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The Anger Drug

One of the things I tend to do when I’m alone is watch movies in short sittings, usually when I take a break to eat. It’s not a bad way to slog through by viewing queue without wasting a day binging out on it. Yesterday, Charlotte and Tommy were working a booth at the Del Norte County Fair, so while I ate breakfast I watched about an hour of The Free State of Jones. The story’s about a Confederate Deserter played by Matthew McConaughey who takes refuge with a group of runaway slaves and ends up leading a rebellion against the rebellion. I don’t know if it’s a true story or not, or how accurate it is if that’s the case. I’ll do some research if I decide to post a review, but for now I’ll just say the first hour was pretty good.

The thing was, I had to turn it off. I was just getting too angry.

Now, getting angry is probably the point of the film. For someone of our times to look on the racial injustice of the era, the madness of the war and the wrongness of slavery, well, it’s bound to trigger a response. The villains are expertly crafted to make us hate them, and they even threw in a subplot about a 1950’s era trial about some guy accused of being 1/16th black or something (no idea how that’s gonna get wrapped up). It’s pretty obvious the point of the film is to get you worked up.

It’s anger porn.

That’s what I really want to talk about today. Anger. Aristotle’s Rhetoric has a whole chapter dedicated to the subject. (Here’s a link.) He included a quote I particularly like:

Sweeter it is by far than the honeycomb dripping with sweetness,
And spreads through the hearts of men.

I’ll bet Ed Norton’s pissed he didn’t stick with the MCU franchise.

Anger feels good. It energizes us. We go forth and take action to fix something that needs to be fixed. As a writer, it’s often a primary motivator for my characters, and a powerful hook to keep the reader interested. And I gotta say, as a person with a lot of anger issues, it feels good to be righteous. To be confident that my anger is justified. That what I do is a Good Thing.

And, boom, there’s the trap.

Anger’s a drug. You get hooked on it. Like a hammer looking for a nail, you find yourself looking for things to be angry about.

When I was a young man, I was angry all the time. I actually kept a two-foot length of thick copper wire, the kind you use to hook up 440-volt power lines, in my truck. If someone cut me off in traffic, I’d do my best to catch the bastard and knock off his side mirror. I actually managed to pull it off a time or two. I even got away with it.

Man, I was a bastard.

I’m not sure what broke me out of the addiction. Maybe it was getting older, maybe it was Christ, or maybe I just got lucky. I’d like to say I went off to some monastery and through an arduous conditioning program, learned to control my anger. In reality, I think one day I just woke up and realized I was being a dick.

I tossed the wire in the trash.

There’s a lot to be angry about out there. There’s also a lot of people who profit from it. Turn on your favorite news channel, and tell me I’m lying. Look at your Facebook feed. Politics uses anger as currency. That’s nothing new. I’m sure it’s been that way since the first cave man declared himself to be in charge and that the guys in the other cave were stealing our hunting grounds. My point is, like any drug, the most powerful effect is the ability those who sell it have to manipulate those who buy it.

So, have you been shooting up on anger? Have you kicked the habit? Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to know your thoughts. 

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