It seems that these days, there’s a whole lot of anger in the world.
More than two years after the 2016 presidential contest that was dubbed by a Huffington Post columnist the “anger election,” it appears that you can’t go more than 10 seconds without someone somewhere — on any of the outrage-laden cable news networks, on social media, on the train, at a local bar, take your pick — working themselves into a lather over something someone else said or did.
To be sure, there’s plenty to get worked up about, if you’re into that kind of thing.
If the stock market hasn’t raised your blood pressure the last couple of weeks, there’s the government shutdown, climate change, gun violence, perceived attacks on gun rights, the Trump administration, Democrats, Republicans, Congress, the Supreme Court, etc. If you’re not angry about the outcome of the 2016 election and the president’s penchant for disregarding norms of governing and setting groups against each other, you’re angry about the Mueller investigation or threats to impeach the president.
You might even be angry about somebody’s choice of words.
Take the case of newly minted freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American and one of the first two Muslim women in Congress. At a recent event celebrating her historic inauguration last week, she announced that she had told her son that when it came to President Donald Trump, she was going to “impeach the motherf—er.” (The actual statement filled in the blanks.)
Some were practically apoplectic that an esteemed federal legislator would have the temerity to use such language, much less in public, and in reference to the nation’s chief executive to boot. Never mind that many of these same people, aggrieved at the assault on their ears, were quite happy to excuse the president’s graphic descriptions of sexual assault when he was a candidate, or applauded when then-Vice President Dick Cheney used a certain four-letter word to tell Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy to do a particular act to himself. Anger, one of the basest emotions, is blind to irony.
Taking these facts into account, it would be easy to conclude that not only should we collectively care a whole lot less about what people we do not know say about people who are not us, but that we all should pretty much be able to say whatever it is we darn well please. That, however, would be wrong.
Those who are indignant about Tlaib’s outburst are just as wrong as she was to engage in it. (I’m not angry about any of this, though.) As a prominent government official who should be bringing the best of her constituents’ wants and desires to Washington, she should be able to articulate her views in a decorous manner befitting the honor of her office. The same goes for the president and — when he was vice president, at least — Cheney.
But to allow your blood to boil because she failed to do that is to engage in hubris. What, after all, does a congressman’s use of vulgarity do to us here in Philadelphia? How does it harm our lives?
And if you’re angry about her wanting to impeach the president, how does that make your life more difficult? It’s one thing — and a minor thing at that — to be angry at the person who cuts you off on the way to work, thereby making you late; it’s quite another to rail against a politician, a party or a political system that might be putting another person in either legal or political jeopardy.
If you don’t like something, vote, write a letter, donate, do something. But don’t get angry about it. It’s not worth the stress.
When it comes to Tlaib, far more worthy of condemnation is her stance regarding Israel.
She not only favors a binational “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; she has endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and accused senators of dual loyalty when some moved to take up legislation authorizing military aid to Israel and allowing local governments to combat BDS instead of recently passed bills from the House of Representatives funding the government. When she did so, she was rightly rebuked by a chorus of Democrats and Republicans for engaging in an old anti-Semitic canard.
But even when opposing Tlaib’s and other politicians’ positions vis-a-vis Israel, a topic that whether we realize it or not, cuts to the core of Jewish identity, I suggest we all keep our emotions in check. Our nation’s hedonistic embrace of anger is not pretty; nor is it effective.
Back in 2016 in this space, I referenced Howard Beale, the famous character from Network who screamed, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Eventually, his blowing his top became old news, and he was axed for low ratings.
Let’s not let that happen to the United States, its people and our values. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath.
Joshua Runyan is the editor- in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected] jewishexponent.com.