A funny thing has happened to me lately. I seem to have lost a good part of my ability to become outraged.
I don't know if this is a good thing or not. On the plus side, it means I am calmer. On the minus side, I am perhaps more apathetic.
Whether good or bad, permanent or merely temporary, my current lack of outrage is certainly a new development. For years, it seems, I could get outraged - or at least royally ticked off - about nearly anything. Now I only shrug and murmur, "What fools these mortals be."
Case in point: A biologist writes an op-ed piece in the LA Times advocating the laboratory creation of man-monkey hybrids, not for any scientific purpose, but simply to show religious people that there is no clear dividing line between humans and animals. "It is a line that exists only in the minds of those who proclaim that the human species, unlike all others, possesses a spark of the divine," he writes disapprovingly.
Ordinarily the suggestion that scientists should literally monkey with human life in such a capricious and twisted way would inspire me to vehement invective. Not this time. How silly, I thought. Some people will say anything to get attention.
Another case: Not long ago I was mightily disturbed to read that a certain Deb Frisch, a university lecturer in psychology, had made inappropriate (violent and sexual) comments about a conservative blogger's two-year-old son. Now it appears that Frisch is still at it, writing equally sick things to the same blogger and to another one. Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, another blogger is being threatened by someone who appears to have physical violence in mind.
I ought to be getting upset about this, but somehow I can't seem to feel much about it, except that there is a vicious cycle at work here: deliberately provocative political blogging > a backlash of angry comments > even more in-your-face blogging > even angrier and more personal comments, and on and on until the situation escalates into something really dangerous. It shouldn't be like that, but it is. Who could expect otherwise?
Perhaps I can't feel outraged anymore because of the incessant attempts to provoke my outrage. Every day, cable news and blog sites and talk radio and print media all do their best to get me outraged about something. About anything. Outrage sells. Except at a certain point, I seem to have immune to it. Like a kid who's had the mumps and is now immunized against a recurrence of the illness, I have absorbed so much outrage and released so much adrenalized anger that suddenly I find myself at least temporarily immune. It's a weird, lonely feeling.
And I can't even get upset about it.