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Constant Outrage

I was going to write about nearly anything else. The possibility of the UK leaving the European Union, some interesting economic news, just about anything. But the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando fills every space it can. News reports, conversations, thoughts and prayers all turn to this horrifying event.

Normally, the mantra “I don’t break news, I fix it” would compel me to wait a few days for an angle on a big story that adds to the context and perspective on this story, helping everyone make sense of it. There’s no point. This was a senseless act that stands on its own. But there is a need for context as one more outrageous act produces more outrage. It seems to be the only emotion we have.

Violence is very much a part of our culture. Shootings like this seem to be a weekly event, each one more horrific than the last. Targets include an array of people, usually those who are somehow different.

It will be easy to blame Florida’s nearly nonexistent gun laws for this shooting, but this will be misplaced. An AR-15 can be had nearly anywhere, and there are so many around that it will always be available regardless of laws. Omar Mateen would never have been denied a permit for any kind of weapon – indeed, he had a low-level security clearance and worked for a security firm. Nothing would stop him from obtaining a gun.

Indeed, as the Boston Marathon Bombers showed us, guns aren’t necessary to commit outrageous acts. They do make it easier, and tighter gun laws may slow down the rate of mass killings, but it cannot eliminate them.

So why are these horrific events such a common feature of life in America today?

Even as we are outraged, outrage is all around us. Political rallies have decayed into violence on a routine basis, not all of it started by Trump supporters – people are apparently outraged by different views from their own. Mateen was apparently outraged by the sight of two men kissing. Dylan Roof was outraged by the appearance of a smaller role for white people in this nation.

As long as there is constant outrage there will be outrageous acts. We have to find a different emotion deep inside of us in response to events all around us.

Outrage and anger are easy emotions, after all. Toddlers are driven by a constant overload as they learn about the world and thus they tend to throw tantrums over nearly everything. It goes without saying that for adults this is not an acceptable answer, but for many adults it appears to be the only answer.

How did we get to the point where acting out with anger and outrage is such a common event?

We can talk all we want about policies and laws that need to be written, but like so many other things that have gone terribly wrong this problem is inherently cultural. In a world where everyone is constantly amped up over absolutely everything, violent outbursts are simply inevitable on a constant basis. Violent outbursts are simply a feature of a society always at full boil.

Is this any way to live? Of course not. But it is where our culture has gone.

Naturally, a time of great change creates a lot of anxiety. Everything is up for grabs and we all wake up every morning in a world we hardly understand. Frustration abounds. We do not get our way most of the time. But why on earth do we expect to get our way constantly?

Yes, one man killed 50 people in a nightclub with a gun, and yes he said he did it in the name of ISIS. But this outrageous act is nothing more than the expression of misplaced outrage, the only emotion Americans of all kinds seem capable of expressing.

We all need to calm down and look for other emotions. I suggest happiness and love. They may require a little work, but they are worth it.

27 thoughts on “Constant Outrage

  1. A one point they closed down the mental hospitals and put the patients on medication. You have to wonder if we have failed in dealing with these mental health issues.
    Leslie

    • We are failing in mental health issues every way we can, from putting as much stress on people as possible to a health system that is both terrible at maintenance / promoting health as well as not including universal access to anything. If you take this angle, the failures stack up quickly.

  2. Great post as always, Erik! I, too, was tempted to weigh in on this today, but I felt I needed a bit of time and distance for my perspective to be fair and thoughtful, rather than an empty rant. You gave me some food for thought.

      • Agreed, and people keep looking to place blame, rarely where it belongs. I have part I of my own rant ready for this evening’s post and working on part II. I decided to go with it, too! I always enjoy your perspective. We usually end at the same place, but the paths we take to get there differ. 🙂

      • It is the conversation that is important. There is so much wrong with our world that we have to stop and take note of it all. The bizzy machine has to stop whirling for a moment and we have to ask, “What is it we really want? What will make us happy?”

      • Yes, but so many never quite figure that out, and what we think will make us happy falls short in the long run. And the conversation? I keep on talking (ranting sometimes) because I cannot do otherwise, it is who I am. But sometimes I ask myself if anybody really listens … you know that age old question “If a tree falls in the forest …”? 🙂

      • Indeed. But I think we can all get through eventually. It’s not about our opinion, it’s about one voice made of many. We have a ways to go.

      • We certainly do. Always will, I imagine. I included a link to your post in the one I will post this evening, because I really like your perspective and think others will also. Have a happy day!

  3. While I suppose suggesting that we look to happiness and love as an antidote to the outrage out there is commendable, I can’t help but feel that response to this tragedy is….weak. And writing about this only within the context of guns and gun legislation erases the the very marginalized community targeted by this horrific hate-crime. Terrorists seek to create fear among the entire population. The acts of violence committed by terrorists are sweeping and indiscriminate in their scope. Anyone and everyone could be a target. A very specific, marginalized community was the target of this attack during a time of year when they hold Pride festivals to push back against the persecution the have faced in the past and to foster hope as they look to the future.

    We need to do more than just vague suggestions that we be more loving to one another. We do this after every single one of these horrific events. We need to start to push back on the leadership of our institutions of all levels, and not allow them to demonize and marginalize ANY group of people for their own gain. Political leadership, community organizations, religious leaders, the media…the list goes on of those people and institutions that actively marginalize the LGBTQ community in pursuit of their own political power. It is wrong. It is immoral. You cannot say “love one another” on one hand and then deny two people from entering into a loving marriage. You cannot put happiness out into the world on one hand and then say it’s OK to not bake a cake for “those people” under a twisted and erroneous interpretation of religious freedom. You cannot talk about loving one another on one hand and then have news organizations seek out sensationalist commentary from hate groups on a celebrity coming out story. You cannot put happiness out into the world on one had and then elect politicians that actively support discrimination of certain people, telling them where they can or can’t pee, and attempt to disguise it as some faux public safety concern.

