No offense

The problem with taking offense is that it’s impotent and indulgent. It may feel good, but it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter. Offendedness is a pale, watery substitute for anger.

Anger, that beautiful daughter of hope, demands action. Anger changes things. It seeks to correct the injustice that offendedness merely wants to savor. Anger sees injustice and tries to rip it out at the root. Offendedness looks at injustice the way a oenophile looks at a nice bottle of Chianti — wanting to preserve it in the cellar with the rest of the well-stocked, impeccably organized collection so that one day it might be taken out and enjoyed, swirled on the tongue to luxuriate in every piquant note of flavor.

If the Egyptian youth had taken to Facebook to call for a “Day of Offendedness” in Tahrir Square then Hosni Mubarak wouldn’t have had anything to worry about. But they weren’t merely offended, they were angry, challenging injustice with a “Day of Rage.” And Egypt will never be the same.

If those young people had been satisfied with just being offended then nothing would have changed. The Mubarak regime certainly was offensive — its abuses were an insult to the rights and dignity of every person in Egypt. That insult could have been savored, American-style, indulged for every juicy bit of righteous indignation and sweet drop of smug superiority. But the acquired taste of offendedness is difficult to cultivate while one is experiencing actual injustice. For those who were living in the shadow of secret police and the threat of torture, the pretentious pleasures of umbrage and smugness offered little temptation. For the youth of Egypt, impotent offense-taking didn’t cut it. They were angry and their anger changed the world.

Such genuine, world-changing anger cannot be produced or sustained in response to “first-world problems.” Every day on Fox News and AM talk radio, the hosts trot out a host of petty or wholly imaginary grievances and do their best to strike a pose of legitimate anger, but it’s not even slightly believable. The things they claim to be angry about aren’t actually injustices. Their grievances are smoke and mirrors.

Same-sex couples getting married neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. It would be foolishly absurd for me to pretend that their happiness constituted any kind of reason for me to be angry or to take offense.

I pay income taxes while nearly half of all American households are paid so little that they don’t owe any. That’s grounds for gratitude on my part, but not for offense. And absolutely not for anything like legitimate anger. It’s evidence of injustice, but not injustice against me or against Rick Warren or against Rick Perry or against anyone else so fortunate as to take in enough to owe a fair share.

The clownish pretense of anger over such non-offenses is laughable. It’s an insult to everyone suffering real offenses and real injustice. It’s an insult to those who are, right now, denied the legal right to marry and to those who, right now, are being exploited and denied the opportunity to earn a living wage.

But I don’t want you to take offense at that insult. I want you, instead, to get angry.

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  • Anonymous

    no offense, but I am kind of offended that this wasn’t a left behind post.

    So if you would excuse me I am going to put this offence in my wine cellar with the other savored offences I collected from slacktivist.

  • Anonymous

    I’m wondering now when enough people in America are going to get angry and get together.  I’m thinking it won’t be pretty when it happens.

  • Anonymous

    I’m wondering now when enough people in America are going to get angry and get together.  I’m thinking it won’t be pretty when it happens.

  • Anonymous

    hidden_urchin: I’m wondering now when enough people in America are going to get angry and get together.  I’m thinking it won’t be pretty when it happens.

    Based on the results of yesterday’s special election in New York City, it appears that the current anger is directed toward President Obama

    “I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican,” said Linda Goldberg, 61, after casting her ballot in Queens. “I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.”

    Mr. Turner will become the first Republican since 1920 elected to represent the Ninth Congressional District

    I’ll note that the anger of the swing voters isn’t derived from issues like same-sex marriage.  And while the tea party movement has claimed that 40% of Americans pay no federal income taxes, it’s not the main point.  These voters aren’t angry because of the tax obligations of others; they’re angry because they are fed up with the amount of their own tax burdens — and where the government is spending that revenue.

  • kbeth

    What? That article doesn’t say anything about tax burdens. In fact, it makes the point that those people are *against* cutting entitlement spending, but voted for the Republican specifically to send a message to Obama that he needs to do more for the economy.

    Of course, this will backfire, because Obama and his staffers will take this as a sign that they need to move even further to the right, and our economy’s death spiral will continue.

  • Anonymous

    kbeth: You are correct.  I erred.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    What? That article doesn’t say anything about tax burdens. In fact, it makes the point that those people are *against* cutting entitlement spending, but voted for the Republican specifically to send a message to Obama that he needs to do more for the economy.

    Then these people are complete morons.  The GOP will fight to the death to keep this country in a depression so they can oust Obama in 2012, so they vote for… more Republicans?

    Why do _I_ have to get the government these fact-free voters deserve?

  • Anonymous

    That’s odd. The article doesn’t say anything about the voters being “fed up with the amount of their own tax burdens” or “where the government is spending that revenue.”

    Even the woman quoted in your quote merely says “Our economy is horrible” and that she voted for Turner to send a message to Obama. There’s no indication that taxes (hers or anyone elses) or spending are specifically the economic issues she’s concerned about, nor is there any indication that she’s in favor of Turner’s policy proposals around those issues. The other Turner voter quoted in the article identifies jobs as the economic problem that needs to be dealt with, not spending, not taxes.

    In fact, the only mentions of spending as an issue in this article indicated that people turned for Turner in spite of his being pro-cuts, not because they support such cuts, and the only mention of taxes comes from Walprin, the Democratic candidate, when he states that tax relief for working families is important.

    All in all, I’m not sure why your cited this article seeing as there’s nothing in it that actually supports your claims re: voter anger over taxes and spending.

  • Tonio

    The district has a large percentage of Orthodox Jews. David Weigel suggests that the issues that hurt Obama Weprin in the race included his relatively even-handed approach to Israel, same-sex marriage, and the “Ground Zero mosque.” 

