When one side can’t argue with facts, it’s easy to find oneself getting angry

By Rich Heiland, Columnist, The Times

Am I angry? Well, I guess I am but more than that, I am concerned at the inability of those who want to deny history, science and the rights of others to really participate in a discussion about what they believe

For the far-right, it seems name-calling and hurling emojis has replaced explaining your positions, or why you disagree with someone.

I have had more than one person tell me lately that some of my blog posts have seemed overly angry, and thus hard to read.

I don’t disagree with that, though as I go through most days, I don’t feel anger at all. When I look at the political and cultural tapestry the far-right in our country seeks to create, I do feel anger. But more than, maybe I feel frustration and a sense of loss.

I got curious about just what anger is, so rather than just going with a dictionary definition I decided to look at what mental health experts say about anger. I looked at several sources and this one neatly sums them all up:

“One can often resentment or anger as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. It’s important to note that anger can be a normal, universal human emotion. There may be many instances and events in life that can cause someone to become angry. Typically, anger arises when someone feels threatened, disturbed, or otherwise interrupted from a peaceful emotional state. Anger can also be combined with other emotions, such as jealousy, sadness, or hopelessness. Long-term or unmanaged anger can lead to negative effects on your life, but it may be possible to manage anger through methods like deep breathing, lifestyle changes, and therapy. If you’re experiencing challenges managing your anger, you may wish to try online therapy to get the help and support you deserve. – Betterhelp.com

Using that definition, I do confess to some amount of anger, but also frustration.

I am going to put on the old codger hat and go on a bit of a “when I was a lad” stream of thought.

I grew up in a Midwest Republican community of the 1950s. There were democrats in the county but we were not much aware of them. But this was not “Republican” as it exists today with so much hatred, violence, Nazi flags, book banning etc. No, this was the time of “Ike.” Most Republicans were like Ike in those days. A bit fiscally conservative but hate was not a part of it. Fear of the “other” was not a part of it. After all, I was raised by a generation that confronted Nazi Germany, and Japan, and rejected what the “fear of other” can lead to.

It was a time of sitting on front porches and listening to political talk. Even as a youngster I could participate. When people – and I mean regular blue collar and farm folks – talked about what they believed in they could offer reasons why they believed that.

I went to a school where, looking back, I was challenged by good teachers. I could read anything I wanted. There might have been a liberal or two on the staff but I don’t remember being “Indoctrinated” or “groomed.” What I was, I think, was challenged. If I said I believed something the next question was “why?” If I answered I don’t recall being insulted, bullied, made fun of.

As an editor and publisher, now a blogger, I’ve been at this opinion writing thing for a long time now. It’s been fun for the most part, and it’s been educational. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve written something and reader has called or written and introduced new information, given me a new way of looking at things. That led me, in some cases, to write a follow-up with those new thoughts and an admission that I might have been off-base.

TODAY, THOUGH, ONE side of this political equation has lost the ability to discuss. When I say “lost the ability” I am not sure exactly what I mean. I can’t figure out if a lot of the far-righters know what they believe, ever pause to challenge themselves or really understand what they are saying.

I am happy to be living in West Chester. In East Texas, which we left in Spring of 2021, we went to public protests and demonstrations in our small city and would be circled by white men in pickup trucks, adorned with Trump flags, Confederate battle flags and visibly armed. I remember two men specifically, in a white pickup, who would be at every protest taking pictures and, in some instances, following people home.

At one point about 75 people showed up at our Visitor Center, which has a 75-foot tall statue of Sam Houston. They were in camo and armed and said they were there to protect the statue from Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Seriously? A bunch of loosely organized folks were going to show up with bulldozers, cranes and whatever it might take to tear down Sam? The armed militias proudly ringed the statue, inflicting their presence on both visitors and anyone driving by on I-45.

So, all things considered, West Chester, with its blue leanings is not a bad place to be.

But, the far-righters are here. They show up and berate county commissioners and election staff over alleged voter fraud which exists only in their mind. They want to inflict the Hillsdale College far-right white Christian nationalist curriculum on our schools. They have an endless fascination for guns.

What really irks me is their total inability to explain or defend whatever it is they believe. When you go on Facebook pages, whether it’s the local paper or other open groups, their only answers to those with whom they disagree seems to be name-calling and laughing emojis. One fellow recently told me my journalism background was a farce, I was moron, a waste. Another told me if I liked the gun laws in other countries, move to one of them – the old “love or leave it” argument that indicates nothing more than a brain not engaged.

Again, angry? Sure. But more than that, depressed. I never have understood people who live in such fear of the “other,” to the point of arming themselves. I never have understood such a level of fear that rather than try to deal with issues, you want more guns, maybe so you can have one at every door and window.

I never have understood people who can hold onto their beliefs only if they exist in a vacuum and so want to  deny access to anything that challenges to them. You know, deny access as in book banning, controlling what teachers say and do at all times, banning sex education, refusing to allow science to be taught.

AT THIS POINT in life I doubt I ever will come to understand people like that. I don’t know, really, that I want to. The list of people I have blocked on Facebook is long and growing. It’s not that I can’t accept disagreement, it’s that I can’t accept disagreement expressed not in the form of well-thought responses but rather in name-calling and emojis. Those are people I simply do not want to engage with. There are folks on the right I do not block because they respond in a civil fashion, absent the name-calling. But, they are few and far between.

So, angry? I guess so. But more than angry I am concerned. I am concerned that far too many in this country are becoming more and more like the “good Germans” of the 1930s who either believed what the Third Reich was pouring into their heads or were too scared to stand up.

That’s why I keep writing. I may not convince many people at all, but if there are a couple of folks out there who maybe start to think about what they are saying and doing, then it’s worth it.

I will go back to what I think is the positive part of that earlier definition: It’s important to note that anger can be a normal, universal human emotion.

I hope as I move ahead that I am angry within norms and that over time that anger manifests itself as positive efforts; then, someday, maybe civil discourse will return to the land.

Rich Heiland is a retired reporter, editor and publisher. He has been a part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, National Columnist of the Year and a journalism instructor. He lives in West Chester.


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