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Sometimes I will exclaim, when dealing with irritating and difficult people on the phone, “What’s wrong with these people?” Actually I do this a lot, not just on the other end of the phone, but in the face of this or that author, car driver, or person standing ahead of me in the cashier’s line. My wife admonishes me: Nobody is one of “those people.” You’re slipping into the realm of the collective slur. It’s morally sloppy and morally corrupting. What do you really know about that person?

She’s right: My irritation often slides into a widening pool of anger that pushes others into a “kind.” “Those people” who work at insurance companies; “those people” who work for the airlines, traffic police, online retail, university administrations, ecclesial bureaucrats, Congress, and on and on. My little world becomes populated by a series of amorphous enemies, literally “peopled” by those I meet and speak with every day whom I have transformed into antagonists to my well-being. I’m exaggerating. But only a little.

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