Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where is the Outrage?

This isn't going to be a very coherent post==I've been traveling all day; the weather snafus turned a four hour door-to-door trip into thirteen hours--but I want to add a little to Barb's quite wonderful post.

The people who did quite heroic acts during the Holocaust to save Jews or other targeted people were usually ordinary people whose only distinguishing trait was that in ordinary times they usually did the right thing--helped the homeless, were open to others, did the decent acts of every day life that I too often am too busy or too guarded or too cynical to perform. My detective, V I, acts out of a sense of noticeable outrage, but the person she's most often outraged with is me, not some anonymous member of the larger world. I've always been afraid that when the chips were down I would be a collaborator, not a resister.

And that brings me to these times. Last week, the Supremes let stand a lower court ruling that allows the San Diego welfare department to break into the homes of welfare recipients without a warrant to make sure they're not committing fraud. This is not a violation of the 4th Amendment for some reason that I don't understand. I wish I could believe they would break into the home of Dick Cheney's friends and former co-workers, who have been living on government welfare for 7 years, enriching themselves at our expense, but of course that will never happen.

I guess what I want to know is, where is the outrage? Where is the outrage when the Supremes announced that women's health is irrelevant to questions about abortion? Where is the outrage about the many thousands of American dead in Iraq, the many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died, the millions of Iraqis who have become refugees, the forty or fifty thousand Americans maimed for life? Where is the outrage over the cost of this unjust and pernicious war, now at $1.6 trillion, and likely to be doubled that--in a country which can't afford health care, public transit, or good schools?

I would like to be the person heroic enough, moral enough, to take action, but all I do is grumble and go Christmas shopping. No wonder V I is outraged with me.

Sara Paretsky


Maryann Mercer said...

Thought-provoking and disturbing post, Sara. I hate to present apathy and self-interest as answers to your question,but I believe they are at least factors. These last eight years at least have created the belief that no matter what we've been taught, the privileged few make the decisions and our voices don't matter. During the last election, I talked to so many younger people who didn't see any reason to vote since, to paraphrase them, "nothing will change anyway. We may rail against injustice but don't believe our single voices joined together will count for much." That feeling seems to be growing, although perhaps with the right candidates in 2008 we'll see a change. How much and how quickly remains to be seen.
Even now, people protesting the war are labeled unpatriotic. No one wants that stigma...we qualify our opposition by stating we support the troops, just not the government that sent them there.
And, we've somehow given birth to another "what's in it for me" generation, more concerned about material things and getting ahead than anything else.
Yes, I'm talking in generalizations, and certainly there are concerned people of all generations. Maybe we just need someone with guts and passion to push us. If only we could open our windows, stick our heads out, and scream "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" and then act on those words.

Jean said...

I'd love to say that I disagree with Maryann, but I can't. My only comfort is the reminder that I'm not alone in my anger and frustration. I've always found enough hope to work and fight for the beliefs I support. The last seven years have left me numb, frightened and yes, almost without hope. I have to believe that there's enough to continue.

spyscribbler said...

Well, part of it is "outrage overload." To be perfectly honest, when I read your post I was appalled. Then I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, like, oh no, I can't worry about that, too!

There is so much going on the world, it's difficult to figure out where to focus my outrage.

I've been feeling, though, that we are not leaving a better world for the next generation. And isn't that supposed to be the responsibility for every generation?

Libby Hellmann said...

I think you're being hard on yourself, Sara. Part of the problem is that with the issues you mentioned, we all have time to contemplate the repercussions of acting in outrage... we know we might be penalized, ostracized, or humiliated if we do what we think we ought. And so we don't do anything.

Barb's post honored a man who didn't have time to think... who did what he did probably out of instinct. What's to say you -- or I -- or anyone else -- wouldn't do the same thing, given the circumstances?

Hard to say. I don't know.

thatguy said...

I believe, V I would think you hero of heroes.

Most of us who have come to know V I Warshawski though your writing know how V I reacts, disregarding danger and what other people think, thinking the best of her clients and what our free society expects.

As a reader, you are my hero as you are the hero of all the readers of V I.

Let no one under estimate the appreciation we have for you. We are certainly proud of you and what you bring to the plate. You are as Chicago as Chicago can be.

Thank you, and don’t stop writing we love you.

Hawk3ye, Chicago IL said...

