‘People are pissed,” reports Esquire after examining the results of its new survey, conducted along with NBC News. The study finds that roughly half of Americans are even angrier than they were a year ago.
Yes, we’re mad. What of it?
The angry among us should be thanked, not tsk-tsked. Our boiling rage is actually cause for optimism.
Of course, the study probably exaggerates the intensity of our anger. It didn’t really offer alternative negative emotions, so those who simply felt sad, frustrated or disappointed about events — or who disagreed with prevailing opinion on issues like gay marriage, gun violence or climate change — may have ended up cornered into overstating their anger.
Even so, anger isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, in the face of wrongs and injustices, it’s often the healthy, appropriate response. And this survey shows that Americans are getting mad for the right reasons.
To begin with, we’re upset about perceived mistreatment of our fellow citizens, a fact that comes out especially on issues of race.
Though we’re divided in our opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re overwhelmingly concerned about police shootings of unarmed black men; such instances invoked fury among 65 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of whites, 76 percent of Hispanics, 77 percent of women and 72 percent of men.
Of course, police violence is just one facet of a bigger issue that’s really irking us: big, irresponsible government.
Esquire and NBC offered 11 possible signs respondents could carry at a hypothetical protest, spanning issues from abortion to the wealth gap to immigration. The one sign both Democrats and Republicans chose among their top three: “Taxed Enough Already.”
That sentiment is probably a big factor in some of the survey’s other findings. The middle class reported the highest levels of anger. Meanwhile, a whopping 64 percent of respondents said they’re barely getting by financially, making just enough to pay their bills or less.
Though the study unfortunately didn’t publish the numbers on this one, it notes that many Americans — particularly whites — attribute their financial struggles to “things being harder today.”
The reality is, because of big government, times are tougher. Gallup echoed the findings of the anger survey this week, reporting that last year Americans said that government was the country’s biggest problem — even more so than the economy, unemployment or immigration.
In President Obama’s final year in office, the federal government is on track to push out nearly 4,000 new regulations, many with an economic impact of $100 million or more, micromanaging everything from air conditioners to retirement advice to food labeling. Since Obama took office, the EPA alone has issued more than 3,300 new rules.
That’s a major problem for the daring upstarts attempting to hoist themselves up by their bootstraps. While huge corporations have the resources to lawyer up and navigate the onslaught of regulation, the middle class’ beloved small businesses get totally squashed, costing jobs and opportunities.
So, as the survey shows, we fear the American dream is dead, rage at government and resent big business and Wall Street. Can you blame us?
Touchingly, the survey suggests that some of the biggest optimists come from unlikely corners. For instance, though 70 percent of black Americans report anger at their treatment by society, they’re also the most confident in the existence of the American dream and the most positive about the future of the nation. Poor Americans also reported lower levels of anger.
So on one side of the same coin, you have middle-class fury, and on the other side, the mellow optimism of minorities and the poor. The reason: We’re still Americans, characterized by our entrepreneurship, ambition, values and love of individual rights. We hold these things dear and hate to see them trampled — whether it’s by a flawed police department or an incompetent bureaucrat meddling in the economy.
A survey that found mass apathy would be true cause for concern. Instead, our dazzling anger may prove productive.
?Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a fellow for the Franklin Center, Independent Women’s Forum and Steamboat Institute.