Donald the Anger Enhancer



Let’s look at your anger first, because it has been very revealing to us.

Paula showed us this, from Shawn Coyne, which caught our attention…


Once we can no longer bullshit ourselves about our circumstances, we get ANGRY. We blame others or the gods for what has stricken us, lash out, usually making our circumstances even worse.

Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

And the anger is another indication of how America is changing…


I’ve never in my adult life seen so many people so angry about things they cannot control.

Charity in an Angry Time, By David French, National Review, November 25, 2017

And that helped us to begin to see how you have experienced that anger in America’s unfolding drama.


He Puts Your Rage on Stage

Donald Trump is fuel on your anger fire, proudly intensifying and increasing the rage.

Look what he said in an interview before his selection as the Republican candidate…


BW: In the Republican Party, I mean . . . there is a lot of angst and rage and distress.

DT: A lot. Record-setting.

BW: Record-setting.

DT: I bring…

BW: And you have to tame that rage, don’t you?

DT: Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I’m not saying that’s an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out.

BW: You bring what out?

DT: I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I think it was . . .  . I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do. I also bring great unity out, ultimately.

Transcript: Donald Trump interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Washington Post, April 2, 2016

He brings out the rage, he boasts. Not exactly what’s needed in the traffic jam of hateful, violent political rhetoric in your country, which has gone on for some time now.


When you traffic for decades in hateful, violent political rhetoric, you have lost the moral authority to effectively condemn others for doing so. Indeed, Democrats arguably bear much of the blame for creating Trump. One of the reasons voters rallied behind Trump is precisely because, after years of seeing their standard-bearers act like punching bags, Trump presented himself as a counterpuncher who isn’t afraid to fight back and gives as good as he gets. The results are ugly. Trump is wrong to call the media the “enemy of the people” and to celebrate a congressman body-slamming a reporter, and the host of other terrible things he has said. But Democrats were dragging us into the political gutter long before Trump came along. If they think Americans elected a Frankenstein’s monster, they are Dr. Frankenstein.

Our descent into vitriol began long before Trump — and Democrats are culpable too, By Marc Thiessen, Washington Post, October 30, 2018

I guess there’s gutters on both sides of that street. But, consider how all that fits with this warning…


You cannot create a free society on the basis of hate. Resentment, rage, humiliation, a sense of victimhood and injustice, the desire to restore honour by inflicting injury on your former persecutors sentiments communicated in our time by an endless stream of videos of beheadings and mass murders are conditions of a profound lack of freedom. What Moses taught his people was this: you must live with the past, but not in the past. Those who are held captive by anger against their former persecutors are captive still. Those who let their enemies define who they are have not yet achieved liberty. 

I learned this from Holocaust survivors. I came to know them when I became a rabbi, and they became one of the great inspirations of my life. At first it was difficult to understand how they survived at all, how they lived with their memories, knowing what they knew and having seen what they saw. Many of them had lost their entire families. The world in which they grew up was gone. They had to begin again as strangers in a strange land. 

Yet they were, and are, some of the most life-affirming people I have ever met. What struck me most was that they lived without resentment. They did not seek revenge. They did not hate. They cared, more than anyone else I knew, when other people were being massacred in Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Sudan. They let their pain sensitise them to the pain of others. In later life they began to tell their stories, especially to young people. They used to visit schools. Sometimes I went with them. They spoke about what had happened, and how they survived. But their fundamental message was not about the past at all. What they wanted young people to know was how precious freedom is, and how fragile; what a miracle it is that there is food to eat, windows you can open, gates you can walk out of, a future to look forward to. They spoke about tolerance and how important it is to care for the people who are different from you. Never take freedom for granted that was their message. Work for it, fight for it, stand up especially for minorities, and never give way to hate even when others do.

Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence

So, if Christianity is the story we are in, and your God is the Great Storyteller, what if Donald Trump was chosen to play a role which in putting the Christians on stage?

We wonder, because it’s sure creating a flashy clash, a real attention getter. Look at this…


When planning your story, it is important to remember that small clashes result in stories that seem relatively trivial. Larger clashes resonate for the reader. Ask yourself these questions: Does the conflict you are working on lead to profound unhappiness, injury, or death? Or is the conflict over an object that is exceedingly valuable to the main character? Is the conflict over an important life decision – to move far away, to change one’s career, to leave for another partner, to follow a hazardous opportunity, to avoid intolerable circumstances?

Ask yourself, will the clash between your protagonist and your antagonist seem inevitable to the reader? Have you avoided coincidence as the cause of their clash? Will the clash take place in a highly visible environment so that the reader will see the action?

