Wendy McElroy, my favorite aggregator of news and opinion (find her site here) linked last week to Jonathan Turley’s article about rage rhetoric, which the author said has arisen from time to time in U.S. history, even as far back as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
It’s interesting that for all the bile those two men heaved at each other, they were friends who respected each other, to the point where Adams’ dying words are said to have been, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” not realizing that Jefferson had died five hours earlier. The raging rhetoric of the 1790s was forgiven, forgotten, or always understood to be just part of the game.
The best advice anyone can offer in times of rage rhetoric is not to get mad, because the politicians want you angry — for which “mad” is an apt synonym because anger is a short form of madness, which claws reason aside and replaces it with a blinding flame.
I have the same question about rage politics that I’ve always had about fear mongers, and I suspect the answer is similar. Why? Why do they want you to be afraid? Because they can offer you comfort and shelter in exchange for giving them more power, in exchange for your freedom. Why do they want you angry? Because you may do something foolish, like lash out, which would give them an excuse to exercise more power and take away your freedom altogether.
It’s crucial, then, when politicians are fanning the flames, to resist the urge to start raging, because an angry person, like a fearful person, is too easily manipulated.
“Refuse to Get Angry” is my mantra for these times, from the same arsenal where I found “Refuse to be Afraid.” Resist rage rhetoric, for the sake of your own peace of mind and for the sake of peace in general.