The United States of Anger

Trying to understand the emotions

United States of Anger

They say that time heals all wounds. This seems to be especially true when the original trauma is experienced second-hand. Consider the terrorist attacks on the United States back in September 2001. Like the Kennedy assassination nearly four decades earlier, most adults recall where they were when the Twin Towers fell. I walked around in a daze for at least a week, and my employer at the time was very understanding when workers would need to disappear for a few hours to attend some prayer vigil or remembrance.

It’s been more than fifteen years since 9/11, and while my intellectual disgust at the vile act remains, the emotions are largely gone. That’s a good thing, because if I had continued to feel as I did that first week, I would be completely useless as a productive member of society. I have a friend whose brother perished in the World Trade Center attack. His continued anger is understandable. But for those like me who experienced the event primarily through television, it comes as no surprise that the feelings have dissipated.

It’s for this reason that I have trouble understanding the emotions surrounding the recent Women’s March. In my earlier article on that nationwide gathering, I expressed surprise over the event’s lack of stated purpose. Boy was I wrong. If the comments on the article and on Facebook were any indication, the marchers did have a purpose, one of venting anger against Donald Trump. The key frustration revolved around a specific incident, Trump’s recorded quip about his ability, as a famous celebrity, to kiss or grab women anytime he wanted. One commenter whose daughter marched said that she was “protesting a president who has admitted that he was free to sexually assault women because of his power…. There was much solidarity in that position.”

There certainly is much solidarity in that position, and it’s endured for the four months since the recording first came to light. Unlike the feelings surrounding 9/11, which have relaxed as the nation has attempted to confront the key issues, the anger over Trump’s 2005 comments has grown. It’s especially surprising, given that everyone (except for the unidentified women he may have been referring to, and the thirteen women who have stated publicly that Trump made inappropriate advances) experienced the moment second-hand, through an audio transcript more than a decade removed from the actual event. (Even more surprising is the lack of anger against Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, the interviewer in the tape, who is himself heard ogling women, goading Trump into upping the womanizing rhetoric, and proposing that the married Trump go on a date with another female interviewee.)

Anger can be a useful motivator. Take the recent executive order banning refugees and certain visa holders from specific Middle East countries. While most people understand that a certain amount of due diligence is reasonable when dealing with a terror-prone area of the world, the deportation of incoming Green Card holders, who have already gone through “extreme vetting,” was clearly unwarranted. People are angry. And that anger pushed some of them to take appropriate action, bringing the case before judges who had the authority to address the issue. The purpose of the anger, in this case, was directed toward correcting the injustice.

But that’s not what happened with the anger that spawned the Women’s March. Instead, a random conversation between a celebrity and a celebrity reporter became a lightning rod for every modern political hatred. If you listen to the keynote speeches for the event, you will hear references to every form of injustice, as well as the firm belief that America (or at least the part of it where white men live) is the incarnation of those injustices. Far from being a rebuke of Donald Trump for one wayward conversation, the event became an opportunity to yell at everyone for everything.

We’ve always known that rock stars, celebrities, and power politicians engage in immoral behavior. In this post-free-love world of The Bachelor and Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s amazing that anyone is still bothered by things like this. The anger at Trump seems unreasonable given that his actions in that tape have virtually no impact on the lives of the protesters. But perhaps there is an impact. Not from Donald Trump directly, but vicariously through him. Whether they were locker room banter, or the spontaneous confessions of a serial philanderer, Trump’s words may have reminded the protesters of someone else, someone closer who had treated them, or their friends, or their family members in a similarly destructive manner.

As with my friend whose brother died on 9/11, anger from a personal affront is understandable, and the effects from such trauma can be long-lasting. If this is the source of the protesters’ anger, then I hope that venting their frustration through the person of Donald Trump may ease their pain and reduce their anger. Otherwise, if they refuse to either let go of the anger or direct it for a productive purpose, we are all in for a very painful four years.

[Image Credits: flickr/Craig Sunter]


  1. Tim, you’re distracting me. I’m trying to get some work done here, but then I read your blog and it makes me angry. You’ve made multiple points above, so I’m actually going to break my response into two parts. And then I’m going back to work.

