Over the last couple of years, Representative Dan Crenshaw has become maybe my single most admired politician. It is funny that in today’s world you almost have to apologize for saying you admire a politician. Shouldn’t we elect people to office that we admire? But I digress.
Dan Crenshaw came on the national scene when Saturday Night Live made fun of him for wearing a patch over his eye.
You see, the Harvard educated, former Navy Seal took an IED to the face and spent six months near death and somehow SNL thought that was funny. Instead of joining the Twitter mob and storming the SNL castle, Dan did something different.
Crenshaw decided to go on SNL. He actually did a guest appearance the next week on the exact same skit and accepted an apology from Pete Davidson and had a meaningful conversation with him. As a bonus, they were able to celebrate our national heroes on Veteran’s Day.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about that interaction is how unique it has become in our society. There is no doubt that Crenshaw could have used the national outrage from the original SNL skit to raise money and build his national profile as a “fighter.”
Instead, he did something far too rare today, he offered forgiveness and brought people together in a positive way.
I have just finished Crenshaw’s book, “Fortitude.” It is incredible. I absolutely recommend that anyone interested in what ails our country and what it will take to fix it to read this book.
The basic message of the book is that Americans are addicted to outrage. Our political masters have figured out that by keeping us in a state of outrage, we are easily manipulated. It is far easier to get donations or to motivate people to vote a certain way through fear than by logic or common sense or actually trying to solve problems.
We see this on both sides of the political spectrum. Political consultants and the ruling class desperate for power and news media desperate for clicks and eyeballs have figured this out as well – outrage means money and power.
But Crenshaw makes a different point, he claims “Outrage is weakness. It is the muting of rational thinking and triumph of emotion.”
Later Crenshaw continues, “I encounter people with this kind of emotionally driven, self-assured opinion all the time. Forming an opinion without the relevant facts is a phenomenon that I believe is getting worse – probably because of social media and the echo chamber of disinformation it can create.
Our tendency to react wildly to headlines which are already largely created to elicit emotional response rather than inform the public is asphyxiating the deliberative system of government designed by our Founders. It has created a troubling new reality where even new or more complete sets of facts cannot sway opinions.
I am not saying you have to change your opinion, but you should at least have a serious, honest and coherent reason for why not. Reactive dismissal of new information is indicative of mental weakness. Absorbing new information honestly, even if you don’t ultimately change your mind, is a sign of fortitude.”
That is exactly what is happening in our society and in our halls of government. Facts, logic, rational solutions to problems take a back seat to outrage and emotion.
I could give dozens of examples of personal encounters with this just in the last couple of weeks. Outrage and emotion over facts and logic. Outrage rules the day. This outrage is destroying our State and our Country.
Finally, essentially every column I write starts with seeing my own weaknesses, my own tendencies for bad behavior. I write these columns pointing a finger first and foremost at myself. I need to do better. I need to not let outrage suffocate my own thoughts.
I believe we all need to do better. I also believe the first step is recognizing that we are being manipulated by outrage. Just like any vice, until we recognize it, we cannot take steps to overcome it. We should all be able to agree at least on that- recognize what outrage is doing to us and commit to trying to do better.