Outrage Fatigue

Image borrowed from a typewriter blog - really!

Image borrowed from a typewriter blog - really!

It’s been a summer of outrageous events in the world and, frankly, I’m tired of it all.

From the South Carolina church murders to the slaughter of Cecil the Lion and now yesterday’s social media massacre – these are gut-wrenching actions. Then there is the ongoing migration of thousands of families running from home to seek peace elsewhere in the world, the full-fledged evil of ISIS’ destructive intent, and the sideshow circus of early political rambles in this country.

It all deserves careful dialogue, discourse, and thoughtful problem solving. But mostly this summer, these events are leading to reactive outrage. It’s exhausting.

One can only hold onto outrage for so long before it causes a collapse in one’s view of the world. 

A bit of background here – I tend towards optimism. Some have accused me of being irrationally positive in the face of facts that should lead to cynical skepticism of the intent of others.  But I reject that criticism. 

Despite headlines that would suggest otherwise, my personal experience with humans of all kinds has caused me to believe that most people are basically good. And that this country of my birth is founded on values and principles I treasure.

But it’s been tough to hold on this summer. Voices from media of all kinds have been screaming for my attention to issues great and small. It has been hard to decide where to protest first – a dentist’s office in Bloomington, MN, the #BlackLivesMatter marches connected to a number of summer festivals, or last weekend’s topless gathering for women’s equality.

When I was a child, moments of outrage in our home came with the clack of a typewriter. Mom would scroll in her carbon-sandwiched onionskin typing paper, clack the arm over the carriage, and settle in to write a solid screed to the hometown newspaper.

“This has to stop!” began many a letter to the editor. Whether an increase in property taxes, attacks on the music program in the schools, or bad behavior by teens, mom would dive into her personal perspective on what was wrong with the world.

Typing on a manual typewriter, particularly those from the 1930s, requires finger strength. My piano-playing/teaching mother had very strong fingers so that typewriter clicked and clacked, ignoring the occasional missed letter as the words and outrage flowed onto the page.

When she was done, she felt better. She had articulated the frustration and anger as best she could and now all she needed was a stamp. It probably wasn’t an accident that my father offered to mail those letters for her. Looking back, I’m pretty sure some of those letters were never mailed at all. Mom always wondered why few of her letters were ever published, and now I’m guessing my father had a hand in that.

Sometimes outrage merely needs an outlet on the page, never to be published.

Personally? I’m going to the Minnesota State Fair today. Nothing restores my optimistic view of life more than a day at the Fair, Minnesota’s Great Get Together. Friends and neighbors submit their best baking, art and crafts hoping for a ribbon for the effort. New vendors and foods on a stick make an appearance. And there’s a smile on most of the faces one greets.

That doesn’t solve the impact of the outrageous events of this summer. It’s merely a balm for the tired soul.