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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Aspiring to continue as a caring country

Rika Kayama

News headlines like "Historic upset" and "World stunned" could not quite capture the shockwaves sent by the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election. The United States chose a business mogul who has no experience in politics to be its next president.

    Since his diplomatic skills and economic policies remain unknown, there is no use in us speculating now on what might come of the Trump presidency. I am more concerned about a change in values. Trump, who campaigned to "Make America Great Again" -- a slogan that is the complete opposite of the attempts made by President Barack Obama to take the U.S. on a path of international cooperation -- gained popularity, along with his U.S.-centric, self-centered approach. His attack on immigrants and Muslims was relentless and he seems to have never cared for the feelings of any kind of minority.

    As a psychiatrist, every day I come face to face with people who have fallen ill or live with disabilities. Some of them have to depend on welfare support despite wanting to work. It is also crucial to provide the families of those with severe disabilities with care and public support.

    What if Trump's way of thinking -- where people only think of themselves -- becomes the norm and its effects reach Japan? Will people start saying things like, "I don't want my taxes to go to those with disabilities or their families," or "I want to enjoy my life and not waste my time on caring for such people"?

    When I revealed my concerns to my students at the university where I teach, many of them said they don't think that would happen in Japan, maybe in a bid to comfort me. Inspired by my students, I told them, "However the world turns out to be in the future, when you encounter a person who is in a different situation from you and is in need of help, I hope you try as hard as you can to imagine how they must feel."

    We live in a world filled with differences -- race, nationality, gender, age, health condition, appearance and religion -- but have somehow managed to maintain human society by lending a hand to those who need help, and trying to understand each other. But once someone says, "I don't care about other people," or "I want minorities out," society as a whole will collapse into chaos and the world will fall into ruin before we know it. And I'm not trying to be dramatic.

    "Let's understand each other, help each other and coexist with one another" -- although these phrases sound like elementary school slogans, we need to affirm these basic rules. Now, more than ever, I hope Japan continues to be a country that cares for people. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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