The other day, in “Angry Talk,” I reviewed Peter Wood’s new book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now. Then, in “The Liberalitarian Dust-Up,” Wood updated the argument of A Bee in the Mouth by applying it to a recent controversy, focusing his analysis on the claim that Jonathan Chait’s famous “I hate Bush” essay had a pivotal impact on the history of anger in America. Yesterday, in “Oh, now the right wants to talk nice,” Chait answered Wood. And today, in “A Model of Modesty,” Wood replies to Chait. It’s a fascinating controversy.
Also well worth a look are two comments, “Thymos in America” and “Thymos in America II” by Kevin Walker, at the “Many Things” blog. Walker argues that the deepest reason for our anger is our growing secularism. When belief is ungrounded, Walker says, the only reason for holding it is the strength of our convictions. Anger in these circumstances becomes a substitute for lost foundations.
As we see in Wood’s exchange with Chait, it’s important to actually read A Bee in the Mouth. Wood does not claim that anger never had a place in American politics. Even “New Anger” has old precedents. But that doesn’t mean nothing’s changed. Short pieces, my own included, can only convey the outlines of Wood’s argument. For the case in full, try the book. It’s a fun read, too.