out·rage | outˌrāj/ nounan extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation.
“her voice trembled with outrage”
At this very moment, all over the country, there’s a whole lotta outrage goin’ on.
TODAY, IN OUTRAGE:
Bloomingdale’s date-rapey-advertisement. Target’s mental-illness sweater misstep. Sexist coffee sign. War on Mall Christmas. Girl Scout Cookie price hike. Those Starbucks cups. Those Starbucks cups. Those Starbucks cups.
It’s easy, too, to find articles outraged by this sudden new onslaught of outrage, raging against the perpetual outrage machine. The new phenomenon, driven by social media, of expecting outrage to yield results; the novelty act of Twitter outrage grown wearisome by its repeating phenomenon. I don’t need your outrage, they say. Aren’t we outraged enough? Can we all just take a break from the outrage for a bit?
I get it. When was the last time you truly felt fury, anger, wrath, or resentment? I mean truly felt those things? It’s like wearing boxing gloves and going to town on a punching bag. If you’re like me, you get thirty minutes, tops, before you need to take a water break and just breathe for a minute.
TODAY, ALSO IN OUTRAGE:
There is, of course, more to be outraged by; more we can be offended, shocked, or indignant about. Street harassment. Rape. Syria. Misogyny. Racism. Veterans with PTSD. War crimes. Tax hikes. Cancer.
Of course, those who say there’s simply too much outrage in the world right now! might as well be saying, Enough with all of this free speech already!
If, in fact, we take genuine outrage to mean “an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation,” do we not owe it to the person experiencing the outrage to consider their perspective?
Then again. I had a busy day of work, running from here to there, meeting to meeting. A doctor’s appointment, some laundry, teaching a class, conducting an interview. Do I, you, or anyone else have the time, energy, and mental capacity for a nuanced, reasonable discussion in which the opinions of others are carefully measured, weighed, and considered?
I barely showered today, so I don’t know about you, but I’d imagine, for the rest of us, we click “Share” on our Facebook feed and move along.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day where I secretly found myself on the other side of her argument, quietly wondering, how can I speak my own truth and express my own point of view on this issue without hurting her feelings? I couldn’t: it was too personal, and my love and respect for this person trumped my need to be “right” on the matter. It’s an old story, one that many of us are familiar with: can I voice an unpopular opinion without losing the respect or friendship of my peers? It’s a question of empathy more than anything else: can I place myself in the shoes of another person, long enough to consider what the world looks like through the lens of someone who isn’t like me?
We live in a world with instant access to almost anything: groceries, books, music, entertainment, pornography, advice, information, opinions. Imagine stepping inside an enormous warehouse, with fifty-foot ceilings, brightly lit and chock-full of shelves upon shelves of tweets, facebook updates, news articles, headlines, thoughts, opinions. That’s what we do, when staring at our phones; that is, for better or worse, the warehouse we find ourselves in whenever we choose to engage with the glowing device in our purses and pockets.
Those opinions are great. Those opinions are necessary. Those opinions can shape a society, expose corruption, invite change. They can also, as we’ve seen, needlessly destroy a life.
Be outraged. I encourage it. The world is full of some pretty terrible — and often preventable — shit. Don’t be lazy about it: get mad. Get fighting mad. Get good n’ feisty outragey mad.
But be selective about it. It’s a big warehouse — don’t waste it on the stuff that doesn’t matter. Get outraged that your kids’ school is underfunded; get outraged that someone in your community is being treated like shit because of the color of their skin or their preference of partner. Get outraged when it matters, and then be ready to have the conversation: to explain your outrage, to invite others to participate in your outrage, to use your outrage to work towards a positive solution.
No one gives a shit about your Starbucks cups.
But I give a lot of the shits about the other people on this planet. And I’m sick of being told that their outrage has no place in the forum.
Get mad. Get outraged. And use it for good.