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Americans Angry
at America

Natalia J. Garland

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The latest political message from the presidential campaign trail is that racial prejudice is still a big problem in America. Although a presidential candidate cannot be expected to view problems in the manner of a psychotherapist, he or she should nonetheless have an understanding of history and culture. Racial prejudice is no longer a major problem. There are complex issues in America which are more difficult to analyze and resolve than the current levels of racial prejudice. If these other issues are not resolved, and if the focus on racism continues, then America indeed risks the re-introduction of racism as endemic to American life.

Now, what are the issues upon which politicians have placed the mask of racism? There are two eyes, one blue and one brown, which glare through the rubbery mask: (1) anti-Americanism, and (2) chronic anger. It is difficult to know which came first, or if there is any sequence at all. It is also difficult to know if these two problems are intrinsically connected, or if they occurred independently of each other and then later festered into a single, bloodshot, Cyclops-eyeball. Perhaps this is why politicians prefer to quickly label everything as racism: it is an existing category that can be discussed with a ready-made terminology and by reference to the past. This is easier, and more politically correct, than looking into the frightening face of anti-Americanism.

There happens to be a passage from As Bill Sees It, a publication on the "The A.A. Way of Life," that aptly describes the condition which the politicians seem to be ignoring.

What we must recognize is that we exult in some of our defects. Self-righteous anger can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us; it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. (p. 153)
[End of quote.]

There are some angry people in America. Feeling angry, holding on to the anger as a perverse pleasure, and directing the anger toward America as the deserving object, has resulted in a peculiar sort of anti-Americanism. It is an anti-Americanism that excites people to feel smug and superior to the progression of history (civil rights, women's rights), safe and comfortable because the object of the anger does not retaliate (due to the cultural value of humanitarianism), and self-righteous in the nature or content of the anger (racism or some other social ill).

What are people really angry about? Why do they hold on to the anger? Again, it is difficult to know without having some form of data. It could be guessed that people are angry about a number of life's circumstances: racial wounds, victimization, marital infidelity, financial problems, lack of recognition for achievements, profound disappointments, and unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Anger is an understandable reaction to abuse and unfairness. The problem is when the anger becomes chronic and pervasive, a part of the personality, a way of looking at the whole of life, a scapegoating of America as a nation, and an avoidance of problem-solving and true happiness. When the real source of one's anger is denied, and the anger gets channeled into a conveniently inflammatory issue such as racism, then reality is lost and discussion is futile.

There are two basic ways to work with anger: resolve it or let go of it. Both ways would mean to forego the associated self-righteousness and indignation. Holding on to the anger is an attempt to maintain a status quo, to deny that America has changed and to obstruct the potential to build further success upon previous successes, to view circumstances in either/or categories and people as stereotypes, and to fail at self-actualization. Whether it is a question of white, black, or brown neo-racism, or of neo-feminism, it involves distraction from historical accuracy and cultural values.

When angry reactions become chronic or branch into a smugness over having been victimized, then this smugness can transform the victim into a hater. Perhaps this could be the sequence that connects anger to anti-Americanism. This type of victim feels humiliation, then anger, then bypasses problem-solving, and finally takes on an attitude of superiority from his or her identity as victim. I am superior (innocent) because I am a victim. You are inferior (evil) because you perpetrated the abuse.* The victim's hatred becomes so intense that the victim develops prejudice against all people of that general category (blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, men, women, Catholics, the wealthy, drug-addicted mothers, etc.), and they can no longer view people as individuals.

Moreover, there is the tendency to regard the above categories as endemic to America and, therefore, each category becomes America. The diseased part is representative of the whole. The healthy parts, however, are relative to the whole because the whole is not yet totally cured. Only when the whole reaches absolute perfection will the haters give approval to America. So long as the good and the bad are mixed together, and so long as democracy is a process to be measured on a continuum, approval is withheld. The withholding of approval, in turn, enables the haters to maintain emotional and political power.

Perhaps it is this power which prompts some politicians to praise the possibility of a renewed discussion of racism--not the racism that lingers after nearly 50 years of study and legislation, but the mask of racism that covers other difficult personal and community problems. If the haters take charge of this renewed discussion, the risk is that their extremism will stir renewed racial conflict while also failing to resolve the lingering old racism. We risk entering an era of deliberately-driven neo-racism. Let us hope there are enough integrated, rational Americans who will expose the politicians and Cyclops. (Written 03/24/08: bibliography available.)

[*ADDED NOTE: As a matter of clarification, victims are innocent of any injustices done to them, and perpetrators are guilty and perhaps evil. The problem, for a certain type of victim, is when they do not process their emotions and rebuild life in a positive manner. Instead, they develop victimhood into a permanent identity and class status. This type of victim, so to speak, wears victimization as a 'badge of honor.' This badge enables them to feel superior to perpetrators as well as to others who have not been similarly victimized. The superiority is not a true moral superiority, but an arrogance that permits contempt.] (Written 04/14/08)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland