Looking at the headlines the last few months, some of them here in the JT, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of anger out there. And I’m not just talking about here in Baltimore, where rioters torched and looted hundreds of businesses this spring in reaction to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
In the realm of politics, anger has become the stock and trade of what passes for reasoned discourse.
There was businessman/entertainer/ Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who stoked the ire of the faithful in Las Vegas and Phoenix over the weekend when he doubled-down on inflammatory comments made last month about illegal immigrants. He told each crowd he’d fine Mexico tens of thousands of dollars for every immigrant crossing the southern border.
And let’s not forget Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who is mounting a charge from former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s left for the Democratic nomination for president. He’s been decrying Wall Street as the source of all evil in his speeches which, though more substantive policy-wise than those of Trump, have equally been fanning the flames among a middle class feeling disenfranchised by economics as well as politics.
And although Trump and Sanders are the most likely candidates to resemble Howard Beale, the lead character from “Network” who invades a newscast to rant “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” not a single politician seeking the White House is without blame. But as we turn from what some are calling perhaps the biggest outrage to befall those hoping for peace in the Middle East — a looming nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that appears to retreat from preventing the development of a weapon to merely forestalling the inevitable — to what exactly to do about it, now is a perfect time to look at whether anger, as opposed to action, is an effective tool to achieve our goals.
History is replete with examples of anger gleefully fueled by people who end up getting swept up in the destruction that follows, most notably the revolutionaries of late 18th-century France who found themselves the targets of the masses. And where countries and publics have successfully fought back challenges from without and within, it wasn’t anger that made success possible, but resoluteness.
Closer to home, the only accomplishment of the riots in Baltimore was the destruction of whole neighborhoods, the fracturing of a police force and the resultant rise in violent crime. Contrast that with the aftermath of the horrific shooting of black worshippers at a church in Charleston, S.C., by a suspected racist: The immediate response of the few survivors and the family and friends of those murdered was to pray. Within weeks, aided by a steady campaign of political pressure, the Confederate battle flag, rightly seen as an instigator of the kind of hate that made the massacre possible, finally came down from its last perch at a state capitol.
Outrage, righteous indignation, anger — these are not the emotions that get things done. Determination, on the other hand, is what moves mountains. As we all internalize the failures and accomplishments — it depends on who you ask — of the negotiations in Vienna, we must remember that pure, unbridled emotion will get us nowhere. Whatever we as a community want to accomplish, achieving it will come more from working together than from screaming at the top of our lungs.