Guest Column

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By Barbara Byram

Anger is an interesting thing. Not an emotion in and of itself, it is a response to other emotions, such as fear or betrayal. It can be repressed or overt; expressed loudly through physical action or quietly through words; destructive or beneficial.

I grew up in a house where there was a lot of repressed anger and some occasional explosive physical expressions of it. Anger was considered a bad thing; an angry person, a bad one. In short, we were not one of those mental health-poster families that exhibited the healthy expression of anger. We were more of the “before” in an example of psychotherapy and its benefits.

My three siblings and I managed to grow up by grasping at straws until the right one was found, usually with a little help along the way. One of my brothers became involved in politics in the 1960s, and I soon followed his example. Looking back to that time, I see now that one of the benefits of this involvement was a conduit through which I could express my anger without hurting anyone—myself included.

I’ve learned a lot about anger in the intervening years, including the fact that I need to express it in order not to repress it. Otherwise, it ends up coming out at the wrong time, the wrong place, or with the wrong people. I’ve learned that there are a lot of folks who consider anger a bad thing and feel the need to run away from a person who expresses anger—even when the anger is appropriately expressed. I’ve also learned that there are a lot of folks who believe their anger should trump everything else, including discussion.

I see a lot of angry people in the news lately. But beyond acting out their anger, these folks don’t seem either willing or able to enter a discussion about whatever it is that’s making them angry. Shouting “I want my country back” is nothing more than an expression of anger; it lends nothing to discussion. Calling someone a liar also lends nothing to discussion. While I understand this type of anger and have felt it on many occasions, I know a simple statement of anger resolves nothing. Resolution requires a dialogue about the causes of anger and the possible solutions to it.

I admit to being angry as well. Sen. Chuck Grassley recently told a gathering in Iowa that the proposed health care bill is going to “pull the plug on grandma”. Why should I be concerned about that? you ask. I have a lot of relatives in Iowa, many of whom are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. And their senator lied to them.

My relatives in Iowa are not the only people being lied to about health care reform. Folks across our nation are being fed the same sort of lies by other senators, representatives and extremists in the media. I’m not talking about disagreements over the numbers-crunching when it comes to the cost of reform. I’m not even talking about varying opinions on who should be responsible for determining levels of quality or affordability. I’m talking about outright lies about things that are not in the bill.

It’s this outright lying on the part of elected representatives that’s making me angry. Part of the reason they’re able to get away with these lies is fear. I hear time and again about the bill being 1,000 pages long—I even saw one representative haul out two three-ring binder notebooks full of paper. This seems overwhelming to the general public—too overwhelming for folks to look at.

And this makes me angry, because the bill, in terms of reading time required, is not equivalent to War and Peace but to Of Mice and Men. Yet the elected officials who want to stop health care reform would prefer that you not read the bill for yourself—or even the parts to which they allude. And they do this by scaring you into believing that you don’t have the time to read it.

Seventy per cent of Americans believe the time has come for health care reform. What we need now is an adult, responsible discussion about how to effect this reform. What we don’t need is elected representatives deliberately lying to us in an effort to scare us into inaction.

Yes, I’m angry. And I’m voicing my anger by writing to each and every elected official who is out there lying to voters about things that are not part of health care reform. I’m not just saying that I’m angry—I’m explaining why. You should, too.