Just a few weeks ago, a 16-year-old California boy started shooting other children at his school. No one was killed, fortunately, but the shooter later said he was targeting the kids who bullied him.
The bullying aspect of this story really caught my attention. As I was talking to a friend about it, she remarked, “We don’t just have a gun problem in America. We have an anger problems.” Which made me wonder — with all our discussion about guns, especially after the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, why are we neglecting our collective issues with anger?
Where is the call to change the bullying atmosphere not only in our schools but also in our public discourse? One writer is bringing the bullying discussion back. But those who think our gun problem is more a result of media glorification of gun violence than it is about how we regulate gun ownership, should take a quick turn around cable new shows for a glimpse of how displays of anger have become accepted and embraced as a political techniques, and how our examples of hot tempers and uncontrolled vitriol have impacted our so-called conversation.
Anger over whether the government is going to take away guns. Fear in the form of political movements. Anger and fear that invade, or preclude, governing.
Plenty of us focus on being better communicators for a living. And there are myriad online tools for that. So how have we gotten to a place where so many people believe the only way to advance their cause is to use the least effective methods — shouting, yelling, screaming with anger?
How did we become America the self-righteous?
As adults, it’s bad enough to have to sift through the screaming rhetoric to find the actual takeaways. But by allowing ourselves to give in to the “he or she who shouts the loudest and longest wins” approach and when bullying and name-calling pass for political analysis, we have to ask — “What lessons are we giving our kids?”
Does anyone think that watching Capitol Hill teaches our children anything other than the idea that no one should ever give in, and that it’s productive to call the others names, yell louder, not back down, and that compromise is for the weak?
Anger can become all-consuming. As a kid, I got angry a lot. As a teenager, I realized one day it didn’t feel good to be angry all the time, and tried to figure out ways to better deal with situations that made me mad. I’m glad I didn’t grow up in today’s online world, because the anger and bullying are overwhelming, just as they are becoming overwhelming in the world as it’s presented to us as news.
There’s apparently so much anger among adolescents that it has its own diagnosis — Intermittent Explosive Disorder, “a syndrome characterized by persistent uncontrollable anger attacks not accounted for by other disorders.” Sounds like Capitol Hill might need a support group for that.
Obviously, most of us who go through anxious times aren’t going to go on a shooting rampage. But we live in a society where anger and obstructionism are portrayed as the norm, and that fomenting public anxiety is the preferred political tool for making any argument. It’s time to look at that leadership dynamic, and not just movies and video games, to figure out why and how we’ve created an America where anger is our default reaction, rather than a last resort.
Read more about the intersection of motherhood and politics at my place PunditMom, The Broad Side, and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (now available for your Kindle or Nook!)