I once kidded an inept editorial writer I worked with by asking him, as he prepared to write, “Are we concerned or outraged today?”
He gave me a weak smile, which meant he would have hit me if it were not for the fact that he’d never hit anyone. If he’d decided to hit me, he wouldn’t have known what to do first, and the trick to hitting someone is not to do anything FIRST.
Of course, I was just being mean to the guy, the way Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., was being mean to an entire nation when he famously asked, “Where’s the outrage?”
The outrage, she is gone. Or at least the old familiar outrage is gone.
Which is good, at least in some cases.
I can remember (and not dimly) when many of my elders were outraged by divorce, interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, single motherhood, homosexuality and a number of other things. They expressed their outrage by degrading, insulting, refusing to hire, refusing to associate with and sometimes hitting people who did those outrageous things.
I still know a lot of outraged people, but there’s very little agreement among them as to what deserves outrage.
Some are outraged by the thought of transgender people peeing in their bathroom of their choice in the Walmart. Others think the peeing issue isn’t important, but that the whole nation should be outraged over the lack of “common sense” gun laws. I put “common sense” in quotes because I’ve never known what it is, except on the most basic level of wearing boots when you go out in the snow.
And there’s a snowdrift of outrage piling up on my lawn. People I know are outraged about abortion, Hillary Clinton’s emails, Russian collusion, R. Kelly, sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, lack of respect for the flag, kneeling during the National Anthem, stigmatizing drug addicts, and so much more.
At my age (I’m nearly 62), the proper response to all this outrage is to say, “In my day, we weren’t offended by everything.”
But that’s a lie. I knew people who were offended by people of another color moving into the neighborhood, or by the Catholic John F. Kennedy being elected president.
The only difference was in my day there was a kind of agreement as to what constituted outrageous behavior. Right or wrong, there was a general notion of what was right or wrong. That notion crushed a lot of people’s lives.
Now, when some Nazis are “fine people,” and you can autograph a Bible with the same hand you’ve used to grab many an unwilling female rump, you’d think we have less outrage, but we do not.
It’s Facebook outrage, and it comes with memes, but it’s what passes for outrage in the country of the outrageous. And we are outrageous, we Americans, forever pushing past the boundaries of what the last generation thought was forbidden behavior.
I’m not sure who we’ll be 50 years from now, when I am gently rotting in the ground, but it is my hope we’ll continue to outrage those standards of conduct we see as crushing people’s lives.
The Nazis, though, I hope a lot of us continue to be outraged by Nazis. And I can tell you right now that I never want to use a public bathroom with a Nazi, no matter what their sexual preference.
— Marc Dion is a columnist at the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News and author of The Land of Trumpin’, a collection of his columns about the man who heads what was once the mightiest nation on earth. Contact hin at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter: @MARCMDION. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.