It isn’t hard to get angry. Personally, when I view policies that would diminish or deny the rights of any group of people, I am angry. I have felt anger toward those who support policy that I view as shortsighted, selfish and even sadistic.
I am angered by politics that fan injustice, xenophobia or punish children.
People get angry at me for supporting programs that I view as necessary to social justice, but they view as more taxes and less autonomy from government.
Our anger reverberates when social media algorithms guarantee an echo chamber that aligns with each of us.
Recently, I voiced a wish to negotiate more peaceably with people who disagree. I was quickly reminded some conservative beliefs cast people into an inferior civil status, and those people were less inclined to be so welcoming. Not a moment passed before I realized I would feel the same way if people thought my existence was “deviant” or should not have access to equal justice or the right to live as freely.
That is justifiable anger.
But anger is not a solution, it is only a reaction that can lead to motivation. My wish was based on the ethics I was raised by; if motivation could, as I interpret Matthew 5:44, be found from heightened compassion, perhaps we could temper the volume and the violence of anger.
Several years ago I wrote of an encounter I had with Sarah Palin at a “Saturday Night Live” reunion. I had written articles that were very critical of her positions, and although I did not expect to meet a three-headed dragon, I was moved by how thoughtful she was toward my son. When I wrote that we shared common touch points such as love of family, state and country, I received criticism from people who felt betrayed by fraternization with her.
Last weekend I dined next to Sen. Joni Ernst at the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association banquet in Des Moines, and I had a similar experience. I have written articles critical of positions Senator Ernst supports, and again, I was caught between my disapproval of those policies and her kind and approachable nature.
Senator Ernst actually surprised me when she said that one of her closest friends in Washington is a Democrat.
They, just like Bob Dole and Daniel Moynihan, Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden and John McCain, found connections that are human, maybe even vulnerable. Not one of those relationships betrayed their party or their ideals. But their civility and the conversations that follow can inspire change.
I am not folding my ideological tent. I’m not about to compromise my ideals of justice, equality, environmental stewardship, economic prosperity or civil and human rights.
What I am willing to do, however, is to plant myself within shared goals and to lay out my case on any topic to anyone who offers the same.
On that note, the senator and I agreed to listen to each other.
Anger is easy. Solutions are hard and they start with civility.