Easy Outrage

Let’s stop moralizing with each other. There are no rules anymore. Kathy Griffin did an outrageous thing. I don’t care. Every day since November has been full of outrageous things. Just this week I have woken up to news reports about a Congressman elected to office the day after publicly assaulting a news reporter and a Texas state legislator who threatened to shoot his colleague in the head as his solution to a peaceful but inconvenient demonstration in the state chamber.

Meanwhile, our country is preparing to abdicate responsibility to my daughter’s generation by stepping out of the Paris Climate treaty. New health care laws are coming that no one actually wants or understands. We are staring down a budget that systemically underfunds education, science, and welfare assistance. Nine years after the Great Recession, we are already deregulating the very industries that recently crippled our economy with unbridled greed and excess. Across the country, state legislators pontificate about limiting the role of government in our personal lives while blithely extending the reach of government into the vagina of every woman of childbearing age. Shameful.

Kathy Griffin doesn’t matter. She can disappear. Like all celebrities, she only gets to have the power we lend her with our attention. Our tweeting, celebrity president understands this very well. His rise as candidate was fueled by mendacious assertions that the sitting president was not a United States citizen. Our civic discourse has been downhill ever since.

This isn’t democracy. This is celebrity culture run amok. These people aren’t serious people. They don’t even pretend to address the needs of our time. They hook our attention with sensational acts, inflammatory tweets. We feed them in turn with our easy outrage.

Don’t be fooled. Easy outrage is a trap to keep us constantly dispirited and deeply distracted. Easy outrage keeps us fighting against each other rather than making common cause to fix our dangerously broken system.

Today it was Kathy Griffin. Tomorrow it will be someone else. It doesn’t matter. Keep your seat. Try to stay focused. Save your powder. You are going to need it.