If someone wants to rail against, belittle or castigate a politician (which is usually the president these days) that’s his or her First Amendment right.  A burst of rage in the form of a few stinging sentences; a couple of passionate paragraphs or a little sarcasm is attention grabbing and perhaps even fun; after all it’s political discourse.  But to drone on and on and on or write paragraph upon paragraph maligning and vilifying is childish and obnoxious.

When reading such a diatribe (even here on the pages of the Vail Daily) I always ask myself, what prompts someone to attack like that?  Are they motivated by real anger or is it something else?  Filtering information through our biases can pique someone’s ire; e.g., the far right will never stop castigating Hillary.  And the extreme left will never accept anything the Trump administration does, in fact most of us have heard the comment that if Donald Trump found a cure for cancer he’d be pilloried for putting oncologists out of work, and while semi-facetious, the sad reality is, it’s true!

Perhaps a failure to fully comprehend an issue or some type of misinterpretation might be a reason for the childish harangues.  But when someone reaches a flawed conclusion whether through bias, erroneous premises or impaired logic, it speaks only to distorted reality, not the individual’s motivation.  So once again, I am compelled to ask even if only rhetorically, what is the emotion is behind these diatribes?

Perhaps the mean-spirited tone really does come from a deep-seated anger.  But “true anger” doesn’t look like that.  Noted American author and psychologist, Dr. Richard Picho opines that anger is a natural human feeling everyone experiences and an emotion that needs to be expressed to maintain psychological health.  Anger is the feeling that says ‘No’ to opposition, injury, or injustice. It is a signal that something I value is in jeopardy.

He explains how strongly expressed anger is called rage, strongly held anger is called hate and unexpressed anger is called resentment; but none of these forms of anger would necessarily lead to the self-righteous commentary we so often hear …but drama does!

By drama I mean ego-centered histrionics with an attached storyline.  And as Dr. Picho notes, many people never display real anger, only drama.  And this behavior may also be true regarding politics.  So how does one go about distinguishing true anger from drama in the political milieu?

Drama is meant to silence the other; true anger is meant to communicate.  Drama insists the other person see how justified he or she is; true anger needs no response.  Drama is based on indignation; anger is based on displeasure.  Drama occludes other feelings; anger coexists with other feelings.

Holding onto anger is impossible – anger is ephemeral and cannot be held onto because once fully expressed, relief and letting go follow automatically.  What is held onto is not anger but a set of storylines to keep the drama ignited.

People who rail and rant attack instead of reason; they criticize when they should critique.  Drama lambastes, it’s accusatory with hackneyed assumptions such as “his ego won’t allow him to…” and almost always contain specious equivalencies, moral or otherwise.  Drama commentary is almost always nuanced to justify its own point of view.  But most of all, drama commentary is unyielding and does little to embrace reasoned discourse.

Complex issues whether local (Eagle County school re-openings, employee housing) or international (climate change, tariffs) require coherent debate.  But before that can take place, people must be intellectually honest enough to admit to themselves when they are motivated by a desire for the truth or are simply using theatrical rhetoric to prove themselves right.

Unfortunately intellectual honesty does not occur when a person is overly absorbed in his or her own drama.

Quote of the day: “Fear is blocked excitement; anger is ignited excitement; guilt is mistaken excitement.”—Dr. David Richo

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