But now you must get rid of all such things: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)
This aggression won’t stand, man. (The Dude, The Big Lewbowski)
I live in a part of the world where Donald Trump is popular. In the 2020 election, Mr. Trump received over 52% of the vote in the town where I live, Belgrade, Maine (about same as in 2016). In the town just south of Belgrade, Sidney, Mr. Trump received a still greater share of the vote—57.14% in 2020 and 55.2% in 2016.
Many of those who supported, and continue to support, Mr. Trump are not shy about their enthusiasm. During the 2020 election season, I dreaded my drive through Sidney, driving from home to church and back again. I started to refer to my journey as a ride through “the gauntlet.” Several houses and businesses not only posted Trump campaign signs, but went all out with flags and banners on almost every external surface that faced the road that connects the Belgrade Lakes area with Augusta, the state capital.
The post-election season brought, thankfully, a reduction in signage. Many of the flags and banners were taken down, although there are a few that remain. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t flags and banners aplenty. It just seems that they’ve been taken off of the lawn and the buildings—and attached to poles that are connected to the beds of pickup trucks. And, the messaging has also ramped up, with much more in the way of obscenity-laced intention like, “F__K Biden” and so forth. There’s one guy who seems to relish driving his obnoxious flags through the most liberal areas in this part of the world, including the small city where Old South is located—Hallowell—well-known as a bastion of liberality (where Mr. Biden won almost 72% of the vote in 2020). The truck is sometimes spotted multiple times in a day, as he drives circuits around the downtown area.
The issue of the signs, and the flags, and the ramping up of aggressive language has been the subject of many conversations. In the midst of a few of these discussions regarding the heightening sense of aggression of Trump followers, I’ve discovered that there’s plenty of aggression to go around. Even a few good church folk have casually mentioned their very angry responses to the bold signage of Trump followers.
And, then there’s my own reaction. During election season, as I drove through the gauntlet (not as often as usual, thanks to the pandemic), I found myself increasingly agitated and irritated. On a few occasions, I boldly yelled my own angry response—from my moving vehicle with its windows all tightly closed. I even felt the desire to offer a certain hand gesture. Truth be told, I may have actually done so on a couple of occasions.
I may loathe the belligerence shown by Trump followers, but what about my own hostility? I may be soothed somewhat by a feeling that they started it, that their side came out punching first and not just in the latest presidential election. While I’m sure there are angry signs and banners pointing at Trump, I don’t see any of those in this part of the world. And I haven’t seen vehicles sporting large flags declaring “F__K Trump.”
Still, the level of anger and hostility concerns me, including my own. What happens when aggression is met with aggression? And, what about the call of good church folk to be people of peace, the turning of the other cheek? What am I doing to get rid of anger, malice, slander and abusive language? Can I challenge myself to put aside the anger and aggression and meet hostility with calmness and peace?
These are all important questions, and still more important for people of faith, individually and collectively. The path ahead may not be an easy one, but it seems clear as day.