In 1996, Bob Dole infamously chastised America and demanded an answer to the question, “Where is the outrage?” He was surprised that the American people did not share his opinion of the President. Today, those feelings are echoed by Williams Rivers Pitt and this post on Truthout in response to Richard Cohen’s piece in WaPo yesterday.
The fact is that people are angry – brain-boilingly, apoplectically, mind-bendingly so – at what has happened to this great country. I am, quite often, so angry that my hands shake. Yes, a former high school teacher from New England here, so filled with bile and rage that I sometimes don’t recognize my face in the mirror. You, sir, should not be asking why so many of your email friends are so angry. You should be asking why you yourself are not with them in their rage.
Pitt goes to great lengths to describe the extent of the anger in America – “Millions upon millions of Americans participated in [protests]”, “we have lost tens of thousands of American soldiers to death and grievous injury” (we’ve lost about 2,500 to death, and suffered about 17,500 injuries, but many of those are less than “grievous”) – by stretching the truth on any number and offering little by way of actual facts.
Exaggerations aside, though, Pitt’s biggest problem is the seething anger in his response. He admits to being angry, sure, but tries to hide that anger with his assertion that “I am personally from the more-flies-with-honey school of journalistic correspondence.”
The trouble with the left is they have abandoned any pretense of measured discourse. They believe that everyone should be as spastically hostile as they are. The truth is, a staggering number of people in this country would probably be open to the arguments Pitt makes, if he didn’t make them in the shrill tone of Bob Dole.
When the average American views the situation in the Middle East, they see it as, “You know what, all the “experts” say this isn’t how we should do it, but in the last five years, we have not had an attack on our soil. So maybe Bush is doing something right. I’m not thrilled with the news I see, but I’d rather our troops fight over there, than having our buildings blow up over here.” That confounds the left, so they begin to shout, they begin to rant, and they lose control of the argument.
Despite the claims that al-Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to 2003 (and the reports on the subject simply say there was no coordination and no involvement on 9-11, they don’t say these guys didn’t know one another), the fact is there is a great deal of evidence that many terrorist organizations are connected. There is a good deal of information that al-Qaeda linked groups operate in Chechnya against the Russians, in Columbia, the Philippines, etc. So a credible argument can be made that we are, in fact, now fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, whether we were when we began or not.
Despite the legitimacy of the “who we’re fighting and when” arguments, the bigger flaw in his retort to Cohen is reflected in one sentence – “Anger is a gift, after all, one that inspires change.”
Anger has never inspired change. Anger has hampered change. That was the point to Cohen’s column. Those who were seething with anger didn’t stop the violence in Southeast Asia, they prolonged it by splitting off those measured souls in the Democrat party who did not wish to be affiliated with that anger.
Had the angry left not risen up in 1968, or again in 2004, there is a good possibility that the Republicans would have lost in both years. People were unhappy with the direction of the country, but they were turned off by the anger and venom of the left.
Anger, despite Pitt’s claims, is not a change agent. Discussion, persuasion and measured debate are the agents of change. Perhaps Pitt should engage in those, rather than ranting about how stupid his fellow man is because they are not as enlightened and as angry as he.