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Dealing with Our Justified Anger

By Ken Andersen

There are a lot of angry people in the nation and Illinois. Members of Congress and the legislature continue to give us manifold reasons for being angry about the current state of affairs and implications for our future.

Nationally, the Sunday papers give us snapshots of reasons to be angry. The first page of the October 13th issue of the New York Times has articles ranging from the difficulties of enrolling in the Affordable Care Act and the cost of prescription medicines (one at $7 in Europe and $280 in the United States). Later articles deal with the government shutdown, the debt crisis, a German Bishop spending over $42M to remodel his residence (what of the advice of Pope Francis?) and an educational comparison of 25 countries showing we were close to the bottom, with young adults particularly so.

In Illinois, papers dealt with our legislature's inability to resolve the crisis of the state's underfunded pension systems that have caused the state's credit rating to drop, meaning increased borrowing costs. Other articles and editorials ranged from our declining infrastructure to the large tuition increases at public universities and colleges tied to diminished state support—by no means just the University of Illinois, although a prime example. Locally, a decision by the state's Central Management Services (CMS) will cause 6000 retirees to lose their current health insurance system due to specifications CMS set up in the call for proposals. (Pardon a personal aside: Given recent surgeries and medical issues, this is a source of great personal anxiety and anger after 43 years with Carle Hospital doctors and surgeons and the highest patient satisfaction health insurance provider in the region according to the 2014 US Government's Medicare & You.)

As individuals, we need to deal with our anger in ways more pragmatically useful than going to bed and pulling the covers over our head, swearing profusely, having a glass of wine, or punching holes in the wall, although these may briefly defuse anger. Nor, despite conceal-and-carry legislation, should we stalk an individual we hold responsible.

A good start is to try to identify the cause of the anger, who/what is responsible, and what response is appropriate. Obviously, individuals differ as to the cause of our anger and those responsible as evidenced by news coverage on the governmental shutdown. Reading and talking with others about issues yields insights, just as viewing NBC Nightly News and both—not just one—Fox News and MSNBC contribute perspectives. It takes a little time and effort, but reasoned, justifiable conclusions can be reached, ones we can articulate with a substantive rationale. In managing our anger, assume responsibility by owning our viewpoint, not borrowing it.

Coming to a rational assessment of why one is angry, the "real-world" basis as to what and perhaps who is responsible for the situation provoking anger, is helpful in dealing with anger. Taking potentially constructive action helps even more. We may not accomplish much, if anything, but we tried. And who knows! We can pick issues where we may make a difference rather than tilt at windmills or remote, unreachable targets. Channel anger in talking, making phone calls, writing letters expressing our views in cogent arguments to others, particularly those who could make a difference. Public opinion has an impact. The current Congressional 5% approval rating is having a tangible impact, although whether it is enough has yet to be seen.

Dealing with the health insurance issue, I called the offices of local legislators, Health Alliance (the insurance provider), Central Management Services, the Governor's office, and amassed information provided by the State University Annuitants Association. I felt better and perhaps had an impact. Individual actions such as mine may have little effect but organized activity through associations such as SUAA, the State University Retirement System Members Advisory Board, unions, and ad hoc or established coalitions of interested groups multiply the impact of our individual actions on such issues.