    Our leadership in this world fans the flames of this outrage as a means to gain their own personal power and rewards rather making the world a better, more loving, and happier place for all…and they do this by demonizing the most vulnerable among us. It is wrong. It is immoral. Suggesting love and happiness as an antidote to outrage is commendable, but taking action to ensure the leaders we choose work tirelessly to support those efforts to put love and happiness out there is key.

    • My response is weak. Normally, I would wait to say something stronger but I felt as though I could not avoid this. Consider this post nothing more than a series of sobs from a fetal position in the corner, if you want.
      We have to start from the place I describe here, I am sure. Is it enough to take us out to solve the problem, to get past the violence? No. This is not a course of action, it is a statement of principles.
      I have written many times on the need for simple respect and decency, but that always flies of the situation at 30,000 feet. Yet that is where we have to come from. They are also a form of love – a cool acceptance of the value of all human life. It is a love all the same. It is also just a start.
      We must not allow outrage to propel us, that’s all I know. While I am outraged by this shooting it cannot be the only response I have. There must be another way. We must all find another way.
      As I think of more I will try to say something more intelligent – something with a stronger plan of action in it, as you have. Thank you for your words – you are indeed spot on. When we have the strength that comes from some time from which a resolve is built we can go forward and put an end to this endless cycle of outrage and hate. I do appreciate what you say here very much.
      For now, I find myself huddled in the corner in a fetal position. I am focusing on the only thing that can possibly help me build more resolve to do something about this.
      That’s not action, not yet. We do need action before more people die.

  4. We may reach for the stars and dream of all kinds of wonderful things ‘to do’ but deep down? I don’t think we humans have evolved enough, internally, to handle traveling through Life at the Speed of Light – 🙂

      • I am evil – I whisper to many – “come, come sit in the garden weed and tell me about your day – yes, the weeding will take about 3 hours and you have to slow down to make sure you don’t rip out what you wanted to keep….” – Alas, I have a farmer’s heart, I guess – – 🙂

  5. Pingback: Nothing to Fear But … White Males??? | Filosofa's Word

  6. What really aggravates me is how quickly everyone tries to use this horrible incident for their own political goals. Like vultures, they are, all of them. They should keep their mouths shut, let the police investigate. At the moment there are wild speculations, and everyone picks out the parts that fits their agenda and waves them around. Neither does this help the victims and their families nor does it do any good in preventing future incidents. So, let us take a step back and wait what will be dug out about the background of this deed. In the meantime, “happiness and love” do not sound too bad for me. Much better than accusation and hatred, anyway.

  7. I will try to pin this to the bottom as a “last word” by adjusting the date forward.

    SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
    by W.H. Auden

    I sit in one of the dives
    On Fifty-second Street
    Uncertain and afraid
    As the clever hopes expire
    Of a low dishonest decade:
    Waves of anger and fear
    Circulate over the bright
    And darkened lands of the earth,
    Obsessing our private lives;
    The unmentionable odour of death
    Offends the September night.

    Accurate scholarship can
    Unearth the whole offence
    From Luther until now
    That has driven a culture mad,
    Find what occurred at Linz,
    What huge imago made
    A psychopathic god:
    I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn,
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return.

    Exiled Thucydides knew
    All that a speech can say
    About Democracy,
    And what dictators do,
    The elderly rubbish they talk
    To an apathetic grave;
    Analysed all in his book,
    The enlightenment driven away,
    The habit-forming pain,
    Mismanagement and grief:
    We must suffer them all again.

    Into this neutral air
    Where blind skyscrapers use
    Their full height to proclaim
    The strength of Collective Man,
    Each language pours its vain
    Competitive excuse:
    But who can live for long
    In an euphoric dream;
    Out of the mirror they stare,
    Imperialism’s face
    And the international wrong.

    Faces along the bar
    Cling to their average day:
    The lights must never go out,
    The music must always play,
    All the conventions conspire
    To make this fort assume
    The furniture of home;
    Lest we should see where we are,
    Lost in a haunted wood,
    Children afraid of the night
    Who have never been happy or good.

    The windiest militant trash
    Important Persons shout
    Is not so crude as our wish:
    What mad Nijinsky wrote
    About Diaghilev
    Is true of the normal heart;
    For the error bred in the bone
    Of each woman and each man
    Craves what it cannot have,
    Not universal love
    But to be loved alone.

    From the conservative dark
    Into the ethical life
    The dense commuters come,
    Repeating their morning vow;
    ‘I will be true to the wife,
    I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
    And helpless governors wake
    To resume their compulsory game:
    Who can release them now,
    Who can reach the dead,
    Who can speak for the dumb?

    All I have is a voice
    To undo the folded lie,
    The romantic lie in the brain
    Of the sensual man-in-the-street
    And the lie of Authority
    Whose buildings grope the sky:
    There is no such thing as the State
    And no one exists alone;
    Hunger allows no choice
    To the citizen or the police;
    We must love one another or die.

    Defenseless under the night
    Our world in stupor lies;
    Yet, dotted everywhere,
    Ironic points of light
    Flash out wherever the Just
    Exchange their messages:
    May I, composed like them
    Of Eros and of dust,
    Beleaguered by the same
    Negation and despair,
    Show an affirming flame.

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