I’m running myself into a ragged outrage

I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted and I don’t think I can do it anymore. I feel like I’ve been running constantly for the past couple of months. Not physically running, of course, but running to try to keep up with the outrage and this ever-evolving culture war.

First it was the outrage about things not closing down fast enough, and people not taking care of their employees. And then it was the outrage around people still taking their families to get groceries during the quarantine, and then it was how the stimulus was being paid out, then how people were using their stimulus, and then it was how large chains took so much stimulus money.

After all that came the masks. Some people were outraged they were forced to wear one and others were outraged that people couldn’t just put on a mask to keep everyone else a little safer.

Now, there’s riots in the streets and people burning down Wendy’s and police stations and Target. Journalists are being arrested, and every word you say goes toward everyone around you putting you into some abstract group or another, whether you want to be there or not, and whether you would have chosen that group or not. Through it all, there’s people everywhere – everywhere – demanding attention and shouting over one another, all competing for everyone’s emotional energy and rage so they can direct it at whatever they think is “the problem.”

I’ve seen the phrase “the problem” thrown around a lot lately. I was afraid I had the wrong definition for it, so I looked it up in the dictionary, only to find that I was way off. The official definition, surprisingly enough, is as follows:

“Problem – (n) anyone or anything that disagrees with me, no matter how slightly, regarding any issue I find important.”

We’ve arrived at what George Orwell referred to as two-minute-hates, where an issue is presented and if you don’t scream and rage hard enough and stamp your feet and tear at your hair, then you’re problematic. Even if you do scream and rage, if you don’t do it “right,” then you’re still problematic. At best you have to be watched closely for dissent, and, at worst, educated on why you need to be more hateful.

I’ve always felt late to these two-minute hates, like I was stuck in the bathroom during the orientation and came out five minutes late with toilet paper stuck to my shoe, only to find everyone is already screaming at each other and I don’t know which side is which or what they’re yelling about.

Either way, I feel like I’m always running to catch up to them, always late getting information about everything. Everyone around me seems so good at it, and I don’t know how they do it. They’re plugged in, ready to go, ready to be angry and vicious at a moment’s notice with slogans and catch-phrases and buzzwords and Wikipedia articles at the ready to deflect and discredit any criticism they might face — soldiers in a culture war, all armed to the teeth and waiting for the signal.

More and more, I feel like I’m between all those culture soldiers, tiptoeing through the minefield in no-man’s land, desperately trying to get out of the crossfire before everyone starts shooting again.

These past few months have been a long couple of years, and with the November elections looming over the horizon like a cultural nuclear bomb, I can’t see things getting any better anytime soon. At this point, though, I’m just hoping maybe everyone else is feeling like me: exhausted.

Maybe – just maybe – we’ll tire ourselves out before we all kill one another.