There is so much anger in our society and politics today. The Tea Party spews racism and intolerance towards Pres. Obama, Democrats, Progressives and anyone else who don’t agree with them, the GOP/Kochs/Corporations/Wall Street make venomous attacks against unions, teachers, police, the unemployed, liberals, the educated and economic justice. Purist Dems savage Obama for not making all their dreams come true and Obama Purists wail on Democrats who criticize Obama at all, for being so nasty as to attack other Democrats.
Movies about mean spirited people keep coming out (Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses, anything with Adam Sandler, etc.) . In commercials and tv shows, being cruel and snide is what’s supposed to make us laugh.
There’s so much hostility out there…doesn’t it just piss you off?!
Imagine if anger could be converted into electrical energy, we’d solve the economic and jobs crisis, the deficit, the energy crisis and make big progress on Climate Change. Then we’d be so pleased with how things are going, it would reduce our anger along with the energy it produced and plunge us into another jobs/ energy/deficit/climate crisis…which would make us so angry, we would produce enough energy to solve all of our problems again. This cycle could repeat indefinitely…in fact…it actually does.
Much of our society’s past has been a series of crises resulting from abuse by the wealthy and powerful, thrust on Americans who are forced to endure suffering then they eventually get angry enough to bring about change through public pressure and the polls. Once some change has been accomplished, the public relaxes and the wealthy and powerful sneak their hands in again to take away the public’s wealth and power…resulting again in crises.
This can be seen throughout American history to one degree or another but just to illustrate, let’s begin by looking back at this era beginning in the 1960’s – 1970’s. Racism caused the misery and deaths of many simply because of the color of their skin. Corporate industry was polluting our air, land and water. Nixon was undermining our democracy with criminal political activity. The Vietnam War was murdering so many young men of that generation for a war that had absolutely nothing to do with our nation’s security. The Establishment (corporate America and conservatives) were at war in a social context with that same younger generation as well as many others who opposed their views.
There was much more going on in that era as well but what happened then was that anger and resentment built up in enough of the public that they projected their will to demand Civil Rights laws, environmental laws, impeachment of a criminal President and laws to help prevent another one (folks back then could never have imagined someone like Bush following later), ending the Vietnam War, etc.
With all of that accomplished or moving forward, the public took a well deserved rest and decided they should treat themselves with a bit of self-indulgence. This fit well into the Reagan Era…where many of the same problems were ushered back in. Deregulation of industries allowing greater pollution of our air, land and water. Corruption in government including criminal activity by the President and his staff via Iran-Contra, unnecessary war in Grenada, a siege on on the younger generation through drug laws, anti-gay attacks (blaming them for AIDS and refusing to prevent its spread), war on the poor, homeless and mentally ill (Reagan slashed funding for mental facilities and was a big contributor to so many being tossed out into the street as homeless…while also defunding homeless shelters and food programs for the poor and homeless). George HW Bush continued all of this and as the country descended deeper into a recession and desperate times, they voted in Clinton.
A focus was turned again on solving our financial and social crises and as we came to the end of the Clinton Era, once again it was time to kick up our feet on the budget surplus and the dot com boom and relax. Then came the sequel (and as most know, sequels are always worse) Bush 2 (“This time there’s no stopping him!”). Once again, deregulation empowered corporations to poison the environment and destroy the nation’s economy. Criminal actions by a President occurred again through spying on Americans and employing torture. An unnecessary war was fought that has no impact on our national security but causes the deaths of thousands of our young men and possibly more than a million people overall. Anti-gay hatred and laws were promoted, religious prejudice and intolerance rises, racism is exercised openly, economically and socially (with blacks being jailed at a rate many times higher than whites…including the criminals at Goldman Sachs who stole more than all blacks in jail for theft combined).
People once again got angry and brought about change, hence our President Barack Hussein Obama.
The problem this time though is that the destruction that each subsequent GOP Presidency inflicted was cumulative and the crises finally blew such a massive hole in our nation under Bush that one Democratic president, even in two terms, may not be able to fully repair that damage.
Now comes the problem. If the public’s anger at how long it takes for a Democratic President to repair the Republican damage to their lives and the nation, triggers their anger and need for change, as it did in 2010, they obliviously set the gears in motion again for another Republican President to send us far deeper into crises before we’ve ended the previous set of them. In essence, digging a deep hole while already standing in a deep hole…who knows if our country could ever fully climb out of that?
It’s hard to find a time in US history where Americans who are still suffering from long term crises caused primarily by one political party, bring the same party back to power after just four years, a party that not only retains the same philosophies that created the crises but is doubling down on them.
Anger makes me mad for that reason. It is a necessary and valuable emotion that can get you up off the couch and active in changing the way things are but if it’s not channeled solely into motivation and spills into decision making, it can have destructive results.
So if we were to think of ourselves as being like cars, anger is indeed a powerful fuel for us, it can power us to change and accomplish things. However, you don’t drive a car solely by stepping on the gas pedal (as too many voters did last year). You also need to use principles to steer by, reason as your brakes and vision to look down the road at where you’re going as well as checking periodically in the rear view mirror to keep an eye on where you’ve been and what may be coming your way.
So, many things that can be used destructively can also have a constructive use as well. The excess of anger there is out there in the media, politics and society is like a gas nozzle spewing wildly. That nozzle needs to be re-directed into the tank of a vehicle that can take us to where we want to go.
Only then can our anger end up making us happy.