Excellent post, however long it took to write.

This probably isn't the neatest historical parallel, but it's one that I know: when I think of collapsing authority among rural conservatives, I think of Russia in the immediate aftermath of the USSR collapse. A series of systems that had slowly withered for decades while despair and a blatantly unequal economy suddenly fell apart very quickly. Alternative medicine quackery filled the void left by defunded hospitals and doctors going abroad, then new religious movements rushed in: the Krishnas, the Scientologists, the Moonies. A Siberian traffic cop declared that he was Jesus and got thousands of followers. Racism flared up against Russia's many ethnic minorities. A lot of perfectly nice schoolteachers and clerks who were educated in dialectical materialism suddenly believed that Jews put poison in aspirin, Chernobyl was a hoax, and magnetism was medicinal. This wasn't everybody everywhere, of course, but a significant portion of the country was unmoored from reality. The social, political, and spiritual toll for the former SSRs has not been good.

Obviously we aren't close to a total political collapse like the Soviet Union was, but man, the stories my host family and neighbors used to tell are harrowing. I wonder.

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Living in Idaho where so many people carry weapons with them on ordinary errands, I fear that the anger that accompanies the grief of losing a family member could be the catalyst for gun violence against a healthcare provider, a hospital, a school, volunteer board members or a demonstrator. It doesn't matter whether what they believe about COVID and appropriate treatment/vaccination is factual. What matters is that they are upset, emotional, very angry, and have immediate access to a gun.

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I really don’t want to go full Maryanne Williamson, but it sure feels like there’s some inescapable negative cultural energy affecting us all. Even people in my life that have always been embodiments of peace joy are just not in that place anymore. No one seems immune, regardless of their political beliefs or personal values.

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Articulating collective feelings is an immensely important role, so thanks for this post.

Speaking from outside the fray (only read one reddit r/nursing post and that was enough), I think our moral failing is to be too quick to blame, and subsequently hate, ordinary people who fall prey to propaganda and conspiracy theories. Can any of us really choose what we believe? Many of us, perhaps as a gift of privilege, have learned to doubt our ideas and allow them to develop. We can't expect everyone to have this capacity.

So I keep coming back to those of my **own** political persuasion who, back in 2016, were so quick to label conservatives and Trump supporters ("racist!" "deplorable!") which only put good, moral people who are less financially secure on the defensive. We've done our share in polarizing America (preaching to the choir here because they might actually listen.)

In the meantime, I practice cognitive reframing and focus on the systemic issues that have given rise to what's happening now. The rage among Covid deniers in hospitals is a sociological phenomenon with inputs like pre-existing political polarization from the Trump years, along with the accompanying, deplorable (yes!) exploitation of this polarization by politicians (I still cannot understand how politicians can choose power over democracy, but apparently this is an innate aspect of human nature that can easily deceive people who believe they still have a conscience.) But further inputs include the Great Recession and the loss of decent jobs. Then on top of all this came the pandemic, which encountered hospital staffing levels that were already thin before the pandemic.

I can protect myself to some extent from being angry and instead just sad, depressed and anxious. And as for the people who have to confront this rage in their jobs every day, I have absolutely no answers and nothing to offer but sympathy and awareness. Frankly, if I were them I'd cut down my hours and take some time off, but I can understand why this is not an option for many. (The volunteer emergency response mantra to justify taking time for self care is "don't become part of the problem yourself.")

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I'm sure you will have heard of the stages of grief, and while it's not a perfect model perhaps that will be how the pattern goes with this huge grief-bomb we've landed with? There are still a whooooooole bunch at Denial, then there's Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Perhaps we will, as a whole world, go through some version of this? The Anger is flourishing right now, and I honestly understand why, especially outside my hermit kingdom where the anger is still muted. I worry deeply for the Depression stage, it could ruin so many people's lives, but if we find a way though that then maybe we will come out the other side to Acceptance, and then work toward whatever our future is going to look like.

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Charlie, I appreciate this post and it resonates with me because the latest cause of my rage is "coming from inside the house". My 84-year-old vaccinated dad has breakthrough Covid from his unrepentant anti-vaxxer girlfriend. How do I re-engage with a person who not only hasn't apologized to him but reacted to his diagnosis with unkindness toward him? How do I find common ground with family members who don't think the girlfriend should feel any remorse? It appears they both will recover and I suppose the only place for me to start is by feeling grateful for that.

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I'm immunocompromised, which has resulted in serious anger, frustration, and burnout when it comes to anti-vaxxers and the unnecessary dragging on of this pandemic due to their reluctance.

But I'm also trained in health communication, and know that directing anger and hatred towards the broader group of "vaccine hesitant" people is terrible for public health and not a solid strategy for changing minds.

It's a difficult place to be in - trying to balance those two sets of feelings in myself. It would be so easy to give in to the rage I sometimes feel towards those who seem to care so little about my life, and the lives of millions of people like me (not to mention children too young to be vaccinated, elderly folks, etc). But then the sensible part of my brain pulls me back from that, reminding me that the ultimate goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible to get this pandemic somewhat more under control and the anger doesn't serve that goal.

I know it isn't always that easy, to just redirect these strong feelings, but I think it's worth trying. And for those leaning in to the anger, worth considering why and what their goals really are.

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The anger of which you speak is exactly why I started a newsletter. It was inspired by a growing sense that *any* kind of ideological alignment or Strongly Held Opinions breeds a kind of contemptuous fury. I'm still recovering from my worst self, who fell into this mire (mainly by spending too much time on Twitter).

