Tuesday, March 15, 2016

All the Angry People

"Beauty in the Wilderness"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

I watched a TV news report about the recent violence that erupted at a Donald Trump rally as Trump supporters clashed with anti-Trump protesters. The thing that struck me most about that confrontation was how angry everyone seemed to be- the look of rage and the intensity of the insults people hurled against one another made it seem as if everyone had gone insane.

The news report yesterday featured some interviews with several Trump supporters who were at the rally and they were asked why they pledge such unfailing allegiance to Mr. Trump -  for each person interviewed, the answer was always the same: “I support him because I am so very angry.” Interestingly enough, the people who were interviewed had a hard time expressing precisely what they were angry about, but they knew they were angry - angry about the economy, angry at the government, angry at the current president.  They were just plain angry, in fact they were very angry, and in their minds somehow Donald Trump was going to be able to do something to make it all better.

As I listened to those interviews with all those angry people I was struck by a flash of insight.  

First of all I was reminded of the self-destructive nature of anger in general. The Buddha taught:

Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal
with the intent of throwing it at someone
You are the one who gets burned.

You will not be punished for your anger,
you will be punished by your anger.

The tortured faces of all those angry people at that rally made me realize that these were folks who were “grasping a hot coal.”

The other thing about anger is that it is an emotion that “masks” deeper feelings - fear always lies beneath anger.  I saw this interesting little quote posted by one of my friends on Facebook:

Anger is the emotion we snatch up to avoid less comfortable feelings –
fear, confusion, sadness.

I think it’s probably true that there are a lot of very angry people in this nation and this culture nowadays, but what I really think is happening is that many of us are afraid and confused and perhaps sad.

People are afraid of terrorist attacks in the homeland, afraid the bottom will drop out of a failing economy, afraid that they will never be able to realize the “Great American Dream,” unable to advance up the ladder of success. Many people are confused about so many rapid changes in their world that seemed to be so orderly only a few decades ago, maybe they are sad about the loss of what used to be, and perhaps this is why they pledge their allegiance to someone who assures them he will “make America great again.”

There are a lot of angry people, very angry people; but they aren’t really angry, they are just afraid, really afraid.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell once observed:

Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation
can be trusted to act humanely or think sanely
when under the influence of great fear.

I turn on the news and at times it looks as if people may have gone insane - maybe that’s because there is so much fear.

Fear is the great destroyer, fear eats away at the the spirit and causes us to lose all hope. That’s why the scriptures of all the great world wisdom traditions always tell us tell not to be afraid - and the only antidote for fear is “Love.”

Dr. King once said:

Hatred cannot drive out hate,
only love can do that

We need to pay attention to the wise words now more than ever before- the future of the nation and the future of the planet may depend on it.

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