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Anger and Politics

by Christopher Chantrill
September 04, 2004 at 8:00 pm

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IF POLITICS is civil war by other means, then it must have a lot to do with anger.  Ares was the Greek god of war, and also courage, fear, civil defense, civil order, and anger.  It was anger that kept Achilles in his tent before the walls of Troy, and for all that anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, it is embodied in the human brain’s amygdala for a reason.

But we live in an age that imagines itself beyond rage.  Liberals deprecate hate speech, passive aggression, the warrior culture, and the cycle of violence.  Conservatives dwell in the sunny uplands of the rule of law, oblivious of the life-and-death struggle for dominance in the deserts below.

Why then are we surprised by the anger of the Islamicists?  Liberals love their foul-mouthed “peaceful protestors” and their thoughtful disquisitions on Bush and Hitler, and we conservatives love our ranting conservative radio talk-show hosts.  The only thing remarkable about Islamic rage is its choice of tactics.  The truth is that anger and violence are as human as love and sex, and just as important.  Mammals use anger in fighting and dominance.  Humans are just the same.

If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then anger is its meat and drink, and our quadrennial national party conventions are its bacchanalia.  Even now, attenuated as they are from the political brawls of yesteryear, they present a quadrennial ritual of political emotion that defines the election campaign to follow.  Ninety percent of the spectacle may be just about showing up, but it’s the other ten percent that makes the difference between a dead-cat bounce and a ten-point surge in the opinion polls.

Our therapeutic culture says you’ve no right to be angry, at least not if you support the political party of the dead white male.  Anger is OK for the traditionally marginalized; they have a right to be angry.  But how can you be angry if you have had the whip hand since time immemorial?

Of course, evil Republicans don’t agree.  We have a list of grievances as long as any marginalized client group living at taxpayer expense on the liberal plantation.  But liberals have managed over the last half-century to anathematize non-liberal anger as McCarthyism or “hate speech.”  When Joe McCarthy expressed the rage of ordinary Americans at the “no enemies on the left” culture of the Democratic Party, he was slapped down.  When Spiro Agnew championed the “silent majority” against the Sixties counter-culture he was forced to plead nolo contendere.  When Pat Buchanan rallied the troops on the conservative side of the culture war he was roundly denounced.  And woe betide anyone that cocks a snook at any liberal interest group!  Only Ronald Reagan had the political skills to mobilize the anger on the right without provoking the liberal bulls on anger patrol.

No wonder that liberals pundits were fainting all over the ballroom like aging dowagers after watching the rage of Senator Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention last week.  Why, they’d never seen anything like it.  They thought that Republicans had finally learned their lesson and could be trusted to act properly in polite society. 

What hypocrites these liberals be!  Just as conservatives that praise the rule of law over the law of the streets forget that the benign rule of law was instituted by force, liberals forget that their movement for peace and justice—and sweetness and light—is built upon rage.  It was the rage that kept immigrant hope alive in Five Points during the nineteenth century, rage that sustained the labor movement in the Homestead strike and the organizing battles of the 1930s, and rage that sustained the civil rights movement through the dark years of Jim Crow.  Liberals know all about rage—when it suits them.

Conservatives are angry too.  We’re angry that liberal activist judges are trying to destroy traditional marriage.  We’re angry that Islamicist terrorists want to destroy the United States.  We’re angry that liberals want to control our children’s education, our health care, our savings, the food we eat, the cars we drive, and the houses we live in.  And we are angry that liberals always want to Blame America First.

So when Democratic Senator Zell Miller expresses our anger for us, we hoot and holler and stomp our feet.  And when he challenges Hardball host Chris Matthews to a duel moments later, we like that too.

Anger is a tool; men are full of it.  In the words of President Kennedy: “Don’t get mad, get even.”  Anger is an engine starter; it gets you out of bed in the morning to defend yourself against a cruel world. 

As philosopher Al Davis puts it: Just Win Baby—on November 2nd.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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