Last evening we dropped in on friends for an end of the day drink or two. In the course of general conversation…real estate, politics, music…our hostess said that she thought we should learn to be less angry.
This took us aback. We don’t think of ourselves as an angry man. True enough, there are some things that light that fire, but largely they are abstractions, not personal.
We do get angry considering that the Supreme Court will probably invalidate Section 5 of the Voting Act. This even though we can understand in advance how they might reach their conclusion: prejudice exists in all 50 states in America, not only in eleven that must run a gamut through the Justice Department to change election practices.
We all saw and understood what Republican states houses were doing before, during and after last autumn’s election. Cutting early voting hours, asking for extreme evidence of citizenship, forcing voters to travel to the polls only on certain days. These ideas were developed purely and simply to keep black Americans, Hispanics, the elderly and students from voting – as it seemed they would – Democratic. If Republicans couldn’t win an election fairly, they would simply change the rules so that they , the rules, favored them.
This was not a movement that rocketed only through the south. It happened in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, and other northern tier states.
And most of these new restrictions were blatantly unconstitutional.
A goodly portion of America was being disenfranchised.
Naturally this made us angry, although we are the first to understand that prejudice itself is nondiscriminatory.
And we think we were justifiably angry when the Supreme Court decided that corporations were similar enough to human beings to have the power to vote, to sway voters, to spend unlimited amounts of money to win an election, all in the name of free speech. We believe in free speech. We do not believe corporations are people. We also believe that this decision was purposefully drafted to favor the astonishing wealth of corporations whose leaders were likely to be Republicans.
In effect, the Court gave its approval to buying votes.
And yes, this, too, made us angry.
We were also enraged by the recent Senate vote that ignored the American people’s desire for expanded background checks on firearm purchasers. We were angered, and saddened, that the occasionally talented and wise men and women in the Senate were seen to be also occasionally fearful for their own hides. That they seemed to believe the propaganda of the National Rifle Association, which purported to be strong enough to make or break a particular legislator depending on how he or she voted on this issue.
How the Senate behaved put the lie to one of America’s oldest traditions…that we have a form of representative government that responds to the will of the people.
As the most heavily armed population in the civilized world, the United States proved once more it was as corrupt and stupid as any other. To our friends and allies around the world, this kind of proof was the last thing we needed to offer.
And we were also angry that the Senate chose to ignore the pain and suffering of gun victims throughout the country, not only in Newtown.
To counter all this unmanaged anger, we have to report that the response of Boston to its recent tragedies at the Marathon lifted our spirits and made us proudly secure in the knowledge that we were on the ball and could solve deadly plots and devices.
And while we are unhappy with the gap in influence and income that exists between the very rich and the very poor, we are often heartened to learn of men and women who have surmounted individual difficulties to make their own lives better, more fruitful, and more meaningful for us all.
We are thrilled with scientific progress in this country, with the effort and hard work and hours of research and testing that go into finding therapies and solutions to diseases that frighten us, that make our lives seem ever-more transient and less valuable than they are.
And we are deeply concerned, not angry, at American problems which seem to have few easy solutions, like education. Or immigration.
We believe we need our young people to have a more directed education that will lead them to the jobs that exist in our inter-connected international world.
We believe strongly, despite occasional set-backs, in the wit and wisdom and daring of people who start businesses, or who enlist to help community problems or who dedicate themselves to traveling throughout the world trying to make it a better place for people who are not as fortunate as we are. And we are grateful that we can still make those distinctions.
We believe in a fairer tax code. We support a path to citizenship for undocumented workers that does not ignore the years of waiting in line for entry into America by more legitimate means.
We believe in our nation’s destiny as evidenced by its growth, its power, its tendency to try to make the rest of the world closer to our own vision of life here – without erasing the value of other nations’ cultures and customs.
We believe in America’s workers, in its doctors and technicians, in its never-ceasing desire to improve our world.
Which is why, folks, we get angry.
We get angry when real life disappoints us, when American values are riddled with “American exceptionalism,” which has so clearly come to mean that the American “I” can do anything he or she wants and the devil take the hindmost.
We believe that criticism of America is not treasonous, but meant to improve the country. That this criticism comes only from expecting too much of ourselves and our institutions. We believe in our own abilities to make our nation better, more responsive to its citizens, more responsive to the world in which we live.
Otherwise, folks, we are entirely a pussy-cat.