I am outraged a lot of the time, and I try to do what I can even though I too am still engaged in the world of shopping, watching movies, and enjoying myself. I send a lot of emails and petitions to my senators and representative. I donate to NARAL Pro-Choice and Oxfam. I vote 3rd party to the chagrin on my friends. I boycott Wal-mart even as family assure me my feeble consumer activism is just a drop in the ocean. And I make an effort to find healthy and environmentally conscious products and choices for our home.

Still, I do sometimes feel pretty hopeless about the big things. Bush says Iran's dwindling nuclear program makes them more of a threat; then says "hey morons, here's a mortgage rate cut! a tax rebate! By the way, spend money this weekend!" I try to vent to friends and family and see what they think and share a little bit of my anger without being too preachy. It's slow progress but I have to believe that communication about these issues helps swell the tide of dissent and make people more thoughtful.

Certainly your writing, Sara, is invaluable to this discussion for me! I talk about Writing in an Age of Silence and even the recent "teenage V.I." story in the Sisters in Crime anthology all the time. Your work has especially made an impact on me by tying the recent history of Chicago into these global issues, and in broadening my understanding of Chicagoland's complex communities. Even through your blog you have an impact on your readers and peers.

It's a frustrating world, but don't discount the power of art to change things for the better. :)

Rob said...

I've been outraged since Bush Jr. bought the election the first time. I used to be pretty apolitical, but as our government's corruption grows daily and it seems like most people don't believe it or don't care, I've become almost too aware of all that's going wrong with Bush & Co. But I am only one man; my outrage can only burn for so long. I'm outta gas. I feel like no one else cares. I feel like if they did, Bush would have had his warmongering, lying ass impeached a long time ago.

I dunno. Where IS the outrage?

Dana King said...

I'm outraged about the San Diego decision, too (not as much as the Spousal Equivalent), but it's not the Supreme Court I'm upset with; it's the California government and legislature.

Much as we'd like to think so, it is NOT the Supreme Court's job to enforce fairness and justice. They interpret and enforce the laws in light of the Constitution. I haven't read much on this (I have a bit of skyscribbler's outrage overload), but I suspect the winning legal argument had something to do with landlord/tenant law, and who actually pays the rent.

That doesn't make what they're doing right; it does make it legal. The recourse is in the hands of the California legislature. (Arnold could also issue an order for it to stop, I suppose.) The legislature allegedly answers to the people, the voters. Unfortunately, they don;t seem to be as outraged as we are. So, in the end, I agree completely with Sara's point about outrage; I just think it needs to be a little more precisely directed.

Sara Paretsky said...

Thank you for your comments--thatguy and hawk3ye, I am very honored by your opinion. I agree with spyscribbler that there's outrage overload, and with libby--many of us are a tad nervous about the repercussions of what we say and do. I wonder if we started going to prison, or took to the streets, would that mobilize a public demand for action? Anyway, it's Hannukah, a time for thinking about rising up against oppression.

Happy Holidays Sara

Roy D. Schickedanz said...

Thatguy sends his season’s greetings, wishing V I a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years. These seasonal greetings have been sent from the heart of V I Warshawski country, here at 114th and Torrance.

Those stumping grounds was verified by a photograph of V I in some tall grass at the entrance of our plant on the east side of the street, appearing on the back dustcover of The Age of Silence.

The outrage you have spoken about has seemed to grab little or no concern. There are people today, having heard first hand, blaming the Clinton administration for the current state of affairs as if Bush and gang can do no wrong!

In the same breath, they raise the name of Hillary (Clinton), finding she cannot do a better than Bush. But Hillary and everybody else running today can do a better job, and the person that must take over the reigns of our country has a hell of a mess to cleanup.

This administration has destroyed almost every branch of government.

Meg said...

Sara, I think this is a wonderful post. I'm 22, and I feel sick nearly every time I turn on the news. I never know, however, what to do! My lowly little voice screaming out on my friends-only blog every once in a while doesn't really do a whole lot. I berate myself because I'd love to take to the streets - if only someone else would organize it and it didn't interfere too much with work, school, and internship.

But honestly - if I was outraged at every damned thing this administration does that is worth the outrage, I don't know if I could get out of bed in the morning. Where to start?

By the way - I just finished Blacklist, and I LOVED it. I've always liked the VI books but I felt this was a bold (and true) stand and it excited me that you took it. THANK YOU!