    Having said that, I have encountered voters who approach to voting is simply switching parties whenever things are going badly, as if this was a matter of replacing the CEO. Is it elitist of me to label this thinking as idiotic? At the least, it doesn’t seem to recognize the existence of agendas or political philosophies. (I can already hear some Slacktivistas saying, “Protecting the social and economic privilege of rich white Christian straights is not a political philosophy,” and they are probably right.)

  • Lori

     Having said that, I have encountered voters who approach to voting is simply switching parties whenever things are going badly, as if this was a matter of replacing the CEO.

     

    It’s not just you. It’s a well-documented fact that a bad economy is hard on incumbents. If you look at Nate Silver’s analysis of Obama’s reelection chances it’s focused very heavily on the economy. Nate knows where of he speaks. 

     Is it elitist of me to label this thinking as idiotic?  

    No. At least not at this point in our history. 

    Mindlessly voting for “the other guy” never really made sense, but right now it’s a total disaster since it gives the party out of power an incentive to damage the economy in order to get back in the White House. Back in the day there was an assumption that even fairly shitty politicians and political operators cared enough about the good of the country not to do that. Not any more. Failing to grasp that and vote accordingly is stupid and noticing that doesn’t make you elitist. Some people will say that it does, but they’re wrong.

  • Tonio

     there was an assumption that even fairly shitty politicians and political operators cared enough about the good of the country not to do that. Not any more.

    More and more I suspect that the sabotage is less about politics and more about the ethnicity of the sitting president. It’s so far removed from what they’ve seen as normal for decades that their emotions may have taken over to some degree. Not much different from them having to sit through a same-sex wedding ceremony. (Imagine the reaction if we had a gay male president who was married to his partner.) In Dennis Miller’s pre-Rant days, he pointed out that Khomeini sentenced women to death for dancing, and joked about forcing the ayatollah to watch Solid Gold. Not as funny when it happens in real life. Among other consequences, it sets a bad precedent for whoever the president is. 

  • Tonio

    I meant “it sets a bad precedent for politics regardless of who the president is in the future.”

  • Fraser

    I think a lot of it is due less to Obama’s race than just the fact they didn’t vote for him. There is a chunk of Republicans that cannot conceive that anyone they didn’t vote for can possibly be legitimate. Much the same way that when the government adopts policies they don’t accept, such as abortion, it’s automatically an illegitimate policy (rather than just wrong).
    Seriously, if there’d been any way to prove that Bill Clinton had been born outside this country, they’d have written that into the impeachment charges.

  • Tonio

    Yeah, there are some people who take that ideological approach to government. I don’t remember the GOP hostility to Clinton taking the tone of “illegitimacy” like it has with Obama. I think much, perhaps, most of that language is a rationalization (typically by older white voters) or a dog whistle (by people seeing to manipulate those voters). 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Tonio: It wasn’t as strong, but there was a definite group of Republicans who just could not tolerate Clinton being President, as though it were some kind of mortal sin that a Democrat couild succeed a Republican when the Soviet Union collapsed when a Republican happened to be in office.

    I think it helped crystallize who the Republicans wanted – needed as a ‘perpetual enemy’ since the USSR was gone. Instead of a strong external threat* to the US they found dozens of weaker internal ‘threats’ that could be used as the occasion demanded it – ‘welfare recipients’ (blacks), QUILTBAG people, single mothers (usually black), non-Christian people, et cetera.

    All these came under the umbrella of “people Democrats like” and forms part of the basis for why the Gingrichian Republican Party was gunning so hard for a permanent majority in both Houses of Congress – they reframed their political differences with Democrats into that of the form they took against the USSR – Clash of Titans battle mentality in which the loser is utterly vanquished.

    What is utterly odd is how insecure they acted even when, from 2002 to 2006 (the Dems nominally controlled the Senate by the thinnest of margins from 2000 to 2002) they held the House, Senate and Presidency. Somehow even as they eagerly implemented their agenda they had to see a perpetual bogeyman in the form of the “weak-kneed liberal”.

    Whoever suggested 1984 as the political songbook the Republicans use wasn’t that far off. Just as Oceania needed an Emmanuel Goldstein, so too do the Republicans need their archetypal liberal-to-defeat.

    * The USSR did pose a legitimate nuclear-power threat to the USA if something went wrong governmentally or militarily. However, the Soviets were not stupid and no doubt had similar command-and-control verification checks in place before a nuclear launch.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I think it helped crystallize who the Republicans wanted – needed as a ‘perpetual enemy’ since the USSR was gone. Instead of a strong external threat* to the US they found dozens of weaker internal ‘threats’ that could be used as the occasion demanded it – ‘welfare recipients’ (blacks), QUILTBAG people, single mothers (usually black), non-Christian people, et cetera.

    It feels as though when 9/11 happened, the Republican party got excited.  Before that, there were serious claims about the Bush administration’s legitimacy (and none of that Birther crap, this was about actual voting numbers) and the War on Terror swept all of it away.  Finally, the Republicans could get back to doing what they knew how to do best: have an enemy to fight and the threat of one to muster votes.  Without another power in which to set themselves as opposition, they did not know how to campaign or govern, and they did not have enough to be “about” to form a strong party.  

    Unfortunately, if an enemy does not present itself, then they feel they must create one.  

  • Tonio

    Without another power in which to set themselves as opposition, they did not know how to campaign or govern, and they did not have enough to be “about” to form a strong party.

    Who was it in the other thread that described politics as about egalitarianism versus authoritarianism, with the only things changing being the labels? 

  • Lori

     Having said that, I have encountered voters who approach to voting is simply switching parties whenever things are going badly, as if this was a matter of replacing the CEO.

