Mad as Hell

Peter Finch as Howard Beale, from the 1976 movie, "Network."

Mad as Hell
By John Unger Zussman

I wrote this essay in mid-2009 in a writing group where the day’s prompt was “anger.” In it I tried to capture the despair I felt about the state of the union and our lives. I wasn’t the only one.

Now, as we experience elation over the passage of the health care bill, and Democrats seem to have found their spine, I think it’s important to remember and respect that despair. The world has not fundamentally changed, and our momentary victory will only inflame those who believe that government’s sole job is to protect the privileged. So I post it now (with a few updates) to remind readers, and myself, that the battle is not won, but only just begun.

We are all Howard Beale these days, mad as hell and determined not to take it anymore. The pundits and politicians know this, they fan the flames, blowing our fury first this way, then that, like wheat before the wind. But my rage is constant. I am angry at arrogant Republicans who obstruct governance as though they were still in the majority, and at pathetic Democrats who govern as though they were still in the minority, who give away the store before they even start negotiating, and think passage of a watered-down health care bill, a massive giveaway to Big Pharma and Big Insurance, ought to earn them a Nobel Prize. I am furious at the “patriots” and teabaggers who value the flag over the Constitution, at the neocons who turned the country into a bankrupt war-mongering torturing cesspool of toxic waste and carbon emissions, from which only they and their cronies walked away unscathed, their pockets lined. And I am incensed at the cancers that those toxic wastes create, killing and maiming the people I love, and at the medical establishment that still offers no better solution than to cut, burn, and poison them. I fume at passing time and aging bodies and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and cholesterol. I am outraged at willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism and sanctimonious creationism; irate at commercials and reality shows and movies based on comic books; livid at unemployment and the stock market meltdown and real estate you can’t sell. And most of all I am angry that I have nowhere to put all this anger. Howard Beale was a goddamned prophet.

Copyright © 2010, John Unger Zussman. All rights reserved.

About John Unger Zussman

John Unger Zussman is an award-winning screenwriter, creative writer, and technical writer from Portola Valley, California. His essays have been published in The Sun Magazine. He has won a Grammy Award (as a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus), but there’s room on the shelf for an Oscar and a Pulitzer. John also works as a corporate storyteller in info and biotech and holds a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University.
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