Sol Stein, Stein On Writing

And keep in mind how Donald sees his life…


You’ve heard the phrase, “Life is a performance,” and it’s true. No matter what field you’re in, large parts of life and business involve acting. Acting encompasses people skills, negotiation skills, public relations, salesmanship, and the ability to read your audience, whether your audience consists of four people in your office, or 40,000 watching you television show.

….

If you take the time to think about what your audience wants, and what you have in common with them, you can create a bond that didn’t exist before. It also frees you from being nervous and allows you to focus better. Think of yourself as a performer, with a responsibility to your audience (who may also be your customers). Showmanship means being prepared for every performance, and the more prepared you are, the more effective you will be. Learn, know, and show: it’s a proven formula.

Donald Trump, Trump University Wealth Building 101: Your First 90 Days on the Path to Prosperity

Where Your Anger May Take You

We’re very curious. Have you given much thought to where else your anger could take you – and your country?

Remember what McKee wrote…


Story gives you foresight to see the consequences of future events long before they happen. A leader prepares for change no matter how illogical its cause. In fact, sensitivity to irrational change is quintessentially rational … if you wish to lead. 

WHITE PAPER STORY-IN-BUSINESS: Why Story Works, Overcoming Negaphobia, and Authoring the Future, BY ROBERT MCKEE

So, you may want to look ahead, because it looks like the anger is going to keep increasing…


Do you find yourself getting ticked off more often than you used to?

If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.

Some 84% of people surveyed said Americans are angrier today compared with a generation ago, according to the latest NPR-IBM Watson Health poll.

When asked about their own feelings, 42% of those polled said they were angrier in the past year than they had been further back in time.

Poll: Americans Say We’re Angrier Than A Generation Ago, By Scott Hensley, NPR, June 26, 2019

And look where your increasing anger may take your story…


A loss of adequate income and social stagnation causes more than financial distress. It severs, as the sociologist Emile Durkheim pointed out in The Division of Labour in Society, the vital social bonds that give us meaning. A decline in status and power, an inability to advance, a lack of education and health care, and a loss of hope are crippling forms of humiliation. This humiliation fuels loneliness, frustration, anger, and feelings of worthlessness. In short, when you are marginalized and rejected by society, life often has little meaning. There arises a yearning among the disempowered to become as omnipotent as the gods. The impossibility of omnipotence leads, as the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death, to its dark alternative – destroying like the gods

Chris Hedges, The American Farewell Tour

Beefy Nihilism makes sense in that world. And the temptation to destroy is real and dangerous for your country.

But, can your anger be dangerous too? Can that tricky anger lead you in a dangerous direction?


America has a more serious, long-term problem coming down the pike than one bad election: the people have lost confidence in the government, but they want the government to do more.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it represents a slow-motion crisis for the country. Public trust in the government has languished at historic lows for years. A poll last year found only 19 percent of Americans were willing to say they trust the federal government to do what’s right. Other polls show that only a quarter of the country thinks America is on the “right track,” 17 percent approve of Congress, and more than 80 percent are angry or frustrated with the government.

America’s Dangerous Crisis Of Confidence, By John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist, MAY 18, 2016

More than 80% are angry? A fair number of you Christians are in that group, right?

One thing we understand has sparked your anger has been how you were being treated by your opponents. But, both sides are angry.


Nearly half of Republicans regard Democrats as more “immoral,” “lazy” and “dishonest” than other Americans; seven in 10 Democrats view Republicans as “more closed-minded.”

And altogether, about half of respondents in a new poll said the other side makes them “angry” or “afraid.”

While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton suffer from unfavorable images that are worse – in Trump’s case, much worse – than previous presidential hopefuls, it’s not simply because of their own words and deeds. Their unpopularity exists in a political environment increasingly defined by voters’ negative views of the other side.

The extent of the negativity is central to a detailed survey of the electorate from the Pew Research Center, which found that anger and fear of the opposing political party increasingly drive how American voters think about politics.

Indeed, the survey found, negative perceptions about the other side have emerged as a key motivator for voters, often outranking even how much they believe in what their own party stands for.

This is not politics as usual. Although partisans have long harbored some dislike of the opposition, voters’ views of the other party are now more negative than at any time in the nearly quarter of a century Pew has asked about them, the new study found.

Immoral, lazy, closed-minded: How Democrats and Republicans feel about each other, by David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2016


Wow, that anger stuff sure leads to division, doesn’t it?

