There was also a large undercurrent of fear as well, and there are two ways to deal with that kind of anger and fear:
“I need to have power over others so they can’t do anything to anger or frighten me”
“I need to help others so they won’t give me cause to be angry or fearful”
Sadly, in this last election more people who voted chose the former over the latter.
It is difficult to reason with someone who is angry, frustrated, and afraid – they don’t generally react with thought but instead with emotion. And since emotion is close buddies with our “fight or flight” response, someone who reacts with their emotions will have essentially just two responses: fight or flight. They will act (or in this case, vote) in a way that gives them power to “fight” (i.e., punish or control) whatever frightens and angers them – or they will choose “flight,” which means either running away (or ignoring) or pushing away what angers and frightens them.
This all might seem quite reasonable until you remember that what angers and frightens these people is… other people. Groups of people who are different, who look different or act different or think different. And this means that the emotions of these angry and frustrated and fearful people made them choose a course of action that will punish, control, and push away people just because they are different.
Anger, fear, and politics are a terrible combination. It is all to easy to rationalize terrible behavior and poor decisions when you’re angry and afraid.
“I had to shoot that person; he was coming right for me!”
“We have to get rid of all people like them, they could all be murderers!”
“I’m the one who needs a job, not you!”
Rationalizations like this are bad enough at the personal level, but when they get translated into policy or enshrined in law, it becomes much, much worse. An individual can move past their fear and re-think their decisions and change their behavior fairly easily and quickly, but changing public policy and law can take ages – if it ever happens at all.
It’s often been said you shouldn’t make important decisions when you’re angry, and electing a president is one of the most important decisions a country can make – yet we seem to have made this decision quite rashly and while decidedly angry. That this will turn out to have been a terrible mistake seems a foregone conclusion.
All we can do now is try to calm down now that the election is over and put aside the anger & fear we felt and consider our situation carefully. We can still the frustrated fervor that has infected our politics from top to bottom and approach our problems with reason and compassion. It will take effort, certainly, but we cannot sustain this level of anger and fear forever.
The sooner we do this, the better – and the less of an impact this hasty mistake will have on ourselves, our country, our world, and all those future generations that will follow us and judge our actions.