Monday, August 1, 2016

Mad As Hell

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a recession. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Jobs are going to India. Cops are being gunned down in the street. Terrorists are running wild and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had three suicide bombers and sixty-three people were gunned down on the street, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. 

We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my smart phone and my reality TV and my Pok√©mon Go and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' 

Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the recession and the inflation and the ISIS and the terrorists in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say: 'I'm a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!'

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. In November, I want you to go to the polls and tell them: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!'

I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!...You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the Mexicans and the terrorists and the trade agreements. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!'

I am, of course, paraphrasing the words of the character Howard Beale; a news announcer from the 1976 movie Network, who was fired because his ratings dwindled, and managed to rebuild his following and keep his job by first announcing that he was going to kill himself on live TV and later giving tirades like the one above.  I am also paraphrasing Donald Trump almost every time he opens his mouth.  Like Howard Beale, Trump has managed to parlay peoples' fear, insecurity and frustration into an unlikely, but surprisingly large, following.  Like Beale, everybody laughed at Trump at first.  They're not laughing anymore.

We do live in troubled times and it is, perhaps, tempting to place our trust in someone who claims that he knows how to fix everything.  It happened in Germany in 1933.  Germany was suffering in the throes of the Great Depression.  Many Germans were unemployed.  The Deutschmark was practically worthless.  A man named Adolph Hitler said that he had the solution to the country's woes.  He promised the people that he would make Germany great again.  "Deutschland muss leben!" he shouted.  And he blamed the economic woes that troubled the land on the "others"; the rich, Jewish bankers who prospered at the expense of the common German people.  His uncommon oratory skills and his fiery, charismatic persona won over much of the German population and propelled him to the head of the Nazi party.  And he did it by playing to peoples' fears and legitimate frustrations.

I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is anything like Adolph Hitler; only that he is borrowing much the same formula that helped Hitler to achieve power.  I do suggest that it behoves those who look on Trump as a straight-talking savior who will make America great again to remember that Howard Beale was indeed "mad as hell".  He was insane.

George Bernard Shaw once quipped that democracy is a system ensuring that the people are governed no better than they deserve.  American voters may want to keep those words in mind come November.

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