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Are Your Emotions Being Manipulated by Politicians? Most Americans Angry at State of the Country

Image Credit: Unsplash/Afif Kusuma
Image Credit: Unsplash/Afif Kusuma

It's official. The national mood in the U.S. has turned sour with a recent poll showing more than half of Americans are angry about the state of the country. After seeing it play out on the news or across the dinner table, many say it's time to end the rage and heal the wounds.

From fights in the air to angry outbursts at school board meetings, outrage has become the new normal. 

"There's no end of provocations that are playing a part in this," said Peter Wood author of Wrath: America Enraged.

On CBN's The Global Lane, Wood blamed pandemic restrictions and other issues for the rise in tempers.

"The arrival of large numbers of people on our Mexican border; the backing up of ships off the West Coast and East Coast trying to deliver goods here; the un-leashing of inflation in the mainstream economy; each of these has brought the temper of mainstream Americans to a boil," explained Wood.

Stats tracking the conflicts over mask mandates for airline passengers tell the story. 

The FAA reported 5,981 cases of unruly passengers last year – a big jump from the 146 complaints filed by flight crews in 2019. 

Differing political views are often the driving force behind the anger.

According to Betsy Sinclair, a political science professor at Washington University in Saint Louis, the problem has been building for 30 years.

"If you ask people how angry are you feeling toward the opposite party or how frequently do you feel anger towards the opposite party, we're seeing basically 70% of Americans are reporting tremendous volumes of anger," Sinclair told CBN News.  

In an academic paper on the subject, Sinclair points directly at politicians from both parties and how they use mistrust and anger to their advantage.

"Candidates and campaigns have manipulated the emotion of anger to generate loyalty," said Sinclair. "So often we quip that a local voter is an angry voter. But anger motivates people to take political action. It motivates people to vote."

Sinclair added that unrestrained anger can threaten democracy which relies on healthy social interactions between people who disagree.

"What we find in our research paper is really the case that anger is so harmful for the things like will you water your neighbors' plants when they're on vacation," said Sinclair. "It hurts people and it hurts neighborhoods and it hurts families."

Scott Broetzman, president of Customer Care Management and Consulting, has been surveying consumer anger for almost two decades.

"You just can't say this is my consumer world and this is my political world, this is my family world. They all kind of blend together at this point," Broetzman told CBN News.

As grocery stores and other businesses face supply chain and staffing shortages, Broetzman said upset customers have taken out their frustration on essential workers.

"You're in a store or you work in a contact center and you're going to hear from 60, 70 people in a day, 30, 40 of them are really angry," explained Broetzman. "They treat you like garbage. They don't respect your dignity.   What must that be like to come into work every day and know that that's what you're going to face?"

John Cooper, of the Christian rock band Skillet, says while believers should stand up for Biblical values, showing grace to those who disagree with our beliefs is vital.

"Grace has to be us Christians being willing to tell the truth but not treating our enemies the same way that they treat us," Cooper recently told Faithwire's Faith vs. Culture. "What we want is for those people to come to know this amazing Lord that we know."

In her book, The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…One Citizen at a Time, Elaine Parke provides key anger management tools.

"You can be in a space with someone whose views on a certain topic are entirely different from yours," Parke said. "Shift the conversation. Say I respect your opinion."

As an antidote, Sinclair suggests civic engagement. Her recently created an app called Magnify Your Voice encourages partisan-neutral involvement in local communities.

"There's so many things that we can do that go beyond our partisanship to take care of our basic humanity, and I think that is what matters the most," said Sinclair. "People are going to disagree about their politics but they're going to care about each other as a community. And we have to do both things."

Meanwhile, Parke believes spreading positivity can spark a unity revolution to help America heal.

"Unity is not going to trickle down, we need to bubble unity up from our own, from the humility of our own hearts and souls and be humble when we look in the eyes of another person no matter what they think," said Parke.

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