We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.
Arthur C Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt
Why are we so angry?
We are angry because we are constantly being reminded of all the slights, insults, and lack of fairness aimed at us.
Many times, we are completely unaware of these offenses until someone on social media or cable news reports them and tells us why we should be outraged.
It may seem that they are doing us a favor.
But this information doesn’t improve our lives. It makes them more stressful.
The more outraged we become, the more easily we can be manipulated.
When we were children, the Saturday morning TV commercials were the source of the manipulation.
We had to have the latest toys and eat the coolest cereal.
Some marketing genius decided to put the toys in the cereal, and we were toast (so to speak).
Nowadays, it’s the parts between the commercials that are the most manipulative.
Who benefits from our anger?
Cable news outlets, political party leaders, political candidates, traditional media, and trolls on Twitter all become more powerful as we become angrier.
But anger is not enough.
Today’s toy in the cereal box move is to leverage the anger to generate contempt.
Contempt is ridicule, disgust, and superiority.
We are better than “those people.”
They are not just mistaken. They are not just intellectually challenged. They are evil.
Their very existence “threatens democracy.”
As the contempt grows, we become more and more divided.
And the manipulators become more and more powerful.
They don’t care if they destroy our culture. Some are openly trying to destroy it.
So how do we fight back?
The only thing that is more powerful than contempt is love.
The people who vote differently than we do are not our enemies.
They are being manipulated just like we are.
We need to treat them with dignity and respect.
We don’t need to sacrifice our values.
When we allow ourselves to be manipulated through anger and contempt, we act in ways that are inconsistent with our values.
If we made the effort to connect with those on “the other side,” we’d find that they have many of the same concerns that we do.
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