We live in an angry world. Israel is angry with Hezbollah for attacking into Israeli territory. Hezbollah is angry with Israel for having the nerve to do something about it. America is angry with Al Qaida for killing 3000 people on American soil. Al Qaida is angry because American women don’t wear burqas.
It isn’t just nations or ideologies at war, though. People are angry…
A few years ago in Colorado, a handful of students at Columbine High School were angry for various reasons and went on a killing spree that reduced the school to a war zone. Stories of murder in the workplace have become so common that “Disgruntled Former Employee” and “Going Postal” have become parts of the English language. School children routinely assault and occasionally murder each other over cell phones, lunch money and tennis shoes. Stressed-out drivers on our freeways engage in vehicular assault, or just pull off the road and try to kill each other – often successfully.
It’s fairly commonplace to read about a Little League coach being assaulted by an angry father – just because Junior didn’t get a turn at bat in the ninth inning. Way to go Dad…. Now that’s being a role model for your boy!
On July 22nd, Samuel Scott Jones decided life was just too unfair and went on a rampage across the Dallas / Ft Worth Metroplex. He stole two cars, wrecking one of them and eventually hijacked an 18-wheeler and led police on a four-hour chase before finally being brought down. Mr. Jones said he just wanted to send a clear message about how he was being mistreated by society. Mission accomplished, Sammy!
What is everyone so upset about?
The reasons for their anger vary widely on the surface. Scratch a little deeper however, and you’ll find a common thread in most present-day instances of angry and / or violent behavior. People become frustrated with their own troubles, and act out their resultant anger on the world around them. It’s self-indulgence and self-pity carried to the ultimate extreme of violence against the innocent.
But why do they take their anger out on others?
In my opinion (and I don’t claim to be an expert), it’s mainly due to the fact that we have become a society of self-absorbed, whiny little wimps who can’t face life’s everyday challenges. Earlier generations of Americans by and large just dealt with whatever life threw at them and kept on trucking. But many of today’s Americans are unable or (most likely) unwilling to deal rationally with even the smallest of problems. Sure, there have always been instances of violence… but compare then and now. This kind of stuff is becoming so common that it’s barely newsworthy anymore.
Why are so many people behaving like willful children?
In an effort to make life better and easier, we continually try to find ways to sneak around the various aches and pains life presents to us. Sure, it’s okay to make our lives better. I deeply appreciate Mr. Carrier’s inventing the first workable air-conditioner back in 1902. The automobile changed the world in ways too numerous for anyone to catalog. And the Internet will quite possibly out-pace even the automobile in terms of making the world a smaller, more accessible place.
But consider: When your great-grandparents were young they milked 27 cows and fed the hogs every morning before walking eight miles to school in a blinding snowstorm. They didn’t enjoy doing it, but they knew it had to be done. They didn’t whine. They just did it.
Yeah, I know I’m exaggerating a little – but let’s face it, life back then was a lot tougher than it is now. And, we had a much tougher generation of Americans as a result. The easier life becomes, the more we kick and scream when we’re importuned or inconvenienced. We have forgotten where we came from and how we got here.
Don’t expect everything to be free or easy. That isn’t how life works. Next time you feel life has dealt you a hand from the bottom of the deck, take a look at Christopher and Dana Reeve or Stephen Hawking. Mr. Hawking, regarded by some as the smartest man on the planet, has almost no use of his body. And yet he’s a published author, public speaker, and highly regarded in his field of expertise.
The realisation that I had an incurable disease, that was likely to kill me in a few years, was a bit of a shock. How could something like that happen to me? Why should I be cut off like this? However, while I had been in the hospital, I had seen a boy I vaguely knew die of leukemia, in the bed opposite me. It had not been a pretty sight. Clearly there were people who were worse off than me. At least my condition didn't make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself I remember that boy.
-Stephen Hawking (from his website)
As bad as life has treated Stephen Hawking, he nevertheless realizes that there are others who have it worse than he. Hats off to a brave and sturdy spirit.
Consider Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, who earned fame portraying “Superman” in a series of movies in the 70’s and 80’s. Mr. Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down when thrown from a horse. Mrs. Reeve cared for her husband day and night, until his death in 2004.
In 2005 Mrs. Reeve, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Hadn’t she had enough challenges in her life already? Is it fair that she had to face yet another crisis? Dana Reeve bore the burden and looked to her husband’s legacy for strength. She passed away in March of 2006. Fair? No. But life isn’t known for fairness.
And what about everyday people who bear up under the burdens life places upon them?
I’ll not mention his name out of respect for his privacy, but I have a friend who works each day, six days a week, fixing truck flats, changing oil, and other hard, physically demanding work. He does this in spite of one leg having been amputated just below the hip. He doesn’t even have a prosthetic leg. He’s on crutches. But there he is, working hard and supporting his family.
Some might say that he must be desperate, or that the “system has failed to support him.” Not so. He doesn’t want the support of the system. He’s a proud man who wishes to stand on his own (no pun intended). He works in a small shop in Mississippi with two other men, and I’ve seen him outwork both of them on more than one occasion. And while he’s doing what he does, there’s someone else staying home from the office because of an ingrown toenail.
If you ever feel the need to express your anger at how unfair your life has been, or how Society or The Gods Above have cheated you, stop and think about your blessings. Think about all the people who have it worse than you do. Try to find ways to earn a better life than the one you’re living, instead of lashing out at those who are not a part of your problem.
And then get off your butt and go do something worthwhile.