A Culture of Outrage

Last Friday, I was browsing the web and I read a headline about a group being outraged at a public person’s words. I found myself thinking the person’s words weren’t the brightest, but I wasn’t quite sure they warranted “outrage.” Then I noticed another headline about people being outraged at something else and then there was another headline about outrage. I made an offhand comment to my wife that it’s no wonder with all this outrage that certain frustrated young men who don’t handle their emotions well start shooting people. The only emotion that seems to get validation by politicians and the media is outrage. Little did I know that in less than 24 hours, a young man would open fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, not all that far from where I live.

It may not be altogether clear from the map, but the borderland communities of Las Cruces, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico are pretty tight knit. I used to do contract work for El Paso Community College and spent some of my time at the Valle Verde Campus not far from the Walmart where the shooting took place. I go to El Paso from time to time to see movies and, of course, I’ve been a guest author at El Paso Comic Con a few times. El Paso is also a safe town in this modern world. More people were killed in Saturday’s mass shooting than in the twelve months before that. These are people I consider my neighbors and this tragedy saddens me.

I know many are outraged in the wake of these events and I have my moments of outrage as well. Already there is renewed talk of gun control and that has triggered the outrage of gun control advocates. I fear that all this will go nowhere as it has in the wake of so many recent incidents. The challenge is that people need to move beyond the outrage and actually talk compromise and think about creative solutions. People need to understand what causes a person to take such hate-filled action as opening fire on families in a store, shopping for school supplies, then discourage that from happening.

It seems that the shooting in El Paso was fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric. This rhetoric is poisonous nonsense. I’ve recently been looking into my own family’s history. As far as I can tell, every one of my ancestors was in this country before 1800. The current President of the United States is the grandson of immigrants who came in 1885. From my family’s perspective, his family looks no different than those coming across the border today. I know that from the perspective of Native Americans, my family looks no different than any other immigrants.

This brings us back to the culture of outrage. Outrage is a momentary reaction. News reporters like it because it’s a raw emotion and it draws people to the narrative being told. Politicians like it because it keeps votes rolling in as they stoke the fires. However, outrage is only sustained by finding a new outrage. Eventually, the old outrage drains away as the families of the victims mourn and find ways to move forward after their losses. Instead of looking for new outrages, we need to actually talk to each other about possible solutions and find ways to implement them. In that way, we may just stand a chance of breaking out of the culture of outrage.

8 comments on “A Culture of Outrage

  1. DAVID RILEY says:

    Trumps ads, which are carefully targeted, are pure venom against the immigrant invasion. The white nationalists all believe Trump is with them. Immigrants are nothing but vermin. This is straight out of Hitler’s playbook when he took power.

  2. […] wake of yesterday’s mass shootings, David Lee Summers posted a heartfelt discussion of the culture of outrage in today’s society. If you find these things to be of interest, this one is long on reason […]

  3. “Course their folks way back didn’t come over on the Mayflower—they were just standing there when it docked. As a matter of fact, the biggest mistake my ancestors made was lettin’ them land.” — Will Rogers on his grandparents

  4. Excellent point. If outrage motivates you to do something to help solve the problem, then great, get outraged. Otherwise it’s a waste of emotional energy.

    • Thanks for both comments, Alden. Indeed, I think outrage can be the start of certain solutions. Another problem comes when one person’s outrage bumps against another’s. There comes a point where both parties need to let go of their outrage and actually talk sensibly enough to find out if common ground can be reached.

  5. This is so true! My young-twenties son is prey to that, and often goes around in a fury. Permanently outraged, you might say. When I ask him, “Why are you so angry?” he can’t even tell me.

    But the thing is, when you can get people to tell you why they’re angry and they feel you’re really listening, it’s amazing how quickly they can calm down.

    What we need is some sort of Internet intervention that will gently ask people why they are so angry, and get them to re-set their emotions. But then, of course, it could be just one more thing to be outraged about…

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with your son. I think you make a great suggestion for Internet intervention. Figuring out how to implement such a thing on a large scale in a way that doesn’t create privacy concerns could certainly be a challenge, but perhaps there are ways it could be done. Of course, a lot can be done by caring, thinking people who actually listen. Paying attention to troubled people in one’s own life and asking them to break down why certain issues make them so angry could help.

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