. Prior to the law’s implementation, drivers had to opt-in to be registered to vote.

California is the second state to have implemented such a law, following Oregon, and advocates say it will help give more Californians easier access to the voting process. Critics, however, say the law will contribute to voter fraud as people who are not eligible to vote but are eligible to drive could easily slip into the state’s voter rolls.

For example, critics -- including organizations like the conservative-leaning True the Vote and liberal-leaning American Civil Liberties Union  -- have said that non-naturalized immigrants eligible to receive driver’s licenses in California could accidentally be automatically registered to vote, which they are not legally allowed to do. While AB 1461’s language reflects that the California Secretary of State’s Office and DMV will be collaborating to ensure that only people eligible to vote will be registered and state officials will be held responsible for anyone participating in illegal voting, critics do not believe the state has the capabilities to avoid making a mistake.
Additionally, critics believe that the Democratic-controlled state legislature and Democratic governor have pushed the law forward in efforts to further lessen the influence Republicans have in the state. As a result, some critics believe citizens will give up on voting because the process will be corrupted by an influx of ineligible voters.

“[AB 1461] will effectively change the form of governance in California from a Republic whose elected officials are determined by United States citizens and will guarantee that non-citizens will participate in all California elections going forward,” Election Integrity Project of California President Linda Paine has said.
Critics’ fears are not completely unfounded. During the summer of 2014, we reported on the changing political demographics of Orange County, Calif. -- a longtime Republican stronghold and home to largely immigrant communities. For example, in the Viet Tide's July 11 article, “Orange County stands on the cusp of social, political change,” we reported on the Republican Party losing its influence in the county as the ethnic minority population has been increasing in the OC. More specifically, we reported on the OC Vietnamese-American community’s support for Democratic policies lauded by President Barack Obama and Gov. Brown.
In contrast, advocates of the law -- like Democratic state lawmakers -- have said it will help more people have access to voting. It seems to be something of a counteraction against various Republican-backed voter-related laws throughout the country that Democrats have said restrict voter rights for millions of people, particularly racial, ethnic and language minorities, women, younger and elderly individuals, people who are considered disabled and people who have little to no income. These individuals are considered to have less time to register to vote and fewer locations available for them to do so.

“In a free society, the right to vote is fundamental,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has said. “Citizens should not be required to opt in to their fundamental right to vote.

“The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens.”

When it comes to voters, it seems the law has support as a Public Policy Institute of California poll conducted last year shows two thirds of Californians surveyed were in favor of automatic voter registration at the DMV.

But what do readers feel, think and believe? Can California’s Motor Voter law increase voter turnout in a state the Pew Charitable Trust Elections Performance Index rated the third-lowest in electoral performance in 2014? Or is the law a setup to give non-citizens an opportunity to participate in the voting process?

Could it be both -- and how might that possibility change conversations about voting and immigration?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

We, (some of) the people: Supreme Court case raises questions on electoral representation

This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on Jan. 1, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been updated, edited accordingly.

Readers are probably aware that Republicans and Democrats have been historically and ideologically divided on a number of issues. What readers might not know is that a recently heard Supreme Court case could not only prove to keep that divide in tact, but it could pit the two parties more strongly against each other just in time for the scheduled 2022 mid-terms elections.

On Dec. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Evenwel vs. Abbott case regarding redistricting in Texas. Redistricting is done after the U.S. Census is taken every 10 years and is meant to ensure that local, state and federal voting districts are created for all Americans to be fairly represented as populations increase, decrease, shift and change. The plaintiffs -- Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger -- are arguing that only registered voters should be considered when redistricting lines are redrawn, not the currently used total populations. They argue against the State of Texas that considering the total population when redrawing districts makes districts with large populations of non-voters more electorally powerful than districts with smaller populations of more eligible voters.

The case could impact urban cities, where Democrats tend to be localized, critics have said, as these areas tend to have higher populations of non-voters. If these districts were redrawn to reflect eligible voters rather than total population, could Republicans see some gains?

Who are the eligible voters? Are there ineligible ones?

Evenwel and Pfenninger argue that non-residents, undocumented immigrants and children are among those who should not be counted in redistricting tallies, as they are not eligible to vote. All others who are eligible to vote should be counted.

However, as media outlets have sporadically reported over the past few years, there are obstacles that can keep people from registering to vote -- which is required for anyone to become an eligible voter -- and obstacles that can keep people from remaining recognized as eligible voters. For example, registered voters in Indiana who are considered to be inactive are stripped from voter rolls; and in Tennessee, voters who have been deemed potential non-citizens by a database check are required to prove they are citizens in order to register to vote.

Obtaining the required documents for such proof can be costly, time-consuming and inconvenient --
similar to what critics have said about voter ID laws, which require voters to present state-issued, photo ID in order to vote. Several states, including Texas, have implemented such laws, which have been considered to disproportionately impact lower-income individuals who depend on public services and transportation -- namely people of color, language minorities, women, young people, the elderly and those considered disabled. These people also tend to be located collectively in larger, urban cities and vote Democrat.

Is the Evenwel vs. Abbott case currently awaiting decision in the Supreme Court an extension of the voter ID push that the Republican Party has been a part of since at least 2011? While Republicans -- including 2016 presidential candidates -- supporting the IDs have argued they decrease voter fraud, Democrats have argued they keep people who would otherwise be considered eligible from voting.

In other words, such laws could be considered to make certain voters ineligible -- therefore keeping them from being part of the eligible voter pool that would be counted if the plaintiffs in the Evenwel vs. Abbott case win.

But, do the plaintiffs have a case? Should marginalized groups of eligible voters have their voices silenced or not well heard because their representatives are working on behalf of a larger population that did not even vote for them?

