Why so angry?

There’s nothing wrong with being angry. I don’t just mean upset or irritated or ill-tempered. I’m talking about pure, unadulterated, enragement. It’s okay. Clearly, we are supposed to be furious. The question is: what is irritating you today?

No, seriously… you have to get mad. Everybody says so. Name a topic and you’re on your way to an argument. We’ve reached a point in history where two people simply can’t be 100% in agreement.  

Okay, that’s not completely accurate. Two people CAN agree, but in an age of information overload it’s unlikely. That’s because those two people have so many available resources from which to form their opinions that it’s virtually impossible to expect them to reach the same conclusions on any given subject.

I’m not suggesting that anger doesn’t have a place. But what’s the point of screaming, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” when you don’t know what you’re mad about?

I’ve made it clear in this column that, despite the vast resources available to the average American, we as a nation appear to be woefully disinterested in facts. We’re more likely to let some talker on radio or television tell us what to think rather than taking the time to gain the knowledge necessary to decide for ourselves. In the Google era it’s unbelievably easy to catch someone in a lie, yet too many people are willing to believe what they hear or read without bothering to do a simple fact check.

It depends on the topic. If I told you that I heard that the moon was a man-made Death Star that didn’t exist before it was placed in orbit five years ago… you’d know that I was talking nonsense. But if you read an email that said the government had a secret plan to take away your guns, or send people to internment camps based on their political registration, or was creating death panels designed to kill grandma… you might believe it without evidence.

You know those things are fantasy? Yeah, you’re right… but there’s a lot of people who believe that foolishness — and get very angry about it — just because someone they follow claims it’s true.

In politics, it’s no longer just about Republicans versus Democrats. Every policy, every individual, is scrutinized to determine exactly where they fall in the Left-Right spectrum. One of the most frightening things you can say to a Republican politician is a four word sentence: “You’re not conservative enough.” By whose measurement? (Can you imagine a similar approach on the Left, with politicians threatened with a primary challenge because they’re not liberal enough?)

Funny. The man trumpeted as the hero of the Right… the most-revered President of the conservative movement… was a divorced, distant father whose goal was making every young starlet his sexual conquest. Then, when elected, he moved to expand abortion rights, raised taxes multiple times AND supported terrorist organizations. And yet, HE’S the guy raised up on the pedestal as the symbol of family values, patriotism, and fiscal responsibility.

And now, the new Congress is underway. Mitch McConnell gets to be the guy in charge in the Senate. One of the chief architects of the Congressional slowdown of the past six years now has to prove that he can lead. In the House, John Boehner faced competition for the Speaker’s gavel from the far, far Right… from Louie Gohmert and Ted Yoho… as if either of those extremists has demonstrated any sense of leadership. Of course, in the past two years the true leader of the House of Representatives… the one person with the most influence… has been a member of the other chamber. Republicans in the House eagerly took direction from a Canadian-born Texas transplant who once stood in the Senate chamber and cluelessly read “Green Eggs and Ham” to demonstrate his hatred of trying something new. The concept of irony is completely lost among the willfully uninformed.

In the 2014 campaigns we heard plenty of grumblings from Americans about their elected officials. “Throw the bums out” was a common sentiment, as if removing incumbents would solve the problem. Even Rasmussen, the most conservative polling company, found that two-thirds of those asked rated Congress’s effectiveness as “poor”. If that was the basis of your performance review at work, you’d expect to be unemployed soon. Not with Congress. Nearly every incumbent in the House and Senate was reelected. Essentially, Congress has an approval rating of 95%. You say you don’t like them, that you want to replace them, but you keep putting them back in… and they reward you with the same do-nothing approach to their jobs. But we chose to give them another term in office. It’s our fault.

Now that’s something to be angry about.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald on January 8, 2015.)

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