COLUMN: We’re not going to take it, or will we?

This is my column for the Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece was broadcast on an earlier episode of “Between You and Me” on 91.7 KAXE. Support this blog by considering: Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range as a holiday gift.

We’re not going to take it, or will we?
By Aaron J. Brown

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

That’s a quote from Howard Beale, the fictional TV news anchor who cracked up on live TV in the 1976 movie “Network.” The aging newsman, upon losing his job, spiraled into this rage that, in the movie, set off a national sensation and ended in ironic tragedy.

It’s funny how “Network,” made before the internet, personal computers or even cable TV, holds up so well more than three decades later. A connected people can become angry quickly. Or is it that angry people connect faster than anyone else these days? Ah, there we go. An old Chinese proverb says “may you live in interesting times.” And the preponderance of anger in our midst makes our times interesting, if not particularly productive.

The sort of rarefied fury seen in the media is far from unusual in our house. With three boys aged 5 and younger, anger here is pure and loud. When one boy wants a toy he takes it, and the original owner will scream like a howler monkey, tackling the thief like an NFL free safety running at full speed. One could produce a cable news show in which each boy was given a corner of the screen to bellow his claim on the toy and, on mute, it would appear structurally similar to Fox News or MSNBC. With the volume up, I’d argue it might even make more sense.

But our boys are being raised Minnesotan, just like I was. Soon enough they’ll learn to bury their anger, or at least avoid it. That’s what good Minnesotans do. Bury it down low, swallow it like a pill.

When I was in the fifth grade I remember being so generally angry at my teachers and classmates that I would scrawl things like “March is Official UnFair Month for All Time” into my notebooks. This is how I phrased things as a child, there never was much hope for me being normal). But once I hit puberty and saw how my parents, grandparents and friends’ families ignored serious problems in all their respective relationships, hiding in the kitchens and garages of their varied lives, I realized the normalcy of doing the same myself.

I can only recall a half dozen or so times since where I’ve been perceptibly angry in public. One time on my college newspaper staff I was furious at the advisor for censoring my editorial decision. My hands shook as I told her off, her and her big stupid hair. A couple years ago I spoke somewhat loudly at a faculty meeting. But these were just very nerdy exceptions to my normal rule: anger must be taken out on yourself, not others. Your liver and your digestive tract.
Those are the proper whipping boys. That’s the Minnesota way. Our superior health care balances out our shortened life spans with the rest of the nation, and thus life proceeds as it will.

So, I guess when I see all the trumped up bravado that passes for discourse in this so-called modern nation of ours, I have a pretty strong emotion. I guess you’d call it anger. I guess you could say that I’m pretty much mad as heck, and there’s a real good chance I won’t take it much longer, unless it’s easier that way. And it probably is. Winter’s coming. You’ve got to store energy for survival; anger is just wasted heat.

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range writer and community college instructor. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Not bad Aaron….other than attempting to elevate MSNBC to the level of FOX. That’s like comparing the Cherry Tigers to the Hibbing BlueJackets – illogical.

  2. Double ouch. Though, back in the day, Cherry could have beat Hibbing in 9-man, I guarantee it. I agree that MSNBC is just awful, and FoxNews is awful in spirit, but excellent in execution.

  3. Sorry, but I don’t buy your premise. I attended Hibbing schools and found many teachers- like Mr. Torrell, my algebra teacher- to be extremely angry people.

    Also, some anger is healthy. It keeps us passionate. When I see the state of our country, then I believe we need more angry folks who are willing to stand up and stop the spending, stop the unnecessary social programs, stop the corruption, and stop trying to control our lives.

  4. Sometimes it’s not about politics. Sometimes our political arguments are outcomes of other social problems, and what I’m talking about is how we express angerr, not its existence or merit.

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