The Reluctant Ranter


October 13, 2017

There’s a Billy Joel song that, for me, is a cautionary warning about the dangers of indulging one’s frustration about all that’s wrong with the world. The song is called “The Angry Young Man,” and the pertinent lyrics go like this:

I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right

And there’s always a place for the angry young man
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
And he’s never been able to learn from mistakes
So he can’t understand why his heart always breaks
But his honor is pure and his courage as well
And he’s fair and he’s true and he’s boring as hell
And he’ll go to the grave as an angry old man

To be precise, the things about which the Angry Young Man is, well, angry, may have more to do with what seems like a fundamental lack of maturity, personal accountability, and insight, but there’s also a sense that the Angry Young Man may have some legitimate concerns about our culture and society, the Establishment, the military industrial complex, and probably the tax code, too. If you’ve ever met me (or are a Facebook friend), you can probably see how I, who can’t seem to stop posting and blogging about the Moron in Chief and his cadre of scalliwags, might be a little bit concerned that I’m boring as hell and slated to go to my grave as an Angry Old Woman.
Which makes me ask myself, from time to time, “Wendy, why do you do this? Is it possible that your time could be better spent learning how to make hand-milled soap or growing heirloom tomatoes?”

Today is one of those days.

See, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “gee, I hope I see something on social media, or hear something on the news, that pisses me off so that I can rant about it on Facebook!” In fact, when I learn of yet another idiotic screed by Captain Toilet Tweet, or I find out just how truly vile certain Hollywood producers have been for twenty years and no one said anything, or that the Secretary of Education is more concerned about men being unjustly accused of rape (happens in 5% of all reported cases) as opposed to the women who are actually getting raped (the other 95%), what I feel is mostly the kind of weariness I associate with knowing I have to clean out the refrigerator because (1) someone spilled a soda in there three months ago and everything’s sticky; (2) there is not one square inch of free space left; and (3) it smells nasty.

I know when I see that article or hear that sound bite on the radio that it’s going to work on me for hours – days, even; so much I what I read and hear anymore is devoid of any verifiable factual support, is rife with false equivalencies, and is fundamentally flawed from a logic/causality perspective. At times, it’s not even the point being argued that drives me crazy, it’s the fact that the person arguing it has the subtlety of a car alarm and the insight of a drill press. Few things push my shrill button like logical inconsistency or disingenuousness, so there’s a lot to keep me busy. I don’t have the time to write about half the things that make me want to throw my shoes at the wall really, really hard, and that’s frustrating, but actually doing the writing is a laborious process, one I don’t really have time for. It requires a singularity of focus that my life does not routinely accommodate, usually involves some research, and seriously eats into my Milano and Koala Video Habit. So, I’m not doing this because it’s fun.

I’m also not doing it because I think I’m going to change anyone’s mind – indeed, those who have access to my Facebook feed and whose minds I like to change don’t read my posts (as their 28th Amendment right-to-ignore-shit-on-the-internet-that-doesn’t-conform-to-my- ideological- worldview permits them to do). I don’t write because I think I’m brilliant or necessarily have anything new to say, or because I’m hoping or some other online magazine will read my columns and say, “We want to offer you $17 million to write for us, and we’ll pay for the Milanos.”

No, I write because I can’t NOT write. I just can’t help it, whether it’s our president suggesting, just a few weeks after Hurricane Maria rolled through and leveled the island of Puerto Rico, that its residents (most of whom still don’t have electricity or easy access to clean water) don’t deserve the same level of federal support assistance as their brothers and sisters on the mainland (including those who were hit by Katrina and are – appropriately – still receiving FEMA aid 12 years later); whether it’s the same president who criticized President Obama for his use of executive orders even as he himself has signed twice as many EO’s within the same time period (most of which have terrifying implications for our environment, our neediest citizens, our national safety, and our ability to rely upon the support of former allies who are shaking their heads in disgust). When I view some of the staggeringly absurd (and, usually, atrociously spelled) memes that others post in support of their morally indefensible views; when people who probably couldn’t give you a single accurate piece of information about any war that’s ever been fought by our country but cling to the notion that kneeling during the national anthem is anti-military; when ENOUGH PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO CLAIM TO STAND FOR “FAMILY VALUES” VOTED FOR A MAN WHO CHEATED ON HIS FIRST WIFE WITH HIS SECOND, WHO HE LATER DIVORCED; MOCKS DISABLED PEOPLE; AND ADMITTED HE HAD SEXUALLY ASSAULTED WOMEN, well, sorry, man. I can’t let that go.

I think a lot about whether scratching the itch is worth it. I’ve no doubt lost friends over the positions I’ve taken, and I’ve probably annoyed a lot of people that I’m related to by blood or marriage. I’m sure there are plenty who have un-followed me, although I do seem to have a small, loyal, deeply troubled group of friends who cheer me on in my effort to eradicate ignorance and stupidity.

The thing is, I’m not someone who is ever going to run for office. The only time I have ever occupied any position of power was when my kids were too small to know better, which lasted for approximately 3 ½ hours. I’ve never marched in a protest – I know I should, but I’m a person who doesn’t do well in large crowds or in situations where easy access to restrooms is not guaranteed. I’d like to be someone who marches with a sign and adds my physical mass and presence to a cause, or who is prominent enough to speak at such events (if you’re a speaker, you can probably find a bathroom when you need it), or who will ever have the kind of voice, or audience, that would have the potential to make people think twice, if only for a moment. I would argue that even if you don’t like what Nicholas Kristof or George Will may have to say, it’s impossible to argue that they don’t say it spectacularly well, and maybe – just maybe – if something is said brilliantly enough, someone, someday, just may change their mind.

I’m no Kristof or Will (the latter of whom I have been reading since I was ten and regularly devoured his column in Newsweek, even if I didn’t always understand it), but if I do nothing else in my life besides draft motions for summary judgment and take depositions of car accident victims, I’d like to think that I’ve added something to the dialogue. When I die, moreover, I will have a legacy of blogs about swimsuit models and racism and HGTV and why it’s sort of a dick move to spray paint swastikas on school busses, and I am hopeful that this example of pointing out hypocrisy, ignorance, or really, really poor voting choices may spur my daughters to be equally vocal when people act like assholes.

Many have said that no one has ever changed their mind because of something they read on Facebook.

As long as I have fingers to type, we’ll see about that.

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