     

    It’s not just you. It’s a well-documented fact that a bad economy is hard on incumbents. If you look at Nate Silver’s analysis of Obama’s reelection chances it’s focused very heavily on the economy. Nate knows where of he speaks. 

     Is it elitist of me to label this thinking as idiotic?  

    No. At least not at this point in our history. 

    Mindlessly voting for “the other guy” never really made sense, but right now it’s a total disaster since it gives the party out of power an incentive to damage the economy in order to get back in the White House. Back in the day there was an assumption that even fairly shitty politicians and political operators cared enough about the good of the country not to do that. Not any more. Failing to grasp that and vote accordingly is stupid and noticing that doesn’t make you elitist. Some people will say that it does, but they’re wrong.

  • Anonymous

    The district has a large percentage of Orthodox Jews. David Weigel suggests that the issues that hurt Obama Weprin in the race included his relatively even-handed approach to Israel, same-sex marriage, and the “Ground Zero mosque.”

    There’s a rising tide of insistance that Jewish voters will turn on Obama for continuing Bush’s Israel policies, but I’m not totally convinced.

    The Orthodox community gets more Republican the farther you go down the Chassidic/yeshivish curve, but I am not seeing much evidence beyond wishful thinking that enough people who normally vote for the Democrat are shifting parties at this point to make a difference.

    I spent eight years with these folks telling me how George W. Bush was Israels bestest, bestest friend ever, and it didn’t hurt Obama’s share of the Jewish vote.

  • Anonymous

    Aunursa, Are you really trying to claim that taxes haven’t gone down under Obama? Really?

  • Anonymous

    And I’m worried that anger is going to be taken out on minority groups instead of those in power. 

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    Indeed, anger doesn’t necessarily make you a leftist.  Just look at Germany in the 1930’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    It already is. It’s called The Tea Party, and for some reason, people are taking their pseudo-ideology seriously.

    I bought a gun about two years ago. One of my scarily ultra-conservative neighbors saw me carry it inside my house and said “Good thing you got that now, cuz Oh-Bomb-a is gonna make it hard to get one later.” I calmly replied that I was far less concerned about Obama taking anything of mine than I was about the Tea Party coming for my hypothetical future children for not hating gay people.

    He didn’t come around much after that.

  • Tonio

    the Tea Party coming for my hypothetical future children for not hating gay people.

    It would probably be a homophobic form of McCarthyism, with people accused of either being gay or of sympathizing with gays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    My kids are gonna grow up watching way too many Gilmore Girls reruns to not be the first on the gay sympathizers list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702271617 Andy Sherwin

    It already is. It’s called The Tea Party, and for some reason, people are taking their pseudo-ideology seriously.

    I bought a gun about two years ago. One of my scarily ultra-conservative neighbors saw me carry it inside my house and said “Good thing you got that now, cuz Oh-Bomb-a is gonna make it hard to get one later.” I calmly replied that I was far less concerned about Obama taking anything of mine than I was about the Tea Party coming for my hypothetical future children for not hating gay people.

    He didn’t come around much after that.

  • Lori

    How lovely that we have a voter mind-reader in our presence who can tell us why voters are angry. We need that mind reading ability since apparently the truth about voter anger doesn’t match any observable facts. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HZDOAAQAB5LXYL5Z4EAV55QMLY AbdulJ

    Whenever someone uses the phrase, “Voters are angry because…” or “voters want…” or “the American people demand…” I just assume that they’re filling in their own opinion after that. Because the ‘American people’ don’t have a hive mind — if they did, we wouldn’t need elections and politicians and political parties? There would never be any debate or disagreement. We would all have the same beliefs and the same religion and eat the same foods and go to the same places and have the same hobbies.

  • Anonymous

    Such phrasing rings the same alarm bells for me too, and even if any particular “Voters think…” statement turned out to be true, it doesn’t mean that the voters are actually correct.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    What I find is more unpleasant is frustration.  There is a lot that I could get angry about, that drive which demands that I take action… but often there is little (legal or moral) outlet for that anger to manifest itself.  

    I have said before that I sometimes fantasize about putting myself into situations in which I would be in physical danger and be required to fight.  I suppose such fantasies are a desire for a catharsis of that anger.  

  • twig

    Get mad.  Don’t make lemonade.

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    “When life hands you lemons, squeeze them in people’s faces”

  • Anonymous

    “When life hands you lemons, use them  to make invisible ink as you plot against the masters.”

    Edited to fix link.

  • Paul Clouse

    Fred, This is fantastic. Well written, eloquently worded, and perfectly delivered. I’d love to feature this article on my online magazine Hunting for God. You’ll receive full credit, of course, as a guest writer/contributor. Please email me if you’re interested.

    Paul Clouse
    scribblestudio@gmail.com
    http://huntingforgod.wordpress.com/

  • Emcee, cubed

    Aunursa, Are you really trying to claim that taxes haven’t gone down under Obama? Really?

    Um. Argh. In some places, and for some people, this may technically be true. Yes, Obama has cut federal taxes for most people. But some people’s overall tax burden may have gone up.

    Since Republicans have succeeded in making the deficit an issue, but have refused to raise taxes and revenue to lower the deficit, there have been major spending cuts. One of these cuts is in monies to the States.

    Most States aren’t allowed to run a deficit at all, so when they lose federal monies, they need to raise taxes or make cuts. Usually both. And one of the cuts they make is monies to local governments, who then have to raise taxes (property and school taxes being the most common) and make cuts.

    So while federal taxes may have gone down, state and local taxes have gone up, making the tax burden for some people higher than it was before.

