In praise of the angry man


Posted by The Real Don Johnson on Friday, September 18, 2009 2:45:53 PM

In praise of the angry man

Don Johnson

September 18, 2009

 

Garison Keeler is a unique and talented American treasure, and it is a treat to listen to his Prairie Home Companion. He was on PBS recently, and I spent a delightful hour or two listening to his descriptions of American life. Much of what he said and did resonated with my own soul and life experience.

Using this as a springboard, I would like to take issue with Mr. Keeler on his assessment of what makes America great. This is not a huge left/right or theological issue, but rather one that I think Mr. Keeler could easily agree with. At one point in his show he said something like the following (I’m paraphrasing here, so my apologies to Mr. Keeler). “… America is great because of good and kind people, … I do not believe angry people contribute to the greatness of my America…”. Now who could possible take issue with such a sentiment?

Again, let me point out that my issue with Mr. Keeler is not huge, but rather one of nuance. Rather than making it a “this or that”, or a “this and not that” assessment, my assement is “a lot of this, and, a lot of that”. Life is much more complicated than a series of “this or that”, as much as we would fool ourselves into believing (myself included). What makes America great is many good and kind people, and, many angry people as well.

Can a nation, any nation, be great only because of good and kind people? I think not. While good and kind people are indeed necessary, it is unlikely that a nation can even come into existence with only the good and kind. And if it does, the lifespan of such a nation would indeed be short.

Angry people are necessary for the creation and sustainment of a nation. But the kind of angry people I am talking about are of the righteously angry sort, they see a wrong and direct their anger to correcting that wrong.

America was founded by angry men, in particular the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and who stated in writing, “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”. These angry men confronted a wrong, and did something about it; they created a new nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. Yes, you may recognize these as the words of another angry man, Abraham Lincoln. Because of his righteous anger, Lincoln saved the Union, and abolished the blight of slavery from the American fabric.

Further along in the American story, angry men confronted and defeated the tyrannies of Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, and the expanding and enslaving empire of the Soviet Union.

Even though our Civil War abolished slavery from the American story, another angry American by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King confronted the evil of racial bigotry and brought this nation much closer to fulfilling his dream of an America “…where people are judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin…”.

Following September 11, 2001 yet another evil was confronted by another group of angry folks, and we are hopefully far along in the quest to throw that evil into the dustpan of history.

There are many other examples of righteous anger contributing to make America a great nation, and I believe, the greatest civilization that has ever existed on this earth. Not the least of these examples has been the continued existence of a free press and the many angry journalists who have confront the evils and corruption they see in our nation, may they ever be free to do so.

Let me close with another angry man, a man not an American citizen, but one who has been greatly influenced by the greatness of America. On July 4, 2004, this man was honored at a ceremony in Philadelphia for being a true follower of Thomas Jefferson and a model for future Jeffersonian democrats. The man who that day was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal is President Hamid Karzi of Afghanistan. You may be as shocked as I was when I first read this, but check it out for yourself, and read the words of this man.

“Where Liberty dies, evil grows. We Afghans have learned from our historical experiences that liberty does not come easily. We profoundly appreciate the value of liberty…for we have paid for it with our lives. And we will defend liberty with our lives.”

The influence of righteously angry men spans centuries, cultures and religions to the good of all mankind, let us never forget that.

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