It seems as though I’m seeing stronger and stronger expressions of political anger lately. If you read that and thought, “Well, of course we’re angry. The other side is so unreasonable,” this is for you.
The people you’re angry with are just as convinced they’re right as you’re convinced that you’re right. “But they’re dishonest,” you say. “They must know that they’re wrong. They have other motives.”
I’m here to disagree with you about that. There are a very few people who get into politics purely as charlatans, but very few. Mostly, they got into it because they were attracted to the political process (and the power involved in it) and they believed that the political position they took was obviously the right one.
The vast majority of liberal progressive Democrats sincerely believe that conservative Republicans are selfish, greedy racists. The vast majority of socially conservative Republicans honestly believe that liberal Democrats are immoral, evil idiots. Various other groups have similarly distorted views about people they oppose. The truth is that almost everybody honestly believes he’s right. The problem is that we have a system that allows only one group to get its way.
I used to get very angry in political discussions. For that matter, I used to get very angry and bent out of shape about a lot of stupid disagreements. I took policy disagreements as personal rejection of some sort. I’m embarrassed at how strongly I felt that way. I’m also embarrassed about some of the ways I’ve acted in online arguments — even when I was right — when it would have been so much more mature (and less time-consuming) to simply disagree and walk away.
For me, that was a character flaw based on a deep fear of rejection, but other people have different reasons for their own extreme anger. A lot of people are frustrated because they don’t know what to do. A lot of other people are scared by change they see going on (and the discomfort makes them angry). As the country’s demographics naturally change — as they always do — we’re going to see more anger from these sort of people, because massive change is coming, no matter who decides what happens in the future.
You need to ask yourself what your goal is. Why are you involved in politics or writing or agitation or whatever it is you’re doing to express your anger? Is your goal to express your anger and make sure that others know why you’re angry? Or is it your goal to find solutions to get what you want?
If you’re just blowing off steam, I have a suggestion. I realize most people won’t take it. (I probably wouldn’t have been either until my psychological epiphany about the source of my anger a couple of years ago.) I’m going to suggest that you’re hurting yourself — not your opponents — with your rage. Further, I’m going to suggest that you aren’t accomplishing anything that will help get you closer to where you want to be.
In the sermon I heard Sunday night from Dr. David Platt at the Church at Brook Hills, he asked how many of us were praying for our political enemies. “It’s hard to hate someone who you’re praying for,” he said, paraphrased as best I can without the audio recording.
Whether you care about loving your enemies or not, the expressions of anger we see around us aren’t doing any good. They’re simply adding more powder to an increasingly dangerous pile of explosive material. It’s going to be ugly if the fuse is ever lit on that powder — and nobody wins that kind of fight.
The problem isn’t the people we disagree with. The problem is a system that requires us to fight against everybody for supreme power. Reject the notion that we have to fight. Accept the notion that there are solutions outside the current political system. Accept the idea that you’re going to be happier to find a solution that will work for you and your children and future generations. The “call to anger” that you’re putting out to everybody is only making you bitter and raising your blood pressure.
Our opponents aren’t generally evil. They’re just wrong. We need to work toward solutions that can get what we all think we want — even though I think a lot of groups will be unhappy with what they claim they want.