Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I've been scratching my head over the very vocal anger being expressed by some at town hall meetings, in interviews and in blogs. While it's easy to see that people fed a steady diet of Rush or Glenn Beck distortions and false claims (see my last post), intended to arouse anger, would result in anger, I think that there may be an underlying cause.

Note that most of what is said (shouted) is anger at GOVERNMENT. "I don't want the Government to get between me and my doctor" or "The Government can't run anything right. What makes them think that they can run GM, health care or whatever." While the Obama = Hitler trope is there too, the overall sense is that these folks really hate THE GOVERNMENT. Since Obama has only been in office 7 months this, to me, seems a bit excessive. What is going on here?

Could it be our old friend cognitive dissonance? Our country has been through hell over the past 8 years. A terrible attack on the Homeland. A war to catch the people who planned and ordered the attack and the failure of that war to catch them. Another war started on grounds that proved to be pretty much completely false. A storm ravaged American city and the incompetent Government response. The revelations of mistreatment and torture of prisoners. The past 8 years have shown those average citizens out there in Sarah Palin's "Real America" that, by gosh, the Government IS incompetent and can't seem to do anything right.

But wait. These are the same folks who believed that Saddam had WMD. They believed that if we fight them over there they won't come here. They believed that we don't torture our prisoners. Classic cognitive dissonance. "The
uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously" is exactly what we are now seeing. And, since they believe that they should both respect our leaders and their policies and that the Government run by those leaders has resulted in poorly planned and run wars, programs and agencies (can you say FEMA?) their brains are faced with the pain of cognitive dissonance.

What we are seeing now is the expression of that pain against the new guy and his Government. "He's Black you know. Not like us. He has a funny name. I heard he wasn't even born here." They find it much easier to yell about Obamacare now rather than protest the war back then. The anger and frustration has been building for 8 long years (longer still when you consider the 1996 congressional election and the impeachment of Clinton). Their buttons are easy to push, and as we can see, the Rushes and Becks of the world know where those buttons are.

It's going to be a very angry fall and winter.

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