Outrage in the face of oppression

November 8, 2018

American culture has found itself in an age of outrage. It can be found, in some form, in every group, and the more broadly defined the group is, the more room there is for outrage. I believe this outrage has its roots in many different phenomena, including the dawn of social media as a universal tool and the polarized nature of current American politics. Outrage on the political front seems to be the main mode in which those on opposite sides of political discussion conduct discourse. This issue has led to many being frustrated with the current state of political thought. While two angry, polarized sides are nothing new to American politics, this outrage seems to be amplified in recent years.

The Democratic party is currently facing a rough patch, and although it will likely find itself on the road to recovery soon with the midterm elections, it is important to understand what brought the liberal movement to the place it is now. There are countless factors that have gone into the current state of the liberal movement, but I believe part of understanding the liberal movement’s shortcomings as of late is understanding the outrage culture that surrounds our political discourse.

It seems as if political interactions between the conservative and liberal movements are generally reactionary. Perhaps a conservative figure will say something provocative at a public gathering or on the news, and a corresponding liberal figure will give an impassioned response. Or a leader of a minority group will voice the oppressive nature of the status quo, and conservatives will attempt to dismantle it with statistics that do not always convey the full gravity of the subject matter. No matter what the instance, it always feels as if the group that takes a progressive stance is merely pointed to and laughed at for being hysterical or too emotional. Much of the liberal movement is outraged by injustice that many of its members are forced to face, meanwhile the “hysteric nature” of liberals is what outrages conservatives.

In general, I believe this conservative outrage is unjustified. While many liberals do get somewhat emotional over the injustices that they face, it is because they are attempting to alert people to the oppression from which they suffer. The conservative movement hails itself as being the calm in the face of the liberal storm. But the nature of the liberal argument requires emotion because it is partly an emotional issue. Alongside this, many contemporary conservative political figures bring a slew of outside knowledge to attempt to shut down liberals. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, statistics and scientific studies are largely interpretable. With much of the conservative ideology, the facts are given a falsely expedited clarity when the other side is merely trying to make their voices heard. When these pseudo-facts are brought into a discussion, it shifts the discussion from one about society to one about statistics or science or economics. Ideally a political discussion should involve many other fields, but when none of the participants in the discussion are well equipped to talk on those other fields, the debate is halted and the oppressed voices can no longer be heard. Often, the use of this tactic by conservatives enrages progressives even more, which merely intensifies the exemplification of liberals as single-minded people who are too emotional to have a real discussion.

I do not believe this problem has an easy solution for liberals. Both cultures are entrenched in equal and opposite directions, and at the moment, it is hard to find middle ground. The way that conservatives perceive the liberal movement is something that is impossible to shake. In many ways, fighting against this issue would force liberals to fight on conservative terms. But political culture is a volatile beast, especially now. It might be the case that time is the only thing that will restore constructive and accommodating discussion. The future of political culture will hopefully also bring with it an amicable future for discourse.

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