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Understanding political anger

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   21 comments

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If you're a psychotherapist, I know how you can make big bucks: specialize in political anger management. Hold workshops, seminars and group therapy for people angry about politics. Do research on political anger. Interview people.

Ask questions like: How often are you angry about politics? Do you lose sleep about politics? Have you taken drugs to soothe your political nerves? Have you quarreled with with neighbors, friends, coworkers, or relatives about politics? How many hours a day do you spend reading political blogs and news stories? Has political anger ruined your serenity? Has political anger polluted your spiritual life?

Anger, like religion, used to be a private matter. People used to handle their anger and their religious faith privately. Nowadays, faith and anger are front and center in politics. It's as if personal psychological issues are being played out on the world stage.

For many people, political activism is their life, or their main hobby. This is true for both progressives and conservatives. Such activism necessitates a pretty extreme commitment to the cause, which implies anger at the opponents.

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Until recently, only political junkies spent time on politics. Nowadays, tens of millions of Americans are active in politics.

Not that they necessarily have a positive influence.

Of course, there have always been war, mismanagement, corruption, injustice, and discontent, and so people have always been angry. But the anger nowadays seems more extreme. People are angry at more things: government, political parties, the media, abortion, gays, economic inequality, injustice, torture, war, and corporations. See this article. People are just angrier, and the nation is more divided -- between progressives and conservatives, between secular people and religious people, and between the haves and the have-nots.

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Many progressives suffered crushing emotional damage when Gore lost in 2000, when Kerry lost in 2004, when Congress voted to fund Bush's Iraq escalation in 2007, when Congress failed to hold Bush and others accountable in 2008, when Obama disappointed their high expectations of him, and when the House voted to defund abortion in the recent health care bill.

I suppose many conservatives rent their hair in despair when Obama won the 2008 election.

I suppose, too, that the increase in anger is to be expected, given that things haven't been going well in America lately. The nation is in decline, mostly due to the extreme mismanagement, corruption, and stupidity of the Bush Administration and its supporters in Congress and the media. I'm tempted to add "cruelty" or "evilness" to the list of characteristics in the previous sentence, but it's possible that those responsible for the mess sincerely thought they were doing the right thing. That's a subject of another essay.

The scary thing is that, having wrecked nearly everything, Republicans may get away with laying the blame on President Obama and the Democrats, who, you gotta admit, haven't done a good job at holding the Republicans accountable or at changing the way things are done. The Dems seem to be bending over backwards to help the GOP. :)

Well, one alternative to anger is depression and withdrawal, or apathy. Maybe there are even more people following that route than those that follow the anger route, but you just don't hear about the depressed, withdrawn people.

Bad as things are in the US, you have to admit that in many countries overseas, things are even worse: war, corruption, extreme poverty, inflation, and injustice. Maybe people have no right to be angry. I mean: other than possibly motivating constructive activism, anger seems pretty destructive. People who are angry probably believe that they are entitled to the world treating them fairly. Is that a reasonable expectation? Shouldn't we rather be shocked when humans treat other humans well?

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Angry people are unpleasant to be around, and so I bet there are many friendless political activists -- both on the Left and the Right.

On the other hand, angry people like being with other like-minded angry people, so they can kvetch together about what angers them. Sometimes I think that the main function of blogs like OpEdNews is to be a venting place for peoples' anger.

It's a truism of pop psychology that people who have excessive anger tend to project their own problems onto others. They blame others when they should learn to take responsibility for their own happiness. In other words, often anger is misdirected. It's a defense mechanism. It's unspiritual, maybe. Can you meditate (or pray) when you're filled with anger?

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my writing, my (more...)

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