We sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be! …
We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is … “Just leave us alone.”
Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad!
I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.
It’s one of the great speeches in movie history, Peter Finch as respectable-newscaster-turned-mad-prophet-of-the-airwaves Howard Beale. If you’ve never seen it, or haven’t seen it since Network came out in 1975, it’s worth revisiting the scene on YouTube. You might be tempted to stick your head out the window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
But doing that didn’t work out so well in Network. Besides, you don’t need to “get” mad. You’re most likely mad already — because the world Howard Beale was railing against wasn’t half as crazy as the one we’re in now.
- A half-century later, we live in a country where the flag is almost always flown at half-staff — for all the victims massacred by AR-15s, including children decapitated by high-capacity, military-style assault weapons in their classrooms, where school shootings have occurred 900 times in the past decade thanks to easy access to guns and the complicity of the NRA and the Republicans in Congress (Sunday’s announcement of a “bi-partisan compromise” worked out by senators is a long way from legislative reality and a much longer way from having real impact).
- We live in a country where the previous president organized a coup to overturn the results of a clean, fair election —— where anti-democratic minions, calling themselves “patriots,” violated the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with the full support of that president. The House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is now holding public hearings to explain how it was incited by the Trump administration and defended by Republicans who still promote the Big Lie and are working hard to restrict voting in future elections.
- We live in a world where man-made climate change produces drought and massive forest fires in Western states and super-storms with super-flooding in the South and East and where efforts to save the planet are blocked by Democrat Joe Manchin and his soul-mate Republicans.
- We live in a country where a conservative, politicized Supreme Court is almost sure to overturn Roe v. Wade, despite popular support, the primary motive being to disempower women.
- And racism underlies so much of this — extreme economic inequality, first and foremost.
You may not show your anger. You may be in denial about it. You may not be mad about all these things or madder about some than others, but chances are you’re mad about something.
What we can do about all this is the big question. For that we have to rely on our imagination and creativity and one another. But the only way anything will get done is if we first re-ignite the fire inside.
The anti-democracy coalition already has plenty of fire in the belly. That gives them a big advantage over the pro-democracy coalition, which consists of center right (too few), center left, independents, moderates, liberals and progressives (pick your label), who are very uncomfortable with anger, as if it were a major character defect. To be sure, anger is draining and can easily get out of hand. But well-channeled ire, as we discovered in 2020, is galvanizing and absolutely necessary when facing existential threats to our democracy and our very lives, especially the lives of our children and grandchildren. Then it’s a bigger character defect not to get mad.
When those we love and what we love are threatened, it activates us. And right now, we’re existentially threatened by a seditious political party that has no business being anywhere near the levers of power — ever again.
The pro-democrats came together because we were pissed off for four long years by a wannabe dictator in the White House. Four years is a long time to stay angry. Nonetheless, we rose up and threw the psychopath out. That, on top of the pandemic, left us exhausted and we forgot two crucial steps remain — winning the midterms and the next presidential election. Only then can real change occur.
We have to focus on the macro-level, where policy is made, because policy affects so many more lives. Government is necessary. Responsible, responsive government is essential.
If the anti-democrats take control of the House and retain control of the Senate in the midterms, Trump will be back on the ballot in 2024, threatening democracy all over again. Count on it.
Anger alone isn’t enough, but it’s the spark that rekindles the fire.
Howard Beale said it best. First, you’ve got to get mad.
Then we’ve got to get creative and get to work — for the sake of who and what we love.