Why all the anger and rage?Written by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I once lived in a small village that decided to socialize its garbage. There were three refuse companies that would take your garbage away for a set monthly fee. As a result, there would be garbage trucks in our small quiet village over the course of several days.
One company suggested to the village government that they could cut the cost per household by about a third if the village would hire them to carry everyone’s garbage to the dump. The village council thought this to be a good deal and so they went with it. Many of us residents thought this to be a good deal too, so we where surprised by the anger and vitriol generated by those who where against this “blatant act of socialism.” I remember asking a village official why this was a hot issue. From my perspective, this was a “win-win“ for everybody: large noisy garbage trucks in our village only one day a week and everyone saves a third on their garbage bill. I was both shocked and amused to hear her exploration. She told me that the vocal minority represented a group that were not buying a garbage pick-up service from anyone. My response was an obvious musing about what did they do with their garbage? “They dump it in their neighbor’s trash cans, or if they are really ambitious, drive it to the mall and throw it in a dumpster.” My response was a shocked “you got to be kidding.“
I have been trying to make sense of all the rage we are seeing over the passage of the health care bill. By historic standards, this bill is more market oriented and less intrusive and comprehensive than the great progressive actions of Social Security in the 1930’s and Medicare in the 1960’s. It doesn’t have single payer nor a public option. .If anything, it should be we liberals who are angry because we didn’t get what we wanted. And yet there is this great outcry from the right.
How do we make sense of this? How do we make sense of threats of the assassination, congressional members getting spit upon, racial and homophobic slurs tossed indiscriminately at rallies and left on congressional phone recorders? Is it simply a matter that these people are sore losers? Is it a bunch of old white guys enraged that the America they fought for in WW2, Korea, Viet Nam and the middle east is becoming more and more ethnically diverse and now is in the hands an African American president? Is it the recession? Is the national debt? Is it a continuation of that historic philosophical divide between the “Hamiltonians” and the “Jeffersonians?” Or is it related to something else, like those villagers dumping their garbage in the neighbor’s cans to avoid the costs of living in community?
I call my column “The Communitarian Soul” because I am a communitarian. A communitarian believes that there are a basic set of responsibilities we all share in common. Those responsibilities include respect and tolerance, compassion and understanding, honesty and integrity, civility and citizenship. Those responsibilities get expressed in a variety of ways: volunteering at a hospital, working with the scouts, seeking standards of justice and fairness for every citizen regardless of income or station in society, paying for the removal for our garbage and the greening of the environment.
It has been my experience that communitarians believe this way not because we are bleeding heart idealists or starry eyed dreamers. We believe this because we are hard core realists. The maintenance of a healthy social order and a civilized society requires this. Our human nature directs us towards this. Opportunity must be real for all if we expect all to buy into our way of life. To make this possible all of us must give up something for the common good.
There are obviously those who believe they can go it alone. They feel little or no obligation to participation in what the community offers or needs. They have strong feelings about this. Their rage and anger raises the question that has followed our country since its early days: “Are we a nation of individuals, or are we a people.” It would be helpful to debate this in a civilized and rational way, but to do that would be to concede points to the communitarian side of the ledger. Unwilling to do that, I guess there is little left than the rage, the threats, and the anger.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist pastor who lives in Bowling Green.
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