Milton Bass | The Lively World: Angry, and with lots of company

The Lively World


The anger in today's America inspired Ruth Bass to submit this column of Dec. 1, 1996 by long-time Eagle columnist Milton Bass in which he reflected on the subject. Milton Bass passed away on Oct. 14, 2014, about two weeks after his last column ran in The Eagle.

RICHMOND — I'm an angry old man. I know that in this country today it is politic to be the angry young white man everybody is so worried about. Amateurs. Would you like to know why I am angry? I don't care if you do or not. What has made me angry is the 25-member panel called the National Commission on Civic Renewal that was hand-picked by former Education Secretary William Bennett and retiring Sen. Sam Nunn to find out why Americans are "so cynical, so distressed, so angry, so ticked off about so many things."

The people they have chosen (and I use that word in the Biblical sense), including our own Mary Ann Glendon of Dalton who is now a professor of law at Harvard University, have it made. They are the social, academic, business and legislative elite of this country. Their cups runneth over, splashing the rest of us. They have absolutely no reason to be angry about anything, and if they are angry because we're angry, then they are petty ingrates who should have their brains washed out with soap.

I am really angry that the Pew Charitable Trusts granted these people $950,000 so they can conduct this survey in comfort. I wanted that $950,000 myself for a study of rich people who utter pompous platitudes. All panelists will surely fly first class, have great hotel rooms and fabulous lunches and dinners. I want at least a piece of that if not the whole thing.

You don't need a panel to figure out why so many people are cynical, distressed and angry. I'm happy to tell them for free. It's because some people know what's going on, and other people don't know what's going on. The ones who know what's going on do so because they read more than the news headlines and understand the perfidy of too many business, political and so-called religious "leaders." They are angry because they understand how helpless they are, in our economically geared society, to do anything about it.

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The ones who don't know what's going on are frustrated because they are unable to get a handle on what is going on. Consequently, they pick the easy victims of history — people whose skin is a different color, people whose religion is different from theirs, people who don't think the way they do or too often people who just think.

If I were given some major grants to pick subjects for panels, I would do some of the obvious ones at first, such as why the rich are getting richer beyond their wildest dreams, such as why there are so many single-issue politicians, such as why politics has become so partisan that the good of the nation as a whole has fallen by the wayside, such as why everybody doesn't think or act the way I do.

Next to hunger, greed is the dominating force in this country today. I will be the first to admit it: I am a greedy, angry old man. I want whatever I want right now. The difference is that there are now too many people in this country who want what they want right now, without having to pay their dues for it. Along with unions, dues have gone out the Windows 95.

Cynicism, distress and anger have always been with us and always will be, no matter how many committees are formed, how many people are interviewed, how many experts render their opinions. The thing about the present is that communications have become so advanced that we can instantly become angry, distressed and at the same time cynical about the whole thing.

A friend of mine once observed to me that in the old days things were different. "f France did something against the Japanese," he said, "by the time news of it reached Japan the situation was already outdated. Nowadays if France does something to irritate Japan, within minutes students are attacking all the perfume stores in Tokyo."

There you have it. Now send me the $950,000 before I get really angry.


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