A recent column in the Times began with the almost obligatory bashing of the Obama administration and continued in the same vein to include the Georgia legislature and the governor's office.
I'm not sure why I kept on reading since I had already made up my mind about the writer. He was just another angry right-wing blowhard. But I did continue reading and found the bulk of the man's column to be right on target. I agreed with him on almost every count.
Still, the column left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I resented the man's negative approach. He offered no solutions, only criticism. Moreover — and unforgivable for a columnist — he probably turned off a number of readers before he got to his point. Clearly, anger got the better of this man, and I fear this is what's happening to many Americas today.
"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." This quote comes from an early Greek tragedy. The Oxford Dictionary equates "mad" with having a distorted mind. To be mad is to be insane, but it is more commonly used to mean angry, so let me paraphrase: For a nation to fail, first its people are made angry.
In Euripides' play "Medea," the daughter of the king sinks into self-destructive madness and kills her children. Today, Americans have become overrun by anger and are striking out at children and adults alike.
I'm sure someone is going to point out that by describing the columnist as a "right-wing blowhard," I have exposed my own bias, and by putting it in writing I am venting my own anger. Yes, but remember I might have simply thrown the paper away. I didn't. I read on, and my anger turned to sadness. The author's concern was real. His points were well taken.
I only wished he had tempered his words with a few positive suggestions and a little more compassion.
Twenty-four hours later: I woke up to learn that Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. Six people were dead, including a child, and 14 more wounded. By now, more than two weeks have gone by and blame has been leveled at every part of our society: the media, prominent members of both parties, talk show radio and all those who listen to it with the lame excuse that it's just entertainment and doesn't affect their thinking. This is my favorite rant.
A left-wing blowhard is still a blowhard. If I'm in that category, I'm willing to take my share of the blame because that's the only way to raise the conscience of the nation. In the age of the Internet and instant messaging, we all need to think carefully about everything we say.
Is it true? How do we know it's true? Do we really understand the intricacies of the situation under discussion? For instance, if you are to going debate malfeasance in the banking system, you'd better have some understanding of SIVs and CDOs (Structured Investment Vehicles, and Collateralized Debt Obligations).
I certainly don't understand either. All I can reasonably say on the subject is when something is too complicated for the average person to comprehend is that it's probably wrong and needs to be changed, but I am not going to berate my bank or shoot one of its tellers to make my point. More important, I am not going to rail over the situation to the degree where some unstable person decides to take matters in his own hands.
What we do and what we say matters, a lot more than we think. Chose your words and your battles carefully. We are in a time of extreme change and dislocation, and most people are doing the best they can. Anger only distorts the thinking process.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.