By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I like my anger. As a man. As an American. When bad guys tread on me, by God, it feels good to retaliate. Yes, deep in my tiny brain, I do understand that unlocking anger’s cage rarely improves the situation. But . . . mayn‘t I please scream my lungs out, strictly on special occasions? Exhibit one international finger salute per billing period? Ream one phone solicitor per annum?
No, I’m told: Anger can be dangerous -- and not just to the bad guys. So I‘ve been thinking I might shut some of it in the safe deposit. Manage my anger, as the people in the white coats and the black robes have it.
But it’s hard. Because there are so many things to be angry about.
I‘m not talking about the givens. You can’t go wild over events -- no matter how dreadful -- that you already know are going to happen. Like death: It sucks, but it‘s not like anybody’s skating. Or movies: I know from experience that most excursions will be logistically, financially and aesthetically masochistic; I‘m only mad when the guy next to me has scarlet fever. When I visit Seattle, it’s gonna rain, period; shake fists at the sky I will not.
What‘s tough is change, and our lives have changed so much in a few decades, for better and certainly for worse. Unlike America’s various desperate waves of immigrants, who were grateful for a bowl of slop, people under 60 right now are running into thousands of new and exciting ways to be disappointed.
Where each generation used to figure on being richer than the last, now we‘re lucky if we can afford to buy our dad’s 10-year-old Toyota at half Blue Book. When I was a kid, the USA had never lost a war and always stood for justice; now, no number of pseudotriumphal Panamas, Grenadas, Gulfs and Kosovos can make up for Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, the Philippines, East Timor and you name it. Where we used to only suspect that our politicians were liars and thieves, now it‘s proven past dispute, and withholding our votes has provided little satisfaction. Where vast open spaces used to beckon, now overpopulation means you’ve gotta sweat blood to mail a package or park a car. You get exactly as much legal justice as you can afford. Kids have to join a gang to go to school. TRW knows the size of your penis. Most of the wonderful ”freedoms“ in whose name America has subjugated the world have proved to a be either empty fictions (democracy, free enterprise) or shackles sold as necessities (cars, credit cards, computers). And the modern American worker, always expected to do his laid-off buddy‘s job on top of his own, has less leisure time in which to buff his manacles than a medieval serf did.
Et fucking cetera. Kind of makes you mad, doesn’t it? BLOODY DAMN RIGHT IT DOES. And it‘s going to come out somewhere. ”Senseless“ rage is exploding all around: in the schools, on the roads, in the post offices and in the air, against minorities, against families and against the government, from Brentwood to Littleton to Atlanta to the North Valley Jewish Community Center. And the magazine covers blare, ”Why?“ While a lot of us are wondering, ”Why the hell doesn’t it happen more?“
Animal studies suggest that aggression flows bountifully from deprivation, overcrowding and the integration of disparate elements. Sound familiar? Yet as the heat rises, few dare suggest that our corporate and civic masters stop deceiving, exploiting and overstressing us and instead address the conflicts of an ever more widely stratified society. Why kick? As the new lab rats, we‘ve come to consider abuse our destiny. Policymakers like Bill and Hill do have suggestions on lowering the mercury, though. One is ”civility“ -- a.k.a. ”stuffing it down.“ Another is to leach the violence out of movies and video games, since the pundits have conveniently persuaded themselves that fake gore is the cause of aggressive behavior, not a reflection of societal frustration or a harmless outlet for same.
Face it: People are not pissed because of movies. They are thoroughly pissed, though, some more than others, and the classes with the sorest butts are those with the highest expectations. Black males, for instance, after being emancipated first by Abraham Lincoln and then by the civil rights legislation of the ’60s, were told they had the right to join mainstream society; when they were disproportionately rejected for lacking mainstream attitudes and mainstream education, and therefore forced to compete with whites for the rewards of mainstream crime, they were disproportionately imprisoned. Feeling slightly less chafed, it seems, are Latinos, Asians and working women, who‘ve made marginal social gains -- and anyway, they’re used to being kicked around. Sure, they‘re mad, just not as mad. The most numerous hotheads are -- surprise! -- white guys like me. In bygone days, we could rely on deference from all the aforementioned underclasses -- who now not only won’t kiss our tender posteriors, but are after our jobs!
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