Anger and Shame: Presidential Politics, 2016

The American Presidential Campaign of 2016 is about anger. So, why does no one do a nuanced study of wrath in the public place?

A gentle Buddhist fellow interviewed recently tried to express his abhorrence of  violence, and, so, of anger. He could not find the words.

“Violence is about anger,” he said, trying to explain why he advocated peace and pacifism.

“Violence is about anger,” he started confidently, “and anger is about…fear or loneliness…denial and betrayal…”

The interview aired on NPR, but you could feel his head shake as he spoke, even if he could not be seen. He was right, in a cliched way, not wrong at all, but not right enough.

Anger in the public scene these days displays deep shame. Angry people full of shame descend into a bewildered stupefaction. Poor Jeb Bush walked through his “suspension of campaign” homily in South Carolina on Saturday night. He seemed more a visitor to his own presidential run for the last few weeks, stumbling along, his grin more failing than forced. At the end he begged for some kind of support and got a face full of chaff, until some woman in the crowd cried, “No,” and he suddenly awoke, with that old Bush reassurance, looking up, for her, to offer a wry, “Yes.”

His father got us through the first Gulf War with wisdom. Even W. took us through the end of coalition building during his final term, but with genial love. The Bush Family is not done with politics; there are too many of them. We may even see Jeb in some cabinet post, if Mr. Trump can forego his tendency to forswear public debates wherein strong white women tell he where to go.

Still, on both sides, this anger-filled, tirade spouting screed called Presidential Politics 2016 will claim a few more stupefied victims before it ends. What will finally kill them off will be shame.

Whence cometh the shame? Regular followers of this space will be little surprised to read this; it blows in with Mr. Trump. He is the one person most likely to cause the field to come down to his level.

Last week, when the governor of South Carolina endorsed Senator Rubio, the little fellow should have gotten a whole news cycle to himself. Instead, Mr. Trump took the media, as he attacked the Christianity of a fellow from Rome, via Argentina. Mr. Trump jaw-boned with no one, spent exactly no money; he only verbally assaulted the single most beloved religious figure in the world. Anger against the Pope should have sent Mr. Trump’s campaign back to Atlantic City.

He got a two point bump in the polls. People are angry, very angry. They are the kind of angry that comes out of shame. You know the kind, when you just blow up and lose control, without words to say why or when or even if this binge will stop. Shame, shame, shame.

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