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Blubaugh: Pandemic, divisive politics fueling America’s epidemic of anger | COMMENTARY

I’m way too old to be an angry young man. Still too young (I think) to be a grumpy old man.

But make no mistake, I’m mad. A lot of the time.

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I’ve pounded the horn while driving so often in the past few weeks I’m surprised it still works. It’s the rare occasion when I’m on a highway in Carroll County, like routes 140 or 97, that someone doesn’t cut me off, nearly causing an accident, as everyone’s goal when it’s time to merge is to surge, and be sure to try to slip in front of me as if making a pass at Daytona. And at the 140-97 intersection in Westminster? It’s a weekly occurrence to have to slam on not only the horn but also the brakes to avoid an accident because of overflow drive-thru traffic from Starbucks that backs up into the highway. (How is this allowed, by the way?) All of the above drivers make me mad and I let them know about it.

My anger isn’t limited to my time spent in the driver’s seat. At work, my boss deserves an award for putting up with my tirades; my sports editor deserves a medal. And at home, on an otherwise sunny and pleasant Memorial Day I got into an argument with family members that wound up far more heated than needed about a topic about which I have no personal investment and little real interest.

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Is there something wrong with me?

Maybe. But maybe not. Anger seems to be an epidemic.

This spring’s NBA playoffs have been noteworthy not for the upsets or the injuries or the highlight-reel performances by some of the players, but rather for the angry fans. One became infamous for throwing a water bottle at a player. Another for spitting at a player. Another for dumping popcorn on the head of a player. More than one for insulting comments.

Remember when an internet video meant playful cats or an off-key singer? Now we’re inundated with airline passengers getting into fights, both verbally and physically, over one perceived injustice or another. And out on the roads? Rage is, well, all the rage. No, it’s not just me, nationally it’s on an uptick, based on a number of studies.

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What’s happening here? Why is everyone so angry, or “pangry,” as some refer to anger caused by the pandemic?

We were isolated from people for so long, we don’t know how to deal with each other anymore. So a person on a flight refusing to wear a mask seems, from the outside, like an issue that adults could probably work out without fisticuffs. It seems different inside the plane, apparently.

Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks identified six stages of pandemic emotions. We made it through denial, anxiety, acceptance, rebellion and, at least those not personally touched by tragedy, despair.

The sixth emotion is anger, she wrote. That’s been a tough one to get through.

Of course, it isn’t just the pandemic that has us mad. Politics was taking care of that long before we’d heard of COVID-19. These days, half the country is mad Trump is no longer the president. The other half is mad Trump was ever the president. Or ever born.

Us vs. them. Left vs. right. Our differences exaggerated and perpetuated on social media and, at least according to a recent article in The Atlantic, fueled by the national media, particularly Fox News and CNN.

“The present state of American dysfunctionality ... is the inevitable result of a media landscape that has been slowly and steadily demonizing ‘the other side’ for decades (pick your side) so that ‘the news’ has inevitably become transformed ... to ‘how they are out to get you.’

The result, unsurprisingly enough, is that everything has become personal. After all, if you are convinced that those on ‘the other side’ are somehow determined to ridicule you, or destroy your values, or indoctrinate your children, or bankrupt your economy, then why would you even bother to listen to anything that they might say in the first place? So you don’t. Instead, you turn to your clan, to your silo, to listen to the many others who will unhesitatingly line up to urge you not to waver, to be strong, to ‘defend your values.’”

And defend we do. The article contends that while the only thing Americans can agree on is that we’re more divided than ever, Fox News and CNN are doing just fine, thank you.

So cut me some slack if I blare the horn at you or start an argument. I’ll blame it on residual pandemic anger — and those #!*%*#! TV news networks.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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