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Kent Bernhardt: Anger management

John Murphy quit his job as a radio talk show host in Eau Claire, Wisconsin last week. With fifteen minutes left in his show, he suddenly walked out of the studio, never to return.

Later, he said it was because of the “hurricane of hate” spewing from his phone lines filled with angry callers sharing their views of the upcoming election.

You’ve probably felt the winds of this hurricane of hate too. I’ve felt them pounding my face and pushing me from behind. I feel them all around me.

People are pretty touchy these days. And the worst part is I’ve noticed it in myself.

It’s easy to understand. The supporters of both candidates are going at it like a couple of Methodists fighting over the last chicken leg at a covered dish dinner. The displays of poor conduct we usually reserve for bumper-to-bumper traffic are appearing regularly every day. Everyone’s taking sides.

Facebook is awash with poison pen comments from both ends of the political aisle. In fact, some of my Facebook friends have gotten downright unfriendly.

I don’t mind sharing that I’ve had to unfollow a few of you until after the election. I love and respect you, but I’d like to believe there’s more to you than your political leanings.

I pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot the other morning with many things on my mind, the least of which were my driving skills. I found myself face to face with another driver as we unexpectedly competed for the same piece of real estate.

We both stopped, gave each other an intense “get outta my way” glare, and proceeded to maneuver around the trouble spot and on to our respective breakfasts.

I was irritated — more so than I should have been. But my kinder nature intervened, and I realized this minor traffic incident was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention as I approached his vehicle. I was in the wrong.

I could never erase the dirty look I had just given him. But I momentarily entertained the thought of parking my vehicle, entering the restaurant, looking for him, and apologizing. I even imagined the look of surprise on his face as we shook hands.

Instead, I did what most of us would do in such a situation. I chased the kind thoughts from my mind and went about my business. I didn’t want to appear odd.

Maybe our fear of appearing oddly kind has gotten the best of us. Maybe this strange election process has us at our worst behavior instead of our best.

It isn’t like we haven’t been here before.

I can vividly recall the anger of a time called the 1960s. That decade started out friendly enough, but by the beginning of the ’70s, we were a nation torn asunder.

Our political system was in shambles, we didn’t trust anyone over 30, and we suffered from deep divisions over our military involvement in a far away place called Vietnam.

There was racial strife including regular battles in the streets of major cities. The drug problem was escalating. Crime was rampant.

In ten short years, our nation had transformed from the calm serenity of the Eisenhower years to a turbulent land in an all-out search for peace. We wanted to make love, not war — but we didn’t really seem to know how.

But we lived through it, and we’ve known better days since. We somehow found a way out.

Somewhere along the way, we simply decided that anger and dissatisfaction would not rule us. We learned that we may fall to its temptation from time to time, but it will not win the day.

We could use another dose of the lessons of the ’60s, don’t you think? And that’s true regardless of who wins this infernal election.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

 

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