Take into consideration this haunting reminder of a time not so long ago in America’s story…


Thus did Southern bullying pave the road to civil war. Rage begat rage, and Northern noncombatants became fighting men, making cross-sectional discourse ever more difficult. As one Northerner put it, given the ongoing Southern “threats and menaces” in Congress, cooperating with Southerners “would destroy their position at home” by suggesting that they had voted “under the influence of these belligerent taunts.” Anger, entitlement, manhood, and politics: This potent brew shaped the nation’s sectional crisis.

Now it is shaping our current crisis. Emotions are rising every day, with social media leading the way. Within the past few weeks alone, Rand Paul voiced concern that someone will get killed, and Jerry Falwell Jr. took to Twitter to urge the election of fighting men to beat “the liberal fascists Dems.” “Conservatives & Christians need to stop electing ‘nice guys,’” he tweeted on September 28. “They might make great Christian leaders, but the US needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government … & many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!” The echo of the 1850s is deafening; the implications are alarming. Politics is becoming war by other means.

Such is the impact of a politics of anger. For a time, it attracts followers and cements loyalties, breeding a spiraling mass of dangerous passions, inspiring some Americans to cast their opponents as a dangerous “other,” dividing the nation, and linking manhood with authority in rhetoric as well as fact.

America Descends Into the Politics of Rage, By Joanne Freeman, The Atlantic, October 22, 2018

The politics of anger — and there is Jerry Fallwell, Jr. – whom our team is so grateful to!

But, anger can be a dangerous and tricky thing. Will you consider that your anger may have blinded your vision?

There’s plenty of examples of what angry extremism has done in your past…


Americans tend to forget the angry, bitter, and even violent extremism on both sides of the political spectrum from roughly 1880 through the start of World War II. We forget the politically-motivated assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Anarchists targeted leading political and business figures with numerous mail bombs in 1919.

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Extremism during this period was certainly not limited to the left. During the 1920s, membership in the Ku Klux Klan peaked at somewhere between 4 to 6 million members—a significant percentage of the eligible population of the time. During this period the Klan not only advocated white supremacy, but was anti-Catholic, pro-Prohibition (part of its anti-Catholicism), anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant. During this time the Klan’s violence targeted political outsiders, as opposed to the political and business leaders the anarchists targeted. Moreover, the Klan’s violence was concentrated particularly in the South in support of Jim Crow oppression of blacks, with some violence aimed against bootleggers.

American Polarization and Extremism Are Just a Return to Normalcy, by JAMES R. ROGER, Law and Liberty, JANUARY 18, 2019

Here’s another trick anger can play. Check out this Jeroboam character from your scriptures, who your God used to play a key role in breaking up Israel–he reveals some of the danger of passionate anger…


Jeroboam stands forever as a caution against the danger of becoming passionately angry about a rightly perceived evil, yet blinded by that passion to such an extent that all measures taken against it seem right. When this happens there is almost inevitably a failure, ironically, to distinguish between right and wrong.

J. G. McConville, Chronicles

Look at that — a failure to distinguish between right and wrong.

What might that mean when it comes to how you view others on the other side of your great divide?…


Othering

Here, the barren and inhospitable new civic space is dominated along looming, fortified lines. Warring identities have concluded that the only solution is the complete submission of the enemy party, and both sides are beginning to prepare for an ultimate showdown. Othering is a transforming process, through which former kin are reimagined as evil, an American inner-enemy, who once defeated must be punished. The most familiar metaphor of American othering was the 1770s practice of tarring and feathering. This less-than-lethal mob punishment corresponds—in shaming power and severity—to mob vengeance pervasive today on social media outlets such as Twitter.

Hence, to work fully as othering, the process must be public, result in the shame of the transgressor, and show that true virtue is in command. More than anything, othering is a ceremonial act designed to bring shame not just on the single person being tarred and feathered, but the entire community to which he belongs. The political object of #MeToo is not the numerically bounded set of guilty men, but rather the entire population set of all men. The political object of Black Lives Matter is not racists, but rather all white people. The political object of the LGBT movement is not homophobes, but rather the whole of straight cisgender society whose reality compass they seek to transform.

The targeted other, equally seized by virtue, operates today from an angry defensive crouch.

Were Americans Made for Civil War? by Michael Vlahos, The Imaginative Conservative, November 9, 2018

An angry defensive crouch? That sounds like fighting words to us. If Christianity is the story we are in, is that the posture God wants you to have toward your neighbor? Are you viewing them the way God wants you to view them?

And if anger can skew your vision like this, could it have influenced who you embrace as leaders?