    There are reasons to blame Obama, such as not fighting harder against such cuts to the States, or allowing the economic conversation to be derailed by the deficit hawks, but I seriously doubt that is what the Tea Party trying to say…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There are reasons to blame Obama, such as not fighting harder against such cuts to the States, or allowing the economic conversation to be derailed by the deficit hawks, but I seriously doubt that is what the Tea Party trying to say…

    I still place most of the blame on the Tea Party.  A president should not have to fight so hard just to do the basic business of running the country in the first place.  

    Republicans have already called the American Jobs Act a “get reelected” act rather than a “fix the economy” act, but frankly their behavior prior to this has been a “get Obama out of office” act rather than a “fix the economy” act.  They have no moral ground to stand on in this matter.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HZDOAAQAB5LXYL5Z4EAV55QMLY AbdulJ

    Also, I’m pretty sure that Obama did not personally appoint those Representatives and Senators. The President’s ability to make fiscal policy is heavily controlled by Congress. If ‘we the people’ chose to send deficit hawks instead of job creators to Congress, we can’t turn around and blame Obama for the fact that Congress is filled with deficit hawks. There are a lot of things that you can blame Obama for but I think it’s time that we take responsibility for who we elect to represent us in Congress.

    If you vote for a Republican for whatever reason (to teach Obama a lesson, to teach Anthony Weiner a lesson, whatever), you have to know that you’re voting for an avowed deficit hawk, for someone who believes that “cut and grow” is a logical approach to expansionary fiscal policy, for someone whose main concern over the tax burden is that it doesn’t burden the working poor enough. If that’s okay with you, that’s fine, but don’t blame Barack Obama.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    f ‘we the people’ chose to send deficit hawks instead of job creators to Congress, we can’t turn around and blame Obama for the fact that Congress is filled with deficit hawks. There are a lot of things that you can blame Obama for but I think it’s time that we take responsibility for who we elect to represent us in Congress.

    The funny thing is, I am not even sure that these people are deficit hawks.  Where were they when Bush’s administration was cutting taxation (primarily on the top earners) and beginning a necessarily expensive optional war that we had no chance of resolving during any of his terms?  Where where they when Reagan was pouring financial nitrous into the engine of America’s defense industry during the later stages of the Cold War arms race?  Or instituting a profit-sharing program which gave vast amounts of money to the states?  

    It would bother me less if their deficit objections seemed like genuine concerns about the financial sustainability of government programs.  People with such genuine concerns can be heard out, taken into account, reasoned with, and appeased.  But their words right now do not mesh with their prior actions.  It seems like they are more inclined to use this issue, or any issue, as something convenient with which they can say they are in opposition to this administration.  It is not even opposition or support over particular issues, over which it should not matter what the party affiliation of the sitting president is (said party affiliation simply indicates what the sitting presidents preferences on an issue are likely to be,) it seems just to be about getting the other guy out of there because he is not “One of Us”.  

  • Fraser

    This. They’re not deficit hawks–or at least many of them aren’t–they’re people who believe in tax cuts as a Prime Directive. Slashing taxes is always the raison d’etre. As witness the people who claimed under Reagan that slashing taxes would lead to more government revenue announced under Clinton that having more government revenue was the result of high taxes.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Deficit Chickenhawks?

  • Hawker40

    The problem is in 2010, the majority of Americans voted for people that said they were going to create jobs, and once in office they worked hard to ban abortion, gut social spending, and act like they were going to cut the deficit.

    (2010: the year Americans voted out the party that couldn’t fix the economy in favor of the party that broke the economy in the first place.)

  • Anonymous

     (2010: the year Americans voted out the party that couldn’t fix the economy in favor of the party that broke the economy in the first place.)

    So sad but so true. And 2010 was supposed to be the year we make contact.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The problem is in 2010, the majority of Americans voted for people that said they were going to create jobs, and once in office they worked hard to ban abortion, gut social spending, and act like they were going to cut the deficit.

    Normally that kind of behavior, promising one thing and delivering another, goes against the common wisdom.  After all, if you break promises to those who voted for you immediately after putting you into office, they are less likely to vote for you come re-election.  But in this case, they seem part of a wider strategy of making the government as ineffectual as possible in the short term so they can regain control of the White House again.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HZDOAAQAB5LXYL5Z4EAV55QMLY AbdulJ

    All of this is true; you’re right. However, none of this is really a secret. The GOP might have lied about the job thing, but they definitely talked about cutting spending during the last campaign. The only way anyone who voted for them can be surprised at what they get is either A. they didn’t watch television at all since early 2009 or B. they’re idiots.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    All of this is true; you’re right. However, none of this is really a secret. The GOP might have lied about the job thing, but they definitely talked about cutting spending during the last campaign. The only way anyone who voted for them can be surprised at what they get is either A. they didn’t watch television at all since early 2009 or B. they’re idiots.

    I suppose that it makes a certain kind of idiot-logic.  I remember reading something in a newspaper a few years back, about the rise of the Tea Party and how it got backronymed into “Taxed Enough Already”.  The reporter was questioning one of the movement’s drivers, and to the reporter’s credit, asked the question of how they can hold the position that they are being overtaxed under Obama when, for most people, Tea Partiers included, taxes actually moderately fell under Obama.  The guy representing the Tea Party conceded, that yes, in absolute terms taxes were lower, but the problem was what the taxes were being spent on that had them so riled up, and that their taxes could be next to zero and they would still be angry because of where the money was going.  

    Either he declined to say where he thought the money was going, or the paper declined to print it.  

    But framed in that light, I can see why they would support the cutting of spending.  It is not so much the deficit (though they use that as a political cudgel) as it is getting the government to cease giving money to… whatever they seem to not want the government giving money to.  Exactly what remains unclear, but I doubt that the answer would be very flattering for those demanding it cease.  

