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Everyone is Angry?


Today at breakfast with my friend, at The Magnolia Grille, Burbank. We're sitting outside in the June gloom, under an umbrella, finishing English muffins, when all of a sudden there is a screeching sound. An SUV comes to a full stop, and a man, middle-aged, puffy-faced, wearing a baseball-style cap, yells, "Asshole!" From the street, a man walking a chihuahua retorts, "Asshole! You asshole!" It is a near-accident, one of them didn't stop and wait: but no one is harmed.

The man at the adjacent table with his wife and three children gets up to reach for something in his backpack, and says to us, "Americans are so angry lately."

He explains that he used to live in this neighborhood. "We loved it. All three kids were born here." After COVID, they made the decision to move to Australia, where his wife was born. They didn't want to Zoom-school their kids, and felt the Aussies were dealing with the pandemic better. "The government says 'Mask up' and everyone does. 'Get a jab' and no one complains. They fall in line and get it done." I nod, as does my friend.

As we speak, the man acknowledges that he and his family miss the diversity that the LA area offers. I agreed that, while we have our troubles here, there is so much I could easily be taking for granted.

Now more than ever, I am feeling the pent-up frustration in others. I could give you a list of the things that bother me, keep me up at night, make me want to move somewhere else. I have been told that uprooting because one place has obstacles could be known as "Pulling a geographic." This is "The Grass is Always Greener" mentality, one that assumes life will be easier and less complicated elsewhere.

It was my mother, a sort of gypsy traveler in her own manner, who reminded me: "Wherever you go, you bring yourself."

Does directing the anger outside yourself mean that there is even more hostility within? Maybe many people are emotionally weaponizing. Maybe this is why we fear the massive distribution of guns in this country.

I go to the existential often in my thinking, but maybe that is because I am lately alone so much.

We never know what is in another person's mind, and, even with the greatest empathy, we never will.

The isolation, the buildup of grievances, an egocentric tendency to take everything personally, to feel cursed or targeted, paranoid: the need to blame, punish, yell, scream, feeling as though you are defending yourself, manifests. And there you are, yelling "Asshole" because you feel disrespected by someone who maybe just wasn't paying attention and had too much on his own mind.

The tensions mount up, and then there is the trigger. Now we use that expression freely: "He triggered me." Or" what he said triggered me." As though this justifies what happens next. The rage, the explosion.

And it feels good to get angry. It feels righteous. It's great to blow off steam.

Until it isn't. When you hear two grown men calling each other "Asshole!" in the morning, what do you think? Today, I thought, "Well, I am glad neither of them shot a gun." But I also felt sad. "Really? Has it come to this? Is this how we behave?" I felt bad that children witnessed two grown men making a scene.

And in a larger sense, I feel upset that there is so much rage, unrequited boiling burning rage.

It reminds me of fire season. We pull in our water use, we do our best to conserve, yet the heat rises, and we see and smell and hear about the fires. A sort of natural violence.

All we want is for it to go away. All we want is to feel we can get back to a sort of normal. Peace.

Yet we wonder if we will ever be able to control the heat, the drought, the fires, the guns, the tempers, the violence. Worse, once these events have occurred, we will have to endure the slow process of recovery, and hope to God we ourselves will not explode. It seems to be either that, or the worse alternative: holding it all in, we implode, get sick and just disappear.

Inappropriate rage does need to be dealt with. Maybe everything that is cultural starts with something personal. Or does the culture we imbibe feed the personal we exhibit?

As usual, the truth ends more as a question, than an answer.

To be continued.


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