Paula found another haunting quote about some Christians during the rise of Nazism…


We need to abandon the post-Cold War myth that liberalism must be the natural end point of human evolution because it triumphed over communism. Five thousand years of recorded history suggest that it isn’t. And this is not because dictators prevent their people from choosing liberalism and self-government, which they would if only given a chance. Our belief that peoples at all times share a desire for freedom, and that this universal desire supersedes all others, is an incomplete description of human experience. People also seek order and security and may welcome a strong leader who can provide those things, even if he does not allow them the full panoply of rights and freedoms. In troubled times, and not only in troubled times, people seek outlets for anger and resentment, for fear and hatred of the “other” in their midst. Those who have suffered defeat and humiliation, such as Germans after World War I or Russians after the Cold War, often find that democracy offers insufficient solace and insufficient promise of revenge and justice, and they look to a strong leader to provide those things, too. They tire of the incessant arguing over national budgets and other trifles while the larger needs of the nation, including the spiritual and emotional needs, go unaddressed. We would like to believe that, at the end of the day, the desire for freedom trumps these other human impulses. But there is no end of the day, and there are no final triumphs. Human existence is a constant battle among competing impulses-between self-love and the love of others, between the noble and the base, between the desire for freedom and the desire for order and security-and because those struggles never end, the fate of liberalism and democracy in the world is never settled. It is an illusion to believe that the present democratic age is eternal rather than transient, or that it can survive without constant tending and constant defense. 

Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back

That tricky anger. It flows from humiliation, which you certainly have experienced from your enemies on the left. Did this make you open to a strong man like Trump?

But it gets even trickier. Have you considered that your anger could make your nation vulnerable?


If you’ve spent as much time talking to inmates over the years as I have, you know that there is that seed of anger and resentment that would take very little to exploit.

Charles Colson, My Final Word

Some who feed off of the fears and anger that are felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desire for fame or attention. That could drive America down into a ditch, not make us great again. 

John Kasich, Two Paths

We need a new political poet who can weave a story that vibrates energetically with the experiences of most Americans, that explains our current problems, and that is relentlessly sunny.  Americans usually require that their myths express a basic optimism.  If our newest version of the American myth is more angry than hopeful then we risk the worst dangers of democracy—populism and demagoguery.

A New American Myth, by TED MCALLISTER, Law and Liberty, NOVEMBER 8, 2012

We’re also curious about whether you have thought much about how anger may eventually explode as your abortion conflict intensifies?


I have been thinking, like so many people this week, about rage. Who I’m mad at, what that anger’s good for, how what makes me maddest is the way the madness has long gone unrespected, even by those who have relied on it for their gains.

For as long as I have been a cogent adult, and actually before that, I have watched people devote their lives, their furious energies, to fighting against the steady, merciless, punitive erosion of reproductive rights. And I have watched as politicians — not just on the right, but members of my own party — and the writers and pundits who cover them, treat reproductive rights and justice advocates as if they were fantasists enacting dystopian fiction.

This week, the most aggressive abortion bans since Roe v. Wade swept through states, explicitly designed to challenge and ultimately reverse Roe at the Supreme Court level. With them has come the dawning of a broad realization — a clear, bright, detailed vision of what’s at stake, and what’s ahead.

Our Fury Over Abortion Was Dismissed for Decades As Hysterical, By Rebecca Traister, The Cut, May 18, 2019

But, how easily can that go awry, even in a democracy?


Such is the dynamic of politics in the time of Trump. The politics of outrage is fast becoming a political norm, each flare-up lowering the bar of acceptable rhetoric and producing an upswing in belligerent posturing.

But Trump didn’t invent this emotion-laden mode of political warfare. He’s certainly promoting it to an extreme degree, but it has a long and storied history that predates even that notorious poisoner of the political realm, Newt Gingrich. As tempting as it may be to assume that American politics has been an oasis of civility until the semi-recent past, at moments of intense polarization and strife throughout our nation’s checkered history, politicians have appealed to our lowest common denominator, using the power of anger and intimidation to spread their message and get their way.

We often link such outrage with protest, but in truth, political power holders have long used anger, fear, and intimidation to preserve the status quo, bullying their opponents into compliance or silence, and frightening the public into surrendering rights for the sake of security—though with mixed results.

America Descends Into the Politics of Rage, By Joanne Freeman, The Atlantic, October 22, 2018

So, your leaders use anger to manipulate. But what about the anger of the common man in politics?


It is just such an air of extremeness on the field now, and it reflects a larger sense of societal alienation. We have the fierce teamism of the lonely, who find fellowship in their online fighting group and will say anything for its approval. There are the angry who find relief in politics because they can funnel their rage there, into that external thing, instead of examining closer and more uncomfortable causes. There are the people who cannot consider God and religion and have to put that energy somewhere.

America isn’t making fewer of the lonely, angry and unaffiliated, it’s making more every day.


