“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” — Mark Twain
As far as movie plots go, the plot to “28 Days Later” was one of the more frightening plots I’ve sat through. I suppose one could claim that it belongs somewhere on the zombie pantheon, but the way things got started was unique. Somehow monkeys were being tested and were filled with so much rage that their entire physical composition changed. From there it was transferred to humans.
Of course, whether it is completely realistic to go from 0 to 100 by simply getting a little blood mixed with yours is neither here nor there. It’s a movie and you suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it. If we turn our attention to real life we notice that things seem to be trending in that direction. People aren’t becoming zombie-like or anything like that. At least they aren’t yet.
The Will Smith/Chris Rock incident by itself isn’t proof of anything. It was a public display of someone losing their cool that happened to be captured on national television. Things like that happen every day. What is alarming is the reaction that all of us had to that event. Some people sided with Rock while others sided with Smith. Many claimed they were both in the wrong. Taking sides is not what’s alarming here. What’s alarming is how people identified with Smith and the anger he had.
People could be seen openly fantasizing about who they would smack if given the chance. Others turned the incident into memes and used it as a collective joke. I have to cop to the humor portion. I joked online that we normally don’t watch the Oscars, but if we knew there was going to be a fight then we would have tuned in.
Violence is a symptom. More to the point, the fantasies and jokes about violence are also a symptom. We are an angry people. Anger has managed to soak into our lives much like a virus. We don’t literally become flesh eating monsters like in the movie above, but our outlook on life changes. How we fight for what we want changes. After all, there is a reason why people call politics blood sport these days.
Maybe the key in this whole thing is identifying a common enemy. America has always been at its best when we can focus our collective energies on a common enemy. We could be talking about our own revolution. We could be talking about Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan in World War II. We could talk about terrorists in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
The problem these days is that the common enemy is becoming more and more elusive. That common enemy is rage. It seeps into our lives and eventually gets us to do and say things that we never would have done in the first place. It gets the MAGA folks to abandon any last bastions of humanity to back a black hole of a human being. He says things they wish they could say. He lives the way they think they want to live. He embodies a person that’s very existence sticks it to the liberals.
Naturally, those that oppose MAGA and Q also find themselves giving into rage. We are angry that our world is so ugly and people seem to be giving into the ugliness. We are angry that even after all these years, people seem to give into racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all other forms of bigotry. We are angry that after all of the hard work of previous generations, the advancements that we made seem to be in peril.
We are collectively angry because it seems we have a process that nobody thinks is fair. One side thinks there is massive voter fraud because their guy lost. Another side thinks gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics have their thumbs on the scales. I certainly believe one of those more than the other, but anger is the thing that unites them.
More than allowing one side to win or lose, it is anger that we cannot allow to win. Fighting fire with fire feels good in the moment. It feels better than the alternative. Yet, is it really better? If anger pushes us to fight for what we want then did we win anything? It can feel like we did in the moment, but when the dust settles we will find that anger is undefeated and it’s coming for us all.