  • Anonymous

    The only way anyone who voted for them can be surprised at what they get is either A. they didn’t watch television at all since early 2009 or B. they’re idiots.

    The perfect example is Rick Scott. People were saying during the election that Floridians should probably not elect a felon. 
    So what did Florida do? They elected the felon. Lo and behold, he’s pile-driving Florida further into the swamp mud.  Hoocoodanode.

    Heaven knows I’ve precious little sympathy, I live in a state whose bright stars include Jon Kyl, John McCain, Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, Trent Franks, JD Hayworth and Ben Quayle.

  • Lori

     Heaven knows I’ve precious little sympathy, I live in a state whose bright stars include Jon Kyl, John McCain, Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, Trent Franks, JD Hayworth and Ben Quayle. 

    Those people are all bad, but I think Ben Quayle is the one who should really give Arizonans pause. A 2nd generation idiot who moved to the state because that’s apparently where he felt he’d do well. That’s not good. 

  • Tonio

    2nd generation? His grandfather was a member of the John Birch Society.

  • Lori

    Oy. I forgot about grandpa. 

  • Tonio

    they definitely talked about cutting spending during the last campaign

    And even that was disingenuous to a certain extent. The biggest parts of the budget include defense, Social Security and Medicare but they tended to focus on small-ticket ideological targets like Planned Parenthood, NPR and NEA. Part of me appreciates the semi-logic of some of the GOP presidential candidates opposing Social Security. But people like Judson Phillips act like funding for cow flatulence studies is the reason their taxes are high. Sure, his bigotry shows when he lambastes people on the coasts as not “real Americans” and when he calls for restoring property qualifications for voting. My interest is in the bitterness and fear that seem to animate people like him.

    When I see how extreme the party is becoming, I wonder if an Obama re-election would spark another civil war. I think it didn’t happen in 2008 because the reality of having a non-white as President took some time to skin in, like the old Eddie Murphy routine about Harold Washington still in disbelief that he had been elected as Chicago’s mayor.

  • Anonymous

    Tonio: When I see how extreme the party is becoming, I wonder if an Obama
    re-election would spark another civil war. I think it didn’t happen in
    2008 because the reality of having a non-white as President took some
    time to skin in,

    I’m reasonably certain we’ll avoid an all-out shooting civil war.  What we may see if Obama is re-elected is some (only some, the level that is on the third page of the city newspaper) increased violence against QUILTBAG folk, abortion providers, and non-evangelical Christians; a ramping up of the rhetoric on both sides; one or two more high-profile acts of violence from someone(s) on the right and, increasingly likely, at least one reprisal act of violence from someone on the left.  After the election, the Republicans will double-down on their efforts to make government and Obama look bad, but it will be business as usual.  And the 2016 election will be pretty much straight white male across both parties, from primaries to inauguration.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think USAians are, even now, as capable of the degree of anger that drove the Arab Spring.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NB5FJ2VSINZPTPUGCJI6C24SU Kadia

    It’s not the same system. Republicans — and anyone who is unhappy with Obama, Congress, etc. — have far, far more options than people in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, etc.

    I know it’s fashionable to compare the United States to a third-world autocracy. Certainly there are many unfortunate parallels (erosion of civil liberties, overly-influential religious factions, widespread economic inequality) but anyone who has ever actually lived in a real dictatorship or a genuinely-failed state understands that the United States is far from resembling Qaddafi’s Libya. Our civil society is much more well-developed and respect for the rule of law — while weaker than it should be — is significantly stronger than it is in any failed state (can you imagine Obama outlawing right-wing blog or sending the FBI to take Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell into custody?)

    We might enjoy using hyperbolic rhetoric to score political points but it’s important to remember that the United States isn’t like Syria or Yemen and for middle-class Americans to compare losing an election or two to decades of violent state repression and totalitarian rule is an insult to what genuine victims of dictatorship throughout the world have suffered.

  • Tonio

    While you have a point about the validity of the comparisons, I think you miss the reasoning behind them. There seems to be a very strong correlation between the vibrancy of the middle class and the vibrancy of representative democracy. Or put another way, the greater the income gulf between rich and poor, the greater the likelihood that the nation in question will have a repressive government. Makes sense, since the oligarchy would see the acquisition and maintenance of power as necessary to maintain its wealthy. When we compare the US to a “third-world country” (a term I despise), we mean that the middle class is disappearing and corporations are acquiring too much power, and that we fear that the end result will be repression. 

    Similarly, when we warn about the danger to religious freedom from the religious right, we don’t mean that we’ll wake up tomorrow and the US will be ruled by Christian ayatollahs. It’s more a matter of spotting trends and warning “If this goes on,” the title of Heinlein’s seminal work about a fundamentalist theocracy here. 

  • Tonio

    I mean “maintain its wealth.”

  • Anonymous

    This is quite true.  We do not have the anger that drove the Arab Spring because we really don’t need it.  The system still (mostly, really) works (or works well enough) at this time.  As I pointed out, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any sort of thing that was present in the Arab Spring.

    I’m sorry, what in my post gave you the impression that I thought we would?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NB5FJ2VSINZPTPUGCJI6C24SU Kadia

    My apologies, I didn’t mean to imply that that was your argument. I was criticizing the IndigNation people who act like losing an election or two is the same as the country falling into some kind of 3rd world failed state filled with repression and political violence. The kinds of people who think that “a Second Amendment” solution of violent popular uprising is really needed (by any side, really) to effect change in the government. I just quoted your post because it was handy and on point — I certainly don’t want to lump in your comments with the ignorance of people who really don’t distinguish between Obama and Mubarak.

