Thursday, June 2, 2016

Angry Nation

Angry, angry nation.

America is full of anger.  We're an angry people.  We're spoiled silly by the wealth in our country, and we get righteously indignant with all of our First-World problems.

In suburban Fort Worth recently, a lawyer got angry because he didn't get his customary bowl of free soup, so he sued the restaurant.

After the story of the petulant lawyer hit social media, the rest of us became indignant at the lawyer for being so petty.  Then the lawyer began to receive death threats from anonymous angry people, so he dropped his lawsuit.

We're angry, and we're not gonna take it anymore!

A family in suburban Dallas is angry that their son won't get to wear his National Honor Society regalia during high school graduation, even though the school hasn't allowed NHS regalia to ever be worn during graduation, since it's from a group unaffiliated with the school district.  But that hasn't stopped social media for blowing the issue all out of proportion, with angry people from all over castigating the school district as denying smart people their moment of glory.

Even more folks are furious over their presumption that inattentive parents of a four-year-old boy let him get into a gorilla's enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, prompting zoo officials to shoot an endangered gorilla to death to protect the toddler.

Then other folks became furious at zoo officials for shooting the gorilla.

Many voters claim they're angry with the status-quo in Washington - much of which is based on anger - and that's why they're supporting Donald Trump, who's ability to stoke that anger has thrown this year's presidential election into disarray.

Indeed, Republicans are angry at Democrats, and Democrats are angry at Republicans, in a prolonged season of exceptionally divisive and bitter vitriol that some experts say America hasn't seen since the lead-up to the Civil War.

Many black Americans are angry at cops and the criminal justice system, as one by one, white police officers accused of needlessly shooting black men get no-billed by grand juries across the country.

Many evangelicals are angry over legislation ostensibly designed to protect transgendered people who need to relieve themselves in public bathrooms.  In addtion, many evangelicals are still smarting over the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage last year.

Anger has become big business for people like Rush Limbaugh, who cheerfully exploits the volatility of conservative American voters.  Anger is what pushes abortion-rights activists to dig in their heels for groups like Planned Parenthood.  Anger fuels widespread resentment against illegal immigrants, against Big Oil and the Keystone XL pipeline, against minimum wages, against Wall Street tycoons, against Obamacare, against the TSA, and on and on.

Often, our anger seems to run a close second to fear, such as our fear of ISIS, or of what is happening to our economy, or how the morality in our society is changing.  But more often than not, instead of fear, it's our anger that dictates how we react to other people, stories in the news, and click-bait we see on social media.

Anger is an emotion that makes us feel self-righteous, as if we know more of what's better than somebody else does.  Or that we couldn't imagine doing something as stupid, heinous, or immoral as the object of our anger has done.  Often our anger erupts after we've become too weary of seeing or experiencing that precipitating behavior or event for far too long, and trying to be accommodating of it.

Having so many people lash out against the parents of that toddler in the gorilla enclosure is an example of being near our breaking point with so much cavalier parenting.  We see it on the news all the time:  cases of child abuse, child endangerment, child abandonment, baby mamas, absentee dads, kids left to suffocate in hot cars...  Every story about how so many kids seem to be neglected in our society wears at us, bit by bit, and then we see video of a little boy in a gorilla enclosure, and we go ballistic at his parents.

Politics is another easy-anger trigger for many of us.  I'm not sure I personally get angry, as much as I get incredulous at what politicians and their supporters think they can get away with.  I'm so cynical, I'm too jaded to be angry.  But this year, it's hard to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon any other way than voter anger, and his uncanny ability to ride it like some huge wave that's been building out at sea all these years.  And now that anger is coming crashing in, like the tide on a high surf day.

People are angry, and they're not gonna take it anymore.

Meanwhile, in the last 17 months, over 2,000 people across India have been infected with HIV while getting sloppily-performed blood transfusions.  But where's the rage over that?  According to The Hindu, a major Indian daily, "cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks."

India is also home to the greatest number of slaves in the world, although North Korea has the most slaves per capita.  Curiously, the countries with the worst slavery are Asian countries that make most of America's consumer goods:  India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.  But how angry does that make you?

Maybe the degree to which we get angry corresponds with the degree to which we think the problem can be solved.  We get angry with politicians because we figure we should be able to vote the worst of them out of office (even though that rarely seems to happen).  We get angry with the TSA because we figure some bureaucrat should be able to figure out a way to get us through security checkpoints efficiently (even though airport security has been fodder for jokes for decades now).  We get angry with zoo officials for killing an endangered gorilla because we figure we can shame those zoologists into not repeating such a scenario in the future.

India, however, seems remote, and perhaps even a place where we should expect such endemic dysfunction as medical workers helping to spread the AIDS virus.  We feel sympathy for people who have to endure such incompetence, but we live in the United States of America!  We're "better" than India.  Ours should be a more effective, efficient, and competent society here.  After all, it's not like we're starved of resources of virtually any kind, unlike countries like India.

So it makes us mad when we see people appear to do things we think are stupid, or wasteful, or illogical, or immoral.  Something triggers our anger, and we can't help getting exasperated over how such a thing could have happened, or why such a thing continues to happen.

Perhaps anger helps us feel as though we're contributing to some greater good.  Contentment in our society tends to denote complacency, and few of us want to be complacent.  After all, so much is wrong in our world; how can any of it get fixed if we keep going with the flow, or being thankful for whatever we've got?

After all, what did a content person ever invent? 

Are we angry because that's more attractive an emotion than contentment?

The problem with anger, though, resides in it's most common synonym:  Mad.  Being mad and being angry usually mean the same thing.  However, how likely is it that if we stay angry long enough, we could go mad?  Mad in terms of psychological and mental imbalance?

So the next time - and it will probably be pretty soon - something triggers your anger, particularly on social media, or in the news, ask yourself this:

Is it worse than slavery?

I didn't get angry after learning about slavery in Asia, so why am I getting angry over some kid not being able to wear his National Honor Society regalia to an event everyone will have forgotten about by August?

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