THE BLOG
10/31/2011 06:12 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2012

Bullying and Sadness

Bullying and sadness. There is an imbalance of power in our political mood now, in what is promising to be a presidential election filled with venom and competing economic emphases. Right now, there is little I feel I might be able to do about that.

I personally feel a great deal of sadness about aspects of our current political and economic climate. One of the reasons for this is that I feel that we are actually missing the emotion of sadness much of the time, about our fellow human beings, our children and ourselves.

Whatever the political flavors are at this point, there is little expressed pain over the plight of children whose lack of affluence is earning them less and less hope for a viable future, (unless they find a way to wait out from the economic tides and go for internships and graduate degrees) and those economically disadvantaged children whose schools and services are being cut to the bone and more, and who don't seem to count all that much to the national psyche.

I may well be under the influence of an HBO documentary I saw last Thursday, called "The Education of Dee Dee Ricks." It dealt with Ricks's battle with breast cancer, but more and more deeply, it got the viewer to care about people that most of us pass by in our daily lives. Namely one patient in particular, Cynthia Dodson, an African-American woman who was diagnosed at 41 and died (as we learn towards the end of the film) at the age of 44. We come out of the film caring and feeling hope at the inspired transformation of Ricks. We feel moved ever so much by her doctor, Dr. Harold Freeman, about whom I shall speak in a minute, but also by the spirit and love that flows from Dodson, her father, and family.

Dodson was one of the many who came too late. She wasn't on our welfare rolls; she was one of many uninsured, though working -- yes, she was employed. She was also one of many who are overwrought and overwhelmed by a health care system that helps few and only if they have what one doctor is heralding and inventing as navigational skills. Dr. Harold Freeman has been working in Harlem since 1967 helping poor people navigate the health care system. He states in the film and in an NBC interview I watched as well: "When you're poor," the deficits in health care are more than a medical -- and I would add, political -- challenge, but as he says "a moral one". And Dee Dee Ricks says at a conference in the documentary, much the same as she states "Health care is not a medical issue -- it's a moral one".

Bullying and sadness at times can transform -- perhaps as they may be a touch within me as I am writing this -- to a touch of hope. There is the current wish in me of waking up to possibilities of becoming involved with Dr. Freeman's navigational system which is open to all manner of people, including those of us who would like to put our passion and caring to work in such a way. The bullying, once again, seems to come from the extraordinary split between "family values" that echo in stated intentions or at least in declaration, the values of Christianity -- something more and more absurd with the increasing coldness and snideness towards those who feel oppressed in our society.

I see little humanizing and realizing and seeing the faces and the lives and deaths, not only of the people in the movie or outside its cameras, but also of our soldiers and civilians in the spots of world hunger and genocide and civil war that don't interest us for their lack of military or economic value. I see and feel the lack of respected space for caring about people who are our neighbors in our cities, our country and our planet. I see little caring, and for me to stand up in daylight to speak of these subjects means that for sure at first, without my own HBO crew to dignify the presence of these feelings, will lead to the bullying and naming of me as hypersensitive and naive. I can or could, of course, join a program or organization for hypersensitive people, of which there is at least one, but I don't see that as the problem.

I don't think caring about people is a symptom of hypersensitivity, and what's more, I think labeling people who are saddened by the state of our politicizing of human issues with hate more than any other emotion, is criminal: it once again bullies those who might respect their caring to hide in more labels and "special" treatment.

Then again, perhaps I need to get used to the fact that those of us who care and feel sad about the sad state of people, may need the option of trying to find each other and contribute to causes we initiate or join. After all, Dr. Freeman, before he came to the Ralph Lauren Center of Sloan Kettering, was pretty much a loner in many of his efforts. A client in my practice who changed more than his wildest expectations once reminded me that the pioneers get the arrows.

That reminder isn't altogether comforting at this moment in time when I realize that the sadness I feel is not only my own, but loneliness at a time when empathy for those unlike us is not at its heyday by any means. At a time when popularity of cause and persona is what gets the attention of polls and papers, perhaps the only answer is to stand up for the right to be sad, and to see where it leads and to whom.