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Rage: It's all the rage | Moment's Notice


Last updated 8/13/2021 at 12:22pm

“Rage,” from the Latin meaning “frenzy” or “madness,” is a noun referring to explosive anger or furious intensity, and a verb meaning “to act or prevail forcefully.”

Rage is also a sense or a feeling, a passion for something, and when it is paired with “all the,” well, that is something that is the object of widespread desire. No matter what the use or object of the rage, the word carries with it an implication of vehemence, a furiousness that cannot be overcome.

Rage … rage is a good word.

Shakespeare described the rage of romantic love, while Dylan Thomas summoned the strength of rage to stave off death. Louise Fishman put “serious rage” into her expressionist art pieces at the same time David Bowie directed his rage as lyrical muse.

Style-makers referred to the rage in fashion in the early 1800s, and when we added “all the” to “rage” at the turn of the last century, the word “rage” became all the rage.

Rage is a good word for 2021.

We are much angrier about politics than we used to be, as you have likely experienced in your day-to-day, but it is also confirmed by formal research (e.g., Pew Research Center).

We rage over the return of the pandemic, or its impact on our lives, and some even rage over whether or not it exists at all. We find ourselves filled with rage at the lack of understanding of others, a lack of empathy and compassion, or other’s inability to see our truth.

All of this rage has manifested as a battle raging for our hearts and minds. About the year 2000, we learned that our liberal democracy (not politically liberal but “liberal democracy,” the phrase adopted for Western democracy within a capitalist society) had not evolved to its apex in the 1990s, as we had expected.

Social and political pressures increased in intensity after the 1990s (aka Roaring 1920s 2.0), and the new millennium brought division, antagonism for compromise, and angry battles for power.

Social scientists point to many sources of this anger – conspiracy theories are all the rage, social media increases our polarization (and access to those conspiracy theories), and the increasing income inequality is tangible to more citizens.

But what has changed the most since the year 2000? Trust in government, a relatively steady statistic since we became a country, has plummeted, especially among the right. Anger is seen as the main influencer to our politics, and individuals who wield it successfully carry ever-growing power – you could say political gamesmanship is all the rage in the early 21st century.

American rage, an actual academic term now, and the lack of trust in government, have powerful, toxic effects. We are watching this culture of anger turn into culture wars that weaken Americans’ commitment to democratic norms and values. Even though we see the damage every day, most of us find ourselves continuing to foment this rage.

Parties and certain politicians do it because voter anger leads to voter loyalty. Individuals do it because we think so little of the other side these days (studies show we actually think less of people based on political party).

We feel this rage in national politics, but we also see it right here at home in the pages of this newspaper and at recent City Council meetings.

Does this rage help us?

One of my favorite Philadelphians, Ben Franklin, said, “Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.”

If nothing else, we should resent that others are manipulating us through this rage. We acknowledge anger is not healthy for relationships. We are all Americans, so we are in a relationship. In relationships, people can learn and change.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson changed his mind on mask mandates to stop the spread of COVID, and some of our local politicians have had the courage to apologize from time to time. As citizens, we don’t get a pass.

All the rage may help us access a ferocity of passion, but can we channel Dylan Thomas’ version of the verb and direct it not at one another but against the loss of our human light instead?


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