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Long Reads

Mourning in America

Now that Donald Trump has challenged democratic institutions, violated American values of tolerance and openness, and questioned Western alliances, it is not unreasonable to feel a sense of grief for all that has been lost. An emotional reckoning may now be necessary to confront this new world – and to move forward constructively.

In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously described five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. After a tumultuous year in which the United Kingdom decided to quit the European Union and Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, many people have been left in a state of mourning. A deep sense of loss attends the realization that America might no longer serve as a pillar of global stability, economic openness, and social progress.

Bereavement follows no singular formula, of course, but as politicians, businesspeople, and citizens around the world grapple with our new age of uncertainty, they are experiencing some – or perhaps all – stages of grief. These sentiments are undoubtedly becoming more acute with each passing day of Trump’s incendiary presidency. With each new off-the-cuff tweet, executive order, and truth-challenged speech, it becomes increasingly unlikely that the international order or the global economy will come through the Trump era unscathed.

Worse still, there is no guarantee that an emotional reckoning will yield the practical solutions that the world needs to combat toxic populist politics. Over the past few weeks, Project Syndicate commentaries have shared insights that complement each of Kübler-Ross’s emotional stages. Considering them together may uncover a pathway through the anguish – and through the Trumpian chaos fueling it.

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