How To Be Outraged in America

So, what's it going to be? What flavor of revolt and indignation do you prefer as we dance like drunken angels into the wilds of 2012? Choose wisely, and you can become electrified and alive, a full and informed participant in the culture. Choose poorly, and the world is bleak and joyless as bible study in Rick Santorum's shame dungeon.

Option one: Slap yourself and three or four equally sunlight-deprived compatriots into a frothy lather over an insignificant nothingness that affects no one and about which no one really cares in the slightest -- except, of course, for you and your tiny band of miserable misfits who think you have some sort of lock on morality and behavior, when all you really have is a fatal case of outrage myopia, far too much spare time and (I'm just guessing) some very unhappy children of your own.

Greetings, Parents Television Council! You are like a mutant version of Punxsutawney Phil, waiting and festering for months at a time in a cold, solitary hole, longing to emerge once a year just so you can wail and spit about some tiny indiscretion no one really cares about. You are like a strangely recurring rash that appears after any major national telecast to irritate the armpit of the nation by stirring controversy where none actually exists.

What was it this time? Right. Rapper M.I.A.'s 1.5 seconds of a middle finger, raised pseudo-defiantly during Madonna's completely ridiculous, lip-synced Super Bowl halftime show. A middle finger! Heads will roll! Punishment must be doled! Who, pray who, will save the children from this frightening woman's vile extremity, given how everyone knows hysterical middle fingers lead straight to unchecked lesbianism, Obamacare and dancing for seven straight days at Burning Man? What's next, Starbucks teaming up with Satan? Oh wait.

Parents Television Council! I have a question for all four of you, along with your 19 cats: Do you plan in advance? Do you sit around in your drafty conference room in the back of the strip mall fabric store, praying for the most minute Super Bowl transgression so you can fire off an outraged letter to various newspapers, TV networks and the billion-dollar hellbeast known as the NFL itself? Don't worry, I already know the answer.

One final question, PTC: Did you happen to notice the hordes of giant, sweaty gladiators furiously bashing each others' skulls in for three straight hours and calling it a sport? Did you notice the adorable homoerotics of it all, or perhaps the millions of very drunk fans, or the mountains of garbage food, or the onslaught of $4 million TV ads hawking beer and trucks and sex and beer, all pummeling the hell out of your kids' small, impressionable minds? Do you have any idea what real, healthy outrage even looks like?

Let me answer that for you: It looks like what we have right over here in option two, thanks to the Susan G. Komen Foundation's extremely unfortunate (but then again, maybe not) decision to slam women everywhere by way of yanking funding for the good folks at Planned Parenthood. Who knew?

Who knew Komen's pink-clad army was run by such anti-choice, right-wing hand-wringers? Who knew that their founder and CEO, Nancy G. Brinker, voted for Bush and their former VP of Policy, Karen Handel (who just resigned in a huff over the flap), was a failed Republican gubernatorial anti-choice crusader from Georgia? Who knew that it's possible to separate the cause of supporting women who have cancer from the cause of supporting women's health and empowerment overall?

Maybe we should have seen it coming. Maybe when Komen partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken last year to sell pink buckets of deep-fried grease, we should have seen the warning sign. You think?

Let's call the kind of outrage Komen's decision ignited the healthy kind of outrage, in diametric opposition of PTC's childish pseudo-indignation, an informed and electrifying kind of reaction that had the wonderful consequence of alerting tens of thousands, even millions of people to the fact that not only is one of the nation's leading charities violently lopsided, fundamentally misguided and not so deserving of your dollars, but that Planned Parenthood is, well, just the opposite.

Note to Komen Foundation executives (and the GOP at large): Here's your final spank of delicious irony. Do you really want to reduce the number of abortions in America? You want to help Planned Parenthood get out of the abortion business once and for all? Don't yank their funding. Do what William Saleten over at Slate so rightly suggests: Donate more to them.

It's very simple: The more money PP has, the more they can offer birth control and contraception to needful women, and the fewer abortions they will ever need perform. Isn't that amazing? More education and contraception equals fewer abortions. Someone alert the GOP! And the Catholic church!

Of course, such simple math assumes you understand that women actually have, and enjoy, sex. It presumes you know that contraception is healthy and smart, that sex isn't merely for procreation (praise Jesus), that woman should be in full and complete control over their bodies and their lives. Which of course leaves out the GOP. And the church. And, sadly, the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Republican Women Who Can Afford Health Insurance and Don't Like Sex.

So there you go. Two opposing options, two wildly diverse approaches to outrage. Which did you choose? At which end of the spectrum -- insipid and pointless on one end, helpful and hugely necessary on the other -- do you land?

Are you furious, for example, that Microsoft -- and hell, all of Washington State -- now officially endorse gay marriage? Are you outraged that yet another appeals court deemed hateful ol' Prop 8 unconstitutional? Are you an outraged religious group, furious that Obama might make you step into the 20th century? Or are you upset, like the clearly brilliant GOP Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, that Planned Parenthood is opening an $8 billion "abortionplex" in Kansas, replete with a climbing wall, noiseless incinerator and gift shop? I'm so sorry for you. The crushing roar of imminent doom (and rampant idiocy) must be deafening.

Conversely, perhaps you're just a little furious and saddened that state of Virginia, after defeating similar hateful bills three separate times, was finally punched in the gut by right wing nutballs and will now force all women seeking an abortion to first submit to a needless ultrasound? Aha. Now we're getting somewhere.

Look, I'm merely trying to help. Please feel free, going forward, to use the two primary examples explicated in this column as your litmus test, your filter for what's worthy of your time, money and informed outrage. It's a long election year, my loves; there will certainly be no shortage of opportunities, news stories, rude insults to your intelligence. Filter wisely. Ignite beautifully. Oh, and send a few bucks to Planned Parenthood, won't you? It's what Komen would have wanted.

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