I say *any* kind of absolute certainty breeds anger because my next edition will be about a car information expert who has received death threats from drivers of a brand about which he posted an unfavourable review.

This is perhaps how we're wired. What changed was being permanently connected with like minded souls and simultaneously confronted by the 'repugnant other'.

Here in France it's noticeably more civilised. I believe it's no coincidence that people here spend much less time online than in the English-speaking world. And we've gone from being the most vaccine-sceptical country in Europe to penetration of over 82%.

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Somewhere, indeed. Your essay reminded me of a Langston Hughes poem I've always thought was titled "A Dream Deferred." Checking just now, I see its actual title is "Harlem." In any event, I've swapped out "Dream" for "Anger," so that the poem captures what you're saying:

What happens to anger deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

I fear that the final option will tell the tale ....

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Great piece, Charlie. I appreciate how you are willing to be very honest about your emotions - I think doing so in public is valuable and, hopefully, cathartic. I too have felt the same kind of anger and frustration. Talking about this kind of thing will, I hope, help us to process it. Thanks again.

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Really excellent piece

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Anger is a normal emotion, but as you say, it must go somewhere or it becomes toxic. Too much anger, whether justified or not, can destory individuals and communities if it isn't processed and channeled into productive pursuits. For health care workers trying to process anger at unvaccinated patients, I recommend support groups and individual therapy. For these approaches to work, they must move the angry person away from their fixation on what was done wrong to a sense of agency about how they can contribute to making things better in the future. The journey is hard, but it can be made, especially with the help of others.

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It's sad that people are choosing to die. It's sadder for people who are losing their friends and family to this that did not choose to experience that massive loss.

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This is so well written, I can almost forgive the author for just buying wholesale the official nightly news narrative and berating those who are "vaccine hesitant". I too feel a deep, seething rage building but it's for those who refuse to even look at the arguments of the other side. I get it. People are fed up with how we have to live right now and panicked at the "near-collapse of the healthcare system", and you all want someone to blame - but maybe you should consider some of the completely crazy policies that have gotten us to this place. Andrew Cuomo sending covid patients back into nursing homes is probably the most noose-worthy, but there are many other examples - the lack of rapid testing, the complete lack of any kind of protocols before people get to the point where they need to be hospitalized, using part-time care workers who have to work at multiple nursing homes in order to make a living, ridiculous vaccine mandates causing staff shortages in hospitals (duh)...

What many people just can't accept is that this can't be eliminated with vaccination. Yes it is an especially virulent corona virus for certain segments of the population but not so much for others. Since we will never be able to stop it with inoculation any more than we can stop the yearly flu, how about we just "flatten the curve" (remember that bit of history), and let natural herd immunity happen while we protect the most vulnerable - like Sweden and Norway. Stop the name-calling and let's try to mitigate the damage - emotionally, societally, and economically - until we're through it - before the hysteria ruins us. There are solutions. There is hope.

Michael Mina is an immunologist, epidemiologist, and physician at Harvard who is certain we can reduce spread very quickly through rapid testing. Lex Fridman did a great interview with him and Dr. Mina is so frustrated he asks, "can I swear on this podcast?". "As long as these tests are regulated as medical devices, the FDA has to regulate them not as critical public health tools, but as medical tools, with all of the onerous clinical trials that slow everything down 100-fold," he said. This a very good (and infuriating) insight into the mind of bureaucrats ("ivory tower academics") and their inability to solve simple problems because of some stupid rule or jurisdictional excuse.

Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, the guy who literally wrote the book on Virology, agrees that Ivermectin is completely safe and does indeed work if you start on it immediately upon detecting infection. A scratchy throat or a positive rapid test would be a good time to start. There are other protocols but for some reason, doctors are being told to stand down until emergency measures are required. It's all too late at that point for many of those with comorbidities.

I know you want a scapegoat but maybe you should think about how you are contributing to the anger by tossing around terms like "Covid denier/anti-vaxx zealots" and actually see how many reasonable people there are who are fine with vaccination but not ok with a completely novel, experimental gene therapy that has not even had extensive testing on animals and for which we have no long term safety data. I think you'll find that many of those folks are not the simple rubes you suggest but are far more educated than you are on this topic.

Increasingly, there are health care alliances of true scientists, inquisitive and without regard for castigation by their compliant, herd-mentality peers who just parrot the party line no matter how stupid. Keep your head down, keep your job. Even little Canada has The Canadian Covid Care Alliance which now has more than 500 physicians, research scientists (including virologists, vaccinologists, and immunologists), and others; including highly accomplished professors from top Canadian universities, allied healthcare professionals, and lawyers - all questioning the official narrative. This is happening all over the world. It would be wonderful if writers like yourself would at least investigate why. Maybe you could start with a recent two-part series in the C2C Journal called, "Can We Really Inject Our Way Out of This Pandemic?". The second part especially is without a doubt the clearest explanation I have read yet.

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It’s a fair point, but it also seems to be a reflection of your current state of mind. Yes, there is a great deal of anger out there, but also, a great deal of kindness. With this growing anger, people are also looking for goodness in others, and when they find it, it grows.

At times of great distress, hope grows.

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I have to disagree on the articles written about r/hermancainaward I don’t think it’s schadenfreude as much as it is almost a celebration of karma still working and people reaping what they sow… it’s not a celebration of people dying, but simply another outlet for anger… these people have extended the pandemic by clinging to their fear, and I don’t think anyone is celebrating their death as much as they are embracing actions having consequences.

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