Swans Commentary » swans.com May 21, 2007  



In Praise Of Anger


by Charles Marowitz





(Swans - May 21, 2007)   Senators Joe Biden, John McCain, Dennis J. Kucinich, and other presidential contenders have, at one time or another, been admonished for being too hot-tempered. "Anger," it would appear, is not a presidential trait and is one that turns off rather than encourages the American voter. At the recent presidential debate, many Americans admired and drew solace from the cool, controlled, and moderate tone that oozed from politicians such as Barack Obama and John Edwards and were rankled by the gruffness and rancor that growled out of ex-Senator Mike Gravel.

But let us say we saw a person physically abusing a young child or a helpless animal, wouldn't the slow lava of anger be bubbling in our bloodstreams? When the disclosures of graft and corruption emerged from the Enron investigations, weren't there many honest, hard-working, and swindled Americans seething as a result of these revelations of bold corruption? Do not the atrocities regularly chronicled about the Iraq occupation, the allegations of torture, the cover-up of killings perpetrated by "friendly fire," stoke the tempers of millions of empathetic citizens?

Do we not recognize "self-righteous indignation" as a legitimate moral response to low, conniving and immoral actions, and is "self-righteous indignation" generated by anything other than welling anger at the crimes and misdemeanors that outrage us as fraud follows fraud and scandal follows scandal?

A person incapable of spontaneous anger when confronted by acts of premeditated evil or rank corruption possesses a void where their sense of righteousness should be. I would no sooner trust such a person than I would consider giving him my vote. In a world where mendacity and equivocation prevail, the absence of anger should be added to the list of Seven Deadly Sins. It was anger at the British oppression that triggered the American Revolution; anger at the callous disregard for the cruelties of slavery which considerably contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. It was the violation of trust, the lies, and the cover-ups of the Nixon administration that created the furor that led to that president's resignation. "Anger," said Thomas Fuller in the 17th century, "is one of the sinews of the soul; he that wants it (i.e., lacks it) hath a maimed mind."

There is much to be angry about in America today and it is the gathering crescendo of anger against the transgressions of the present administration that is causing the groundswell of protest throughout the nation and, indeed, the world.

When, in the 2004 election, Howard Dean seemed to whoop out his passion to an assemblage of fellow Democrats in Iowa, he was roundly criticized on all sides and it may well have been this single action that caused him to retire from the race. It seemed to me more a whoop of enthusiasm than a cry of belligerence, but even before this, Dean had in a spirited and articulate manner expressed his angry dissatisfaction with the Republicans' shortcomings.

The more anger one feels about corruption and mismanagement, the more a force evolves to counter corruption and mismanagement. In a country where civil rights are being routinely trampled and platitudinal hype is the only form of political discourse that prevails, anger is a necessary corrective. The opposite of anger is complacency, and God knows that has done more harm to the Republic in the past six years than almost anything else.

The onus against overt "anger" stems from a kind of deep-seated conservative belief that "nice people" in the grips of tumultuous feeling should moderate their speech and water down their passion. To "lose it" is somehow the worst sin a civilized man can commit. (See Alec Baldwin's recent tirade against his wayward daughter.) But when anger is consciously diluted, it creates a subtle toxin which moves through the bloodstream and into the heart. There, it accumulates and erupts with a far greater impact than it would if it had been naturally released when it first appeared, or it quietly festers causing permanent damage to the soul. It becomes the breeding ground of those suppressions that Freud believed caused the most disabling neuroses. When we see someone "all het up," we urge them to "get it out of your system" -- and for good reason, because if it doesn't, it is the system that ultimately suffers the more ruinous consequences. Rather than classes in Anger Management, it would be far more enabling to have classes in venting one's rage. Or, as the Japanese do, create an effigy of their most hated superiors, place them in a quiet, out-of-the-way room and, when the feeling moves the workers, have them repair to that room and pummel the hell out of their detested managers.

I say cast your vote for the orneriest, angriest candidate who comes down the pike. If the old adage is true and one must fight fire with fire, we need a fiery temperament to combat the deadly placidity of people such as Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, who bank on our placidity as they draw us further into lethal strategies that cause the extinction of young, brainwashed, tight-lipped servicemen.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published May 21, 2007