The Two Americas Have Grown Much Fiercer, By Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2019

Where Trump May Take the Anger

We are wondering how this may unfold…


The president vaulted to political prominence by promoting the racist and false conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States, launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and routinely describes his enemies, including the intended recipients of the pipe bombs, as “evil,” ″dangerous,” ″the enemy of the American people.”

“That let loose a period of incivility, which is too mild a word; it’s potentially explosive anger that can turn into violence,” says Bob Shrum, a former Democratic strategist who last month started the Center for the Political Future, a program at the University of Southern California designed to restore sanity and bipartisanship in politics.

He’s watched with frustration as some liberal politicians respond to Trump’s presidency by imitating his divisive style. He describes it as a “cold civil war,” where people consider those who disagree with them bad, un-American — their enemy.

“Is there a tipping point? I don’t know,” he says. “I do believe we’re in a dangerous moment, unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’m 75 years old.”

There is little evidence the tide will turn soon.

Americans crave unity amid violence, anger, By CLAIRE GALOFARO and MARGERY A. BECK, Associated Press, October 28, 2018

Is there a tipping point? If there is, what if Trump is like a match to a gas burner already on?


Animosity between parties has been growing for decades now, to the point that studies show Republicans and Democrats don’t want to date one another, don’t want their children to marry one another and don’t want to live in the same neighborhoods at a rate unprecedented in modern America. At the same time, politicians began using increasingly apocalyptic language. Willer says those two forces — the splintering of society along party lines and the ascent of vitriolic campaigning — merged to create a breeding ground for violence.

“It was simmering,” says Parker. “It’s like the gas burner was on, then Trump lit the fire.”

The president vaulted to political prominence by promoting the racist and false conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States, launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and routinely describes his enemies, including the intended recipients of the pipe bombs, as “evil,” ″dangerous,” ″the enemy of the American people.”

“That let loose a period of incivility, which is too mild a word; it’s potentially explosive anger that can turn into violence,” says Bob Shrum, a former Democratic strategist who last month started the Center for the Political Future, a program at the University of Southern California designed to restore sanity and bipartisanship in politics.

Americans crave unity amid violence, anger, By CLAIRE GALOFARO and MARGERY A. BECK, Associated Press, October 28, 2018

The Decision

Othering’s most decisive effect is to condition the whole of society to believe that an existential clash is coming, that all must choose, and that there are no realistic alternatives to a final test of wills. Remember, in past times, Jacobins on both sides were small minorities. Yet for either one of these two angry visions to win, there must be a showdown. This demands, perversely, that they work together to bring on open conflict, successfully coercing the majority of Americans to buy into its inevitability. At that point, only a trigger pull is needed.

This was what the Boston Massacre did to push colonials against Britain in 1770, and this is what John Brown’s Pottawatomie Massacre and Congressman Preston Brooks’s caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor did to push people toward civil war in 1856. This is what the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the nearly two-year effort to delegitimize and overthrow President Donald Trump may doing today: getting the two halves of the former nation to pull that trigger.

Were Americans Made for Civil War? by Michael Vlahos, The Imaginative Conservative, November 9, 2018

A match? A trigger? Does this fit with the kind of leader your God would have you choose?


Certainly, some will say God has raised up Trump not to bless America, but to judge her. But if God has raised him up for certain divine purposes, it behooves us to ask what those purposes are.

….

I believe Trump has been elected president by divine intervention.

I’m aware, of course, that some people believe that everything happens by the will of God, which means that whoever wins the presidency wins by God’s express will.

Yet there are times when there are so many odds against something happening, when it so greatly defies logic, that it is easier to recognize God’s involvement.

….

But here is the major caveat, even if all (or most of these things) are true: If Trump, indeed, is a divine wrecking ball, then he could do as much as harm as good, and to the extent that he is appealing to the fears and frustrations and anger of a nation, he is channeling some potentially dangerous emotions.

….

In short, if Trump indeed is president by divine intervention, we should pray for divine restraint on his life as well, lest this divine wrecking ball wreak havoc on the nation while tearing down what is wrong. May he be a divinely guided wrecking ball!

Donald Trump – president-elect by the sovereign intervention of God, By Dr. Michael Brown, OneNewsNow, November 9, 2016

So, do we dare connect these dots? Is the Donald tapping into your rage? Was Trump chosen to put your rage on stage?

As you line up behind Trump, snarling and snapping, ask yourself: is Trump channeling these dangerous emotions? And when the curtain opens, is your rage what your God sees on stage?

Because Paula showed us this, from your book of Ephesians…


Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Ephesians 4:25-31