Sunday, February 27, 2022

American Anger and Rage - A New Epidemic

 A doctor arrives just a few minutes late to his office and is warned by his staff that the patient slammed the exam room door and starting swearing.   A passenger on an airplane erupts in anger and has to be physically restrained.  Parents at school board meetings are foaming at the mouth objecting to revisions in the curriculum.  An angry mob storms the seat of our democracy attacking law enforcement professionals, an event that is later referred to as ‘legitimate political discourse’.

So much anger.

Where did all of this rage come from?  Is there a pathway back to civility?

Anger today is more prevalent and intense than I have ever seen in my lifetime.  Moreover, it has spread over the landscape like hot flowing lava reaching regions that were heretofore anger-free zones.  Violence on an airplane?  Really?  In years past, there was a time and a place for anger.  Here are a few examples when anger was understandable.

A coworker who is related to the boss gets the promotion that you deserved.

You are a rabid football fan.  Your team loses a Super Bowl opportunity because the referee makes a terrible call.

You discover that your business partner has been quietly but steadily stealing from you.

Your neighbor argues that your political views are neanderthal.

These examples make sense to us.  We can likely relate to them personally.  But now, no corner of society is spared from anger.  Indeed, it’s a national epidemic and there is no vaccine on the horizon.  (I’ve heard a rumor that ivermectin may soothe the savage beast but this has not been substantiated.)

Children Learn the Art of Finger-pointing at a Young Age

I suspect that there’s a psychological benefit that many angry people enjoy.  It is a method to avoid personal responsibility by claiming that others are responsible for some misfortune.  It is so much easier to cast blame elsewhere than to do the hard work of building and healing and self-improvement. 

It’s the politicians’ fault!

These immigrants are ruining the country!

It’s Fauci’s fault!

It’s the radical woke left’s fault!

It’s the radical right’s fault!

And, as we have all seen, it’s easy for politicians and others to exploit and validate this anger for political advancement.  Some might suggest that anger and grievance can even propel a candidate elected to the American presidency, although this notion seems too incredible to even contemplate.

Of course, sometimes anger is the appropriate emotion.  We have all been angry.  But just as often, angrily blaming others is really just a deflection of responsibility, even though it might feel good at the time.  At the very least, it’s an abdication of civility.

One process that anger reliably sabotages is dialogue.

How often have you heard a triad of remarks like these?  

It was my fault. 

I screwed up.  

I’ll try to be better next time.




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