Transcript lightly edited for clarity.

Josh: Hi I'm Josh! Kaleene and I are a married couple. Together, we’re learning how to be kind in divided times and sharing the best tactics we come across with you here, at The Peacemaker’s Playbook.

In the last episode we talked about why it makes sense to be optimistic and trust that America’s future is bright, especially if we stand together.

Today we’re going to share what we’re learning about questioning our own outrage and examining our knee-jerk contempt for ’them’ any time we feel it.

It'll be just me today. Kaleene's a bit under the weather, so I'll do my best.

Let’s go!

Our daughter just turned two. One of her favorite books is Happy Hippo, Angry Duck, by Sandra Boynton, in which each of several animals is experiencing a different emotion. The cow is confused, the rabbit is worried…you get the idea. The lesson is that it’s okay to feel unpleasant emotions from time-to-time. Emotions pass, and there are people who will help you through them. There is a duck, though, that is - cutely and funnily - always angry.

It’s no secret that many of us are like that forever-angry duck these days. Splashed across our social media feed, or flashed across our TV: news of yet another crazy thing those Americans have done.

Wikipedia says:

Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice of another. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. In some…doctrines, righteous anger is considered the only form of anger which is not sinful…

And here ‘they’ go, at it again. Eye-roll-worthy at best, treasonous at worst.

Not so fast. Are you sure your knee-jerk anger is righteous this time, that you’re right to be indignant?

We would-be peacemakers should be in the habit of examining our knee-jerk contempt for ‘them’ any time we feel it. Why is this?

Conservative commenter and former attorney David French says:

We’ve seen it time and again. The combination of malice and misinformation is driving American polarization to a fever pitch. While there are real differences between the political parties, a fundamental reality of American politics is that voters hate or fear the opposing side in part because they have mistaken beliefs about their opponents. They think the divide is greater than it is.
For example, other polls have found that Americans “substantially exaggerate the extent to which members of the other party dehumanize, dislike, and disagree with them.” In addition, “Democrats and Republicans imagine almost twice as many of their political opponents as reality hold views they consider ‘extreme.’” Moreover, this “perception gap” gets worse with increased education and media consumption.

Did you catch that? You - yes, you - are quite possibly wrong about your opponents, including about how much they hate you!

You may not know what or all that is actually going on, and your outrage may be based on ignorance. Worse yet, the more education you have and the more media you take in, the more likely you are to be mistaken.

And yet, in a broken world, there is indeed much that is truly outrageous. Even so, you’re only human, and there’s a creaturely limit to how much outrage you can feel and express. No finite being can bear to be outraged about all of it.

The problem is that there are people who make money when you’re mad or afraid, and they are are perfectly happy to guide you toward overwhelming contempt for half of your countrymen, for as long as you’ll give them your attention.

We’re talking about the talk radio and cable news hosts who make us feel seen and heard and who tickle our ears every day with ‘news’ of the latest contemptible thing that that state’s supposedly-nutty people have done. CHA-CHING!

We’re talking about the social media companies who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, nurse us all day on meme-after-witty-meme affirming just how wrong ‘they’ are (and how righteous ‘we’ are to stick it to ‘em). CHA-CHING!

We’re talking about the politicians on our side who, rather than provide context or urge restraint, jump to score points with our tribe by fanning conspiracies about the authorities and about accountability structures. CHA- CHING!

We’re talking about the influencers and clout-chasers who de-humanize our political and cultural enemies by using language and telling jokes that portray them as animals. CHA-CHING!

We’re talking about the religious guides in our lives who, in their sermons or homilies or lectures or comments, rant and rave about ‘the radical left’ or ‘the far right’ ten times as often as they say words like ‘neighbor’ or ‘love’ or ‘Jesus’. CHA- CHING!

Just as there’s always money in the banana stand, there’s always money in making people mad or afraid. And cousin, business is a-boomin’. So stop being used by those who make money when you’re mad or afraid, the people and organizations that social scientist Arthur Brooks calls ‘the outrage-industrial complex’. Mr. Brooks says we should instead note which ‘leaders’ rush to feed our hate for one another, and "cross them off the list”. They aren’t truly leaders and aren’t worthy of a following.

So examine your knee-jerk contempt for ‘them’ any time you feel it, because you’re very possibly wrong, and you’re probably being used.

Look, as noted earlier, in a broken world, there is indeed much that is truly outrageous, and we must guard against apathy too. We don’t want to be so detached or numb that we’re not stirred to take action for the sake of justice (lord knows Kaleene and I struggle with detachment and with leaving many of the good works ready and waiting for us undone).

But people, especially those on your side, will pressure you to outraged about everything. Some of it may be true, and some of them may have good intentions. In any case, they’ll imply that if you’re not as visibly and vocally outraged about everything as they are, then you’re a bad person, maybe even worse than the hated other side.

But your outrage is yours. Be in control of it. Reserve it for the right time and situation. And consider re-directing a healthy chunk of your outrage from those you’re being encouraged to hate to those making big bucks revving you up against your neighbors in the first place.

Kaleene: Okay, thanks so much. This is Kaleene, and I'm here for my contribution. That's it for today. Join us next time for The Peacemaker’s Playbook!

Boynton, Sandra. Happy Hippo, Angry Duck. New York, United States, Simon and Schuster, 2011.

Wikipedia contributors. Righteous\ Indignation - Wikipedia.

French, David. “A Whiff of Civil War in the Air.” The Dispatch, 3 Oct. 2021,

“Opinion | Why Fox News Lied to the Viewers It ‘Respects.’” The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2023,

“Arthur Brooks on Why We Hate Our Political Enemies -- and How to Stop.” YouTube,

Giboney, Justin. Twitter, 13 Dec. 2022,