“These times are so uncertain, there’s a yearning undefined and people filled with rage. We all need a little tenderness, how can love survive in such a graceless age?”
– DON HENLEY, “Heart of the Matter
People who know me know I have been writing about this verse from this song for more than 20 years. Until recently I always focused on the last part of it, writing about what a graceless age in which we live. An age of trashy culture, disposable relationships and a ridiculous lust for wealth.
Lately I have been thinking more and more about the rage.
Jim Gaffigan in "The Great New Wonderful"
Everyone seems so angry all the time. Whether it’s the economy, or politics, or people furious that someone might want to practice a different religion than they do, even people who seem pretty happy have things that piss them off.
Danny Leiner’s underrated 2005 film, “The Great New Wonderful,” tells five intertwining stories about New Yorkers exactly one year after Sept. 11, 2001. In Sandie’s Story, Jim Gaffigan plays a man who worked in the Twin Towers and survived the day. His superiors have asked survivors to meet with a psychologist to make sure they are recovering.
Sandie says over and over again that he is fine, while the psychologist says that when he looks at Sandie, he sees a man completely full of repressed rage.
In the end, Sandie hits the psychologist over the head with a chair, runs out of the office and keeps running all the way to Connecticut.
“I think I’m lost,” he says when he finally stops running.
A lot of people are angry these days — filled with rage — and I blame an awful lot of it on our misbegotten culture and values that have gotten so far out of whack I’m not sure Americans from 100 years ago would even recognize our country.
The concept of “news” has all but vanished, and nearly everything is presented to us now — whether left or right — as both what happened and what it “really means,” courtesy of the agenda of whoever is paying the presenter. Watch Fox News and you’ll see that the agenda is to fill people with rage about what those awful people on the left are trying to do. Watch MSNBC and they’ll tell you the same stories but the villains are those on the right.
Truth has all but vanished. Candidates for president can tell literally hundreds of out-and-out lies and have them passed of as “differences of opinion.” A candidate for vice president can lie again and again about what his proposals would do, but the only time people really make a fuss is when he lies about how fast he ran a marathon.
When people don’t know what to believe, they get angry.
Seventy percent of American families are — at best — just getting by. It’s a constant struggle to pay bills, and the chance really to get ahead just doesn’t exist. Fear of losing everything makes people angry.
Watch movies or television and there is little that is ennobling or uplifting. Most of what we get from our culture is cynicism. That makes people angry.
Our economic system is failing most of us. Our political system serves no one except major campaign contributors. More and more people seem to be buying into old, discredited beliefs about how the only truly noble thing in the world is self-interest.
That makes me angry. There are few people less noble than those who live their lives based only on their own interest. And with all due respect to my conservative friends, that’s nothing that Ronald Reagan ever preached.
Yeah, I’m angry. I might even be full of rage, but most of it isn’t about politics. I’m coming up on my 20th wedding anniversary, and my wife has been suffering serious health problems for more than a year now. A great deal of my time goes into caring for her, and there are times it doesn’t seem to do any good at all.
All I can do is get up each morning and try to make that day as good as possible.
Then again, that’s really all any of us can do, and maybe — with God’s grace — things will get a little better and we’ll feel a little less angry.
Otherwise, what’s the use?