I am by nature an angry man. I consider the Incredible Hulk an acceptable role model. I use anger as a crutch to get through the day; it’s the only way I can motivate myself. I’ve had only one dentist use “laughing gas”; the buzz made me angry. Lately, I've been drawn to Justified, the television program whose protagonist claims "I guess I never thought of myself as an angry man." His ex-wife, however, asserts he is " ...the angriest man I've ever known." I suppose it’s for these reasons, and numerous others, that my wife worries that I carry around an unhealthy amount of anger.
Even though I'm drawn to anger the way the way a mechanic with a foot fetish is drawn to pedal pumping, this Peggy Noonan editorial frightened me. Noonan writes, “. . . I am struck now by how, when I worry aloud about this and say to a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or a Democrat, that I fear something bad is going to happen, no one disagrees. No one says, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing.” They say—again, left right and center: “I’m afraid of that too.”
I’m a little young to actually remember the Sixties; I was only 10 years old during the Summer of Love, and my recall of the news reports Martin Luther King riots, the Chicago Democratic Convention Riots, or Kent State are so blurry that they resemble dreams more than actual memories. I remember the Operation Rescue protests, the Rodney King riots, Clinton hatred, and Bush hatred more clearly, but none of that ferment seemed as widespread as this current rage. Like Noonan, I think some of this current fury is something new.
It would be nice to blame only one side; the Tea Party people or talk radio blowhards for instance have done their fair share of harm. The problems, however, run deeper. No leader seems to have enough respect to convince everyone to "play nice." In short, there are no adults, and the young run around believing that their opinions carry the weight of facts "that can't be wrong." Everyone seems to have forgotten that most people err out of ignorance not malice.
In The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett has Kasper Gutman say, "Talking's something you can't do judiciously, unless you keep in practice." Although Gutman is a rogue, he deserves to be listened to. To be judicious is to be "characterized by good or discriminating judgment." Judicious's synonyms include "reasonable," "sober," "sagacious," or "enlightened," qualities all American leaders need to exhibit in this acrimonious era. Gutman would surely agree that anger is something that can never be practiced judiciously.