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The outrage industry

Progressive Forage Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 13 July 2017

And then I realized something important about my son, my husband and the whole bloomin’ family – it’s not their fault. Their outrage gauge is broken.

I called my son on the phone and yelled, “It’s twins! Your cow had twins.” His reply? “Are you sure you’re not seeing bobcats?”

Several months ago, I was home alone and saw a bobcat in the pasture near the house – an unusual siting. We’ve seen deer, raccoons and coyotes there, but never a bobcat. So the family decided to question my siting – are you sure it wasn’t a tomcat? Are you sure it wasn’t a coyote?

Are you sure it wasn’t the chickens on the loose again? Really, I think I know a bobcat when I see one. But none of them believed me.

Something similar happened a few weeks ago when I told my husband, “You need to be upset about this,” when I repeated the comments made at a community meeting about others wanting to bring families into the area. No, I say, keep them out! I don’t want our rural lifestyle imposed upon. I don’t want new parks, subdivisions or more potholes.

Yet, miraculously, my husband’s blood pressure didn’t rise, his eyes didn’t widen, he didn’t even look up from his game of solitaire on the iPad or deign to comment. Evidently, he didn’t understand the importance of this situation. What was wrong with him?

And then I realized something important about my son, my husband and the whole bloomin’ family – it’s not their fault. Their outrage gauge is broken.

Outrage is the commodity selling the cheapest these days – it’s free. You can’t avoid it even if you want to. News outlets are the vomiting source of outrage, but associations and organizations from farming to environment, livestock to oil, and consumers to politicians has jumped on that bandwagon.

If I reacted on every point of outrage, I’d be upset that FBI Director Comey wasn’t fired – oh wait, he was, now I’m supposed to be dismayed that he was fired. I should be distressed over NAFTA being thrown out – oh wait, it’s only being revamped, so I should be outraged about that. I should be disgusted that we have the Affordable Care Act and dismayed that we can’t repeal it ( … wait, what?).

I should be upset that we don’t actually have U.S. beef on the ground in China after all the promises but also agitated that we can export to China only if we have traceability. According to the Panera restaurant chain, I should be upset that USDA has postponed the calorie-labeling deadline (because they were ready to comply) and yet upset that the new labeling requirement was ever approved.

In other words, every other minute of every other day someone somewhere wants me to express excitement, indignation and disgust – like I belong to the outrage flavor of the month club or something.

I’m not saying there aren’t serious issues involved. There are – and they are usually very complex. What I can’t do anymore is maintain a level of outrage at every turn, every sneeze and every tweet in the world from anyone who owns a smartphone demanding me to be angry (not even necessarily right – just angry). Life doesn’t work that way.

I saw a recent headline that read, “Silence on Cuba export bill is telling,” implying that we should even be outraged by silence. Wow. Just wow.

It reminds me of Aesop’s fable where the boy watching sheep cries “Wolf!” so often that after awhile, the villagers ignore him, even when the wolf really does come.

For the love of Pete, can we not tone down the outrage in our society and come up with a better way to decide what we should be excited about? I’m open to any ideas at this point; we could rock-paper-scissors every concerning issue … anything – I’ll take anything. We have to save at least a little outrage and excitement … for the sake of twin calves and bobcats.  end mark

Lynn Jaynes
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