We are one pissed off little nation today. It feels like everyone is in a defensive crouch, just waiting to be affronted or insulted or maligned. Ready to attack. Ready to howl in outraged protest. The fury extends well beyond the political world to our very personal worlds, and we feel the rage almost constantly.
I can hear the anger against this opening paragraph already, and it probably goes a little something like this:
· The personal IS political!
· If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention!
· We are WELL past compromise – it’s time to fight!
Please don’t @ me yet. I agree with all of the above statements.
I do not deny that there are grounds for outrage, nor do I believe that if we all just got together to drink a soda we’d be fine. People have plenty of good reasons to be mad. I get that.
But what’s problematic are the levels and endurance of the fury. Every day the hostility engulfs us, which means that it take an increased dose of wrath for something to get a rise out of us. That’s not great.
So where does all of this anger come from? Why is fury all the rage? There are many reasons for this, and this wee-little blog will address a few of them in the coming posts. To kick it off, I want to posit the theory that our media gins up the aggravation because it is interesting and it is motivating. The interesting part attracts an audience. The motivating part gets people to act. And since much of the political media today is partisan and, accordingly, shilling for a team, active audiences are the goal.
It is impossible to feel two emotions at once, and so when everyone is super mad at everything all the time (ahem) it means that no other feelings can be felt. An example: A few days ago I was driving home from the gym. It was early in the morning and with the sun rising over my car I felt a glow of happiness. Maybe it was the post-workout endorphin rush, maybe it was the fact that I was able to listen to my mediocre 90’s pop music without interruption, but I was at peace with the world and grateful for my place within it. I walked into my house, ready to embrace my beautiful daughters with a mighty hug of maternal love and appreciation, only to find them screaming like poltergeists set on lodging possession. My bliss was immediately gone – and in its place I was screaming at my girls to stop THEIR screaming, which a) killed my mood and b) is no-no Number One in all of the parenting books. Screaming to stop screaming is like doing a shot while telling a child not to drink, or watching The Bachelor while lecturing a child about good decision making. It’s incongruous.
So instead of being mad exclusively, I’d like some room to feel something else too, preferably something that makes me smile or laugh. Along those lines, I’ve been listening to John Mulaney on repeat, watching older SNL skits, or new videos from Seth Meyers. These are not bad palate cleansers for all the irritation swirling around our collective melons, but they’re only a start. And I’m taking recommendations.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that emotions are contagious. Someone else’s bad mood can spread like pink eye at a preschool, and both bad moods and pink eye are really annoying. At the same time, spreading some cheer along does everyone some good. And, apparently, laughing can help you lose weight, which is important to me with all of that buttered pasta (see last blog post).
So feel all the feels, but remember not to stay in the darkness too long. As my smart friend Kara says, it’s okay to visit anger, but you don’t want to live there. She’s right: it would be a terrible place to set up shop, plus all of my shoes and earrings are in south central Pennsylvania. And, as everyone knows, the only thing that differentiates humans from animals is our ability to accessorize: the hardest parts of any outfit are the small details. Just ask this guy: