In my opinion, one of the most transgressive bumper stickers I’ve ever encountered is one that read “if you aren’t outraged, then you aren’t paying attention.”
Nothing smacks more of a deep-seated egocentrism than the expectation that everyone should react to current events in the same way as you do. Besides, has outrage, in and of itself, ever proven to be consistently well-reasoned and productive?
I know outrage, and I know it well. Far from dismissing the usefulness of this human reaction, I can recognize it for what it is– a sudden and violent return to clarity after the departure of a much enjoyed privilege.
Privileged individuals may get angry as a means to protect their privileged status, but as long as they remain privileged, they cannot experience outrage.
No, outrage is heavily tied to the failure of our view of reality to meet our expectations.
Okay, so what if I AM outraged? I’m consumed with rage! Now what? I’m doing the thing with my rage… and, I don’t think it’s working…the world remains unchanged….
After our initial outraged response at what is, where can one go? What can one do? I think these are important questions to ask.
Well, if you’re human, there is always the possibility of revenge. At first glance, revenge appears to be a reasonable enough solution. I mean, is rendering the whole world blind and toothless really all that bad? I think that’s where we are at right now in American politics. The loudest, most prominent voices are so concerned over tit-for-tat, that they’ve all but forgotten they actually have jobs to do aside from defending their hobbling egos.
National politics makeme physically ill. It is pay-to-play, and the first sacrifice one is required to make to the civic cult is one’s sense of human dignity. The political might pretend it is concerned with the individual, but that is an impossibility. This is proven time and time again by the great lengths opponents go to in order to smear their political adversaries!
In any event, if the individual truly matters (and, in order for human dignity to prevail, the individual has to matter), then local politics, rather than White House politics, is the political sphere open to the influence of the individual. Not as glamorous or exciting, but just as worthy of our concern.
What I’m getting at here is that our collective political outrage is pointless if it does not result in local involvement. Go ahead and take to FB and Twitter and manifest your outrage as you speak your mind in all caps…. but please don’t pretend that we should all be paying attention to your temper tantrum. And please divest yourself of the delusion that you are accomplishing anything more than a mere stoking of a collective outrage that threatens to paralyze us all in an emotive state.
What our outrage calls for is individual action, not necessarily individual reaction. And, for Christians anyway, discerning right action starts with a rejection of our own privileged worldview so that we can move towards embodying the One true hope for our broken world.
Maybe, instead of insisting upon more outrage, let’s stop and listen intently to what our own outrage is trying to tell us.
In closing, I think it is ok to embrace your own outrage, dear one. As long as you do not ignore its truth, allowing the sun to set upon your anger. Do not allow your big feelings to discourage you, nor tempt you to feed their flame. We are called to be the peacemakers! Because that is who we are! I firmly believe that, as we move past our own outrage, we will begin to see the things that make for peace, and realize they are well within the reach of us all.
And if you fail to see any outrage coming from my direction, it is not because I fail to pay attention. It might just be that I’ve centered my attention on the good that I, myself, can do each day instead of on the evil I cannot control.