The best response to Campaign 2016: anger

Summary: Campaign 2016 shows the result of our apathy and passivity: two horrific candidates. The solution is simple. We have the political machinery bequeathed us, idle but still powerful. We know our peril as the Republic dies. We need only find the spark within ourselves that will produce action. Anger can help.

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (slightly paraphrased).

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus. From the “The Odyssey” (film, 1997).

Danger: Angry American

Our political leaders — both parties — flagrantly cuckold us, flaunting their allegiance to the 1% without even attempting to conceal it. We react to this ugly truth in a commonplace fashion, with the dreamtime (to use Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s concept). We pretend not to see. We pretend not to care. We tell ourselves that it doesn’t matter. We pretend amnesia, as if we don’t remember.

Just as spouses drift away from each other once their trust is broken, we less often work the political machinery of the Republic — not even voting. We have less confidence in its institutions and leaders. This response makes disaster more likely to happen.

There is another path. We can get angry. It’s not a solution, but a necessary first step to motivating Americans to become politically active. Appeals to logic and theory are insufficient. Anger is the key to arouse passion, and passion unlocks resources — people’s  time and money.

The by-now obvious construction of a New America on the ruins of the old provides ample sparks to arouse anger. The bank bailouts rightly aroused anger that led to the Tea Party Movement. There is the diversion of Federal, State, and local tax dollars to the 1%, and their harvesting of the fruits of America’s fantastic productivity. There are a thousand other reasons for anger. You can list them.

Fake but good quote by Plato
Fake but good quote!

How can we manage our anger?

“Anger assists hands however weak.”
— Ovid in Amorum (16 BC), I. 7. 66.

American history provides examples of both failed and successful use of anger.  Many groups have unsuccessfully used violence: Native Americans, the anarchists, the radical leftists, many unions — all unsuccessfully. Many successful political movements have abjured violence: the abolitionists (mostly), the suffragettes, the temperance movement, and the civil rights movement (especially in the Martin Luther King era, in the face of violence against them). It’s easy to decide which to imitate.  Anger works, but only when channeled.

On the other hand, what’s the alternative to evoking anger — accepting the risks to gain its benefits? Logic and knowledge can only do so much. Passion and spirit must carry us forward.

Don’t bother looking for safe path to reform. We are far beyond the point of easy solutions. Choose among the dangers to find a way that however perilous might lead to a reformed America.

Wrath

Who is the target of our anger?

“An experience of profound contempt is necessary in order to grasp our situation, and our capacity for contempt is vanishing.”
— Allan Bloom in Closing of the American Mind (1987).

Anger does nothing if it’s like the anger of watching the home team lose. It does no good unless coupled with assumption of responsibility for America, and so produces a willingness to act.  We have reason for anger — directed at both ourselves and our leaders. Both sides of that anger can empower us, as it has previous generations of Americans. We can start now to give America a better choice of candidates in Campaign 2020 (see some ideas). The clock is running.

“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
— John Dryden, Absalom & Achitophel (1681).

“If not now, when?”
— Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775. Click here for more advice from him.

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2 thoughts on “The best response to Campaign 2016: anger

  1. I agree that apathy doesn’t lead to actions which solve problems. But neither does anger, an emotional state of imbalance which distorts perception, leading to unwise courses of action. People do not make smart choices except through engaged curiosity, devoid of anger, with the commitment of mutual respect, and a dedication to nuanced study of fact.

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