    @ Tonio —

    Similarly,
    when we warn about the danger to religious freedom from the religious
    right, we don’t mean that we’ll wake up tomorrow and the US will be
    ruled by Christian ayatollahs. It’s more a matter of spotting trends and
    warning “If this goes on,” the title of Heinlein’s seminal work about a
    fundamentalist theocracy here.

    Those are great and valid points that I agree with. I didn’t mean to criticize the accurate parallels between the United States and repressive countries / failed regimes, just the false ones that suggest that the American people under Obama are roughly in the same position and facing identical challenges as the Egyptians under Mubarak or the Yemenis under Saleh.

    Good point about the ‘third world country’ phrase; I apologize for that.

  • Tonio

    And my apologies for assuming that you were talking about the Tea Partiers’ critics.

  • Tonio

    And my apologies for assuming that you were talking about the Tea Partiers’ critics.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I see now! Thanks for the explanation, I apologize for misunderstanding. ^_^

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I see now! Thanks for the explanation, I apologize for misunderstanding. ^_^

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Normally that kind of behavior, promising one thing and delivering another, goes against the common wisdom.  After all, if you break promises to those who voted for you immediately after putting you into office, they are less likely to vote for you come re-election.  But in this case, they seem part of a wider strategy of making the government as ineffectual as possible in the short term so they can regain control of the White House again.

    I think what happened is this: the voters elected the republicans saying “We’ll pretend we’re voting for you because you’ll create jobs and fix the economy and not just because we’re indiscriminately angry and many of us are racists.”  In return, the republicans said “Okay, in return we’ll pretend we’re praticing fiscal responsibility and encouraging job growth, and not just pushing a radical social agenda and deliberately sinking the ship of state in a desperate mad power bid.”

    That is, I don’t think the electorate ever really believed the things the candidate promised, they just all had an implied agreement to *pretend* that was what it was all about, because they all knew it would be bad for both parties if they just came out and said what they really wanted.

    And they’ll get away with it precisely because when next november comes around, they’ll say “we tried SO HARD to create jobs but the evil socialist dems wouldn’t let us”, and the voters will all wink and nod and go “Yeah, we totes get that,” all the while, the voters are thinking “Shame about the economy, but at least we got abortion restrictions and we’re gonna get a white president. That’s what’s really important. Oops, got to go back to shouting about jobs before anyone notices and calls me a racist!”, and the politicians are thinking “Shame about NPR and planned parenthood, but at least we got those tax cuts for our donors. That’s what’s really important. Oops, got to go back to pretending I care about these ignorant hicks”.  And then they’ll wink knowingly at each other.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That ascribes an uncommon level of unstated understandings all around. I’m inclined to believe that the Republicans were successful at being the loudest, squeakiest wheel jamming up the works (why not? They’ve had lots of practice being shouty, boorish assholes who never saw a working government they liked except one that helps rich people), and the American electorate seems to respond to that kind of boisterousness – even if counterproductive to their own interests.

  • Anonymous

    Off topic: was Monday’s “Refusing to Bow before the Beast” this week’s LB post?

  • g_whiz007

    I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around the “don’t take offense at words/behaviors/attitudes that are supposed to be offensive” argument, and I’ve been hearing it a lot of late. When it regards the use of the N-word, or other slurs I’ve been told that my “reacting” , or calling labeling people who use those words with animus appropriately is a waste of time, and that I’m “letting them win”. I’m of the mind that I defend against bigotry and abject stupidity because it makes me feel better to not let ignorance win out by an absence of courage.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HZDOAAQAB5LXYL5Z4EAV55QMLY AbdulJ

    I think the argument in this instance isn’t “don’t have any reaction at all” but more “the reaction ‘offended’ is way too mild; you should feel anger instead.” ‘Offense’ is portrayed as whiny and ineffectual — you’re upset, but not really enough to do anything but complain about how unfair life it. ‘Anger’ is different – it can galvanize action. As Fred Clark said, if the Egyptian protesters (or anyone who has ever fought against oppression, bigotry, etc.) settled for merely feeling offended, they would have been defeated, every single time.

     Justified anger = good. Justified offense = okay, but ultimately worthless.

  • Mike

    Rage = violent, uncontrolled anger. Yeah, that’s always such a good thing.
     The article is, in general, narrow-minded and condescending. Dare I say… offensive? Pretending that folks can’t be genuinely angry about moral injustices just because they live in a certain country is simply false. It minimizes and ridicules legitimate grievances and issues that could lead a first world nation to become second or third world (e.g irresponsible and repressive tax policies; moral issues that could harm the integrity of the nation; etc).

  • Lori

     Pretending that folks can’t be genuinely angry about moral injustices just because they live in a certain country is simply false.  

     

    This would be true if that’s what “first world problems” meant or if that was what Fred was saying. It’s not, so it isn’t. 

    First world problems =/= problems that only first world countries have

    First world problems =/= every single problem experienced in a first world country

    First world problems = problems that are trivial and which only very comfortable people have the luxury of obsessing over. 

    It minimizes and ridicules legitimate grievances and issues that could lead a first world nation to become second or third world (e.g irresponsible and repressive tax policies; moral issues that could harm the integrity of the nation; etc).  

    No, it really doesn’t. It ridicules people who marinate in offendedness and get all worked up about things that neither break their legs nor pick their pockets instead of focusing their energy on things that actually matter. 

  • Lori

    And another thing:

     Rage = violent, uncontrolled anger. Yeah, that’s always such a good thing.  

    Rage: 
    1.angry fury; violent anger.
    2. a fit of violent anger.
    3. fury or violence of wind, waves, fire, disease, etc.
    4. violence of feeling, desire, or appetite: the rage of thirst.
    5. a violent desire or passion.

    Uncontrolled isn’t part of the definition and violent anger is sometimes warranted. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Uncontrolled isn’t part of the definition and violent anger is sometimes warranted.