    First, I said his 2005 interview was one crystal clear reason to protest. But I don’t think the Marchers relied on that one incident. (And by the way, I don’t know what locker rooms you’ve used in the past, but his comments wouldn’t be appropriate in any locker rooms I’ve ever been in.) Examples of his misogyny, harassment and disrespect of women are plentiful. Let me share a sample. In 1991, to Esquire, he said: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” In 1992, to New York Magazine: “You have to treat ’em [women] like s—-.'” In 1997, in his own “Trump: Art of the Comeback”: “There are basically three types of women and reactions [please read it; I’m not going to repeat it here.] In 1997, about Lady Di: “I think I could have [nailed her, was the Q.]” In 2009, when he owned the Miss USA Pageant, a contestant said he humiliated girls by forcing them to parade in front of him so thgat he could separate those he found attractive from those he didn’t. In 2011, he referred to a N.Y. Times columnist as having “the face of a dog!” In the past year, he referred to Megan Kelly as a “bimbo.” When asked about Carly Fiorina he responded,”Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He referred to former Miss Universe, Machado as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” See a pattern emerging here?

    I think all those “nasty women” are not going to sit down and take it anymore. Sometimes, you have to stand up, march and say that we will not tolerate this.

  2. Comment, Part 2. It appears that one thesis above is that people offended by bad things should just get over them or only engage in quiet politics. I disagree. There are times when you need to take a more public stand. There are times when you need a make a noise. Ghandhi’s long march, the 1963 March on Washington, the Vietnam War protests, the French bread riots, the Boston Tea Party, and speaking of women–the Women’s suffrage marches early in the 20th Century. These marches and protests made a statement. Women didn’t just get over the injustice or write letters to their congressmen. They marched.

    Just this past weekend, there were more marches and protests, this time against Trump’s Executive Order forbidding persons from targeted Muslim countries from entering the U.S. If we don’t stand up, march and speak out against injustice, we allow it to spread. And if President Trump can ban a religious group today, what is to stop him from signing an Executive Order 9066 tomorrow? Yes, I hope that after 75 years ago, we are still angry that our government stripped thousands of its own citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties, rights and freedom, rounded them up like cattle and shipped them off to internment camps. Never forget.

  3. I agree with all points that have been illustrated…including the comments.

    Yes, there were many marches and I suspect many more to come.
    Yes, chauvinistic remarks and actions have occurred (for years).
    But what’s the real deal with the pink pussy hats?

    Before anyone posts a zillion links as to the meaning of the PPH, yes, I understand the fashion statement and it’s rally cry. While good in concept I believe it has done more for comedians around the world.

    I believe the missing component is a champion to provide a unified message – beyond the anger – with actionable results. For example, when MLK marched on Washington and delivered his Dreams on behalf of angry citizens, he also followed through and met with JFK and reviewed 15 succinct plans to affect change. Several plans were implemented while others needed more work and support.

    History will repeat itself and soon we will see a leader rise to the top. Until then I’m buckled up and ready for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

  4. FMR, thank you for taking time to read through this post despite your workload. Topics like this are clearly hard to discuss because of the emotion involved. Unlike the Women’s Marches, I actually think the protests surrounding Trump’s Middle East-related executive orders are relevant and meaningful. They appear to be based on a core disagreement with what is the appropriate relationship between the United States and refugees/visitors from specific countries. The intent of those protests seems extremely clear, and although the news media may be giving a biased view, I haven’t really seen what I would call misdirected anger. I do think there is some hyperbole involved in assessing the specific executive order. But the response is at least directly related to the cause.

    I understand that Trump’s words were obnoxious. And I understand that people get angry about such things. My only point is that you need to do something valid with that anger, and not just stay angry for the sake of being angry. Making fun of Carly Fiorina’s looks is certainly unpresidential. But I bet that Ms. Fiorina never gives it a second thought. Yet there are millions of people who are angry in her place, even though it brought them no direct harm, and even though their anger will change nothing. I want the anger to mean something. And wearing silly pink hats means nothing.


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