How Angry Is America?
By Stephen Doherty
“The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath.” – Gautama Buddha
I recently called into Denver’s most popular and visible radio show to see if I could calm or assuage the host, who had gone absolutely and completely apoplectic, about the current “State of America” in terms of our anger and polarization. “OMG-America has never seen or experienced this level of anger and hostility and polarization, and hatred before! AAGGHHH!!!” Needless to say, she was not pleased with my introductory comments of, “Seriously-you need to take a pill and a deep breath before your chronic hyperbole renders you even more helpless and incapable of having this discussion!” (I know-I have a gift for “calming” angry and excited lunatics) That she didn’t hang up on me was a credit to her intellectual honesty and curiosity. Her rant was merely a reflection of the current nationwide proliferation of hysterical screeds peppering every corner of our media.
Any serious student of American history recognizes the silliness and folly of the current national obsession over the anger and polarization of our citizenry. It simply isn’t true. From the second George Washington took office, America has had brutal, vicious and divisive factions of politicians and citizens squaring off over the important and emotional issues of their times. Today? We have almost unprecedented prosperity, freedoms, and liberties in a country that has spilled so much blood and treasure to ensure both. We are like a nation of angry 3rd graders holding their breath because they wanted vanilla cupcakes instead of chocolate ones. Today, there is no issue or slight too small to not magnify into national prominence in a nation that has elevated “emotional comfort” to the top of their Constitutional freedoms deemed compromised.
Have we really become so childish that we dare pretend that which bathroom we use compares to Martin Luther King’s Freedom Marches? Are we so historically ignorant that we think that our current nation is irreparably divided? One need only read any book on the Civil War to recognize what true national hatred and division looks like. That conflict lasted four years and killed more Americans than all other wars–combined! Do the childish taunts and accusatory vitriol of today’s politicians compare to past conflicts that ended up in pistol duels-with one of the “offended” dead from the encounter? Do we not remember an American nation torn to the bone over Viet Nam? Are we so silly to think today’s almost comical Antifa malcontents are remotely comparable to the racial riots of the sixties or the draft riots in early New York City? Do we not shake our heads at politicians who screech about “Assaults on our Democracy” referring to simple political disagreements when only a few short decades ago–the world was on the brink of a war that would kill over one-hundred million people and forever redefine global perceptions of engagement and conflict?
“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good,
America will cease to be great.” ―
No. We are not more divided and polarized and hate-filled than in the past. What we are is spoiled and indulged by an infinite number of media outlets vying for readership and viewership. What is unprecedented is the access we ALL have to personal social media which inflates, accelerates, and magnifies the inane, silly, and ridiculous. Suddenly, podcasts, blogs, and Facebook can “transform” any whining and indignant citizen with a gripe-into the next social justice hero. What we have is a societal and cultural phenomenon that has imbibed us all with an irrational level of access and self-importance. Every single American now has their own personal microphone, bent on being heard – with the volume growing louder with each passing day. With all the benefits bestowed upon us with so much high-tech gadgetry comes the inevitable law of unintended consequences rearing its head. We are mistaking the sheer volume of societal and cultural commentary for any meaningful quality or urgency in the rhetoric.
No America, we are just fine–perhaps never better. Turn the volume down, have another cup of coffee, and smile with the contentment and satisfaction of living in the greatest and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind.
“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened
than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
–Alexis de Tocqueville