    Heck, even the Imperium of Man, a society which holds as a creed “Hatred is the Emperor’s gift to humanity,” recognizes that uncontrolled rage is a dangerous thing.  Down that path leads to the Ruinous Powers.  

  • Mike

    “Uncontrolled” in the first definition in these two dictionaries: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rage  http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rage?region=us
    I agree that use of force, or violence, is sometimes necessary / warranted – especially in self-defense, justified warfare, enforcement of national laws, etc.

    One other note. A lot of people in these comments seem pretty worked up (and possibly offended) at those who take offense at certain events and policies.

  • Lori

     One other note. A lot of people in these comments seem pretty worked up (and possibly offended) at those who take offense at certain events and policies.  

    It depends on what the policies are. If folks are offended at policies that don’t punish the poor enough for being poor, or that don’t kiss the asses of the rich enough, or that are supported by reality-based economics or that allow women to be treated as full human beings or that allow consenting adults to get married than yeah, a lot of people here are worked but about that. Because that crap is factually wrong and/or just nasty and petty. So yes, if you’re trying to advocate for the pearl-clutchers and Tea Partiers you aren’t going to find much support here. 

  • Izzy

    That would be anger, Sparky. Try reading the original post.

  • Mike

    Rage = violent, uncontrolled anger. Yeah, that’s always such a good thing.
     The article is, in general, narrow-minded and condescending. Dare I say… offensive? Pretending that folks can’t be genuinely angry about moral injustices just because they live in a certain country is simply false. It minimizes and ridicules legitimate grievances and issues that could lead a first world nation to become second or third world (e.g irresponsible and repressive tax policies; moral issues that could harm the integrity of the nation; etc).

  • Emcee, cubed

    (e.g irresponsible and repressive tax policies; moral issues that could harm the integrity of the nation; etc).

    Maybe. Except I don’t know where you live. I live in the US, and we haven’t had “irresponsible and repressive tax policies” since around 1776. (okay, that’s not true. The “give what you want” version of taxation under the Articles of Confederation were incredibly irresponsible. So, 1786, then? Not sure on the dates there.)

    And “moral issues that could harm the integrity of the nation”? Such as…? I can think of a few. Allowing a portion of its citizenry to starve to death when it has the power to stop it. Allowing a portion of its citizenry to die from lack of proper medical care. Forced armed takeovers of sovereign government without cause. Supporting genocidal dictators with arms and money. Oh wait…

  • Izzy

    This.

    I think our tax policies are irresponsible and repressive, insofar as they enable giant corporations to pay their management multi-million dollar salaries and their front-line workers less than a living wage with no benefits.

    I think there are definitely moral issues that could, and do, harm the integrity of the US. You mention some. A few more include making a portion of its citizens second class because of their relationships to other consenting adults; deciding that women can’t be in control of their own bodies; destroying the environment…

  • MaryKaye

    I think the take-home is not “don’t take offense” but “don’t take offense for the pleasure of taking offense.”  If someone launches bigoted slurs in front of you it is perfectly appropriate to rebuke them.  If you go out looking for bigoted slurs because ranting at the speakers gives you a warm feeling in your tummy, you are not contributing to anything good.  If you feel the need to invent bigoted slurs via misquotation and out-of-context cites because you aren’t finding enough of the real thing, you are actually contributing to the problem.  (Note that this is an example, not an accusation:  I don’t think anyone in this discussion is doing this.)

    I have fallen into this one myself–mainly in the form of baiting creationists.  I can waste enormous amounts of (virtual) ink doing this, to no one’s edification.  I think the teaching of creationism does need to be combated but cultivating indignation as a sport doesn’t help with that, and in fact may make things worse–if you are seeing it as a sport you’ll do things to make it more lively, even if they don’t make it more truthful or more effective or more compassionate.

    Reasonable questions to ask about any anger-motivated action:

    (1)  Is the thing I want to have happen really better than the alternative?
    (2)  Is it worth the effort, or is it trivial? 
    (3)  Can my response actually improve the situation?  Is it directed at the right targets?  Are my actions at least potentially effective?
    (4)  Is my response likely to do more good than harm?

    I learned this the hard way when I worked with a Board of Directors member who was quite good at spotting problems, but would pick a response without consideration for whether it actually addressed the problem.  Senior members of the group are mismanaging it?  Write rules to require mentoring of newcomers.  (Not a bad idea, but totally useless for this problem.)  Scandal about a hot-tub party?  Write rules saying no two group members can ever be nude together.  (Um, some of us were married to each other.  I don’t think so.)

    I personally would not vote for a Republican as a way to strike out against Obama, even though I am disappointed at some of his decisions, because it fails on points 3 and 4.  After the 2010 election it is perfectly clear that the policies I want from Obama become less, not more, likely if Republicans are elected, so it’s a fail on #3.  And my reading of the data is that it’s a fail on #4 as well.  If you read the data differently you can reasonably come to a different conclusion:  but voting to express your anger, without concern for whether you are hurting your own cause, strikes me as a really bad strategy.

    So, be angry!  But be angry *intelligently*.  Lashing out at targets of opportunity just makes you destructive and, ironically, easy to control and manipulate.  Directed, controlled, well-thought-out anger is a lot more powerful.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have fallen into this one myself–mainly in the form of baiting creationists.  I can waste enormous amounts of (virtual) ink doing this, to no one’s edification.  I think the teaching of creationism does need to be combated but cultivating indignation as a sport doesn’t help with that, and in fact may make things worse–if you are seeing it as a sport you’ll do things to make it more lively, even if they don’t make it more truthful or more effective or more compassionate.

