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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Mad as Hell

You may recall these words from the now infamous scene in the movie Network. The speech is delivered by Howard Beale, a disaffected newsman on a fictional network who struggles with the depravity and injustice of the world. His long simmering rage boils over when he is given notice, leading to his existential shout, “I am mad as Hell and I can’t take it anymore.”

Rage of another sort underlies a great deal of what we have seen play out during the past 4 years culminating in the insurrection of January 6. It is a rage that might not have boiled over in another time, when there was greater hope, less tolerance for manifest expressions of anger, when wars, financial calamity, extreme poverty, or widespread sickness were distracting pre-occupations. But in our present world we are free enough of these conditions—or at least for a certain segment of our society. With little to divert their attention, a glowing resentment has taken hold among those with one thing in common, they are mad as hell.

Who are these people? Those who believe themselves to be unjustly treated, denied the opportunities they were told awaited them, those facing loss of jobs due to social and economic change and those who never attained what they believed was their rightful due. They have been joined by others who find themselves shoulder to shoulder with immigrants, and people of color they consider their inferiors. And at the periphery are those who want to play at jingoism, who wave flags, strap on their AR-15s and ballistic vests and pretend to be patriots masking their real intent, to subject others to the fear and sense of subjugation they inwardly feel themselves.

All it took was license, politicians lacking the courage to address the very real conditions that led to mob rule, ignorance and disrespect of our country’s fundamental democratic principles, and a President whose only objective was a narcissistic drive for power attained by pandering to this seething unrest. Don’t be fooled by the slogans—or those who defend the actions of this movement—it has nothing whatsoever to do with America’s greatness which, if it ever truly existed, was based on a sense of moral obligation and leadership in a world arena that gave inspiration to others to seek a more representative governance and freedom from oppression.

Yet, the issues which underlie the unrest in our world today are real enough and complex enough to resist simplistic solutions even were they capable of being implemented by polarized legislators. Reason, thoughtful, careful pursuit of ways out of our dilemma are destined to fail with people who no longer even know what it is they are mad as hell about—free floating rage about any and everything knows no cure save one. Don’t be shocked when I say this, the cure is death. Not by violence or intentional harm, but attrition by age of a generation of mad old men and women. It is too late to give them what they believe was due—even were it right to do so or even possible. And it would not suffice. Rage fuels rage and must burn itself out. What we must do is prevent the fire from consuming the innocent, the next generations and those to come. The fight is fierce to be sure, but it always is just before the end, the last violent gasp.

The movie ends with Howard Beale’s death by murder on live Television. A startling ending at the time but no less so than watching a raging mob, egged on by a craven and sociopathic leader and his henchmen attempting to seize the capitol and put legislators to death. Sadly this was not a work of fiction but all too real, and while many wish to move on from this moment or paint it in more innocent guise, we all witnessed it, we saw the mob, we saw the rage, and it is up to us to resist this ever happening again with every energy at our disposal.

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