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The Outrage Pandemic by Jeffrey Feldman

Op-ed by Jeffrey Feldman

Author Jeffrey Feldman

Author Jeffrey Feldman

HP/Jeffrey Feldman—Forget the Swine Flu. America is suffering from an outrage pandemic.

Like everybody else in America, I was surprised when the Nobel committee awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to Barack Obama. I was pleased, but surprised. Apparently, just about the only living creature not surprised was Bo the First Dog. But the outrage that flowed from every corner of the political conversation was far more depressing than learning about the award was surprising.

When did American optimism succumb to this constant outrage?

Less than a year ago, tens of millions of Americans descended on Washington, DC, just so they could say, “I was there,” on the day Barack Obama became President. Nine months later, a majority of Americans seem convinced that this same man–who once inspired them so deeply–has personally slighted them.

The right-wing is certainly responsible in part for the spread of the outrage pandemic.

The right has reached a level of outrage at Barack Obama that already exceeds what the left mustered after eight years of George W. Bush. The result is that right-wing politics in America now follows one general argument: If Obama wants it, then it is so bad it must be stopped or it will destroy America.

The insanity in this approach became clear in the health care reform debate where we have heard Republicans on Medicare say crazy things like, “I’d rather die than see this country adopt government-run health insurance” (e.g., I would rather die than have the kind of government health insurance that I currently have, which keeps me from dying).

When people shake their fists in protest at the very things they say they will die to defend, the result is far worse than a nation divided along political lines. It is a form of national schizophrenia.

While the outrage pandemic may have reached critical levels on the right, the left has done its part in the past nine months, too.

Try talking to anyone in the left-wing, nowadays, and it seems everyone has a bone to pick with Barack Obama. Whatever Barack Obama does, more and more people on the left are outraged by him. First it was the bank bailout program, then the auto-industry rescue, then the health care bill. Then it was not moving fast enough on closing Gitmo, then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then withdrawal from Iraq. Now the left is outraged at Obama’s Afghan policy and his view on cap and trade and home mortgage relief and marriage equality and the prosecution of past administration officials.

Is there anyone left on the left who is not outraged at Barack Obama for something? If they’re out there, I never come across them.

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