    This is one of the reasons why I am worried about volunteering as a guard at abortion clinics.  The urge to troll the protesters by offering to let them inside so they can see the desecrated obsidian alter upon which we extract the stillborn for our dark mass would be just too overpowering.  

  • Anonymous

    A Buddhist priest, of all people, once told me, “Anger is fuel.”

  • Anonymous

    I remember that we discussed rayford’s reaction after his wife died and what kind of anger that was.
    An sickening rage boiling inside him but he isn’t capable of using it any way.

    It was interesting and kind of disturbing.

  • Anonymous

    To quote Melissa McEwan: “I’m not offended, I’m contemptuous.” Also, “I expect more.”
    Offendedness seems to go along with apathy. The terrible thing that is so offensive is also inevitable. No point in fighting a losing war.
    Contempt, anger, even hate- properly aimed and carefully watched- are extremely motivating. You just have to watch yourself to make sure you’re not diving off a cliff.

  • Anonymous

    “Such genuine, world-changing anger cannot be produced or sustained in
    response to “first-world problems.” Every day on Fox News and AM talk
    radio, the hosts trot out a host of petty or wholly imaginary grievances
    and do their best to strike a pose of legitimate anger, but it’s not
    even slightly believable.”

    I don’t know about this distinction.  It seems to me that the big difference in methods between hardcore social conservatives and Egyptian revolutionaries is down to the difference between the institutions for social change available to each.  Offense/anger at gay people can definitely be sustained and can definitely have a big impact (not just here, either; look at what we did to [blanking on that country with the death penalty for homosexuality with ties to the Family]).  Or consider abortion rights.  The people who are offended don’t need regime change to get their way, though; they just have to show up and vote (and fund advertising).

    I don’t know how many social conservatives would fight for regime change if working through legislatures and courts wasn’t clearly a better strategy, but I believe that many that Fred would call merely offended are feeling something very similar to what many of the protestors in Egypt felt.  Their anger is misdirected and/or wrong, but it’s there.

  • Anonymous

    “Such genuine, world-changing anger cannot be produced or sustained in
    response to “first-world problems.” Every day on Fox News and AM talk
    radio, the hosts trot out a host of petty or wholly imaginary grievances
    and do their best to strike a pose of legitimate anger, but it’s not
    even slightly believable.”

    I don’t know about this distinction.  It seems to me that the big difference in methods between hardcore social conservatives and Egyptian revolutionaries is down to the difference between the institutions for social change available to each.  Offense/anger at gay people can definitely be sustained and can definitely have a big impact (not just here, either; look at what we did to [blanking on that country with the death penalty for homosexuality with ties to the Family]).  Or consider abortion rights.  The people who are offended don’t need regime change to get their way, though; they just have to show up and vote (and fund advertising).

    I don’t know how many social conservatives would fight for regime change if working through legislatures and courts wasn’t clearly a better strategy, but I believe that many that Fred would call merely offended are feeling something very similar to what many of the protestors in Egypt felt.  Their anger is misdirected and/or wrong, but it’s there.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting post by Fred. Usually I get tensed up when I see someone begin to lecture about not holding negative emotions (for a variety of reasons which include my special blend of personality flaws).
    But then he pulled it around and said, “No, no, stop messing around with being offended, go for the real stuff: the anger.”

    So I’ll have to meditate on this distinction for a little.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NB5FJ2VSINZPTPUGCJI6C24SU Kadia

    No, no, reading over again I definitely could have been (a lot!) clearer!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That said, I should note (the cite is Naming Rumpelstiltskin, by the way) that the trends extant in the USA at the time (mid-90s) would, if simply extended forward, mean the USA would fit every definition of a Third World country by 2020.

    Don’t kid yourselves. Countries can appear quite prosperous and yet carry stunning social inequalities and inefficiencies that emerge in full flower once the prosperity collapses. Argentina is a classic example: on the way to joining ‘developed nation’ status, and then the props got kicked out from under their economy, and bam.

  • Muenchner Kindl

    That’s why a few years ago, when “Misereor” http://www.misereor.org/en/misereor-org-home.html  (a German catholic Charity) turned 50 years old, there were ads on the billboards that said “Mit Zorn und Zärtlichkeit für die Armen” (with Anger and tenderness for the poor).

    At first it looks odd to see Anger from a christian charity, but then it makes sense:

    Anger against the unjust systems that keep people poor,

    Tenderness towards the poor when helping them improve their life.

    Both go together: immediate help is not effective if the larger conditions of markets and government and corruption and debts and inequality and … are not addressed, and to change those, you need anger.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are; and courage to see that they do not remain that way.

    –St Augustine

  • Muenchner Kindl

    Here’s a quote from the Misereor English website:

    ‘Righteous anger’ and ‘Tenderness’
    By using the terms ‘righteous anger’ and ‘tenderness’ MISEREOR is underlining the special motivation at the heart of its activities. What we mean is the righteousanger over injustice and suffering that is rooted in human compassion, especially for the poor, the disenfranchised and the disempowered.

    (Surely we could quibble over the dedication of the RCC itself as organisation in the fight for the poor, looking at what the RCC hierarchy did to bishops in Latin America; but the lay people give generously during the fast weeks action, and the individual projects the charity does with the money are also well-thought out and helpful.).

  • SirThinkALot

    Half of Americans dont pay income tax? Good, how we can make it so the rest dont either?

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Don’t be silly. Government performs useful services for us, the public as a whole – to name a few, national defense, monitoring the safety of food and medicines, maintaining highways and keeping airplane traffic orderly – and those services have to be paid for. (No, the free market can’t do all that. It’s been tried, and people found the results unsatisfactory.)

    There are countries in the world – Somalia, for example – which don’t have functioning governments. By all reports, they’re very unpleasant places to live.


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