This primary election season, I'm reminded of the Marvel comic character the Incredible Hulk. He transforms from a mild-mannered scientist to a raging, green giant of a man when upset, which inevitably occasions the destruction of nearby private property as the Hulk roars his vexation.

His pre-transformation tagline, made famous by the television version of the character (1978-1982), was "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."


As the voters this year make their way to the polls, they seem bigger, bulkier and greener than I remember from years past. And the candidates, particularly Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have tapped into their outrage. The exchanges at some of the recent political rallies indicate just how raw the emotions are for some of us.

In short, 2016 voters are angry. And while I don't particularly like it, I get it. I get it because there is a lot to be upset about.

The past 15 years have been tumultuous ones for Americans. Between the summer of 2001 and the spring of 2016, Americans have experienced some dark days. We have seen the worst terrorist attack on American soil ever; the resulting wars in the Middle East, one of which — the Afghanistan War — lasted longer than any other in U.S. history; the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and the hemorrhagic loss of jobs; the Occupy Wall Street protest movement; a nearly constant stream of data breaches; the onslaught of new (or renewed) viruses from far-off places; a recent spate of police-initiated violence on suspects and arrestees and the ensuing protests; and skyrocketing addiction rates, particularly to heroin.

Our world seems fraught with disappointment, uncertainty and distress. Our lives are dictated by Wall Street moguls who raise the prices of life-saving drugs to placate dividend-hungry stockholders and by government officials who listen at our keyholes in an effort to keep us safe. Coalitions of the willing have become coalitions of the ambivalent, while medieval-minded enemies armed with 21st century weapons remain relentless and implacable. China holds the note on much of our government debt, and what will happen when that note comes due?

Americans seem besieged, from both within and without.

So, yes, voter anger is smoldering now, and that anger is translating into votes. Naturally, when would-be leaders acknowledge the troubles we face and promise fast solutions, they get our undivided attention. Worse yet, when they fan those flames of anger, they summon our nastiest and most venomous selves. History abounds with examples of strong-willed leaders who rode their constituency's discontent into office, and seldom were those constituencies the better for it.

As we head to the voter booths this year, we must first give ourselves time to reflect. Obviously, decisions made on a wave of emotions are rarely the best ones. I contend that, now more than ever, we need quiet, thoughtful deliberation in the selection of our leaders. As hard as that might be in this season of fervent emotions and vitriolic orations, we owe it to our country to make the wisest choice we can and not surrender to base instinct or visceral reaction. This is not a time to succumb to toxic rhetoric and dark charisma but to resist the enticing calls of the hunting pack.

Let me be clear. I am neither endorsing nor denouncing any one candidate here. Rather, I am saying that whomever we ultimately elect, I would hope that the decision is reached out of thoughtful discourse and timely reflection instead of anger or resentment about the misfortunes of life or nebulous fears about the future. In a time when we face so many challenges, both at home and abroad, it is imperative that we choose our next president wisely and not allow our greener and bulkier natures to prevail.

Philip Bonner is an adjunct professor of English as a second language at Montgomery College; his email is philwbonner@gmail.com.