If you follow politics, you encounter a lot of angry people. We have angry young white men, angry women, angry African Americans, angry Millennials, angry Baby Boomers, angry Muslims, angry gays, angry Christians, angry blue-collar workers, Antifa, the Proud Boys, the Alt-Right . . . anger is part of the human condition, and even in a free society and with all the blessings we have, we see plenty of injustices, provocations, crimes, and scandals that earn our anger.
You may recall that during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, in the eyes of many Democrats, he allegedly proved to be too angry to be a Supreme Court Justice. The Huffington Post declared his testimony was “spectacle of angry male bonding.” Slate called it “a defiant howl of rage.” The Washington Post recoiled at how “remarkably angry” Kavanaugh was. College professors warned us about Kavanaugh’s “contagious rage.”
Kavanaugh’s defenders pointed out that anyone being falsely accused of terrible violent crimes would be understandably angry at the accusers.
You know who else can get angry? Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan.
In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire columnist Gabriel T. Rubin reports that Kagan spoke at George Mason University and told the audience, “Sometimes I come back from conference and I want to pound my fist through a wall. The court has just made a difference, but not a good difference.”
Now, no one thinks of Kagan as a potential threat or menace to society because of her anger. You can watch her speech here; she’s a thoughtful justice and often a great storyteller. As far as we know, she’s never tried to punch through a wall. (Some folks may now look a little suspiciously at her foot injury suffered shortly after joining the court, but that may just be part of Kagan’s rough-and-tumble basketball games. No, really, she played as a clerk, and after an injury that left sent her to the hospital and left her hobbling around, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told her, “It would not have happened in aerobics.”) But even if Kagan had punched a wall, no one would seriously argue she had proven too angry to continue serving as a justice. A justice who concludes the majority’s decision has made the country a less just place has every right in the world to be angry.
Rage, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. All too often, assessments of anger align perfectly with partisan preferences; the angry guy on my side is merely impassioned and a true believer, but the angry guy on your side is a rage-aholic who’s a ticking time-bomb and a threat to everyone around him.