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Why Americans Are So Angry About Everything

USA, Columbia, Washington DC, Capitol Building
USA, Columbia, Washington DC, Capitol Building

Americans are angry. They are angry about school shootings and taxes and mistreatment and undeserved privilege and discrimination and government. There are differences between groups, but as a recentEsquire/NBC survey finds, the overall presence of rage is clear. The November survey of more than 3,000 American adults found that about half are angrier today than they were a year ago.

Why are Americans so angry? All of us, of whatever group, live some version of the “Whig interpretation of history,” a theory identified and criticized by the historian Herbert Butterfield almost a century ago that sees history as an ever-increasing march to enlightenment. If you believe that things should get better and better, then it is infuriating when they do not. In many ways, modern life is indeed better than it has ever been in the past. Report after report reaffirms this improvement.

But the “Whig school” mentality carries its own dangers. First of all, the improvement in world health may not mean that much to me if my own health care is less comprehensive than it was 10 years ago. Because we know so much more about disease, we are relentless in our discussion of wellness, diet and the pursuit of longevity. We have instant access to every catastrophe in the world, and so we obsess over creating perfect security. Extravagant lifestyles are paraded through our living rooms each night, so it becomes difficult to be satisfied with our ample, but still comparatively modest, means. Much of our frustration arises in an age of unlimited expectation when atrocities and injustice are constantly paraded before our eyes.

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