The price of toxic rage

Gang of Fools

Gang of Fools

Brilliant at Breakfast
Monday, February 16, 2009

It would be easy to think that because I sit at a computer every morning and some evenings, documenting the horrors of life in what is now (thankfully) POST-Bush America, that I’m this seething mass of rage and grievance. But if you thought that, you ‘d be wrong. This blog is an outlet of sorts, a way to blow off steam, an attempt, however feeble, to provide information and insights. And yes, it’s also a social thing for a busy person. But for the most part, while I’m always rather droll and cynical, I’m a pretty cheerful person. At least for now, I’m gainfully employed. I’m in a successful marriage of over 22 years duration. We’re not drowning in debt, we live within our means, and I know i’m better off than many people.

I also know how rage and bitterness can destroy a person from the inside out. Grudges and resentment of old slights are a poison that eats us alive from within. I think the most important thing that anyone can learn about life is to let things go. I don’t know anyone who was helped by holding grudges, nor do I think that defining one’s life in terms of what one lacks instead of what one has is a recipe for contentment.

I read two things this morning that served to underscore the fact that it’s important to not be a Pollyanna, but not to let raging at the machine, or at imagined slights, eat their way into your soul.

In 2007, DKos poster and provocateur “Dave from Queens” (David Weintraub) recounted his experience at a Sean Hannity/Mark Levin book signing, when Hannity’s goons tried to have him thrown out of the store. Eventually Dave was banned from the site for being an equal opportunity pain in the ass, and became largely seen as a kook. Today he is dead suddenly at a relatively young age, and one wonders just how much his relentless rage had to do with it.

And then we have this piece by Sam Stein, about the post-election bitterness of John McCain. I have to somewhat admire Barack Obama’s willingness to see good in everyone, and his attempt to mend fences with the man he defeated for the presidency before the inauguration, but it’s clear that McCain is having none of it:
No one expected the Arizona Republican to be a legislative ally for this administration. But it was widely assumed that Obama’s overtures to McCain in the weeks after the election would dull some of the hard feelings between the two. Now, they are realizing, it has not.

“He is bitter and really angry,” Bob Shrum said of McCain in an interview on Friday. “He is angry at the press, which he thinks is unfair. He is angry at Obama and angry at the voters. He has gone from being an angry old candidate to being an angry old defeated candidate.”

Indeed, during the debate over the economic stimulus package it was McCain, as often as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spearheaded the opposition. The Arizona Republican denounced the proposal as pure pork on the Senate floor and introduced an alternative measure comprised nearly entirely of tax cuts.

On Sunday, McCain wouldn’t let the fight die, even with the legislation through Congress. Appearing on CNN, he described the $787 billion measure as “generational theft” and said that the bill’s authors should “start over now and sit down together.”

Meanwhile, appearing on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Lindsey Graham — McCain’s chief ally in the Senate — said of the process by which the stimulus was forged: “If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country is screwed.”

That two Republicans Senators who consider themselves prudent compromisers would forcefully condemn the president’s top legislative priority is noteworthy in and of itself. That it comes after President Obama made overt gestures of reconciliation to both McCain and Graham raises questions as to just how long it will take for this era of post-partisanship to arrive.

That John McCain is holding a grudge should surprise no one. It’s the story of McCain’s career, and was on display throughout the 2008 campaign. McCain clearly felt that his story, that his years as a POW entitled him to the presidency. He felt robbed of it in 2000, and he obviously felt that selling his soul to the very people who destroyed his candidacy in South Carolina in 2000 would ensure victory in 2008. When Ted Kennedy was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976 in a particularly ugly primary campaign, he went back to the Senate and built a distinguished career. John McCain has made very clear that his rage and sense of betrayal trumps everything, and he’s determined to make everyone pay because he didn’t get the reward he felt he deserved. Most men would find a way to be happy with ten homes and a trophy wife and what could be a distinguished Senate career. But John McCain lives for his anger, it seems.

Copyright 2009 Brilliant at Breakfast

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