The high court is not expected to decide the case for months, though the court of public opinion could begin ruling at any time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Presidential presence: Are 2016 presidential candidates present?

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Dec. 4, 2015. It was written by Ness white and has since been updated, edited accordingly.

It's become something of a catch phrase: being present.

Often the phrase is mentioned in spiritual circles that are focused on enlightenment, or even among people who are interested in health and wellness -- it usually means something along the lines of directing one's attention to whatever is happening in the moment. Rarely, if ever, is the phrase applied to conversations about politics and U.S. presidential candidates. Instead, mainstream news reports mention candidates' stage presence, pointing out which of them is commanding enough for voters to rally behind.

For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas gov. Rick Perry, who have dropped out of the Republican presidential race with low poll numbers, were reported to have weaker stage presence when compared to former business mogul Donald Trump and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina following the September presidential primary debate. Similarly, Democratic candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton have both been credited with having tremendous stage presence and have experienced the gap closing between them in public opinion polls.

While having stage presence is considered a valuable resource, especially to voters, various writers and experts have revealed how invaluable being present is. For example, in a recent Huff Post blog, Karen Trepte, international businesses coach, wrote that being present has significant benefits -- among them is managing stress. After citing a few spiritual teachers, including Thich Nhat Hahn, she shared that it is wise to live in the present moment, as that is all we truly have.

"Getting carried away with thoughts of the past or the future only serves to stir up our emotions," Trepte shares. "Regardless of the nature of the emotion, thoughts like this remove us from the present moment and what is truly going on for us.

"When a negative emotion is triggered by them, these thoughts take us out of what is emotionally true for us in that moment, too.

Trepte's words might remind our readers of what we reported in a recent article, "A breath of fresh air? None of the presidential candidates are even close," where we explained that presidential candidates might not be relieving voters' stresses, but might instead be creating more stress for them by using fear-mongering tactics. When watching the presidential debates, our readers might notice that the candidates speak heavily about what they will do to tackle issues in the future and what they have done to solve problems in the past, usually mentioning the present moment only to discuss what is wrong with it -- again, something that will be fixed when they are elected … in the future

We have also made a connection between the importance of breathing -- particularly when it comes to easing stress -- and the fact that none of the mainstream presidential candidates discuss this necessary aspect of daily life on the campaign trail. It is interesting to note that Trepte relates being present with stress relief and breathing.

"So much of the time, especially when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we are wracked with worry or thinking ahead, which can create emotions that feed the stress," Trepte says. "If we would only pause, take a breath, and look out the window, we'd see we were actually feeling fine before those thoughts rolled in."

Our readers who have watched the debates, or who might have interacted with the candidates firsthand, can answer for themselves whether they believe the candidates are fully present on stage or in person. Further, do the candidates' words take us out of the present moment?

It might behoove us to be present ourselves as we witness the candidates talk and gesticulate during debates, rallies and news interviews. Then, we might determine for ourselves which ones are present, on stage or not.

We might also have a better understanding of whose presence matches our own.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A breath of fresh air? None of the presidential candidates are even close

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Nov. 20, 2015. It was written by Ness White and has since been updated accordingly.

Along the campaign trail over the past few months, some of the mainstream presidential candidates from either side of the aisle have been called a “breath of fresh air.” Let’s take a look at that word “breath” for a moment.
Recent mainstream news articles have looked at the importance of breathing in our everyday lives, particularly highlighting how we breathe. For example, a Yahoo health article published in November detailed how breathing is one of the most important things we can do, yet most of us do it wrong — when stressed we tend to breathe quickly and shallowly from our chest, which actually increases the stress, rather than taking slow breaths through our abdomens and calming ourselves down — and don’t focus much of our attention on it during our day-to-day activities. Another article published on AOL news takes a different approach on breathing, focusing more on the fact that people who work in stuffy office settings aren’t breathing enough oxygen and are therefore not able to use their brains to capacity.
What does any of this have to do with the presidential election? Well, if breathing — particularly the way we breathe in what has often been called a “high-stress” American culture — is as important as it is, why are none of the candidates talking about it? Shouldn’t such an important topic be a campaign platform? If breathing correctly can make such an impact in our lives, shouldn’t our candidates be helping us figure out how to do it? Are they even able to do it themselves?
And what about the candidates’ campaign staffs that help the candidates make critical decisions — like which platforms the candidates should focus on? Are they stuck in offices most of the day unable to get adequate air and thus not thinking as effectively as they could? And what about the stress the staffs and their candidates might be under during campaign season? Are the staffs and their candidates able to regulate their breathing as to remain calm and not perpetuate the stress they encounter?
Going even further than the candidates and their campaign staffs, what about the stress candidates cause among voters? A Truth Media article published earlier this month details how candidates tend to focus on issues that arouse fear and anger in voters. Studies have shown that fear can trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses that can have detrimental effects on our health if prolonged. These responses are characterized by quick and shallow breathing, among other effects. While fear is one of the triggers of stress, it is also considered one of the ingredients to get people to the voting booth where they will vote for the candidate who promises to alleviate their fears and, therefore, their stresses — helping voters to breathe a bit easier, we might say.
But after the voting is done, does our stress go away? Do the promises our candidates make actually come to fruition or do we still have the same fears — or more, worse ones — as before they took office?
During the upcoming presidential debates, let’s see if we can observe the candidates and how they’re breathing. Before talking, do they take quick, shallow breaths to respond to a question or do they appear to pause and become calm before responding? While responding, do they give themselves enough time to breathe in between words and phrases or are they talking too quickly for a breath to sneak by?
Further, let’s observe our own breaths as we listen to the candidates’ words. Are we becoming more stressed or are we calming down? Maybe this exercise can help give us a better idea about which candidate(s) can actually help us breathe a bit easier.
That is, if any of them can.