Fulle: The blinding anger of our politics


Matt Fulle, Guest Columnist

Our politics today seem to be particularly angry. From televised debates to discussions on college campuses, anger has become the norm. I have even frequently participated in political conversations that either devolved into shouting matches or were cut short due to a fear of escalation.

And I get it. I’m angry too. I’m angry at the systemic injustices, short-sightedness and small-mindedness of our politics. I’m angry at the blatant disregard in which our system holds those it is supposed to represent. We should be angry.

But our anger has evolved from a source of motivation to a debilitating contempt. For all the passionate conversations we have about discrimination and injustice we are often blind to significant progress that could help us better enact change in the future.

Education reform has always been my passion in politics. But one experience working to advance it has lingered in my mind as a troubling example of how anger can become counterproductive.

Last summer I worked for the U.S. Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. I ended up interning at the perfect time. A few weeks after I started my internship, the Senate passed the replacement for President George W. Bush’s signature education bill No Child Left Behind. I spent almost two weeks watching the mammoth cogs of government slowly turn on the Senate floor. The result was the Senate’s most significant movement on nation-wide education reform in over a decade. It was a surreal experience. But more important for me than my lucky timing and the personal experience gained was what happened afterward.

I returned to campus in September to many of my politically motivated friends not knowing this bill had passed. Many of my fellow students who speak passionately about the need for education reform were not aware of a change that could very well help to address systemic inequalities in America’s education system, not to mention change the composition of this university’s student body in the next decade. How can we effectively fight to better  our systems if we are not familiar with the improvements already being made? This question is unsettling for me when we, as college students, are so often expected to be the next generation of political problem solvers.

The progress made by the law change obviously did not and will not solve all the problems in America’s education system. Furthermore, passion will always fuel our struggles against injustice. But anger has blinded us. We hold such contempt for what is wrong in our politics that we have stopped recognizing when we do things right. In doing so, we miss significant opportunities for our successes to fuel and inform our efforts to solve other problems.

My story is only one of various instances that have occurred both on and off-campus. I hope these thoughts encourage a discussion of others’ experiences about how we discuss politics going forward. I hope we can eventually have political conversations on this campus in which we don’t feel the need to shout at each other, if for no other reason than we cannot afford to let anger blind us. There are still challenges that lie ahead.

Matt Fulle is a Communication junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.